Tag Archives: Long Island Sound

Future Frogmen: Students Act, Educate, Lead

In his younger days, Richard Hyman was a diver with explorer Captain Jacques Cousteau aboard his famed ship Calypso. He later wrote a book about his adventures, called Frogmen.

These days, he brings his passion to area teenagers. Future Frogmen is a 501(c)(3) organization — but don’t be put off by the name, which came from students themselves.

Future Frogmen welcomes everyone. In fact, most interns and volunteers are female. And not all are scuba divers.

Richard Hyman

The student-focused organization fosters ocean ambassadors and develops future leaders, through environmental education and action around climate change, plastic pollution and species survival.

“We work to improve ocean health by deepening the connection between people and nature,” Hyman says.

“That includes the Sound, the Saugatuck and more. All water is connected.”

The Frogmen website includes links to their Conversation Series — discussions with experts on water-related topics. (They’re also available on their YouTube channel.)

There are also instructive blog stories on topics like Earth Day, fossil coral, the intersection of science and politics, microplastics, rising tides, and reports from Florida and Alaska.

A screenshot of some of Future Frogmen’s many blog posts.

Undergraduate, graduate and post-grad students from dozens of colleges and universities are involved in the Frogmen, plus high schools like Staples. Hyman says Advanced Placement teacher Bethann Camillo has been particularly supportive.

Her Environmental Club is engaged in many ways, including the Frogmen’s monthly coastal cleanups at Compo Beach and Sherwood Island. Cleanup findings are catalogued and submitted to the NOAA’s Marine Debris Monitoring and Assessment Project.

The organization also has a strong relationship with Patagonia. Store manager Emily Geeza joined with the Frogmen and Save the Sound on a “Virtual Coastal Cleanup.”

From June 25 through July 2, participants from Maine to Florida will pick up trash in their communities, particularly from coastlines and inland waterways. They’ll post photos with a hashtag to Facebook and Instagram.

A public kickoff call is June 24 (7 p.m.). Westporters will join many others along the entire US coast and inland waterways. Long Island Soundkeeper Bill Lucey will talk about plastics, and the importance of keeping trash out of our waterways. Click here (and scroll to “Local Events”) to join the call.

The Future Frogmen also planning panel discussions for Patagonia and the Westport Library. They hope to record their “Blue Earth” podcast to the library’s studio.

Some of the Future Frogmen, at a cleanup project.

They’d even like to bring back The Great Race — the fun, funky townwide event in which people ran through town, rowed or sailed or paddled out to Cockenoe Island, picked up a bag of trash and raced back.

Hyman — who did 2 races in the 1970s — envisions a new model, perhaps based on Cousteau’s Involvement Days. “Food, music, education and action,” he says. “Like Cousteau I’d welcome other related nonprofits to exhibit, free of charge, all for the greater good.”

The Frogmen are also involved in this week’s United Nations World Oceans Day. They’re hosting free virtual events tomorrow and Friday (June 11-12), as well as next Wednesday (June 17) on topics like sea level rise, the impact of climate change on marine species, and the “blue economy” (using Long Island Sound seaweed in a variety of products). Click here to register for any of the 12 p.m. web sessions.

Despite the COVID pandemic, students and schools are contacting him for internships for this summer, and the upcoming school year.

“As we grow to the next level, we want to ensure quality work and mentoring too,” he says. “That’s why we’re also seeking folks who may still be in their career, as well as retirees who can volunteer their expertise.”

Hyman also recognizes the current environment. He says:

In light of recent events underlying systemic racism in our country, and as a mentorship-driven conservation organization rooted in inclusivity, we at Future Frogmen feel the need to affirm that we are against injustices towards black people. Prejudice contradicts the mantra we so passionately strive for: harmony between humanity and nature.

From the beginning, the young people involved with Future Frogmen impressed upon me the need for us to communicate inclusiveness. We did! We do!

Even within our sphere, there is limited African American representation in natural science disciplines. This works to exclude Black people who have a love and passion for oceans and species conservation.

We strongly believe that Black Lives Matter!

(For more information, email richard.hyman@futurefrogmen.org, or call 203-456-4271. Donations for projects and scholarships can be made by clicking here, or by mail to PO Box 55, Westport, CT 06880.)

Pic Of The Day #1108

Boating in the pandemic (Photo/Lawrence Zlatkin)

Pics Of The Day #955

Homemade boat off Canal Beach …

… and heading out to Long Island Sound. (Photos/Gene Borio)

Pics Of The Day #489

The evening sky was gorgeous last night, near the Westport buoy … (Photo/Lawrence Zlatkin)

… but this is New England, and weather changes rapidly. A few minutes earlier, this was the scene at Winslow Park. (Photo/Patricia McMahon)

Pic Of The Day #488

Longshore Sailing School adds color, on a gray day (Photo/William Armstrong)

Whale’s Tails

This morning’s sighting of a humpback whale in Long Island Sound between Compo Beach and Cockenoe Island has drawn plenty of attention. (Click here  for a great WestportNow video.)

