By JENNIFER HILL • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
COOPERSTOWN – Not one, but two Otsego County mayors highly recommend boating on Glimmerglass this – or any – fall.
Cooperstown Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh and Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig have long loved boating on the lake – motor, sail, kayak, paddleboard – you name it. And while summer is peak boating time, both go out on Lake Otsego through autumn – Herzig and his wife Connie until mid-October, and Tillapaugh and her husband, Gary Kuch, until mid-November.
“The fall colors are glorious when you’re on Otsego Lake,” Tillapaugh said. “You’re surrounded by them.”
With her family’s house only 1½ blocks from the water’s edge, Tillapaugh grew up boating on Otsego Lake.
“I had my own little wooden boat at age 12,” she said, “which I bought with money I earned scooping up the golf balls people at the Country Club hit into the water.”
It helped that her father, George Tillapaugh, taught boating lessons and issued licenses when he wasn’t running his family’s business, Tillapaugh Funeral Home. And she said the family practically lived on her parents’ cabin cruiser.
“We’d pack a picnic and water-ski all day, then spend the night in the boat,” Tillapaugh recalled. “It had a blue vinyl couch that turned into a bunk bed.”
For 21 years, Tillapaugh and Kuch have been crusing in their 1995 motorboat, which seats four comfortably and is aptly named “Boat” – by their two daughters when they were 7 and 10 years old.
“We usually go in the evenings, to unwind at the end of the day, or for a few hours on the weekends,” said Tillapaugh. “We both enjoy bird-watching and have seen kingfishers, blue heron, and our best one, a bald eagle!”
“You don’t have to own a boat,” she added. “There are good places to rent boats from – Sam Smith’s Shipyard, Time Out Rentals, and Canoe & Kayak Rentals and Sales in Portlandville works with Otsego Land Trust and has rentals at Brookwood Point.”
For Mayor Herzig, his passion for sailing began 12 years ago when he joined the Otsego Sailing Club, next to Brookwood Point on West Lake Road.
“The Sailing Club is a wonderful group of people who love to sail and make sailing affordable and accessible to all age groups,” he said. “We have sailing classes in the summer, with up to 200 people taking them, ages 6 to 70. And there are scholarships for families who can’t afford the lessons.”
Connie is one of the instructors, teaching kids ages 6 to 10, a class she began four years ago.
“Our membership is also affordable,” said Herzig. “We’re a no-frills operation. We’re all expected to chip in, help build docks and take care of the boats, which keep the fees low.”
The club doesn’t offer sailboats to rent, but Herzig said “you can drop by the club and people are always willing to take you out on their boats, no charge, so you can experience sailing.”
Herzig also recommended watching the upcoming Glimmerglass Regatta races, which the Otsego Sailing Club will host Sept. 14 to 15.
“It’s a sight to see, with as many as 30 boats from all over,” he said. “And you can watch from Brooklyn Point, which is open to the public.”
Better yet, Herzig said to volunteer to crew a boat during the race.
“The most important thing to bring is your enthusiasm and desire to learn,” said Herzig.
And as with Mayor Tillapaugh, sailing gives Mayor Herzig a chance to relax and recharge.
“When you’re sailing, you’re focused on two things, the wind and the water,” he said. “Everything else is on hold.”