Fun at the Esopus Whitewater Funfest!

KCCNY started the Esopus Whitewater Funfest four years ago to enhance and expand the traditional Esopus Slalom race held the first weekend in June every year for the past 47 years. It’s a club tradition and driver for the June whitewater release on the Esopus River in Phoenicia NY (Catskills). This year it is June 1-2.
KCCNY added many new whitewater activities to slalom race in order to attract a wider variety of boating interests and added a group dinner and camping for the weekend- all at a very reasonable cost. Our goal is to bring KCCNY club members and the whitewater boating community together in a single fun event for all. We still have the slalom race too for those who are traditionalists about the Esopus Slalom race. The Funfest is designed as an activity to bring all of us together in a social event. It’s the only KCCNY major on-river event for the whole boating season. We have lots of river runs all summer long, but only one Funfest.
What do we have?
On Saturday, we have a full day of events and you can join nearly all of them (some overlap) or pick and choose from them.
The day starts with the downriver sprint race starting above the race course and ending at the bottom of the slalom course. It’s a timed event with the goal to finish as fast as possible. There are classes for different types of boats so you don’t have to be serious racer with a long boat to give this event a try. I’ve tried it and it’s exhausting. I’m definitely not used to paddling very fast as speed is not usually my goal.
Concurrent with the sprint race is the river-run. This is for the mellow and non-competitive boaters who enjoy floating down at a leisurely pace, surfing and enjoying the scenery along the way. The river-runners start upstream at the cemetery and paddle a 5 mile stretch of river down to the campground. The river is Class 2 suitable for experienced novices who have run Class 2 rivers before. The river-run is led by ACA certified Whitewater instructors (Jack Moskowitz and others) and informal instruction is available along the way. The river-run repeats on Sunday.
Mid-day on Saturday there is a freestyle event. This event started last year and was run as a down-the-river style event, where boaters did as many moves as possible on a section of the race course. Each move scores points, and difficult moves score higher. Even simple moves like front surfs, side-surfs and flat spins score points. Getting the boat on end scores higher points. It’s fun and friendly and not very serious. This year’s location and style of event will depend on water levels and features available. The river changes course every year, sometimes dramatically so you never know what to expect.
The last on-water event on Saturday is the boater-cross. The boater-cross is a mass start race on a short course through the slalom course, with the first boater to cross the finish line declared the winner. Again, there are different classes for different style of boats, and sometimes a bit of carnage along the way as boats jockey for position. Last year, the men’s and women’s and events were highly competitive.
By now, everyone is exhausted but the day is not over yet. After a brief rest, we gather for dinner in the town of Phoenicia to enjoy Linda McLuckie’s delicious dinner followed by her even more yummy home-made desserts. Make sure you save room for those. Dinner is BYOB. It’s relaxed and informal. If you are camping, you can head back the Sleepy Hollow campground down the road to continue the camaraderie. Get a good night’s sleep because you have another busy day on Sunday! Note that friends and family are welcome for dinner and camping and can sign-up for a dinner only option. So bring them along. The more the merrier!
Sunday starts bright and early with the slalom race. It’s an all-day event for the racers. When they are not actually on the course, they serve as judges to spot each gate for touches and misses. It is common for the boaters to enter more than one race class and each class has two runs with the best score being counted for that class. Some folks take this really seriously and are highly competitive, and others are there for the challenge and experience and there are boater classes for each.
For the mellow folks, there is another river-run on Sunday. The river-run will stop at the race course for lunch and cheer the racers on. Since the river-run goes through the race course, it is possible to try the course, or at least a few gates on the way down. It’s harder than it looks to make it through every gate- there are about 20 of them and some of them you have to through them going upstream.
Now that everyone is completely exhausted, everyone pitches in to take down the race course as quickly as possible so that we can get the race results, announce and cheer the winners, and give out door prizes. Our sponsors have donated a variety of boating related prizes. There are also special awards given for boaters who compete in three or more events including the slalom. These are called the RiverMeister awards. It seems that the majority of winners are the teenagers who have the stamina to compete in multiple events. Some of us old folks aren’t up to the challenge.
