Trip Leaders and Volunteers

Everything we do at NBBC is powered by our amazing member-volunteers. Our trip leaders, trip assistants, and program volunteers make it possible for NBBC to fulfill its mission: enabling and advocating for human-powered boating on the waterways bordering Greenpoint/Williamsburg Brooklyn. Only through these fantastic folks can NBBC enable local citizens to be effective stewards of the ecology, recreation, and freedom that the waterways engender. If you see these people on the water, say hi, and thank them for volunteering their time and skills to keep North Brooklyn boating!

To see what’s happening, visit the NBBC Calendar. And to join NBBC, see our Membership page. If you need to get in touch with the club or a trip leader with any questions, send us an e-mail.

Patterson

Canoe rescue training, June 2014

Canoe rescue training, June 2014

Canoe Coordinator
Canoe trip leader
Patterson shows wildlife thriving in the Living Dock to a class from St. Joseph College

Patterson shows wildlife thriving in the Living Dock to a class from St. Joseph College

1. How did you first find North Brooklyn Boat Club? What’s your origin story as a club member?
I discovered the Club at an art event in Whale Creek, called the Newtown Creek Armada, and picked up a card. I joined as some of the last containers were being delivered and found a lot of trips to join, both kayak and canoe.

2. What kind of background and experience with paddling did you have before you joined, in general and in NYC specifically?
Zero, pretty much. As a paddler, I am a happy product of NBBC.

3. How did you become a trip leader?
I obtained ACA Level 2 certifications for kayak at Lake Sebago and through the Club for canoe. I became a trip assistant for kayak and an Official Paddler.

Later the following season, as part of a Greenpoint Community Environmental Fund grant we got boats and equipment and funded some trip-leader training. I did the course with Peter, Klaus R., and a few others.

4. Tell us about a favorite route or trip that you like to use for club paddles.
I am one of those who like going places where you can get out of the boats and do something. Going to Costco or the Greenmarket at Socrates Park embodies everything good about human-powered boating. Hallets Cove beach is an easy pick for that.

And by far the majority of my trips are on Newtown Creek, where the Club is ideally situated as a launch point. The best trips are our weekly Summer Birdwatching trips, definitely. I have become a citizen-scientist and learned enough to be a tour guide — I’m no Mitch Waxman or Willis, but I can introduce people to the Creek if they haven’t been before. Newtown Creek is my backyard, and it’s an endlessly fascinating place to visit.

5. Tell us one of your favorite stories about a particular club trip.
Our usual member trips follow only a few frameworks, and one that stands out would likely be the one where something went wrong, at least for me. Fortunately, very little ever goes wrong so I don’t have any great stories.

On the positive side, on almost any trip we might have: Sunsets in general. Birds. Experiencing something scary and beautiful at the same time. Being subject to the forces of nature.

And the annual Manhattan Circumnavigation trips are always good. This past season I came into the trip late from a wedding and at the encouragement of my friends met the group at a dock in the Harlem River, which made it extra fun.

Vincent

Vincent in his kayak

Vincent in his kayak

Kayak Coordinator
Kayak trip leader
Vince rides the surf

Vince rides the surf

1. How did you first find North Brooklyn Boat Club? What’s your origin story as a club member?
I stumbled upon the NBBC while exploring waterfront parks from Brooklyn Bridge Park to the Newtown Creek Nature Walk circa May 2014. I was looking for a place to put in my kayak because I had this far-fetched romantic fantasy to paddle on Newtown Creek. I immediately became a member after reading the webpage and showed up one day to a skills and drills canoe paddle

2. What kind of background and experience with paddling did you have before you joined?
I had kayaked and canoed before in the Adirondacks with my family as well as fished from a kayak in the Long Island Sound. I had never had any skills training but, being a surfer from Long Island, I grew up loving the water and picking sand out of my ears. I was looking for group of people that shared a belief in environmental protection of our marine ecology. I found it paddling in Brooklyn, NY!

3. How did you become a trip leader?
I wanted to take on a leadership role to bring kayaking to more club members. The trips leaders started me as a trip assistant familiarizing myself with the local waterways. I took it upon myself to get American Canoe Association trip-leading training and started planning and leading trips with other trip leaders until I was able to do it on my own.

