In the early ?70s, Boston-area resident Mike Farny dreamed of creating affordable outdoor recreational activities for his community to enjoy. In May of 1973, Mike set up shop in the MDC Norumbega Police Substation of Newton/Auburndale and began realizing his dream. The location?directly next to the historic Totem Pole Ballroom?perfectly enabled the environmentally friendly practice of canoeing and kayaking. Mike's vision blossomed over the years to include four other locations, each offering rentals, tours, and instruction.
Today, on-staff guides lead tours of the Charles River and Boston Harbor to educate participants in ecosystem conservation, view the skyline and sunset, or explore historic structures. Select trips also include lunch to fuel participants as they navigate difficult waterways and jump through flaming hoops. To prepare customers entering the water for the first time, instructors coach riders of all levels in private or group lessons at the paddling school, which draws on more than 30 years of instructional tradition. Staffers can also equip boaters in the shop?where P&H and Bor?al kayaks hang alongside Tahoe paddleboards and Wenonah canoes, dreaming of one day being the inspiration for a traditional sea chantey. Crew members help clients choose their ride and accessories from these selections and others through free daily demonstrations.
From their home base in the Warren Building, officials of the Wellesley Recreation Department fine-tune a year-round roster of sports leagues and community classes. Adults master crafts that range from pottery throwing to Capoeira, a blend of Brazilian martial arts and dance. Kids channel their creativity into painting courses or the Star Wars: Jedi Training class, which often includes creating a recycled droid and lightsaber lessons with retired stormtroopers. All of the programs are self-supporting, so directors charge reasonable fees and divvy up the money among materials, instructors' salaries, and other necessary expenses.
During the summer, throngs of people advance on Morses Pond, an ocean lookalike complete with a sandy beach, water slide, and volleyball nets, and kids aged 5–12 fend off boredom with summer day camps. Meanwhile, the lights of Hunnewell Tennis Court blaze into the evening hours, allowing athletes to face off after dark when the sun is taking its nap.
Since its inception as a nonprofit organization in 1985, Community Rowing Inc. has guided more than 15,000 students in invigorating rowing sessions held on the Charles River. Their experienced staff of Olympians and coaches helps students to become familiar with industry-standard boats and rowing machines through comprehensive introductory lessons and extended handshakes with the rowing arms. After gleaning the skills necessary to properly use equipment, students gain access to locker rooms, training areas, and any additional courses on the Charles River. The full-body, calorie-burning workouts are available throughout the week, allowing students to learn essential techniques such as sweeping, sculling, and dealing peacefully with the water road rage of aggressive gondoliers.
Amazing Grace Marina sits on Powder Mill Pond, a placid body of water that reflects the turning leaves of the surrounding forest and even the none-too-distant peak of Mt. Monadnock. A pond more in name than in scope, the water?which the marina's staff describes as "a sheet of blue glass"?spans almost 500 acres and encompasses islands, covered bridge overpasses, beaches, and secluded coves that bring kayakers up close to vegetation. The waters teem with fish like bass, trout, and pike, while white-tailed deer and black bears roam amid the trees. The Amazing Grace staff recommends taking the Contoocook River at the south end of the pond for the best chance at spotting land-based critters, as the banks lie close together and the animals are drawn to the fresh water.
The instructors at EMS Schools traverse rocky, paved, and watery terrain from New England down to Virginia, imparting people with their love of the outdoors along the way. Dating back more than 40 years, the EMS Climbing School teaches pupils of all ages the tenets of climbing through introductory classes and more advanced maneuvering in self-rescue, alpine climbing, and glacier-skills classes. The watery wing of EMS's operation includes kayaking and standup-paddleboard lessons, which can help students earn certification in these water-bound endeavors, and group tours. EMS-led bike tours trace a path through the rolling hills of the Berkshires, the mansions of Newport, as well as the powdered-sugar-topped White Mountains of New Hampshire.
With a history of nautical scholarship that dates back to the mid 1930s, Community Boating Inc. has graduated thousands of students from its hands-on sailing school and into the ranks of skipperdom. Seasoned instructors lead classes for all ages, with separate youth, adult, and universal-access programs to ensure that the sweeping vistas, invigorating mists, and albatross necklaces of seafaring can be enjoyed by all. Certified students and members can take jaunts across the Charles River atop a kayak or Mercury sailboat borrowed from Community Boating Inc.?s 100-strong fleet of windblown and man-powered vessels.