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Little Neck Bay has strong sailing community

With the maritime spirit such a vital part of these communities, northeast...

By Kathianne Boniello

Sailing on Little Neck Bay is a tradition as old as Douglaston, Little Neck and Bayside, which hug the water dotted with hundreds of pleasure boats nearly every day in the summer.

With the maritime spirit such a vital part of these communities, northeast Queens was shaken earlier this month when a boating collision on the usually peaceful bay resulted in two deaths and left one woman critically injured.

Little Neck resident George Lawrence, 17, and Long Island man John Kondogianis, 36, who was a regular at the Bayside marina, were killed in the incident.

The crash also forced the rescheduling of the Douglaston Club’s eighth annual Optimist Regatta, a boating race organized by the club’s Junior Yacht Sailing program that usually draws about 65 boats from around Long Island. The regatta was slated to be held Saturday at about 11 a.m., organizer Joyce Ramirez said.

Bob Coddington, a longtime resident of Douglas Manor who has boated on Little Neck Bay for years, echoed the sentiments of many area residents this week when he called the fatal July 11 collision “very unusual.”

“We take great pains in making sure this is a safe place to take your boat and a safe place for boating,” he said.

Statistics from the state Parks Department show there was only one accident on Little Neck Bay in 2001 and no injuries or deaths.

Little Neck Bay is just one of several large bays dotting Long Island’s north shore and is bordered by the Long Island Sound to the north, Douglas Manor to the east, Udalls Cove — a wetlands preserve — to the south and Bayside to the west. At least two marinas, the public Bayside marina to the west and the private Douglas Manor dock to the east, provide access to the water.

Especially strong in the high-end neighborhood of Douglas Manor but also popular in Little Neck and Bayside, sailing and boating on the wide bay which leads out to the Long Island Sound got its start at least as far back as the 1840s.

It was then that William Douglas, a major landowner who donated land for the Douglaston Long Island Rail Road station, served as vice commodore of the New York Yacht Club and helped win the country’s first America’s Cup, a yachting trophy. Bayside, according to the Encyclopedia of New York, was named for its proximity to Little Neck Bay.

Coddington said that without sailing, “I don’t think Douglas Manor would be the same.”

Bob Moravek, a former Bayside Hills resident who now lives in Douglas Manor, has served as the past commodore of the Douglaston Yacht Squadron and is now president of the Douglaston Club.

The Douglaston Club is a private organization in Douglas Manor which runs the yacht squadron, the junior sailing program and several other programs.

“I’ve been boating on that bay for 38 years,” he said this week. “It’s always safe. This was just a bad tragic accident.”

The Douglaston Yacht Squadron also is one of the oldest on Long Island and helped spawn the neighboring Manhasset Bay Yacht Club, Moravek said.

“It’s one of the most beautiful bays on Long Island Sound,” Moravek said. “It’s ideal for sailing.”

Moravek said the bay is perfect for sailing because the water is deep at the shoreline, allowing boaters to sail as soon as they enter the water instead of motoring to a deeper point in the bay to begin sailing.

The Douglaston Yacht Squadron also plays host to an informal group of northeast Queens residents, the Cruising Class of Little Neck Bay, which hosts casual races on the bay each Thursday night.

Thomas Wolf, 17, of Douglas Manor, said he spends a lot of time on the bay but prefers power boats to sailing.

“I just love to be on the water,” he said. “It’s such a nice thing to live near the water.”

The boating community in northeast Queens, Wolf said, is “very close knit.”

Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.

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