4. Tell us about a favorite route or trip that you like to use for club paddles.
My favorite trip to lead is circumnavigating Governors Island. I love the history of the island and the view of the harbor.

5. Tell us one of your favorite stories about a particular club trip.
We were paddling from Oyster Bay to Sunken Meadow State park on the north shore of Long island. A private security guard on an ATV attempted to have us all arrested for landing on the beach.

Amy

Roosevelt Island circ, August 15, 2016

Roosevelt Island circ, August 15, 2016

Canoe trip leader
Prepping for big canoe rescue training, May 2016.

Prepping for big canoe rescue training, May 2016.

1. How did you first find North Brooklyn Boat Club? What’s your origin story as a club member?
I found out about NBBC through a college friend — I saw a facebook post about an art project he was doing with the Newtown Creek Armada, and that eventually brought me to the NBBC website. I signed up for a boat trip and started hanging out at the boatyard, and I was hooked.

2. What kind of background and experience with paddling did you have before you joined, in general and in NYC specifically?
Before NBBC, I’d never done any urban boating. I grew up by a lake in Maine and have been canoeing and kayaking since I was a kid. I would also go canoe camping with my dad and sisters on a small river nearby, and then as an adult I used to do an annual three-day whitewater canoe trip with my dad in western PA near where he grew up.

3. How did you become a trip leader?
I was doing some Skills and Drills and rescue practices with Jens and some other canoe folks, and he told me about an upcoming trip-leader training and said that he thought I should do it. I did the trip leader training up at Sebago Lake with an awesome group of people, and here we are!

4. Tell us about a favorite route or trip that you like to use for club paddles.
One of my favorite trips is Hallets Cove with a Roosevelt Island circ. It’s a great trip length, and it’s always fun to get some ice cream from Costco and check out what’s going on in the Socrates Sculpture Garden. And coming back via the west channel is really fun. I’m also a huge fan of public paddles; you can find me sterning one of the big canoes at most of them. I love encouraging new people to come out on the water and learn about the Creek and what NBBC is all about.

Public paddle, 2015

Amy in the bow and Klaus S. in the stern during a public paddle, 2015

5. Tell us one of your favorite stories about a particular club trip.
My first City of Water trip was incredible. It was so fun to see so many other people-powered boats out and about and to know we were all headed to the same place and that everyone else on the water knew it was happening. It was a great sense of community. Crossing Buttermilk Channel for the first time was exciting, and when we got to Governors Island, exploring with other NBBC folks was amazing! When we camped that night (this is the only day you can camp on Governors Island!), after a wonderful dinner, much talking, and stargazing, I slept under the open sky, and it was wonderful. To this day, I’ve only ever been to Governors Island by canoe, and I kind of like it that way — it changes how I think about the place.

Jens

Jens, Gertie, and Millie on Newtown Creek

Jens, Gertie, and Millie on Newtown Creek

Canoe trip leader
Founding member
Board member
Jens and Fung at work on a 1930 Old Town Canoe

Jens and Fung at work on a 1930 Old Town Canoe

1. How did you first find North Brooklyn Boat Club? What’s your origin story as a club member?
When I moved to Greenpoint in the mid nineties I immediately started looking for ways to get on the water. I found the East River Kayak Club, but they were winding down as an organization. I volunteered for a while with Floating the Apple back when they were on 42nd, but I still wasn’t satisfied. When I heard about the North Brooklyn Boat House proposal (which was the genesis for the club), I knew I wanted to be involved, so I started showing up at those first meetings, which were held at the Brooklyn Rod & Gun. I’ve been involved ever since, first as a founding member, then as an instructor, and now as a board member.

2. What kind of background and experience with paddling did you have before you joined, in general and in NYC specifically?
I grew up on the water: swimming, canoeing, windsurfing, sailing. As an adult I did a ten-week Maine Guide course that really gave me the skills in boat handling, trip management, and risk assessment that have been so valuable to my work with the club. I was one of the club’s first canoe instructors and trip leaders, and it’s been a real pleasure.

