spring 2013 newsletter
new staff and new project for environmental job skills program
Just a month before the start of the spring semester, Rocking the Boat welcomed Sam Marquand to the staff as the new Environmental Job Skills Program Director, replacing Dawn Henning. Sam holds an M.A. in Animal Behavior and Conservation from Hunter College and a B.A. in Biology from Vassar College. Prior to joining Rocking the Boat, Sam split his time between science education, animal care and his own conservation research investigating the impact of storm water runoff on the streams of Putnam County, NY. He has been dedicated to environmental education and conservation ever since his first volunteer position leading snapping turtle walks at the Constitution Marsh Audubon Sanctuary when he was 14 years old. In recent years Sam has worked with the Wildlife Conservation Society as the educational outreach coordinator for Queens County, designing environmental awareness projects with The Young Women's Leadership School in South Jamaica, and with Wild Blue as an outreach science teacher, developing programs with various NYC partners, including PS 183, Ethical Culture Fieldston School and the United Nations International School.
time for a change
Sam's arrival coincided perfectly with the planning and early implementation of a new environmental initiative: a glass eel monitoring project. As always, Rocking the Boat is collaborating with experts in the field: the Wildlife Conservation Society, which has been a financial partner of Rocking the Boat's for the past 10 years on a variety of Bronx River restoration projects through the WCS/NOAA Regional Partnership, is overseeing the local eel research. "Rocking the Boat's location on the Bronx River, its fleet of wooden boats, and its constantly replenished corps of capable, energetic young people with a passion for environmental restoration make the organization an ideal partner for our project," says New York Seascape Director Merry Camhi.
WCS is excited for Rocking the Boat to assist in the monitoring of glass eels in the estuarine section of the Bronx River. Sam and his corps of nine Environmental Apprentices are using "eel mops" to collect glass eels and are counting them twice a week throughout the spring. These counts will serve as a sentinel for eels entering the river in pursuit of developmental habitat, and contribute vital data to WCS-led efforts to monitor, manage, and restore this species in the Bronx River ecosystem. Apprentices will also be monitoring the general Bronx River fish population by strategically fishing for specific species in the Bronx River including Alewife, striped bass, and blue fish across multiple seasons.
After 11 years of building boats for its own use and three years of taking on outside commissions, Rocking the Boat has a new model: giving old boats new lives and new homes by selling them to other organizations. It has worked out beautifully so far, with four underused boats now out of their storage containers and being actively used and appreciated by larger and more widespread audiences.
When the Independence Seaport Museum wanted to get a new community rowing program off the ground in 2010, its President, Rocking the Boat Advisory Board member John Brady, called on Adam Green. Culture and Polaris, two 14-foot Whitehalls, were quickly sent down to the Philadelphia-based museum, whose visitors have been enjoying rowing them around Penn's Landing ever since. Last spring, Boatbuilding Apprentices restored Range, a 17-foot Rangeley Lakes boat built in 2007, in order to auction her off at Rocking the Boat's Whitehall Award fundraiser. Peter Kellogg, a long-time supporter of both Rocking the Boat and Independence Seaport Museum, was the high bidder. He generously added to the seaport museum's nascent rowing program's capacity by donating the boat.
Built in fall 2008, Change is a John Gardner-designed flatiron skiff and Rocking the Boat's only student-built motor boat. Named in honor of Barack Obama's election as President, Change was intended to be used to quickly get out to Rocking the Boat's sailing fleet at the mouth of the River. But her significant weight and size made her challenging to use efficiently. Meanwhile, Tom Outerbridge, General Manager of the Municipal Recycling Division of Sims Metal Management, Rocking the Boat's next door neighbor in Hunts Point, approached Rocking the Boat about building a boat for their brand new 11-acre facility in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Tom explained that they needed a sturdy work boat that Sims workers could use to pick up plastics and other floating debris from the Gowanus Bay. Realizing that Change would be a perfect fit for Sims' use, Adam suggested a restoration rather than building a new boat. Tom loved the idea.
"We planned to get a skiff for the Brooklyn plant, and when we realized Rocking the Boat had a flat-bottom boat they could refurbish, it was an easy decision," says Outerbridge. "We've been working with Rocking the Boat for years, and I've been out in their row boats many times. Having a made-in-the Bronx, Rocking the Boat-built boat is something special."
Change has undergone a complete restoration over the past four months, receiving a new solid oak transom to replace the original cedar—sturdy enough to support a 30 horsepower outboard motor—and a meticulous refinishing. All this work was done by the hands of Carlos Duran, a former On-Water student, who spent three years working as a crew member on the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater.
"I knew the buyer would have high expectations, which was scary, so I tried to make the best product that I could ever make," reports Carlos. "I didn't think I was going to do such a good job, with the transom especially. I had never made one by myself before. The final product is better than I ever expected."
Change will make the trip by water from Hunts Point, down the East River, to the Sims site in Sunset Park, in May.