For the fourth summer in a row, on Saturday morning, Darien resident Kim Kiner was back at it once again — paddling on Long Island Sound while supporting a good cause — protecting the Sound.

There were 111 paddlers on the water this year, including 22 Darien residents. Participants also came from Stamford, Greenwich, Norwalk, Wilton, and Weston as well as Redding, New Haven, and Milford. There were also paddlers from New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Washington, D.C.

The event, called SoundWaters Flotilla, has raised over $50,000 in three years. To date, more than $18,000 was raised this year toward a goal of $25,000. According to Bob Mazzone, vice president of development for SoundWaters, this was the most raised ever by 30 percent.

The Flotilla is sponsored by SoundWaters, with support from Legg Mason Global Asset Management.

The route

Paddlers launched their kayak or paddleboard from several different locations including Weed and Pear Tree Point beaches.

Forming a large flotilla, they traveled four miles, from Cove Island Park in Stamford and Weed Beach to Boccuzzi Park on Stamford Harbor.

The day also included individually packaged food and music.

Kiner said she had a great morning.

“Complete with a post-paddle party on the beach in Stamford, their attention to detail was amazing and made us all feel super safe and [we had] a lot of fun,” she said.

SoundWaters programs

According to Mazzone, SoundWaters is a nonprofit organization that protects Long Island Sound through education.

“In a normal year, we will teach over 30,000 students the science of Long Island Sound, both on land at our Coastal Education Center at Cove Island and on the water on our schooner SoundWaters,” Mazzone said. “The more students learn about Long Island Sound, the more they will care about it and want to protect it.”

Youth programs offered by SoundWaters include marine career training, summer water camps, a science educational program for young girls, and an after-school science and sailing program for middle schoolers.

To donate or for more information, visit Flotilla.SoundWaters.org.

SoundWaters runs three events a year, a Tall Ships Ball gala in the spring, HarborFest in August and the Flotilla in July.

“All are wonderful events that bring people together to celebrate and support a healthy Long Island Sound and environmental education for students,” Mazzone said. “Unfortunately, the first two are large events with the goal to attract hundreds or thousands of people to a confined space for several hours, which is entirely inconsistent with our current health care needs. We had to cancel both of those events.”

He said the Flotilla, however, takes place in the million acres of Long Island Sound “with a brief, well-spaced and masked launch and landing on either end of a beautiful four-mile, approximately 90-minute paddle.”

“It seems this summer, more than ever, that people are appreciating the incredible resource we have in Long Island Sound and they want to get out on the water,” Mazzone said. “The Flotilla is a meaningful way they can protect the Sound and have a lot of fun at the same time.”

Education

Darien resident Vinny Arguimbau said one reason he loves participating in the event is the educational aspect.

“SoundWaters’ teaches Connecticut schoolchildren about the Sound through a program of hands-on science that connects and gives them a lifelong appreciation of it,” said Arguimbau, adding he developed that appreciation as a child “because I was lucky enough to have grown up in Salem Straits and played in and enjoyed its wonders.”

Now, as an adult, he said he wants to preserve and protect it “with people as well educated to its wonders as I was.”

This year, Kiner paddled with her oldest daughter, Sammee Mazzone, while her younger daughter, Kasey Mazzone, helped on the beach.

“SoundWaters and their educational programs have been very important to us for over 25 years, as we live on Long Island Sound’s Holly Pond in Darien and are very interested in protecting the Sound as the wonderful resource that it is in our own backyard,” Kiner said.

Kiner and her family have been participating in many Soundwater’s events such as beach cleanups and camps.

“We think their work in educating people about the Sound is critical, and especially to the kids in the programs, regardless of their ability to pay,” she said.

Her team, the ‘Holly Pond Paddlers,’ is made up of her friends, neighbors and family who live on and near the pond “and care about preserving it and the rest of the Sound as much as we do,” she said. “I’m proud to say that our team has always been not only one of the largest, but is also extremely dedicated to the fundraising aspect of the event and has been leading all of the other teams in that effort all four Flotilla years.”

Family bonding

Bob Fiske, a 47 year Darien resident, said he loves being on the water.

“We have years of experience on the water,with kayaks and a Boston Whaler,” he said. “We have been members of the Noroton Yacht Club since 1965 and spent years sailing the waters from here to Nantucket in a series of cruising boats.”

While he has participated in the Flotilla for three years, this year he signed on as a team with his family.

“My oldest grandson, who is very artistic, designed a sign for our dock, which he installed on Father’s Day. The sign says ‘Rivers Edge,’ and is flanked by a mallard duck and a striped bass,” he said. “My daughter, Susan Fiske Williams; my son-in-law, Rusty Williams; my second oldest grandson, Calvin Williams; his girlfriend, Milena Rome; and I went as a team under the name ‘Rivers Edge.’”

A good cause

Fiske said he enjoys raising money for a good cause.

Sound Waters, which “has excellent educational programs for kids to interest them in Long Island Sound and its ecology, [which are] designed to make them strong advocates for preserving the Sound going forward.”

He added what he gets out of it is similar to when “I used to ride bicycles with my daughter Sue in the Pan Mass Challenge, raising money for the Jimmy Fund and Dana Farber: Raising money for a good cause while doing something I enjoy.”

Exercise

Darien resident Leslie Myers said it’s fun way to get exercise.

“It takes about an hour to complete. You feel good and you’re home by noon to still have the rest of your day,” she said.

While Myers rode this year with her husband, Curt, she had previously participated with her son, Drew, who recently completed his first half marathon in town during the pandemic.

Memories

One unique part of the event this year that Kiner said made it extra challenging — and somewhat amusing — was that while they started from the beach with a clear, sunny sky, very soon after, they paddled the rest of the course through very heavy fog that was rolling in from across the Sound on Long Island.

“At some points, we could only see 10 to 15 feet in front of us and it was hard to see any boats ahead to see where we needed to go,” Kiner said. “Fortunately, the police and fire boats, as well as the SoundWaters rescue and guide boats, were able to ‘corral’ all of us paddling back on the course so we didn’t go too far out to sea. We were all joking about how it was like fog machines were turned on during the paddle and we were all almost paddling blindly against the current to first find the ‘rest stop’ boat, and then the finish line at the beach. Fortunately, no one was harmed or lost in the fog, but it made for quite a memorable paddle for sure.”

Myers said she has enjoyed the floating drink boats and bars over the years.

“The first year we did it, they had a floating tiki bar at about the halfway point to stop and get a drink. It was a bar, but to many people’s chagrin, no alcohol. There were funny moans and groans about no beers even though it was about 10 a.m. So the next year, same thing — tiki bar was there, but this time, there were beers,” she said.

She added that this year, although there was no tiki bar, there was a boat for drinks and this year, the menu expanded to water, seltzer, hard seltzer, and beer. “Definitely, some takers,” Myers said. “Kind of lets you know the spirit of the event, which is definitely to have some fun.”

sfox@darientimes.com