3. How did you become a trip leader?
In addition to my Maine Guide training, I also went through the American Canoe Association Trip Leader and Canoe Instructor Training.

4. Tell us about a favorite route or trip that you like to use for club paddles.
I don’t think I could choose! Hell Gate, Pippin Beach, Dutch Kills, Brother Islands, Manhattan Circumnavigation, Governor’s Island, there’s literally not single route I don’t love.

5. Tell us one of your favorite stories about a particular club trip.
Again, I don’t know where to even start. Here’s a few: paddling through bioluminescent jellyfish in Newtown Creek, being checked out by a seal in the East River, paddling back from Gowanus Canal at three a.m. in hard chop and rain, riding the massive standing waves (the ones that have capsized tugboats) in the East River during max ebb. Every trip provides some kind of exhilaration. I guess that’s why I like being a trip leader — I get to introduce people to NYC’s amazing natural playground.

Klaus R.

Klaus braves the winter weather.

Klaus braves the winter weather.

Canoe trip leader
Kayak trip leader
Klaus leading a canoe trip on Newtown Creek

Klaus leading a canoe trip on Newtown Creek

1. How did you first find North Brooklyn Boat Club? What’s your origin story as a club member?
A friend and now fellow paddler (the other Klaus) told me about a volunteer day to start a boat club. I came to the lot and helped cleaning up the trash and to make space for the containers that now hold our boats and equipment.

2. What kind of background and experience with paddling did you have before you joined, in general and in NYC specifically?
Born in North Germany right between the Baltic sea and Atlantic, I grew up with fishing boats, racing one-man sail boats and rowing sculls. Ten years ago, I discovered NYC waters with the Manhattan Sailing School, getting certified for keelboats, but I actually never thought of paddling the East River in kayaks or canoes until I joined NBBC.

3. How did you become a trip leader?
I wanted to have greater flexibility to schedule and plan my own trips while taking a crew of paddlers along sharing the experience.

4. Tell us about a favorite route or trip that you like to use for club paddles.
Randall’s Island Circumnavigation: I have done this trip many times, but passing Hell Gate, Bronx Kill, and Mill Rock, I am always prepared to discover something new and to be physically challenged. One time we got stuck in a field of ice.

5. Tell us one of your favorite stories about a particular club trip.
I recently joined a winter paddle to look for seals. Paddling out from Coney Island creek, it started to snow, and at some point the only sight of land left was our destination, Swinburne, a tiny artificial island south of the Verrazano Bridge. The horizon was hidden by a white curtain, and the water completely calm, when a group of seals popped up, curiously watching us. We navigated back by compass.

Ros

Membership Coordinator
Canoe trip leader
Williamsburg sunset paddle, September 20, 2016

Ros on a sunset paddle, September 2016

1. How did you first find North Brooklyn Boat Club? What’s your origin story as a club member?
I stumbled upon NBBC when I was doing research for a harebrained scheme, trying to get to this abandoned island outside of the city. Dangerously ignorant of paddling knowledge and other essentials, I was looking for a place that would rent a little hand-powered boat to me. Thankfully, that trip never materialized; if it had, I might not be here today! Anyway, I was smitten by the idea of a community boathouse whose work was to open access to our waterways, provide ecological and historical context, and equip folks with skills to venture out safely. So, I joined.

I finally made it to a night-time paddle going up Newtown Creek. As we waited for a couple of barges to do-se-do, our canoes gunwhaled up by wooden pilings on the Queens side just distal of Sims Recyling, we saw something incredible: bioluminescent comb jellies swirled beneath us, their electric blue forms flashing, folding over themselves, drafted by the tiny wakes of our canoe paddles.

Since then, I have been coming back to the club as much as I can. It has allowed me to discover so many things I love that I didn’t expect to find when I joined: the Dutch Kills swing bridge and other beautiful rusty fixtures along the creek; the epic annual night-time Manhattan Circumnavigation; the opportunity to learn so many interesting skills in community, like starting a fire with a knife, quartzite, and charcloth; witnessing groups of NYC schoolkids seeing tiny grass shrimp, snails, and fascinatingly disgusting bristleworms for the first time; relaxing my shoulders on a water break as the wide expanse of blue surrounds my small boat; wrking together as a crew on the water and off; laughing my guts out around a campfire with all these great goofy amazing people. There’s nothing better in Brooklyn.

