Workshop at the Lake

Group Photo.

I was very pleased to assist Josh Hall, an experienced paddlesports instructor, with an American Canoe Association Instructor Certification Workshop (ACA ICW) at Lake Sebago last weekend. We had four participants, and all earned an instructor award.

This was a Level 2 ICW: two days of practice with a third day of assessment, learning how to present information and organize activities to teach various paddling skills and knowledge. We had a great team, with three members of the Yonkers Paddling & Rowing Club, and one from the Sebago Canoe Club.

Teaching on Land.
Teaching on Land.

Josh Hall is an Instructor Trainer Educator who teaches paddlesports at a county park system in South Carolina. I’ve worked with him before in Maine and Connecticut, and when I decided to start down the path to become an Instructor Trainer, his was the first name that came to mind. I learned a lot watching him teach how to teach, diving deep into the nuance of ACA criteria and developing a critical eye for the level 2 instructor requirements.

Hot Dawgin'.
Hot Dawgin’.
Capturing a Boat.
Capturing a Boat.
Sitting Up.
Sitting Up.

The weekend was hot and the lake was cool; we had no issues getting folks willing to be wet for rescue practice. On a couple of days, we had enough wind to give folks a bit of challenge in both maintaining direction and picking a spot to teach in.

Paying Attention.
Paying Attention.
Paddling Together.
Paddling Together.

A lot of sessions required teamwork; sometimes paired up, sometimes working as a group to split up complex topics and share the workload. Everyone learned from each other – including me! I saw some ways to do things differently than I had learned, which was great. Having alternative ways to accomplish a task is a great backup for that time when the usual way doesn’t work.

Assisted Rescue.
Assisted Rescue.
Practicing Draw Strokes.
Practicing Draw Strokes.

This was one of my “big events” for the summer and I’m so glad it went well. Four days at a lake in Harriman State Park was a good reprieve from civilization; spending time in a kayak is always good; paddling with fellow enthusiasts makes all of that better.

Hopefully, we’ll do this again.

Navigation Classes

Nav Class -TKC 2023.

I’m happy to say I taught a lot of navigation this spring. After I announced the first class, there was so much demand that I taught a second (shorter) class and then taught a third (original length) class. All in, over two dozen learners, and I learned a lot myself!

Nav Class -TKC 2023.
Signing in at the props table.

Technically these were classes about navigation and tidal planning, with a bit of weather and communications thrown in at the end. That’s a lot of material to cover, and the short version of the class narrowed the focus to some practical aspects for a specific club.

However, everyone got to learn how to use a compass both to get their bearings and to plan a trip. This meant using charts and being able to line up reality with what was on the chart.

Nav Class -TKC 2023.
Charts and Tides.

We also spent some time on tide tables – which, as a seller of Eldridge tide and pilot books, I have plenty of. Learning the distinctions between tides and tidal currents, springs and neaps, and rules of thumb for speed and distance – all that went into some trip planning.

Navigation Class 2023. Beczak.
Orbital Mechanics.

There’s nothing like a live demonstration – including humans standing in for water levels around an inflatable Earth, chasing an inflatable moon.

At the end of the day, we talked about weather, and weather patterns, and signs of weather, ending with some discussion of how to use radios and other tools for communication.

I was very pleased with these classes and hope to offer more this year – and next year. They’re great for the colder seasons, when not everyone gets out – but a little practical navigation always beckons to be practiced, any time of year.

Directions to the ACA Camp at Lake Sebago

The American Canoe Association camp on Lake Sebago is in Harriman State Park, near Sloatsburg, New York. There is no street address, but getting there is pretty simple.

Note: There is a locked gate at the drive. If you don’t have a key, then make arrangements ahead of time to meet someone. Cel service is very spotty, so don’t count on contacting someone in the camp.

The ACA Camp is starred in the top right.

Getting to Sloatsburg
Sloatsburg is right off I-87, just northwest of I-287. Highway 17 runs parallel to the interstate. You can get there in a variety of ways, but the interstate and the highway are likely for most drivers.
In Sloatsburg, from either the interstate or highway, you’ll intersect with Seven Lakes Drive. This is a long road that runs through the park.

You can also access the Seven Lakes Drive from the north, via Exit 16 on the Palisades Parkway, in which case you will not drive through Sloatsburg.

