Thursday, July 21, 2016

Piers Park: The Dock

My last two blog posts have been devoted to the areas at Piers Park that we use the most: the field, where we play various games on the grass, and the playground, where we climb, slide, and splash! Today's blog will be the final of the series and is dedicated to the main attraction at Piers Park: the dock.
On the dock, our Harbor Explorers really get to explore the harbor by adventuring the seas with a few of our water vessels, and by coming into close contact with a number of different ocean specimens. Because we are located at a sailing center, we appropriately, get to go sailing! Myself and a number of our kids had never been on a sail boat before attending camp at Piers Park, and we were amazed by the intricacies of the sport. I'd never realized how tactical the sailing process was! The crew was constantly darting around the ship, pulling lines and swinging booms to steer us around the Harbor. During their hustle, I was able to sit back and enjoy the ocean breeze, while the Harbor Explorers enjoyed dipping their fingertips into the rushing water as we carved through the bay. 

We also take advantage of the many Kayaks that the Piers Park Sailing Center has to offer. The kids say that they want to paddle, but after a few hard strokes with the oar, they realize how tiring it can be. I don't mind using some extra elbow grease and picking up their slack. I actually really enjoy being able to give them a tour of the nearby attractions that the Harbor has to offer. One location that we always hit is the critter covered rock wall that acts as the left perimeter of the sailing center's bay. The rocks are covered in seaweed and other slimy plants that our squirmish campers try to avoid, but with encouragement from myself and their peers, most of them overcome their fears and become comfortable with the vegetation. One week, we even had a seaweed fight between kayaks! At the rock wall, the kids also enjoy finding little sea snails called periwinkles, and depending on the tide, starfish! When the tide is really low, we are able to see these uniquely shaped animals at the bottom of the shallow water, and last week we were able to grab a few by strategically using paddles, and getting a bit wet.

I also enjoy taking kids under the pier at Piers Park, where the air is cool, the water is murky, and the darkness prevails. This is great place to tell haunting stories about my experiences with whirlpools, sharks, and mysterious faces under the water. Of course, these are all "true stories," and the kids can't wait to hear the next Boston Harbor tale that I have to offer. I'll have to tell a story or two in an upcoming blog post!  
On the dock, we catch other sea creatures as well. In a previous blog post, I described what we use as bait: the shellfish, mussels. These animals are especially easy to catch because they don't move! They live in mussel beds under the dock, and we can grab many at a time just by reaching over the dock's edge. When we pull up a handful of mussels, along with them comes a number of other small and mysterious creatures. We've pulled up tunicates, which are weird formations of fish eggs, sea worms, which when full grown have pincers that will pinch their captor, and a bunch of tiny shrimp looking creatures that remind me of larvae, or baby insects. I think that these creatures are some sort of immature nematode type water animal that are in their beginning stages of life and will eventually grow into some delicious fish food! 

We also use fishing rods and crab traps on the dock. Every week, we teach the Harbor Explorers how to correctly use a fishing rod and explain how the crab and lobster traps are so good at catching these specific animals. The kids are overly eager to pull up traps and usually their impatience results in an empty cage, but with or without a catch, the thrill is in hauling up a potentially massive load of crabs and other surprises! In the past, Save the Harbor has caught fish and lobster in these traps, and the anticipation of a big find is invigorating. The summer is just beginning, and one of these days we will pull in a dinner-worthy fish or lobster for some lucky campers to bring home and I can't wait to witness the excitement! 

P.S. The view from our dock is amazing!


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