2. What kind of background and experience with paddling did you have before you joined, in general and in NYC specifically?
Okay, I did have a little sit-on-top kayaking experience before showing up to the club; I had gone out with some friends in Louisiana before. But compared to what I’ve learned from other NBBC paddlers, I knew virtually nothing. And look at me now, ma!

3. How did you become a trip leader?
No other paddlers were as inspiring and supportive as Jens and Patterson. I started out by going to Jens’s Skills & Drills paddles, and then went on bucketloads of fun trips led by Patterson. Jens and Patterson! If you’re reading this, you’re the best!

I went to as many paddles as I could. I always tried to show up early and asked how I could help. I volunteered as much as I could in this way because it helped me understand what work needs to happen to get a trip going. I also looked up things when I was off the water — there are a lot of amazing resources on the NBBC website, so it can take some digging to get through all of it. The more experienced paddlers were always supportive and took the time to answer my questions. They encouraged me to stern (steer the canoe from the back end of the boat), and as I got more comfortable, they asked my thoughts on things like boat assignments and leaving times. That allowed me to practice decision making that I would need to do as a trip leader. Jens and Patterson were superstars because in addition to all the mentorship they were already doing, they set up the trainings needed so I could level up into the trip-leader role.

If you’re interested in becoming a trip leader, I would say the support is here for you, especially if you’re motivated. We’re always looking for paddlers to step up, keep showing up, and contribute to our little volunteer-run operation. Many hands make light work.

4. Tell us about a favorite route or trip that you like to use for club paddles.
Ooh, there’s so many! I love creek trips with the canoe crew to the turning basin to scope out night herons, cormorants, and the other wildlife on the creek. The fact that animal life has been returning to the creek is a testament to the importance of the 1972 Clean Water Act, the Superfund Program, and community efforts to keep polluting industries accountable. It’s marvelous to see pilings and cracks in seawalls chock full of mussels. For more information, check out the environmental programming run out of the club. Now more than ever, we need to do what we can so our waterways can keep getting cleaner — and not reverse the trend.

For funsies, I also love the version of the Sweet Treats and Wet Feets paddle up to Hallet’s Cove thatinvolves a snack run, a sunset return trip down the west side of Roosevelt Island, and finally a swing around U Thant to aww at baby cormorants.

And of course, my favorite trips end with a return to the boatyard for fire and fellowship.

5. Tell us one of your favorite stories about a particular club trip.
Well, I’ll say that I adore a good prank. It would be poor form to give away all the secrets to the internets, but there was a particular prank that some intrepid canoers played on another trip going out around the same time. It involved rebel agents of intergalactic war, garbled transmissions and manifestos, elaborate costuming, an informant or two, death-ray-guns, and fire (okay, sparklers). And an ending that gave us a lot of belly laughs after the fact. You’ll have to ask the paddlers involved for details in person. If you know who you can trust, of course.

Klaus S.

Klaus S. at Liberty

Klaus S. at Liberty

Canoe trip leader
Kayak trip leader
Earth Day Action, 2016

Earth Day Action, 2016

1. How did you first find North Brooklyn Boat Club? What’s your origin story as a club member?
I live ten minutes away — so gaining access to a fleet of sleek decked ocean kayaks made my becoming a NBBC founding member a total no-brainer. I hugely enjoy the vastness of personal space our local waterways have to offer. And if that sounds like I’m of solitary inclination . . . well, maybe, but being a trip leader over the past four seasons has certainly kept me in touch with a great community and hugely motivates me to keep learning and to share the wonderful experience.

2. What kind of background and experience with paddling did you have before you joined, in general and in NYC specifically?
Back in Germany, the outdoors is generally at your fingertips. I even lived with a bunch of roommates who were totally into whitewater paddling, but somehow I had entirely other interests at the time. It took me being cooped up in NYC for a decade or so until I happened upon the greatness of kayaking the East River. I started paddling the East River maybe around 2005 with the recently founded Long Island City Community Boathouse. At that time there were no official launches on the East River, and we would lift our heavy sit-on-top tandem kayaks over various fences and at some point in time even a rotten and electrified railing . . . we not only survived but for the most part had great times.

