Monday, August 29, 2016

Grand Re-Opening of the Kayak Dock At Governor's Island


There was some very good news for New York City kayakers (and people who aren't kayakers yet but would like to give it a try) announced by Graeme Burchall, current head of the Downtown Boathouse, on the local kayak email lists today - there will be an opening ceremony for the newly-installed kayak dock at Governor's Island on Wednesday. There was a kayak dock in the past -- the photos above and below were from City of Water Day 2011 -- but at some point it got damaged beyond repair and it took a lot of time, grant-writing, and hard work by Graeme and the DTBH crew to get it replaced.

They pulled it off, though, and now the DTBH will resume running their free kayaking in the embayment on weekends for the rest of their season. The dock will also serve as part of the New York City Watertrail, so more advanced kayakers will now be able to paddle to Governor's Island and land there when the island is open (the one request is that paddlers who arrive that way check in, as safety plans for the island do require the operators to know how many people are on the island at any given time; there will be a phone number posted at the dock that paddlers can call to do so).

Congratulations to the DTBH folks for bringing this beautiful location back into play! I can't make the opening shindig on Wednesday but for anyone who's interested, click here for details. Arrival by human-powered vessel encouraged but not required. Should be a fun event!


Saturday, August 27, 2016

Coney Island Fireworks Paddle

Last night, a friend and I pulled off a paddle I've been wanting to do for ages, paddling from Sebago to Coney Island for the fireworks which are set off every Friday night from the first weekend in June through the Friday before Labor Day at the Coney Island Cyclones stadium. I realized earlier in the week that there were only 2 left this year, checked the tides, and discovered that last night's timing was just about perfect. The weather cooperated too, this is a highly weather-sensitive trip since you are heading out of the shelter of Jamaica Bay and into the more open water of the Lower Harbor, and kayaks aren't allowed to land along the swimming beaches of Coney Island and Brighton Beach. Winds of 8 kts, 1 foot waves was fine. I posted it on the club's google group early in the week.

We launched at about 6:50; I would've liked to be on the water sooner but I left work a little late and public transportation wasn't quite cooperative enough, but it all worked out fine; my timing had included time for a stop on the beach just beyond the Marine Park Bridge, because of the landing issues beyond there, and as it worked out, the friend who joined me and I were both OK with staying in our boats for the duration. We got to Coney Island by 9:20 and then there was a bit of a wait -- the fireworks schedule I'd seen said 9:30 to 10:15, and this turned out to be the time range for the start of the show, not the overall duration (I should've guessed that, a 45 minute fireworks show is like Macy's 4th of July level, not weekly minor league baseball fun level), but it was lovely sitting just off the beach, and we entertained ourselves for quite a while with making the bioluminescent critters light up. I'd been splashing in the water with my hands when I hit something round and slimy; I guessed it was a comb jelly and I stirred my paddle through the water, remembering seeing them light up when disturbed by a paddle stroke in Rhode Island a few years ago. First try nothing happened but a little later I got a couple to light up, and when Margrethe saw that she tried it too, and I think we sat there stirring the water with our paddles for a good ten minutes! There were comb jellies, as I'd guessed, and then some smaller creatures that just flashed in little pinpoints of light. Far from the amazing bioluminescent bay TQ and I and the friends we went sailing with in January 2014 got to visit in Vieques, but fun to see right there in our own local water. 


Fireworks finally started I think around 9:50 - I was a little worried about the lateness, but it turns out they wait for the end of the game, and any concerns I had were mostly allayed by the presence of a few dozen motorboats that were waiting a little farther offshore. There'd been a few when we arrived and then at some point I turned around and realized that an entire fleet had turned up!

The fireworks were great, we were almost directly underneath them. In fact, I backed up at one point when a firework that featured glittering sparks that fell towards the water - some of them were still glittering when they hit the water, and in fact, as Margrethe and I were leaving after the show, we found a floating ember that took a surprisingly long time to die!

