Students escape rigors of academic life down at the docks

by Rini Ghosh | 6/29/95 5:00am

Down by the Connecticut River, everyone forgets about school -- except, of course, for the fish.

Students escape from the rigors of academic life by flocking to the docks to sunbathe and swim. The more daring even engage in dangerous river activities, such as rope swinging and jumping off Ledyard Bridge.

"The Connecticut River is one of the College's biggest resources," Chris Fowler '97, summer president of the Ledyard Canoe Club, said.

The docks

As the soft hum of the cars driving over Ledyard Bridge sounds in the distance, the vibrant foliage screens the rest of the world from the students on the swimming docks.

"The atmosphere down here is a lot more laid back than it is on campus," Stephanie Waddell '97 said.

Waddell, who lifeguards at the docks three days a week, said she enjoys hanging out and relaxing with her friends.

"The hardest part of our job is getting dogs off of the dock," she said.

Waddell said she has never had to rescue someone from drowning. "The chances of someone going under are not too high," she said.

But Matt Brennan '98, who lifeguards during the same shift as Waddell, said they once did have to make a daring rescue -- plunging into the water to save a set of keys a woman had dropped into the river.

More students prefer to come to the docks on the weekends, but according to Waddell, the docks also get crowded around 2 p.m on weekday afternoons.

Lifeguards are on duty from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily and students are not supposed to swim in the river at any other time.

But many students break the rules frequently and even swim outside of the area specifically roped off for safe swimming.

Natasha Lam '97, who also lifeguards, said they are unable to stop swimmers from venturing too far, because students can enter the river from other areas .

Lifeguards are not equipped with blowhorns, Waddell said. But she said they do have access to a radio, which can be used to call for help in serious accidents.

Ellen Wilderman '97, who frequents the docks during regular hours, said the area is "definitely a prime tanning spot."

Wilderman said she prefers coming to the docks on class days because it is less crowded. She described the weekends as "almost stressful."

She said she enjoys just hanging out with people, and even likes playing with the dogs who come down to the water. But she said the bike ride up to campus is terrible, and complained of the steep hill that students need to mount on their way back to the College.

Sarah Wilkinson '98 described swimming in the river as really dirty but refreshing.

Other students found even less to complain about.

"[It] makes it feel more like the summer to be by the water," said Katherine Keltner '97.

"I like to come swim," said Traci Entel '97. She said she usually spends her summers by the ocean, so she enjoys coming to the river.

River activities

Besides hanging out at the docks, students also enjoy taking advantage of the two rope swings located at either end of the river and plunging into the watery depths from Ledyard Bridge.

Nevin Patton '97 used the upstream rope swing and described it as "kind of scary the first time."

Patton said he once saw a student once got his finger caught in the rope and ended up with a dislocated thumb.

But he also said "it's a lot of fun."

According to Patton, the rope hangs from a tree, while a nearby fallen tree stretches to the water. A student stands on the fallen tree and jumps out toward the water, landing in the middle.

As an added bonus, Patton said he meets many interesting people who canoe near the rope-swing site.

"Men in nothing but their droopy white underwear, their nappy beards and their little children [show up in canoes]," he said.

Wilkinson prefers using one of the rope swings after the sun sets. "The rope swing is a lot more exhilirating at night when you do it topless," she said.

Ledyard Bridge also serves as an amusing launch pad for students jumping into the water.

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