Pickleball Points: Winterize your tennis and pickleball nets

I was surprised to see so many permanent outdoor tennis and pickleball nets still standing in communities this winter. I am sure some folks made the decision to let the nets remain outside because they are weatherproof.

If that’s the case, I suggest two things: Take the tension off the steel cable that holds it up, and then tighten the center strap. The tight center strap will stop the wind whipping the bottom of the net from scraping back and forth across the abrasive court surface this winter.

The reduced cable tension will stop the freezing and contracting cable from bending the net posts, or — worse — pulling them together at the top and forcing the concrete around the base to break up through the court surface. Once the surface is broken, water works down into the base of the court; and then when it freezes and expands as ice, it destroys more surface and creates cracks in the underlying base.

Those attractive colors you see on an outdoor tennis or pickleball court are the result of acrylic paint, which is also a sealer to protect the asphalt or concrete. This thin seal can easily be cut by bikes, skates, lacrosse sticks, soccer spikes, skateboards, etc. This is the reason some communities insist on limiting usage, because resurfacing can be costly — between $50,000 and $100,000, depending on the degree of damage.

Good news: More indoor pickleball courts. I drove down to see the Worcester County Recreational Center in Snow Hill last week. Mr. Bill proudly showed me the six indoor courts and pointed out they have installed new overhead lights so there now is much better visibility.

Snow Hill is 15 miles south of Berlin, and the center is immediately off of Route 113, which has been greatly improved as a thoroughfare over the last several years. They are only open two days a week in January — Monday and Friday, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. But beginning in February, they are open Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The cost is $3 per session. Several folks from here are carpooling each week.

After you play pickleball in Snow Hill, you might spend a little time looking around that beautiful area — 150 years ago this month, an illiterate waterman from 7 miles east of Snow Hill near Scott’s Point saved a paddlewheel ferry boat that was crossing the Hudson River and struck ice. It was loaded with women heading across the Hudson, many with children, to work in the infamous sweatshops in New York City.

As the ferry began to list to port, her crew started to abandon ship, until 300-pound Thomas Scott jumped from his tugboat, the Reliance, onto the deck of the sinking ferry and threatened the crew to force them to save the sinking ferry.

He pulled the life jacket off one crewman and threw it overboard. He then organized the crew to seal the hole left by the ice with mattresses and anything handy. Finally, he stuffed his giant frame into the hole. The passengers survived, but they thought he was dead, the one arm he put into the hole massively damaged by the ice. But after six weeks, he finally could work again.

Although illiterate, he was a natural engineering genius and had moved to New Jersey to work for one of the first underwater salvage companies. He used his engineering genius to invent underwater diving equipment.

Because of his notoriety from the rescue, he entered into a business relationship to build the underwater base for Race Rock Light, a lighthouse in the center of Long Island Sound. It was then thought impossible to build there because of the strong currents. Their next project was to build the base for the Statue of Liberty. That’s right. She needed a place to stand! His brother, Captain James Scott, who was my ancestor, built the famous Scott’s Hotel on Assateague Island, likely with some of his brother’s proceeds from his almost 250 salvage operations.

Francis Hopkinson Smith wrote about the exploits of Captain Thomas Scott with a character he created called Captain Joe. In 1898, Smith wrote a national bestseller called “Caleb West, Master Diver,” based on the real life of Captain Scott. The American public loved him. A Broadway play followed in 1900, a movie called “Caleb West” in 1912 and another movie in 1920 called “Deep Waters.”

Submarines are now built near the spot in Connecticut where he started a highly lucrative underwater salvage company. His Eastern Shore family had forgotten this man’s incredible life, and I learned much of this from Jamin Wells, who was completing his dissertation in American history at the University of Delaware.

And what does this have to do with pickleball? All play and no sightseeing makes Johnny a dull old man.

Vaughn “The Baron” Baker is a Senior Olympics gold-medalist in pickleball, and is public relations director for the First State Pickleball Club (FSPC) and captain of the Ocean View Crew pickleball community. He spent his career working with top tennis professionals while working for Wilson Sporting Goods and introducing the Prince Tennis Racket and Wimbledon Tennis Lines. For more information, visit PickleballCoast.com.

By Vaughn Baker
Special to the Coastal Point