Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Saturday with the North Brooklyn Boat Club - Snow and seals at Swinburne Island (with NYC sealwatching links for folks who don't paddle in the wintertime)

Well, that was fun! Last week, I actually got to help organize a paddle that ended up being much more of an adventure than anything I've done lately - somehow, with the one exception of helping out with swim support for the CIBBOWS Breezy Point 5K, I don't think I did any paddles in 2016 that didn't start and finish at the club. I really don't mind this, I love being out on Jamaica Bay all through the year, watching the seasons change and the various creatures that inhabit the bay come and go through the year, and I did have a couple of particularly memorable paddles (there was my solo paddle to see the Hokule'a when she first arrived in NYC, and my Coney Island Fireworks paddle, and then there was a pretty awesome storm paddle), and, well, it's a fact that no two paddles are ever the same. Appropriate quote, from Greek philosopher Heraclitus: ""No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man." I think I've heard this paraphrased among paddlers as "You never paddle the same river twice" and I do think that's true. 

Anyways, for all that, I guess I was really ready to do something new and different and fun, because when I was put in touch with Dewey from the North Brooklyn Boat Club, who was looking for information about paddling to Swinburne and Hoffman Islands to see the seals who frequent that area in the wintertime, I said something to the effect of "I'd be tempted to ask if Sebago could come but I don't want to horn in on your plans", and when he said "Actually we'd love to have you along!", all it took was a really nice weather forecast, and TQ saying it sounded like fun when I ran it past him, to have me gleefully jumping in to help organize a Sebago contingent.

This is not a paddle I had ever done, although I've been hearing about people going out there for sealwatching for years now. I've gone to see the seals there, but on one of the Audubon/Water Taxi trips, which was lots of fun, trip report here, never in my own boat. BTW I will give links at the end for three count 'em three very good ways for folks who aren't winter paddlers to get a good look at the seals. Sebago does seal paddles, but usually at Jones Beach (we've also done seal hikes there, which are great because anyone at the club can do that); I think we have gone to Swinburne once or twice, probably launching from Staten Island (makes for a very short paddle, but some of our Jones Beach paddles have been pretty low mileage too) but for one reason or another I wasn't able to join in. So I was absolutely delighted to be included. 

I was able to get good launch info for Kaiser Park in Coney Island from one of my friends among the polar bears (thanks Eddie!), Dewey picked that over the shorter Staten Island launch option, and with the weather forecast getting better every day (light light wind, temperature right around freezing, and a chance of snow, snow paddles are great!), I sent out a trip notice on the Sebago google group. Saturday afternoon, six of us from Sebago met up with 8 paddlers from NBBC, and it ended up just being an amazing day. There are a few photos from the day below (including our short visit to the Yellow Submarine of Coney Island Creek), and I've done a whole photo trip report on Flickr (with captions and everything, for once). It was quite the day out there, I'm so glad NBBC invited us along!

And as promised - for anyone who would like to go see the seals at Swinburne but is NOT a winter paddler, here are 3 great ways to do that with minimal risk of ICY DOOOOOM:

Audubon Winter Tours with NY Water Taxi - departs from South Street Seaport in Manhattan, every Sunday except 2/5, until spring. This is the one I went on with a bunch of friends from Sebago, and we had a great time.

American Princess - I haven't been sealwatching with them, but their whalewatching trips with Gotham Whale are fantastic and I'm sure they do a great job in the wintertime too. Out of Riis Landing on the Rockaway Peninsula; on hiatus right now, resuming on weekend in mid-March.

And, if you are game for a little more of an adventure, I think that a sealwatching trip on the NY Media Boat would be just amazing. Bjoern and Kristina are great people and they can zoom you all over NY Harbor in their big speedy RIB's. They're a little more weather-sensitive this time of year, not having a heated cabin (hey, I said adventure!), so there's no online booking, but they've got contact info up their site and welcome inquiries.  

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Erie Canal Day 7 - My First Visit EVER To Niagara Falls!

Oof. Violators will be prosecuted, that is if they're ever heard from again. Vies with this one for title of Most Seemingly Unnecessary (But I Suppose It Had To Be Said) Trail Sign I've Ever Seen. 

Rough day on teh interwebz today, with yesterday's moving farewell speech from Obama and then that (ugh) press conference today (sorry, I really meant for this to be a completely apolitical post, but...ugh...that's all) - I have nothing to add to what I've already seen out there, so I thought I would take refuge in the unfinished business of reporting on our October vacation. The main course was of course 6 days of cruising the Erie Canal in a sweet little trawler with no name, and then to top things off, we decided to go spend a couple of days at Niagara Falls. I can't remember where exactly in the planning this got added in, but I do know that there was a day I was hanging out over at TQ's and we were talking about places we'd been and wanted to go and I said "Do you know, I have lived in New York State for over two decades and I have never been to Niagara Falls?" and TQ said, "REALLY? We have to get you there. It's really worth seeing at least once".

Now by the time you're at Cayuga Lake, you're already on the proper end of the state for seeing the falls, so at some point we decided to finish our trip that way. TQ had made all of the boat arrangements, so I took care of the hotel; we were limited to the NY side because of documentation requirements, and it seemed like a lot of the chain hotels were reviewed as being kind of old and tired; I looked at splurging on the Red Coach Inn, which dates back to the 1920's, but the decor there looked a little, no, a lot more froufrou than I thought TQ would've liked, so we ended up at a new Fairfield Inn & Suites hotel that had gotten good reviews and was reasonable and very pleasant indeed. We left Hibiscus Harbor around ten in the morning after finishing up with the boat cleaning and it's about a two and a half hour drive to Niagara, so we got to the hotel in the midafternoon, with plenty of daylight left for a walk to see the falls.