I called this one an "exploratory" since I hadn't tried it before; it went off pretty much exactly as I'd planned it. It does make for a very late night, we returned to the club at 12:30 (I'd just estimated "after midnight"), and it's a long paddle (nearly 19 miles), so I'm thinking I should look at shorter distances to make it more appealing to more clubmates - it was awesome having them going off right over our heads like that, and having the background of the Wonder Wheel and the Cyclone and the rest of the amusement park rides was really neat, but I think the view from anywhere from the Marine Park Bridge out to Kingsborough College (eastern end of Coney) would still be pretty enjoyable while being much less intensive. But I will do this version again for myself and anybody who's feeling ambitious - this was FUN.

As for myself, I was delighted to find that although I did feel this paddle, it was well within my ability; this is the longest paddle I've done since I finished with cancer treatments and surgery in spring, and I've clearly improved since my 11-mile paddle to visit the Hokule'a in Dead Horse Bay - trip report here, I mentioned that I was going to be sore the next day (and I was) but what I didn't mention was that I totally ran out of gas about 3 miles out from the club and absolutely CRAWLED back (I made fun of myself for going solo but in a way, that may have been for the best, as I was able to just focus on getting back to Sebago without worrying about making people wait for me). This one, I was definitely feeling like I'd had a good workout by the end, but there was nothing like that. I've been feeling like I've been getting it back together, nice to have confirmation like that!

And that's enough trip report writing - on with the pix! Click for slideshow view. 

























Friday, August 26, 2016

More Ithaca Pictures


Wow what a week. I'd actually uploaded these on Sunday night thinking I'd squeeze in the writing on a lunch hour at work, but no such luck. Anyways, these are the rest of my pictures from my long weekend in Ithaca. Women Swimmin' was great, and then the rest of the visit was fun, too - I stayed with my friend Louise, and we squeezed in a lot of Ithacan summer fun. We ate very well - I never sleep well the night before I have to get up early and travel somewhere, so I just went with it and made another batch of fresh mozzarella; there were tomatoes and basil ready to go in my garden at the club the next morning, so I picked some of those, although I suspected that was a little on the coals-to-Newcastle side, which it was, Louise had beautiful beautiful tomatoes and basil from her CSA, but it was fun making a Brooklyn-meets-Ithaca caprese for dinner (and Louise had this chocolate balsamic vinegar that made it even more amazing, soooo good!). She also had corn, and fresh peaches, and I was especially happy about the peaches 'cause I hadn't had any of those yet this summer and in my mind the northeast summer produce trifecta is corn, tomatoes, and peaches, and it hasn't been a proper summer until I've had all 3. I actually stopped at a farm stand on the way home, same one as I'd stopped at on my way to Waterford the day before I launched on my Waterford to Brooklyn paddle in 2014 and loaded up on more corn and more peaches - I was just in a state of fresh produce fixation and couldn't resist! We also had s'mores one night, and there were also s'mores in Michigan, it's been a good summer for s'mores. 

Michigan s'more - want some? :)


Other fun things we did - no pictures of either of these but Louise taught me how to play croquet (I don't think I'd ever played that before and it was fun!) and dominoes (we had a set of dominoes when I was a kid and I did understand the basic concept but I genuinely can't recall whether I actually ever played the actual game with them instead of just standing them up in a line and then knocking them down, I enjoyed the game too). We also went for a good swim in Lake Cayuga on Saturday afternoon - this has been such a good summer for lake swimming for me, and although this is my third time out there to help out with a swimming event, this was my first time for much in the way of swimming in it myself. I think there was some bobbing around in the water off of a dock in 2014 but no real getting in and swimming for a ways. Loved it! Such beautiful clear cool water, and so many little fish (and one great big one, a carp, I think), I think if I lived out there I would go swimming every day while the water was warm enough! Sorry I didn't take the camera for that, I just wanted to swim this time. 

