Distanced sail, anyone? Some good little rats are taking to the river for a little camaraderie and sailing instruction these days. The pandemic hasn’t taken away the river, after all, and its rites of passage, like sailing.
Summers in the Rumson-Fair Haven area are rife with river-oriented activities that have become tradition. River Rats’ sailing “camp” in Fair Haven is no exception. OK, nobody was camping. It was more like a little club. Still is.
It’s been the way of growing up on the Navesink for decades — since 1955. Kids learn how to boat and do a lot of summer fun bonding in the process.
Summer is in full swing down by the river, heat waves, storms and all! And a big part of summering in the Rumson-Fair Haven area is all about hanging out down by the river — on the dock, on a little strip of sand, or sailing away with your River Rats.
Sometimes all you need is a little boat, a lot of heart and some solace in a river ride at sunset. That’s what it was all about for at least one lone kayaker on Monday night … and likely many before and after.
The sky was colorful and the scene was a serene one at the River Rats boat launch in Fair Haven. It’s a picture that countless native Rumson and Fair Havenites have been in. It’s worth more than a thousand words but needs very few.
Take a look and transport back to your last river ride …
With the recent death and impending memorial of former longtime Fair Havenite and River Rats purser, Warner White, thoughts turn back to some good old days of being a kid rat, so to speak, and hanging out down by the river.
It’s a rite of passage in the Rumson-Fair Haven area that kid life be rife with river-oriented activities.
River Rats was the king of that sort of thing — especially in the summertime. The little riverfront nook at the foot of Battin Road in Fair Haven was that special place where kids and boating-bonded buddies learned how to sail and navigate riverfront life with the sand between their toes and perpetual smiles on their faces. It was a unique little sailors’ club. Still is.
River Rats has been a Fair Haven institution since 1955.
It all started like this: “In October 1955 shortly after he moved from New York, Captain Walter Isbrandtsen wrote to a friend: ‘I have purchased a house in a small community on the New Jersey coast where I am gradually becoming active … in an organization known as Dads Incorporated … whose activities include a newly established program designed to take full advantage of a neighboring river …'”
Captain Isbrandtsen organized the family-oriented sailing group and became the first Skipper of River Rats, as it is written in the River Rats’ biographical history.
So, the Retro Pic(s) of the Day takes us back to the U.S.A. bicentennial year of 1976 and a bunch of young River Rats.
This crew is comprised mostly of RFH classmates who gathered by the boat launch at the end of Battin Road in Fair Haven to offer a glimpse of their day as a reminder of what growing up by the river is all about.
While being a River Rat was a staple of summer life for many a Rumson-Fair Haven area rugrat, there were still those who didn’t sail into waterborne activity success. Some, instead, capsized inside at the thought of a wave taking the wind out of their little sails.
But, staying away from the banks of the Navesink was never even a flicker of a thought in an area youngster’s brain.
There was so much to do there — like wading, watching, feeling the sand between the toes and, well, having a heart-to-heart gabfest with a friend while fetching and freeing sand crabs and munching on a big bag of Doritos … tucked into a festive picnic basket, of course.
Yup. That’s was the summer scene for some. And it was more than enough. Sometimes, between Dorito chomping, sand, wading and chatting, the sunset would seem to creep up and those kids would realize that the River Rats had come to shore and gone home.
The walk home with that picnic basket, an empty bag and that buddy was the exhale for the night. The dream was a simple, sweet, well-lived one.
The 2014 Monmouth County Open Space Grant of up to $250,000 in matching funds was awarded only a few weeks ago.
What it’s been designated to do is to “polish the diamond” that is the Fair Haven open space on the waterfront, Mayor Ben Lucarelli said.
“Now that we’ve acquired DeNormandie, cleaning up and maintaining the rest of the open waterfront spaces we have is the next logical step. If we don’t do it now, we’ll have real headaches down the road.”
The “polishing” the mayor referred to is, more specifically, “resloping of two riverbank pocket parks at the end of Hance Road and Grange Avenue, so that people can access them easier and enjoy them more” and the refurbishment of bulkheads and passive recreation enhancements, such as benches.
Similar work, without resloping, is planned for the swath of land known as the home of the River Rats at the foot of Battin Road.
“It will make all those areas more user friendly,” he added. “The focus on these areas, I think, is a good use of this grant money. People I’ve spoken with who live on the west side of town have felt as if they haven’t gotten the total benefit of these projects. Now they’ll have it and the feedback I’ve gotten is that they’re very happy about that.”
The process for implementation of the county open space grant will soon begin.
Lucarelli said that the design drawings will first be completed. Then the project will be put out to bid; and “we’ll see where the cost comes in.”
Up to $250,000 will or can be funded by the matching grant money. In other words, if the cost of the project comes in at $300,000, then the county will pay $150,000 and the borough will pay the other half, and so on.
Sometimes bonding is necessary, or as a show of good faith to the funding entity, to fund such a matching grant project and set it in motion and pay contractors while waiting for the funded portion of the money to come in. In those instances, with such grants, the town bonds for the entire projected cost of the project and is then reimbursed by the county, or whichever agency is allocating the funding.
However, the mayor doesn’t think this project will require bonding. More likely, he said, “we’ll just bid and, if there’s enough (allocated) in the (capital improvements section of the) budget, pay as we go.”
All 53 municipalities in the county are eligible for the annual open space grant, which is designed to encourage open space acquisition and preservation as well as park enhancements and facilities by offsetting costs of such purchases.