Seven Lakes Drive
From Sloatsburg, the entrance to the camp is a little over three miles, and on the left. If you find yourself passing a sizable lake on your left, you’ve overshot.

From the Palisades Parkway entrance, you’ll drive pass Lake Welch and bear left, then turn left, for a total of seven miles. The entrance will be on your right, after passing a sizable lake on your right.

Drive to the Camp
Once past the gate, there is a fairly meandering drive through the woods. Eventually this reaches a fork: The ADK (Adirondack Mountain Club) camp is straight ahead, and the ACA (American Canoe Association) camp is to the right. You want the ACA camp. There is a second gate here, but the same arrangements for accessing the first should get you through the second, i.e. a key or a friend.

Announcing Sea Leader Development Course

As mentioned in the New Year’s email, here are some details about the Sea Leader Development Course.

The Sea Leader Award is a British Canoeing leadership award. While personal paddling skills are part of the assessment for the award, navigation and group management skills are also part of the award. Sea Leaders are considered capable of leading a small group of kayakers in a moderate tidal environment with winds not exceeding Beaufort Force 4.

The Sea Leader Development Course is a long-term paddler development program, meant to support a paddler’s journey towards being assess for the Sea Leader award. Part of that support is working with potential candidates consistently over time, in order to provide individualized feedback along the way, with a recommended action plan at the end, including options for assessment.

The course fee includes at least six sessions through the calendar year, covernig an introduction to British Canoeing and the award itself, along with:

  1. Trip Planning, Tidal Currents, and Navigation.
  2. Personal Paddling Skills Check
  3. Rescues and Incident Management
  4. Two day trips.
  5. One long weekend to practice planning and leading small groups in a moderate environment.

This course is preparation for the award; the award itself would need to be assessed by a qualified provider. Awarding also requires the aspirant to be a member of British Canoeing -details of which will be part of this course. However, this development course does not require membership, and would be a good course for anyone aspiring to lead small groups of sea kayakers.

The venues for this course will be spread around the New York/New Jersey/Connecticut area, so you should be able to transport yourself, boat, and kit.

To sign up, simply drop a line to by February 1. We’ll have a chat, and if you’re still interested, you’ll receive an invoice and scheduling information.

A Spring Boost

I hope everyone’s had a good enough winter. Wherever you are, I hope you’re healthy and able to get outdoors, and in particular, I hope that the Omicron variant has subsided, and that new variants stay clear.

This past weekend, I got a different sort of boost than the vaccine kind – a performance coaching boost! I attended a two-day class on coaching methods, and hopefully I’ll be able to use some of those in sessions this summer. Nothing nefarious! Just new ways to assist learners in developing their paddling skills.

With that, I want to share that Paddles Up is the new home for British Canoeing awards delivery. I would say in part that’s because there aren’t British or American ways to paddle, which seems to have been the perception by some. Instead, Paddles Up is open to everyone, and the progressive series of awards developed by British Canoeing are now delivered through Paddles Up.

That said, last year I qualified as an L4 Open Water Coastal Kayaking instructor, so those of you invested in the American Canoe Association awards can work with me to develop skills in more open and dynamic environments. And, if you just want to go for a paddle, that’s cool too.

With so many options, I thought I’d start the year off with a survey. If you’re on the THPC email list, you’ll get a link shortly, but here’s the form all the same. I would love to hear from you about what you’re interested in doing, and literally how far you’re willing to travel.

March is almost over, spring has just arrived. The paddling season is right around the corner.



How to Sign Up with the Scheduler

Every summer, I have at least a couple of questions from clients about how to sign up using the scheduler. Here are some pictures to guide you through it.

Courses listed publicly will start off as follows. For courses listed privately – for example, courses I run for clubs – the link will take you to a version of the page that lists that course.

First, select the course that you want by clicking on the block.

Then, enter a quantity (the default is 1) and click on the date of that course.

It’s in bold (in this case, July 31).

Right there, says the red arrow.

Then, you need to pick a time. Most courses will only be offered at one time on one date, but you’ll still need to select the date and time.

Don’t use recurring. I’ve yet to offer a recurring class.

From there, you should just be filling out a form. Name, phone, and email are required for contact purposes. Some courses will have additional questions.

Finally, make your payment. You can pay using a credit card or via Paypal.

And….that’s it! You should get a confirmation email once you’ve registered.

