Making waves at the Shore

Capt. Herb Anmuth at the helm of the Naughty Nestor sailboat, setting sail from the Farley State Marina.
Capt. Herb Anmuth at the helm of the Naughty Nestor sailboat, setting sail from the Farley State Marina.

It's a busy season in surf and stream, the splashiest event a politically themed kayak parade with a dummy of Gov. Christie as pothead.

Posted: August 08, 2012

ATLANTIC CITY - There were some summers when the great sailing ship known as the Naughty Nestor never left its dock at the Farley State Marina.

Not that this meant it wasn't used. My father-in-law, Capt. Herb (middle name Nestor; I have not pursued the origin of the naughtiness), and mother-in-law, Linda (she of the iron stomach), used it plenty. It was essentially their summer home, in a neighborhood of like-minded boat types, a rugged and rollicking community of stationary floaters who held dock parties and danced to cover bands on the deck at the nearby casino.

But this summer is not one of those summers. This has been a summer when the Naughty Nestor's sails were unfurled, when stand-up paddleboards were stood upon, when Hobie Cats contested fiercely in the annual catamaran beach regatta. A summer when lifeguards rowed in ocean competition, then broke it down swell by swell for the local media, and when a used "eight" crew boat - reconfigured to hold sculling oars, not sweep oars - was rechristened an "octuple" and led a flotilla of kayaks in a parade.

Actually, that was all just this past weekend.

The decorated kayaks, along with pedal boats, rowboats, and other human-powered craft, made for a lovely sight as they glided en masse in the back bays of Ventnor during Saturday's fourth annual non-fossil-fuel "Nights in Ventnor Go Green" parade - a shot at Ocean City's big, long-running "Night in Venice" powerboat parade.

The kayak flotilla, led by an octuple propelled by middle-aged, toga-clad rowers, came loaded with a lefty agenda (or would that be a port-side agenda?) featuring medical marijuana and same-sex marriage. First prize went to a kayak titled "NJ Grows Green," which featured a nearly life-size figure of Gov. Christie holding a lighted joint the size of a baseball bat. Joining it in the flotilla were a "Here Come the Brides. Won't Marry Us . . . Dope" craft and one carrying "Rasta Women for Medicinal Mary."

No starboard agendas were apparent, though I - observing from my prime seat in the octuple - liked the canoe with the dad and daughter in green shower caps, representing the Jersey Shore's official pest, the greenhead fly.

The parade was marred only by an ill-timed, very much fossil-fuel-powered cigarette boat zooming through the route, and a little confusion over the requirement that the kayaks stay behind the octuple - some human-powered tension out there in a traffic jam of kayaks. So very Jersey.

In fact, a lot of this summer's human-powered local water sports have been mired in controversy and politics. People are really invested in their sport's potential for serenity and euphoria, which naturally leads to fights.

Over at the surfers' beach near the Ventnor Pier, a bitter battle broke out between stand-up paddleboarders and traditional surfers, who felt that the SUP'ers were taking over their waves, getting in the way, and basically messing up the vibe.

The growing ranks of SUP'ers - a variation of surfing that is easier on middle-aged necks and is practiced by people who live in my house - wanted to stay at the surfers' beach and, like, have everyone embrace the aloha spirit.

Eventually, Ventnor's new administration (in which non-surfers outnumber surfers two to one), helped by the Ventnor City beach patrol, embraced a Solomonic solution and carved up the surfers' beach into a SUP'er section and a surfer section. The aloha spirit, always at risk in Jersey, emerged intact, if somewhat tattered. Maybe because the waves have been mostly lousy this summer, the issue lost a bit of urgency.

In Jersey, when people talk about going off shore, they generally mean Egg Harbor Township, i.e. on shore. But to get truly offshore - by the power of wind, paddle, an oar or two, or at the helm of the three-decade-old sailboat that symbolizes a life together - is to see things from a different perspective. Likewise, to go under where you usually go over, as in looking up at the Dorset Avenue Bridge, where a nun from the house across the street has spotted you and is waving as your boat glides underneath. Seeing veteran lifeguards row in and around the island each morning, as they've done for decades, seems to hold some answers for how life should be lived.

At Friday's Margate Memorials, one of the top three lifeguard races that are staples of Jersey Shore summers, Ventnor hero David Funk won the singles row in rocky surf, bringing the team championship home to Ventnor. He showed the addictive intricacy of a simple row in a lifeguard boat in his post-race interview with rowing-race scribe Guy Gargan, a deconstruction worthy of ESPN's SportsCenter.

"I was trying to get myself to bring the bow around, this is where it caused the stern to go north, and the bow to go south, which made it difficult. I came off of the swell, and immediately the next wave was standing up. I was almost sideways in the surf, threw a couple of right oars in, jumped right back, and got the boat off keel to maneuver it and just walked the boat a little bit to stay out in front.

"It's more instinct," he concluded. "I can't really do the same exact thing again."

Instinct and intricacy. These human-powered water devices require both, and yield both the comfort of repetition and the challenge of conditions that never feel the same twice.

On Sunday, for the second time in as many weeks, we boarded the 42-foot Naughty Nestor and turned it from a houseboat into the seaworthy ketch it was born to be three decades ago. It's not necessary to give an accounting of who got sick after being warned about texting while sailing, or who rose to the occasion, but perhaps all my rowing this summer has toughened my stomach.

The crew, fresh from an extremely controversial third-place finish in 17th Annual Oxford Ocean Sailing Club's Hobie Regatta on Saturday, performed admirably in rough seas and high winds, the conditions this classic boat was meant for.

Actually, it's been a year of rough seas for the crew, including the loss of Capt. Herb's trusty first mate, Linda, who shared so many memories of life on the water, both in the comfort of the dock and the adventure at sea. Linda will be remembered for many things, not least of which was her ability to go below and cook a gourmet meal when all around her less sturdy souls were retching.

Maybe that's why it was so lovely to get the boat out to sea. To get Capt. Herb back at the helm, swells crashing up and over - that's a summer's worth of being where you belong.


Contact Amy S. Rosenberg at 215-854-2681 or arosenberg@phillynews.com. Follow on twitter @amysrosenberg. Read the "Jersey Shore" blog at Philly.com/downashore

|
|
|
|
|