As always, putting together this event is a team effort and volunteer help is greatly appreciated. It is especially helpful to come up on Friday and help set up the race course. Volunteers who help on Friday will be given free admission to the Funest. John Coraor works really hard at this and can use all the help he can get. Contact him directly at to volunteer. If you can’t make it on Friday, volunteers are also needed on Saturday and Sunday to run the activities and help clean up the dinner. (no free admission for those) Even a few minutes, or one event is greatly appreciated.
We hope that many club members, local boaters and friends and family come out and join the fun.
Check out my gallery of a few pictures from last year’s Funfest!
To sign up, go to to for more information and registration forms. There is an early bird discount for registrations received before May 25th. On-site registration is available, but we cannot guarantee that you can sign up for dinner as we order food in advance.
See you there! Sign up early and save $10.

Rescue on the Neversink Part II: The Saga Continues

I told Fran that I would rewrite the rest of this if she worked at Paddlesport so I guess I’ve got to finish. Heres what happened next…….
It was an easy choice to make, I abandoned Nate’s sodden craft, hoping that Neval might be able to grab it and went after her boat
It was easier to catch than Nate’s had been. It was kind of unconcernedly bumping down the side of the river out of the main current and I caught up to it immediately. So now I had it but wasn’t quite sure what to do with it. I lifted her boat across my bow and threw it towards a fortuitous flat spot on the otherwise steeply sloped shoreline. Surprisingly two things happened, The boat actually reached the shore and then had the decency to stay there.
Meanwhile, Nate’s boat had rather unsportingly left the party and was once again continuing its meandering journey down river. I picked up my paddle which had loyally stayed at my side as I threw Neval’s boat ashore and started once again to chase Nate’s errant vessel.
Up ahead, a short boulder garden jutted into the river, extending from the right shore into the main current. I wanted no part of that in this high water so I abandoned the chase and cut to my left into the big water of the main current but away from the rocks. Nate’s boat, being much more experienced than I was, wasn’t bothered by the rocks at all and disappeared among the boulders, funneled down a shoot of rushing water.
I fought my way through the waves of the main current, passing the jumble of rocks and paddled back to my right, searching for the wayward boat, but it wasn’t there. It must have been tired of boating alone and decided to wait in the rocks for the rest of us to catch up.
It took another 100 yds or so before I was able to find an eddy large enough to permit me to exit my boat. I got out carefully, holding tightly to my boat to avoid letting it loose in the current, wedged it into a deadfall, and started my tortuous journey back upstream along the shore.
It was a nightmare. The steep sides of the gorge were a jumble of boulders, dead trees, brush and assorted flotsam all twisted together and left behind by the receding water. There was no clear path anywhere and I had to climb over, under around and through the jumbled mass. I was exhausted by the time I reached the boulder garden.
I had hoped that Nate’s boat would have the common sense to get pinned against the shore but that wasn’t the case. It wasn’t pinned anywhere and had just disappeared. I looked about again and then a 3rd time. Finally I caught a glimpse of bright green beneath a breaking wave in the middle of the shoot of water gushing between the rocks. It was pinned deep beneath the wave and had I not seen his boat enter the shoot and had it not had a few bright green patches of color,I would never have located it. The boat would have been lost and Nate would have had a long walk out. I had no idea how to get it out of there so I sat down to wait.
Eddie was next to arrive on the scene. He had utilized the same eddy that I had and had followed my serpentine path back up to where I sat. After catching his breath, he inquired as to the whereabout of Nate’s boat. I pointed to the wave and told him it was there. He asked me again where it was. Again I pointed to the wave. I let him ask a 3rd time because it was a little funny before telling him to look for the green spot beneath the wave. He wasn’t all that happy when he saw where the boat was lodged.
Neval arrived next followed by Dan Spencer. The rest of the group figured that we had enough people to retrieve one boat and continued downstream to wait  where the river slowed in a large eddy at the end of the gorge
Nate was the last to arrive, exhausted after having fought his way downstream through the tangled maze along the the shore. He also asked where his boat had gone, we all pointed. He asked again. It was getting fun now but Nate was in less than a party mood so we didn’t wait for him to ask a 3rd time and showed him where his trapped boat lay. None of us knew how to reach it.