As always, if there are any questions or concerns about a course, or registration, or payment, be sure to email me at

Winter of Content

Well, here we are. Mere days shy of a new year, entering winter. Let’s all agree that this has been a heckuva year.

I hope everyone has gotten out to paddle. Whether you’re in the NYC metro area or farther afield, whether paddling on rivers, estuaries, or seas, every time I’ve gone for a paddle, I’v thought of my clients.

Some of you have known me for a while, and as I’ve watched you develop your paddling skills you’ve hopefully watched me develop my coaching skills. Some of you, perhaps only came to a single pool session, or for a lesson taught off a beach somewhere, but I still think about these one-offs.

I am saying thank you to you all. I’ve been teaching on my own now for about five years, under the banner of Tubby Hook Paddle Company. Maybe I’ve worked with you longer, from days at New York Kayak Company, or the work I did with Matt at Prime Paddlesports. It’s pleasantly jarring to think of how long I’ve been a paddlesports instructor, and in case it isn’t clear, I have no intention of stopping.

That said, it’s been a heckuva year (see above). To be honest I didn’t paddle from the time the pandemic hit NYC until the very end of May, and only did some personal paddling through June. By July, I started teaching again, but only in my local club, which set up some protocols minimizing the use of their boathouse.

At the time, so many regulations were changing at the state and local level, not to mention parks regulations, that it was challenging to promise being able to meet somewhere, provide a boat, and possibly equipment, all for a lesson. What if the venue was closed by the time we arrived? Many of you are sans car and while I’ve happily carpooled in the past, it seems unwise today.

The ACA camp at Lake Sebago was closed for a while, and when they re-opened they were not allowing classes like the two-day weekend course I’ve taught several years in the past. Even when I started to set up sessions away from the lake, at one point I nixed a surf class when there were shark sightings and beach closings near the venue. Parking was tough, with the better put-ins closed off by towns as well.

And yet, here we are. I did manage to run an ACA L3 sea kayaking skills assessment (thanks to those of you who attended). I was also able to steal away to Mount Desert Island in October for an instructor course, teaching and learning in the bigger, rockier environments that Maine offers, with some ace guidance from top Instructor Trainers. I also got out on a whitewater session, taking in a river that’s terrified my imagination but which, I’m happy to say, was both challenging and pleasant.

This year of Covid has forced a few changes. First, I’m changing services for email and for booking courses – hence email notifications will look a little different, and when I resume bookings again, that will look different too. Second, I’m sorry to say it’s highly unlikely that there will be a pool program to speak of this winter. While it looked like New York was doing pretty well, the overall resurgence in numbers has forced Dov and I to put any ideas on pause.

We know that sucks. We love to teach, and wish we could just work with students again like we used to. We’re looking forward to the day that we can.

For now, as the water temperature has dropped into the 50s F, those of you with drysuits and your own boat and kit, drop me a line if you’re interesting in some winter touring. As we get into the new year, I’ll come up with some course ideas, but they’ll probably be ad hoc at least until summer.

Be sure to check out the online store, too. I’ve got a couple of jackets, never used, as well as a variety of Kokatat Farmer-J neoprene. Some new Eldridges for 2021 have arrived and will be listed soon. I’m willing to make delivery in the NYC area; shipping further afield.

Be safe. Be well. Be kind. Hopefully we’ll paddle together again soon.

Another Day At Democrat Point

I was out with two long-time students at Democrat Point. Mid-September, after Labor Day. We’d been worried about possible thunderstorms, but that threat dissipated days before. It was a nice, partly cloudy, windy early fall day.

Long-time students are the exception rather than the rule. I’ve been instructing for a little over six years now, and in most of that time I might work with someone once or twice, and that’s it. The rare students I’ve had where I see them year after year, progressing, perhaps taking a year off for various reasons and then returning, well: it’s a welcome dynamic, to see someone else grow their passion and ability in the sport.

We were out here for fun, but also a paddling skills assessment. This meant we needed the right combination of wind, waves, and current. Democrat Point generally isn’t shy about that.

CC and KW
Ready for Action!

We set out from Oak Beach, paddling here and there to show off various strokes. With the current in our favor, we quickly made our way down to my favorite feature, a recirculating eddy that serves as a bit of a rough-water chairlift.

We played and maneuvered on the eddy line for a bit.

Riding the Line
KW on the Line.
On the line
CC on the Eddy Line.