Sunday we went for a great bike ride on Ithaca's Black Diamond Trail, a rails to trails property that's been in the works for over 30 years and is finally coming to fruition. I was ever so slightly concerned about how the name incorporated the term for the most difficult downhill ski routes, but Louise explained that that was the name of the railroad that ran there. The property's been slated for recreational use for a very long time, as I mentioned, and funding earmarked again and again, but every time something would come up and the funding would get diverted to that. Finally a few years ago they got a new guy in the parks department there who really set his mind to getting it done, and it's finally happening! Not done yet but there's a nice section of it paved and again, if I lived out there I think I'd go biking every day. Hoo boy, and swimming every day, 2/3rds of the way to being a triathlete there, ha ha! Anyways, there was supposed to be a group ride on a new section of the trail, only when we got to the meeting place nobody was there. We drove around a bit until we found a family who'd just come back from a bit of a ride and they had a discouraging report - the section we'd thought was about ready to open was still unfinished and very rocky and muddy. I'm no mountain biker so we decided to take a pass on that and head back to a finished section that Louise had ridden before. We nearly threw in the towel when it started to rain, but then she stopped at a place just to show me the trail and it was so pretty I decided I really wanted to go, and she was game.

Look how pretty!


Louise loves biking and is good enough at it that she was able to coach me on the fly, which was good because another friend loaned me her bike for the day and I'm not sure I've ever ridden a bike as good as this one was and the gears were a lot more complicated than anything I'd ever dealt with - there was a separate shifter on each handlebar, yikes. Louise just had me set the one on the left side and leave it alone, though, and as it turns out riding a bike really is just like riding a bike - I started out a little shaky (honestly can't remember the last time I was on one) but it got better as we went along. 

me with the nicest bike I've ever ridden - thanks Alice! 

We rode up to where the trail crosses a really pretty gorge with a little cascade and back. At one point I'd said something about "could do this all day" but eventually my sitzbones were saying otherwise, but this view was worth a little sitzbone pain. So pretty! There's a reason that one local slogan is "Ithaca is Gorges".



After the ride, we headed back to Louise's, I wanted to shower before I hit the road. We made 2 stops on the way back - the first so that I could take a picture of a moose. Yes a moose!

There are a lot of artists in the area, and this is the creation of a very talented local sculptor who uses his front yard as gallery for new creations for a bit before sending them off to their new owners. We'd driven past here a couple of times and I'd spotted a couple of his works in town as we drove around too - lovely stuff and I think it's fun and generous that he shares his work with his neighbors this way. Louise said the moose was actually staying in the area and she was happy about that, she really liked this one. I would guess that he's pretty much life-sized, by the way!

Last stop before I hit the road was at the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) that Louise is a member of. I'd already been treated to some of the tomatoes from this place and they were spectacular. This was really something for a city dweller like me to see - I've never been involved in one of these but my impression from urban friends who are (and it's very popular here in NYC, I have lots of friends who part) is that you pay something to be a member and then you get a box of veggies, whatever's ripe, every week or so. Seems like fun although you do hear funny stories about people trying to figure out how to use ten pounds of whatever specific thing was leaping off the vines this week before it goes bad. Here in the Finger Lakes region, you're practically at the farm already so instead of the farmer bringing you boxes, you go to the farm, and the farmer works out a fair division of the produce among the members - and if something's at the peak of the season, the farmer may declare free pick. That was the case with the cherry tomatoes this time, so I got to bring a box of lovely orange sunsweets back to NYC with me. This farm also had flowers available and the glads were simply stunning - wish I could've taken a couple for myself but there were a lot of miles to drive and then boat unloading and stuff schlepping at the end so I didn't think they would last, so I just took pictures while Louise picked herself a lovely bunch. 


After that it was back to Louise's for a shower, and then I hit the road back to NYC. Between the bike ride and the farm stop it was a late start, but as I said to Louise before I left, I just couldn't think of anything that we'd done that I would've skipped to get back to NYC an hour or two earlier - such a good trip!

A couple more pix from the road and Ithaca -

Trusty Romany all ready to ride at Sebago.

Scenic overlook in the Delaware water gap, en route to Ithaca.

Trusty Romany, out standing in a field. OK really there was a parking lot but I ducked down to make it look like a field. Same place in the Delaware water gap. Driving back through this area was really stunning - there was something about the temperature and humidity that had raised thick fog over all of the water in the water gap, and the mist wound through the hills and woods, and then the moon started coming up, and it was all very beautiful.