3. How did you become a trip leader?
After being a volunteer and trip assistant and visiting a few free classes and trainings here and there, NBBC sponsored my becoming an ACA-certified trip leader. I remember it as though it was yesterday: a crisp fall weekend along the North Fork of Long Island when I lost my paddling innocence — and such began a selfless life of only serving others! Just kidding! Being a trip leader at NBBC is about as much a commitment as you would want it to be.

4. Tell us about a favorite route or trip that you like to use for club paddles.
While I certainly enjoy a hard and long paddle to various more exotic area locations, I’m largely in it for immediacy: the wind, the current, the calm, the scenery. We live in a great place with ever-changing skies and sunsets. So my favorite paddle is quite reliably the one I’m on right now — no matter how long or short.

5. Tell us one of your favorite stories about a particular club trip.
I’ll have to refer you to the above on this one… But one of the best things at NBBC is hanging out at the fire pit after the paddle (or even instead of a paddle). Ask me there, and I’ll be more inclined to recapture a story or two . . .

Monica

Monica after receiving trip leader certification, Tybee Island, Georgia, 2012

Monica after receiving trip leader certification, Tybee Island, Georgia, 2012

Founding member
Kayak trip leader
First canoe-kayak Roosevelt Island circ, 2012

First canoe-kayak Roosevelt Island circ, 2012

1. What kind of background and experience with paddling did you have before you joined NBBC?
When my dad bought me a used rowboat for the lake cabin, it solidified my love of being out on the water. This led to a summer crewing on tenth-century Irish skin-on-frame row boats called currachs on the Hudson River.

It only followed that my first real job out of college was on board the historic 102′ schooner Pioneer at the South Street Seaport Museum, variously as first mate, museum educator, and ship’s volunteer coordinator. I learned navigation, nautical weather, and so much more and earned my FCC marine radio license over the years as we sailed her down to North Carolina for the winter season and ran up to five trips a day in New York’s busy harbor each summer.

Eventually, my career shifted to design and illustration, but I never lost my love of the water. In 2003, I searched for a way to combine boating and teaching in my free time. I found this at the East River Kayak Club, based on Newtown Creek in Greenpoint, which focused on teaching teenagers on how to build and paddle wooden kayaks. I also began leading trips and was voted onto the board of directors.

Construction on the Newtown Creek bulkhead cut off the club’s water access. So in 2005, I began volunteering with the nearby Long Island City Community Boathouse, leading several trips a week for adults on the East River.

2. How did you first find North Brooklyn Boat Club? What’s your origin story as a club member?
I had been working with LICCB for about seven years when I was contacted by Dewey Thompson, who wanted to know if I’d be like to be involved in a boat club he and some others were trying to develop in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. The many bright, creative, and effective people involved were inspiring. After a year or so of meetings, winning a grant, and finally finding a boatyard, North Brooklyn Boat Club was born.

3. How did you become a trip leader?
As NBBC was getting set to open, I flew to Tybee Island, Georgia, for several intense days of training and testing so the club would have its first ACA-certified trip leader in time for opening day in spring 2012.

Monica at trip leader training, Tybee Island, Georgia, 2012

Monica at trip leader training, Tybee Island, Georgia, 2012


I also conducted workshops in those early days, and my 2012 workshop has blossomed into five: Trip Planning Theory, Trip Planning Practice, Marine Radio and Weather, Rules of the Road, and Knots for Kayakers.

4. Tell us about a favorite route or trip that you like to use for club paddles.
After thirteen years of leading kayak trips on the East River, my favorite trip is any that lets people fall in love with paddling and thereby inspires them to care for and cherish nature and the environment. Plus, a side effect of learning to paddle is a boost to self-esteem and confidence.

To that end, I try to make my trips accessible to as many skill levels as possible, especially beginners, while keeping safety and fun in mind.

Finally, it gives me great joy to have played a part, even if small in those who go on to become leaders or instructors, continuing the cycle.

