Written by Gregory Druhak Friday, 25 September 2009 00:00
Berthed immediately next to the Christeen, Billy Joel’s new 95-foot Inace Expedition vessel Audacious, gleamed in the late afternoon sunlight. Her captain, Gene Pelland, explained that all this activity was as it should be. He said that access to the waterfront is not just for the privileged, or to be taken for granted, and that it takes real efforts and active participation by everyone, including neighbors like Mr. Joel, to keep the bay healthy. “The water should be accessible to everybody,” he said. “It filters down to a balance in making it accessible for enjoyment, keeping it environmentally clean, and also making it as a resource so that people can make a living.”
Audacious and her crew were being donated for a fundraising cruise in order to focus attention on the current activities of Friends of the Bay. One of that organization’s most important projects is the upcoming release of a major comprehensive watershed management plan that is intended to have a positive effect on future land use planning for residents in the area. The release is the first part in a two-phase project that is in keeping with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s “watershed approach.” Residents are encouraged to read this and participate.
Another project is that of ongoing water quality measurement and reporting, an endeavor that they are looking to expand into upland run-off areas and one that is always in need of regular volunteers.
The fundraising cruise itself was somewhat of an accidental private party. Friends of the Bay President, Beth Dalton-Costello, described it this way: She said that when they were first offered use of the craft, member Albert Anastasi took on the project of raising the funds. He guaranteed the project’s success by simply fully chartering the boat, generously creating what became both an easy benefit to Friends of the Bay as well as a unique special event for family and friends.
Audacious cast off a little after 6:15 p.m., just as the low tide changed from ebb to flood. She inched past the bevy of high performance WaterFront Center racing class Sonar sailboats (available for rent) and threaded her way beyond Tom Thompson’s twin-masted Schooner, Corsair, and around the working Lobster boat Rebecci-EB to the channel.
Once out in Long Island Sound, Captain Pelland said they went west into the sunset, the party leisurely making Throgs Neck and the twinkling lights of New York City by dusk. He said that he remembered the Playland fireworks at Rye, and they turned around headed back in time to catch both the man-made display off one corner of the boat and the near full moon off the other. They returned to the dock in Oyster Bay a little after 10:30 p.m.
In commenting on Mr. Joel’s donation, Captain Pelland said, “He is actually doing this out of who he is and the place he considers home. He is doing this to promote Friends of the Bay and their mission and what they do.” More than just the physical donation, he added, “If he can put his name out in front of something like that, it tends to add a spotlight and get illuminated a little bit more in other people’s eyes.”
Friends of the Bay Acting Director Pat Aiken, who was in Washington during the cruise, said, “What I want to convey is that we are so grateful to Billy Joel for acknowledging what a treasure this harbor truly is. You almost have to go into the State of Maine before you get another harbor like this; one that has the combination of big commercial Oyster Dredges, the independent Baymen, where you can have luxury yachts and you can still swim and fish. It’s getting rarer and rarer.”
She said Friends of the Bay was looking to come up with a “tag line” for future use. Something simple and memorable, like, “It takes friends to save the bay.” She said that in this case she felt the organization did find two true friends, one in Billy Joel and another in the Anastasi family who together made the fundraiser and the spotlight for Friends of the Bay happen.