It also brought this email from alert “06880” reader and RTM member Wendy Batteau. She writes:

In another slice of my life, I work with the Maritime Aquarium (and also the Ocean Alliance). Regarding the whale, I received the following email from folks at the Aquarium:

Whales fall under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. There are federal restrictions on how closely you are allowed to approach them.

We do not want everyone in Fairfield and New Haven Counties with a boat to go chasing after this animal. We do not want boaters hurt, and we do not want this whale to be hurt.

One of the 3 humpbacks that turned up in the Sound 2 years ago was killed “by blunt force trauma,” probably in a collision with a sailboat.

If someone has videos or photos, please forward the images to Dave Hudson, John Lenzycki and Dave Sigworth: jlenzycki@maritimeaquarium.org; 
dhudson@maritimeaquarium.org;  dsigworth@maritimeaquarium.org.

Photos or video of the underside of the whale’s tail would be especially helpful. The pattern on the underside of every humpback’s tail is unique, and seeing it may help to identify the whale.

This is not the same whale spotted this morning off the coast of Compo. It is, however, a humpback whale.

Christmastime Kayak

Compo Beach is beautiful this time of year.

So is Long Island Sound.

Alert “06880” reader June Eichbaum took this stunning iPhone photo, a few minutes after launching from Compo. The view is toward Norwalk.

christmastime-kayak

There’s beauty all around us, for sure. We just have to know where to look.

How Sound Is Our Sound?

Remember the days of persistent algal blooms in Long Island Sound? When hypodermic needles washed up on shore? When only truly brave souls went in for a swim — and then headed straight for the shower?

Those days are thankfully gone. It’s taken a concerted effort — by government and private agencies, working together and on their own — to clean up the Sound.

But how healthy is it today?

Save the Sound knows. The New Haven-based organization’s new online tool provides 10 years of water quality data, easily understandable by the public.

Compo Beach beckons on a hot day. But is the water as healthy as it looks?

Compo Beach beckons on a hot day. But is the water as healthy as it looks?

One section focuses on the health of coastal beaches, including bacterial pollution that leads to beach closures and water quality degradation.

Rainfall data shows which locations suffer from bacterial contamination as a result of wet weather overflows and runoff, and which suffer in dry weather too.

The Findings & Solutions section offers strategies for reducing water pollution.

Every beach in Connecticut and New York is rated, from A to F. SPOILER ALERT: Compo gets a B-.

It’s not the sexiest site on the interwebs.

Nor is this one of the most irresistible stories I’ve ever posted on “06880.”

But if you care at all about Long Island Sound — and who in Westport doesn’t? — then clicking this link might be the most important things you do all day.

(Hat tip: Wally Meyer)

One More Golden Anniversary

Quick:  Name 4 Westport institutions that turn 50 this year.

Everyone knows Mitchells, Staples soccer and Staples Players.

If you didn’t think “Longshore Sailing School” too, join the club.  The lesson-and-rental place — located just beyond the pool, at the gorgeous juncture of the Saugatuck River and Long Island Sound — is one of Westport’s most overlooked treasures.

Longshore Sailing School

For its 1st 15 years, the sailing school was a Parks and Rec program.  In the mid-’70s, budget woes almost sunk it.  But former employee John Kantor rode to the rescue.   He made it a private enterprise.  It quickly caught a strong tailwind.

The building now houses a year-round office with 3 full-time employees.  There are 4 covered classrooms, a “great room” filled with photos, and a special weather station.

blog - Longshore sailing 2Longshore Sailing School offers 4 basic classes, from beginner to advanced.  That formula works.  But Kantor and his staff constantly tweak other offerings.  Kayaking is now huge.

While most students are youngsters, adults take weekend classes.  Two-thirds of them never sailed, but always wanted to.  The rest seek a refresher.

Despite its success, Longshore Sailing School faces the same choppy economic waters as the rest of Westport.  Parents are waiting a while to enroll their kids in summer classes.

Operations manager Donny O’Day — a 24-year-old in his 13th year with the school, as a student and employee — is confident that both sign-ups and daily rentals will surge.  “A lot of people who went to Martha’s Vineyard won’t be there this year,” he notes.  “Longshore Sailing is something they’ll definitely enjoy doing.”

In its 50th year, the school is trying new tacks.  On Saturday they partnered with the Westport Historical Society on a kayak/canoe trip up the Saugatuck.

An early June “throwback weekend” will feature original rental prices (and what O’Day calls “hideous navy and peach striped shirts”).

Longshore Sailing School is important to the town — and to its staff.  “It’s the summer job you never forget,” O’Day says.  “We had so many old employees at our 45th anniversary, we may limit the next one to managers only.”

And, he says proudly, all 9 new staff members this year are former students.

Happy 50th, Longshore Sailing School.  May the wind be at your back for 50 more.

Longshore Sailing School