Ice cream stop on the way to Ithaca. I thought that I recognized this place and had been taken here after a hike on an earlier visit, and I was early enough that a stop for ice cream was entirely plausible; as it turns out it's really still a pretty good drive to Ithaca so maybe it was just a similar-looking place, I did see other little ice cream places like this, all doing a booming business during this steamy steamy heat wave. This place's particular schtick was 40 flavors of soft serve. 

I got a small peach in a waffle cone. Yes that's small. Want some? Can't imagine what large would look like, or how messy that would've gotten!

A friend's barn, just 'cause I like it.

Trusty Romany at the Valley View farm stand where I stopped for corn and peaches and honey on the way home. 

Which brings us back to "We're not in Brooklyn anymore!"
And what a fun little escape it was.

This post produced with the flavorful assistance of a Flower Power IPA from the Ithaca Beer Company. Yum.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

More from Women Swimmin' weekend

So, yes, I wasn't in Brooklyn this weekend, I hit the road with a song in my heart and a boat on my (rental) car around 10 am on Friday, headed to upstate New York for another visit to Ithaca. This was my third time helping out with the Women Swimmin' for Hospicare event in Lake Cayuga, it's a great event in a beautiful part of the country and although it is a bit of a hike from Brooklyn, I do actually like to drive a car once a year, just to keep my hand in, so this is a great way to get that in. I make a three-day weekend of it and it's just so much fun. Ithaca's got this cute slogan, "Ithaca is Gorges" - well, it really is!

I started to describe the fun I got to have out there in addition to Women Swimmin', but it started getting a little long for a post in the middle of the work day and if I make that part 2 I can do pictures. For now, I'll just start you off with the link to my Women Swimmin' event gallery. Enjoy!

Photo above was one of my favorites as this small flock of ducks had apparently decided to join in for a bit - they were swimming along as though they were part of the event. Too cute. 

Monday, August 15, 2016

Not Brooklyn!

Roamin' Romany, southeast of Ithaca. Because sometimes a city boat enjoys a little fresh air! 

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Friday, August 12, 2016

Graves of Arthur Kill Screenings - Staten Island, 8/13, and Brooklyn, 8/16. Plus square dancing on Saturday!


Will Van Dorp, at Witte Marine, May 2010 - yes that's my Romany!

There are two screenings coming up of Graves of Arthur Kill, the excellent documentary that Will Van Dorp, the blogger at Tugster, and Greg Kane of 3 Fish Productions made about the Witte Marine Salvage Yard (better known to local paddlers as "The Staten Island Graveyard of Ships") a few years back. They'll be at the screening to answer questions afterwards - we had a similar screening with Q&A session at Sebago closer to when the film was first released, and it was a great evening, I really can't recommend this enough.

The first is this Saturday, August 13th, starting at 2:00 at the Staten Island Arts Culture Lounge at the St. George ferry terminal - click here for details. The second is next week Tuesday, August 16th, on board the lightship Nantucket in the Brooklyn Bridge Park - for this one, click here.

And as long as I'm talking about fun things to do - remember that time not to long ago when I went to go paddling and a square dance broke out? The same group that turned up at Sebago is participating in the Citi Summerstreets festival this Saturday, Megan and the gang will be doing some dancing themselves and leading square dances for anyone who wants to join in at the Uptown Stage at 51st and Park Avenue in Manhattan. They're on at 11:40 am, click here for all info.  

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Hokule'a update - visit her tomorrow, August 10th, in Salem, Massachusetts

I've been really bad about Hokule'a updates lately, but she's still on the East Coast; she sailed up to Nova Scotia and now she's travelling back down again. If you (or anyone you know) are in the vicinity of Salem, Massachussetts, you can meet the Hokule'a Crew and visit the historic wa'a tomorrow from 2 - 5 at Central Wharf. For more details on that, click here; for stories and videos of what they've been up to lately, visit the update page, and to follow the voyage on Facebook, click here.