Dewey

Intrepid winter paddling at Coney Island

Intrepid winter paddling at Coney Island

Kayak trip leader
Founding member
President of the board

1. How did you first find North Brooklyn Boat Club? What’s your origin story as a club member?
A long time ago, I made a short film about a man and a woman who are paired in a boat at a cheesy singles canoe outing and get swept out the East River. I took one of the prop boats, and my wife Katherine and I started paddling, awed and thrilled by the freedom and adventure of the river. Years later, I started the boat club because, having launched our kayaks and canoe from the broken concrete street-ends in Greenpoint and being on the Community Board in the wake of the 2005 Waterfront Rezoning, I saw that when developers talked about “waterfront access,” they were talking about walking up to and looking at the water, not getting on it. I also knew that, without an organization, we would have no real voice in advocating for paddlers. In 2009 I posted a notice for a meeting at the Brooklyn Rod & Gun Club (RIP, sigh), and, from the very first meetings, there was tremendous interest and, moreover, an amazing group of people passionate about getting on and cleaning up the waterways.

2. What kind of background and experience with paddling did you have before you joined, in general and in NYC specifically?
I learned to paddle a canoe at a camp on the Kangaroo River in Australia when I was 9. Started kayaking here in New York many many years later.

3. How did you become a trip leader?
Evangelical about paddling in NYC and eager to spread the love. Learned everything I know from Monica and also took some awesome courses from Tom Potter and Chris Raab up at Lake Sebago.

4. Tell us about a favorite route or trip that you like to use for club paddles.
I think we’re very lucky to have the extraordinary Bushwick Inlet in our reach. A very rare natural embayment off the East River, untouched (legally) by humans for decades after being fenced off from the street and nearby industry, it is a key stopover for migrating birds. Even though Kent Avenue is only a few yards away, it feels like a real sanctuary.

5. Tell us one of your favorite stories about a particular club trip.
My excitement was not shared by everyone on the trip but one moonless winter night, on a Randall’s Island Circ, we encountered and had to paddle/push through a field of icebergs.

Peter Tiso

Peter on the Creek

Peter on the Creek

Canoe trip leader
Pete provides Public Paddle paddle prep

Pete provides Public Paddle paddle prep

1. How did you first find North Brooklyn Boat Club? What’s your origin story as a club member?
Back when NBBC was still meeting at the Brooklyn Rod & Gun, I went to go write about them for Greenpointers. I nervously sat around a table eating peanuts and surrounded by people I didn’t yet know would become my friends, but I knew they were on to something. When I brought down my old canoe to donate and Willis took me out in the middle of the river at night for the first time, I was totally hooked.

2. What kind of background and experience with paddling did you have before you joined, in general and in NYC specifically?
I grew up swimming and fishing in Long Island Sound, so the water felt familiar to me even if New York Harbor did not. I held a relevant merit badge from the prestigious Boy Scouts of America, but my canoeing was pretty rusty when I first got to the club.

3. How did you become a trip leader?
I went on a lot of trips, and the club sponsored me and a few others to take training classes up at Lake Sebago to get our certifications. I was mentored in harbor lore and local knowledge by Willis and Fung.

4. Tell us about a favorite route or trip that you like to use for club paddles.
I really love the trip from Greenpoint to Brooklyn Bridge Park. The feeling of having the whole river pushing you both ways is indescribable, and there are many small, interesting places to explore along the way, and the best view of the Williamsburg Bridge is from the water underneath it. After you do it a few times, the tricks of the current around docks and pilings feels like a playground.

5. Tell us one of your favorite stories about a particular club trip.
Jeff Stark once put on a performance set on the Gowanus Canal called The Dreary Coast, which placed the audience on a barge moving up and down the canal. One night he opened it to people who arrived in their own craft, so we paddled down in one of the 25-foot war canoes. Aside from the performance itself — one of the best uses of forgotten space I’ve ever seen — the trip down and back was memorable. We surprised a tugboat we were coordinating with over the radio with how fast the canoe could go when full of good paddlers, hit some exciting rough water in the harbor, and went out for sandwiches in face paint and life jackets. I think all of our canoeing should be done while dressed as damned souls and our faces painted to terrible masks.