Riverside man calls off Round Island Row

07/01/2011 2:15 PM |

COURTESY PHOTO

In its second year, the Round Island Row got around Long Island, it just didn’t make it all the way.

But it’s apparently not done yet.
Riverside resident Chris Cuddihy said he and his six-man crew, which aimed to raise money and awareness for the Suffolk County United Veterans Project in Yaphank, called off the attempt Wednesday night to row the rest of the way around Long Island in a catamaran due to strong winds and extensive damage to the boat.

But on Friday, Mr. Cuddihy said he planned to finish the rest of the row in a smaller, two-man boat beginning Thursday morning in Westhampton. He planned to row the boat by himself initially, with his son, Ryan, joining him around Montauk or Orient Friday night, and then with Ken Nevor, himself a wounded Vietnam veteran who volunteers with the Veterans Project, rowing with him for the last mile of the row in Mount Sinai.

“Even if the boat had not been so badly mangled, I don’t think we would have finished until Monday because of the wind,” Mr. Cuddihy said of the catamaran.

While the weather was mild for most of the row, the crew was up against a strong wind for much of the trip and was caught in the ocean during a thunder and lightning storm last Monday night. Mr. Cuddihy said the East River was the most difficult part of the trip and that the men almost got hit by tankers twice there.

The crew left from the Mount Sinai Yacht Club on Saturday June 25, headed west through the East River and back east. The rowers got as far as Westhampton before they had to call the marine towing company Sea Tow to tow them back because two of their oars had broken and they weren’t able to row. The boat, which had sustained damage to its rudder while going through the rough waters of Hell Gate and the East River, was damaged further while being towed through the rough waters in Shinnecock Inlet. Then the decision was made to call off the remainder of the trip, Mr. Cuddihy said.

“We discussed the condition of the boat and the possibly of getting caught in the currents off Montauk and we decided we had to put our intellects above our egos,” he said. “The smart move was not to do it.”

Last year, Mr. Cuddihy was part of a four man crew that attempted to row from the Eatons Neck Coast Guard station, around Long Island, and then back. That effort, which was being done to raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project, was stopped near Moriches Inlet when two of the crewmen got seasick.

Does he intend to try it again next year?

“Hell, yeah,” Mr. Cuddihy responded on Friday morning. By Friday night he had decided he was going to try to complete this year’s row in a different boat, a 15-foot “virus yole.” A man rowed that type of boat around Iceland several years ago, he said.

Mr. Cuddihy said he’s spent several thousand dollars of his own money on the row, but doesn’t mind.

“It’s not about the money, it’s about getting the word out about what they do,” he said, referring to the Veterans Project. “We decided that this is the group we want to help. It’s a grass root organization that helps vets to get their lives back on track locally. It doesn’t get any more local than this.”

The crew on the catamaran lost two members early. John Ward of East Islip, who has competed in Ironman events, had to leave last Saturday night due to a personal issue and Brian Fiasconaro of Riverhead got off at Red Hook, Brooklyn because of numbness in his foot, which turned out to be a pinched nerve, and got back on at Jones Beach.

Aaron Williamson of California, who Mr. Cuddihy said was probably in the best shape of any of the crew, got seasick and was let off near Jones Beach, although he too later rejoined the crew.

The other crew members were Mr. Cuddihy’s cousin Joe Lindsay of New Mexico and Brian Banks of Merrick, a Jones Beach lifeguard who ended up joining the row in mid-voyage last year after initially going out to check on the crew’s safety.

Mr. Lindsay and Mr. Williamson had to return home this week.

Mr. Cuddihy has done a number of endurance events for charity in recent years, including being part of a team that rowed across the Atlantic Ocean, running seven ultra-marathons on seven continents in seven days, running and biking from New York City to Washington DC, and running for 24 hours around downtown Riverhead last November.

“This was by far the most difficult,” he said.

So how much was raised?

“It looks like we collected approximately $1,200 from the Round Island Row event,” SCUV’s assistant director Joanne Massimo said Wednesday.

The nonprofit organization maintains a shelter for homeless veterans in Yaphank and runs other programs throughout the county designed to help veterans who are seeking employment and education.

The roundislandrow.com website includes a link to SCUV.org, where donations can be made through PayPal, although the website doesn’t have a tally of how much is raised by the row.

tgannon@timesreview.com