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River boat handlers return

  • Boaters out on the Connecticut River Sunday.<br/>Recorder/Micky Bedell
  • Boaters came and went all day on Sunday from the Franklin County Boat Club in Gill.<br/>Recorder/Micky Bedell
  • A boater cruises along the Connecticut River on Sunday.<br/>Recorder/Micky Bedell

GILL — By 9:45 a.m., the cold haze over Barton Cove had burned off and the occupants of the three cabin cruisers at the end of the second dock, the only people visible at the Franklin County Boat Club at that hour, were beginning to talk of casting off for a first day on the water.

Michelle Pride, 50, and Scott Pride, 49, presently of Pittsfield, although Scott is a former Deerfield and Greenfield resident, rolled the “Miss Shell Ann” into the water on Friday and had been preparing the boat for the river.

“We thought it was going to be a real wash-out weekend but we’re going to spend Memorial Day on the water anyway,” Michelle said. “It hasn’t been as bad as we thought.”

The Prides said they always spend Memorial Day on the water, although the group consensus seems to be that it’s not always the best weekend for it.

“Our friends are here, we have a great group of people here so we come out, even if we end up at the clubhouse in the pouring rain, that’s OK: potluck suppers and a couple cocktails,” Michelle said.

The Prides spend weekends in their 28-foot cabin cruiser, usually on Barton Cove — where Scott canoed as a Boy Scout — with their dog, Willow, investigating strangers and chasing geese.

What do people do on the Connecticut River?

“Go back and forth and enjoy the weather,” Mark said. “Work hard all week then come out here.” Groups play a game called washers, a bit like horseshoes, in the shallow water, read, stop at the riverside campgrounds and picnic spots to cook, and swim where it seems safe.

Sandy Yetter, 55, of Leyden was spending her second weekend on the water.

“We’re here most every weekend,” Yetter said of she and her husband, who was presently off storing a trailer for another of the couple’s friends. “These are our neighbors. It’s not just us, it’s the whole of everybody here.”

The Yetters put their boat, the “Delightful Madness,” in last weekend. The boat was christened in observance of many years of family vacations on the river.

“Three children, two adults and a dog spent most summers on this boat,” Yetter said. Yetter said she was pregnant with her son Chris, now 24 and with his own boat docked nearby, the first summer of their weekends on the water.

The Yetters’ next-door dock neighbors Cathy Newton, 55, and Mark Newton, 57, were married on their boat 16 years ago. Since then, they’ve had one bad moment on the river, a violent squall that flipped their boat around.

Asked why they spend their weekends on the Connecticut, Mark Newton indicated the nearby Turners Falls-Gill Bridge and Route 2.

“Hear the traffic over there?” Mark said.

“We like to stay out of it. We live in Shelburne Falls and on the weekends it gets crazy. We come here, we relax with good friends, we eat too much,” Cathy said.

About half the slips were filled Sunday morning, but the weather was also improving by the minute and predictions were for a busy Memorial Day. The private club opened last weekend, and about half the slips were occupied.

“Blue skies are coming, I think we’ll be upriver today,” Yetter said.

Across the river, the Canalside Rail Trail bike path sent a steady stream of bicycling families, dog-walkers, and one dog in a bicycle-drawn chariot along the Turners Falls bank.

You can reach Chris Curtis at: ccurtis@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 257

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