Finally Eddie said that he had a device in his boat that he thought might work. He carries everything in there and is pretty well prepared for anything he might encounter on the water. He left us and began his arduous journey down to his boat and back again. I was starting to get pretty cold. We had been there for a while, I was wet and it didn’t look like we would be leaving anytime soon.
Eddie made his way back to us carrying a piece of aluminum cut in the shape of a large Vee with a rope tied to one end. He explained that the V would catch the lip of the cockpit and allow us to pull the boat off of the pinning rocks. In theory anyway, Eddie had never used it.
Our problem was that you couldn’t see the cockpit, you really couldn’t even see the boat, and the water was racing. Eddie tried a few throws but the current swept the V away immediately and it was soon readily apparent that we would have to try something different.
Eddie said that he would go into the water for the boat. It was incredulous that he would even consider it. I wanted no part of that as I was already freezing and my dry pants weren’t living up to their name. I couldn’t imagine anyone going into that water.
Ed asked us to tie a rope to his vest. Having been taught never to tie off on a rope when in the river, I wasn’t to keen on that idea.  I had never seen a rescue vest and Ed explained that it had a quick release latch that was made for the purpose. I was a little skeptical about the whole thing.
We tied Eddie off and then he and I hopped from boulder to boulder as we made our cautious way out to the large rock nearest to the pinned craft. Neval, Nate and Dan stayed on the shore and payed out the line as needed. We were using two ropes, one for Eddie and the other to pull the boat free..
I stayed dry on the rock, holding both ropes as Eddie slid into the calm water behind the boulder and immediately went in over his head. The current had scoured out a deep hole behind the rock and Ed had to swim to  where the water was shallower. He must have been freezing, I was really glad it wasn’t me out there.
Ed made his way out to a shallow spot and inched cautiously towards the boat into the main current. The furious water was up to his mid thigh and Eddie had to keep both feet firmly planted or risk getting swept away. We tossed him a paddle, and using that as a support, he was able to make his way toward, but not next to, the boat.
The water was just too fast. Ed was within a foot or two of his destination but could not take another step without being swept away. After working his way backwards and then slightly upstream of the boat, Ed launched himself out into the current, grabbing frantically at the boat as he was swept past.
Miraculously he made it, clutching desperately at the boat while trying to gain a foothold as the water surged over and around him, battering him against both boat and rock. Ed finally stood up in the waist deep torrent but was unable to let go of the boat long enough to clip a carabiner into the grab loop so he just kind of shoved the V thing into the overturned cockpit and told us to pull.
WE pulled and the V held, but we couldn’t pull the boat off the rocks. Ed had all he could do to keep himself in place, but tugged viciously and the boat while we pulled again and suddenly the boat popped free.
So did Ed. Losing his handhold on the boat, Ed was instantly swept downstream by the gushing current. Letting go of the rope holding the boat, I hauled back on the rope attached to Ed, dragging him through the current and into the eddy behind the rock where I sat. Neval, Nate and Dan still held the rope that was attached to the boat, but as they tried to haul it in, the boat rolled over and the V came free. In a desperate bid for freedom, Nate’s errant boat had struck out on its own once again.
We all stood dejectedly and watched it go. After all of the magnificent effort that Ed had put into freeing the pinned boat, Nate was still condemned to making his way down the tortured shoreline on foot.
Fortunately, the boat didn’t go very far. We were almost to the end of the gorge and it washed into a large eddy at a bend in the river and then lodged on an island allowing the rest of our group to drag it ashore. Nate’s boat had at last decided to stop and wait for it’s owner to catch up. We ferried it to the shore and waited for Nate to make his exhausted way downstream  to us.
I’m still a little in awe of the effort that Eddie was willing to go through to help his friend. He took quite a beating in the freezing water and I’m sure he was heavily bruised and sore for a few days afterward. He told me that as the most experienced paddler in our group, he felt that it was his responsibility to rescue the boat. It was amazing.