While boat traffic was relatively light, we were next to a channel for recreational and fishing boats. Guess who else likes to park their boats on moving, shoaling water? A bit of awareness was in order.

Situational Awareness

Of course, it wouldn’t be an assessment without self-rescues! There was a lot of rescuing that day – less for cause, and more for show.

Self Rescue
Self Rescue.
Lending a Hand
On Standby.

After our play, we went out to the point itself, crossing the main boating channel to land at the beach on the far side. After lunch, we took a stroll to the point to assess the water. It was a bit tall and dumpy for surfing, and a bit confused owing to the wind.

Observing the Waves
Waves at the point.

Navigation was part of the assessment – knowing where you are, as well as how to get there.

Taking a Bearing.

On the way back, we tried a few presentation rescues – i.e. the casualty stays in their boat while the rescuer presents a boat or paddle for them to right themselves. It’s a rare sight in most of my teach, so it was nice to see it pulled off successfully several times.

Helping Hand
Paddle Presentation.

I’m happy to say both participants displayed their abilities to the level of the tasks. For many people, kayaking, including sea kayaking, is simply touring in benign conditions, with the occasionally inconvenient weather or on-water incident. Being able to navigate, paddle, tow, rescue, and lead in a dynamic environment is a real step up in achievement.

A Singular Session

Bracing Turn

I taught a 1-1 class last weekend, focusing on draws and pries.

A draw pulls the boat to the paddle. A pry pushing the paddle towards the boat. Put another way, the paddle can stay on one side of the boat while turning the boat one direction and then the other.

Flatwater Practice
First on flat water.

First a bit of practice on flat water; above it’s a bow rudder, which is effectively a bow draw.

Moving Water
Practicing in moving water.

Next, we tried staying in a small race that forms at the railroad bridge, as the Harlem ebbs into the Hudson. In the above, it’s a stern draw – rudder position but with the blade pulling the stern, effectively turning the bow of the boat away from the paddle.

Being able to turn the boat without changing the paddle’s position is a great skill to have in dynamic water, when you might not have time to change sides. Whether in surf, whitewater, or just playful waves, they’re a great addition to your collection of boat handling skills.

Programming Updates

So, here we are. Still in the midst of a global pandemic, but thankfully, in the Tubby Hook area of operation, one that has fallen to a manageable level. Let’s all hope that this only changes for the better, here and afar.

June was the first month that I began paddling personally, for fun, on anything like a regular basis, and in July I taught some classes at a local club, trying out some ways to accommodate concerns about COVID-19. I really enjoy teaching and guiding, and surprised myself with how much I enjoyed getting back to it.

Here are some steps, in addition to what’s been previously posted, that I’m taking for programs for the remainder of the year.

Unfortunately, with the changing state and local restrictions, I won’t be posting any courses ahead of time. If you would like to work on specific skills, or take part in a journey, please email

  1. For now, no programs run from Tubby Hook in Manhattan. The parking area has been closed off, and while some group activities are allowed, it’s better in my opinion to avoid.
  2. The ACA camp at Lake Sebago is open for member use, but not classes. This means no classes at the lake this year.
  3. On land, wear a mask. It should go in a drybag for taking it along on the water. No mask required on the water.
  4. I’m including hand sanitizer in my first aid kit, and asking that all clients bring their own. Think of it as another kind of sunscreen to have with you and apply regularly.
  5. Bring enough food and water for yourself. We will not be sharing food or water, except in emergency.
  6. Maintaining 6 feet distance as best as possible on the water.

Just to recap those previous steps:

  1. Courses may be cancelled on short notice, with a full refund.
  2. Coursework will minimize contact between participants.
  3. Cancellations by clients due to Covid or Covid-related reasons will be fully refunded.

Stay home if you’re sick, or have reason to expect you were exposed within the previous two weeks.

The CDC has some guidance specific to watersports, if not kayaking. There is no evidence of Coronavirus spreading through recreational waters.

Our main concern will be assisted rescues. When practicing, we’ll try to keep appropriate distance between rescuer and casualty, and try some other adaptations to be safe against Covid.

August and September are great times to be paddling in the Hudson River Valley. The water is as warm as it gets, and is refreshing in the summer heat. As Fall arrives, the foliage along the waterfront, especially the Palisades, can be quite beautiful.

Be safe, be well, be kind. I hope to hear from some of you, even if it’s just to keep in touch.


Julie McCoy