The hotel was located a little ways upriver from the falls, and the first bit of our walk was straight to the shore, which turned out to be the perfect way to do it - it was so much fun starting  where you just see that the water was moving along pretty fast, and then walking along watching the river get more and more agitated as you went along, and then - WOW. What a thing to see!

Here are some pictures from that walk. The boardwalk structure is the "Cave of the Winds" attraction. No more writing, click on the first picture for a slideshow view. More to come. Enjoy!

Monday, January 09, 2017

Two Bridges Hike with Laurie

Great morning today! Usually it's very hard to pry me out of Brooklyn once over a weekend, let alone twice, but I made the trek in during Saturday's snowstorm to see Hidden Figures (I'd said something on Facebook about wanting to see it, and friends who were going immediately invited me along, and I was so glad, that's an outstanding movie) and then on Sunday I came in again!

 My friend Laurie likes to organize groups of friends for walks and today's plan was a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, which is something I always enjoy, followed by dim sum in Chinatown, which is also a very tempting thing. The third part of her plan, which she didn't announce until we were enjoying our scrumptious brunch at Jing Fong, NYC's largest Chinese restaurant (at least according to this interesting article), was to walk back to Brooklyn afterwards over the Manhattan Bridge.

By the time we finished, I was so stuffed that what I really wanted was to teleport straight to my bed for a long winter's nap, but since that was not an actual option, I decided that the walk across the bridge was probably a good idea.

It was cold and windy, but oh, it was pretty out there, and it was fun walking with Laurie, she loves to take time to reall look at things - she said "I love walking around and looking up", that's her in the 7th picture, with the red-orange scarf, looking up at the grand arch in one of the government buildings downtown. I actually used to work in that area but I didn't always have the time to really savor the architectural details, this was so pleasant that you could almost forget how cold it was.

We got an early enough start on the whole thing (meeting at the Brooklyn Bridge at 8:45, dim sum at 10, which with the cold weather was early enough that the restaurant hadn't begun to fill up, so we walked right in, and I think we were back in Brooklyn around 1) that I had the afternoon free to play with, and when Laurie decided to catch the Q train with me and go to the Flatbush food co-op on Cortelyou Road, I decided I would go with her and if they had the extra-delicious unhomogenized Jersey cow milk from Ithaca they sometimes have. They did, so the afternoon ended up being laundry and cheesemaking. Cottage cheese, since I had all afternoon. Extra delicious with the really good milk. And yes, eventually there was a nap! Here's pix from the bridge walks, plus the cottage cheese! Click on the first one for a slideshow view.

Friday, January 06, 2017

The Starchasers - coming in 2017

If you have been following the Hokule'a as she travels the world on her Malama Honua voyage, if you enjoyed The Navigators and Papa Mau, here's something to look forward to in 2017. Looks spectacular. Mahalo to Sam Low for sharing!
The Starchasers - Official Film Trailer from Okeanos Foundation for the Sea on Vimeo.

Monday, January 02, 2017

1/1/2017 - Sebago's Annual Frostbite Regatta

Flickr album from the day - click here!
It was an absolutely lovely January 1, 2017 here in NYC, slightly breezy but not bad, and beautiful blue skies with temperatures in the mid-40's. We had a great squad out on the water; 13 sea kayakers set out together at 10:30, another sea kayaker had set out earlier for a longer paddle, and there were also two sailors (Pat in his Goat Island Skiff, IAZ,P, and Chris in his Melonseed) and one racer out on the basin in his K1 (sorry I didn't get any pictures of him!). Great turnout! Most of the sea kayaking crew went to the Mill Basin Bridge, a few of us went on the the Four Sparrows Marsh. There was a fun twist to this as we had a member who moved to LA years ago, and she actually hadn't been there before - I think we started visiting Fours Sparrows regularly after it was threatened with development, despite a Forever Wild designation - somehow powers that be decided that the paperwork hadn't been filed properly so it was up for grabs. I don't know what the status is now, I should check on that, but I'm pretty sure that the bigger plans didn't make it through after community objections, and at this time it's still mostly the way it's been for a while. It's a really nice destination for a paddle, gives you about a six-mile paddle from the club, and it was fun having one of us see it for the first time. I should check with my friends who would be in the know to see whether the marsh got returned to the parks department, as it should've been all along.

I stayed out even a little bit longer than the small group that went there because I stopped to take pictures of the sailors.

One sad thing for me, I didn't do my New Year's Day rolling this year for the first time in many years; I didn't get back to doing my rolling after my April surgery the way I should have for some reason, and I couldn't make it to the pool session I'd hoped to get to the week before Christmas because I had a cold, so not trusting my rusty self, I decided to modify my annual ducking and just do some good full-immersion sculling instead. Water's still just as cold that way, and I didn't change from my lightweight hood to my heavier immersion hood, so got the full benefit of the plunge!

The food was great, the meeting was good (in fact I was delighted to hear that one of our old Old Town "war canoes" is being given a full restoration), and before and after the meeting, the boatbuilding committee was having an open house in the boat shed to let folks admire their progress on the club's new safety boat, Canarsienne. Boat shed's always open when the builders are in there working, but usually they're actually trying to get things done, but today was their day to show off their work. She's going to be a beauty!

Great day at the club and as always, a fine way to see in a new year. Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

New Year's Eve Day stroll in Prospect Park

Finishing off 2016 with a nice quiet day in Brooklyn. Happy New Year all, and best wishes for a peaceful, healthy, and happy 2017. Let's watch out for each other - 
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(frogma kayak smiley, patent pending)