Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Sushi Paddle At Last!

So as I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted by work (groan, work…budget season…whimper whimper, by the end of this I might be asking for my old admin-assistant job back…) – yes! I finally got an Edgewater trip in! I have been trying for what I think is 6 weeks to get up there & it’s just sort of not worked out. Maybe it worked ‘cause I didn’t plan it – I’d been thinking about it but I was just too darned busy last week to be organized enough to take a look at the tide tables & propose something for Saturday (which was the better day for me to go out), and had decided to let it go but then got an email from TG announcing that he & a couple of other Downtown Boathouse denizens would be launching at 10 from the Downtown Boathouse with Edgewater, NJ (just south of the George Washington Bridge) the destination.

I came awfully close to not going – I was wiped out after last week & it was awfully tempting to go back to bed when the alarm went off at 8:15 – but I followed my rule of thumb that the less I want to get out & go paddling on a nice day, the more I probably need to do just that & made myself go. GV turned up at Pier 63 as well, and he & I were on the water by 10:30 – with no paddlers in sight to the south, we started out by heading down until we found them (them being TG, HS, NB and in a nice surprise, IL, who’s my paddling friend who is also the broker who found me my fantastic apartment). Beautiful day – no wind – warm & pleasant and almost no boat traffic – one of those unusual days when you can actually see clear reflections on the water. We crossed the river quickly & headed north.

And headed north and headed north and headed north. I think I may have mentioned something at some point about the effect of spring snowmelt has on the currents in the Hudson? And how at the height of that you can practically have 11 hours of current headed south at various speeds interrupted only by an hour that feels like slack, which is as close to the northbound flood as you’re going to get that day? Well, we’re definitely getting into that. That’s alright though – Edgewater is a food paddle so the hungrier you are when you get there, the better.

The attraction Edgewater holds for NYC-based paddlers is that it is the home of a Mitsuwa Marketplace – a giant Asian grocery with a food court! We have no shame, we traipse right in dressed in full paddling gear (which is particularly outlandish in the wintertime). We do get a few curious glances & questions but surprisingly few – I’m not sure whether it’s because the Japanese who tend to be the majority of shoppers there are too polite, or whether it’s just because it’s close enough to NYC that nobody’s particularly surprised at, uh, minor eccentricities of garb.

Anyways, we paddled up against an increasing ebb. GV had been undecided about going all the way up with us, and did eventually peel off & go back. The rest of us edged closer & closer to the shore to try to find the easiest water. This put TG (who I should call “tugboat guy” for his inclination to tow anything that catches his eye back to the DTBH – he was the one who wanted to tow the Robbin’s Reef Light a couple of weeks back) a good position for scavenging; IL suggested that a dock with a restaurant might be useful at the Downtown Boathouse(it would be, too, Pier 63 has a bar & grill in the summertime, while they have, let’s see…oh yeah, a garden hose)but in the end he settled for an orange ball-shaped fender he found floating around loose with no boat attached to it.

We had a good lunch there at the mall; I had ramen that tasted so good gave me a Shiro’s Saimin Haven flashback; Harry had a bento that wasn't what he asked for but looked pretty good; IL had curry and NB - I can't remember what she had 'cause she'd gotten a new neck gasket in her drysuit which was doing its' level best to strangle her all the way up, so she wasn't looking her usual self & I was worried about her so I didn't pay attention to what she was eating. TG won the beautiful-lunch contest with a sashimi bowl that was so wonderfully arranged, it looked like jewelry or something. Seriously. In fact it was so impressive that when he brought it back to the table he was grinning – and he put it down in front of us with almost a bit of a flourish – and we all made the pirate noise! Simultaneously! ARRRRRR! Well…so much for ignoring us, everybody at the tables around us started cracking up. We joined right in, it was too perfect.

Post-lunch Asian grocery shopping was slightly curtailed – the problem with not making good time paddling up to Edgewater is we go up when the water level is falling (although the current is still going north, yes it’s weird, that’s how it is here) and the slope of the bottom to the shore in that area is very, very gradual. You land on a little rocky beach. If you get up there quickly enough and don’t linger too long deciding on what sort of sake you want to take home with you, you launch from a little rocky beach with a little mud at the edge. If you don’t – a giant, sticky, stinky, slimy mudflat has appeared by the time you come back out. Knowing that the edge of the mud flat had already been appearing when we arrived, we split up & did our shopping quickly. I ran to the Minamoto Kitchoan stand to get some of my favorite wagashi (Japanese confections – some of them are absolute little works of art, I tend to buy the simplest & least expensive ones but I love looking at the fancy ones – right now they have wagashi which look like cherry blossoms and things for Spring, so cheerful-looking!) to take home, and a hot oobanyaki (like a waffle with sweet red bean paste inside) to eat there while I waited for everyone else.

The mud flat was out in all its’ odoriferous glory by the time we got done. Once that happens, the only way to get the boats to the water is over a spit of slimy rocks against a concrete pier extending out into the water. I used to occasionally guide this trip back in my pseudo-professional-guide days, and I’m still amazed nobody ever broke a leg or even sprained an ankle doing that before one smart partner (the dancer, actually) figured out that leaving earlier = less mud. Poor footing, glass, stumps of piling, sharp-edged scraps of metal here & there - you have to take it pretty carefully.

Still, it was worth it this time – I did NOT want to get up at 7!

The weather had changed while we were eating; it had gotten cooler, the wind had picked up from the south, so with the ebb going strongly, it was very choppy, and clouds had rolled in. We fairly flew south with the ebb – at one point we turned in to look at the new boathouse in the Hudson River Park, and seeing how fast I was being carried south I intentionally turned it into a ferrying exercise, where you choose a point towards which you want to travel in a straight line with the current coming at your boat from the side, & then see how far upstream you have to point your boat to counteract the sideways force of the water – the angle between the direction your boat is pointed and the direction of actual travel is called your “ferry angle” and I swear my ferry angle was a good 45 degrees or more…it was crankin’.

TG did almost take another round fender or mooring ball that was out unattended – however he did decide that maybe the fact that it was attached to a buoy meant maybe he shouldn’t. Good thing too, otherwise I would have been forced to report that TG had a fine pair of balls and you know how people would misread that…

Ahem. Anyways, so we got home in record time, and then, as mentioned in the “dolphins, darn it” post, I spent the next hour or so fixing up the lines & fenders on the dock (and not seeing dolphins). A bunch of us had gotten together & done a pretty good job of fixing it up back in December but things had gradually been working loose again through the winter; I’d done sort of a half-assed job of trying to fix them after the Robbin’s Reef paddle a couple of weeks ago – but my endurance for puttering around on a dock is kind of short when that dock is covered in snow! Dang it, I’m from Hawaii, OK? My parents call me to complain when it dips down to 69 degrees and they have to put on their (thin cotton) sweaters – they think that’s pretty funny (they particularly like to do this when we’ve just had a blizzard here). Anyways, it’s hard to tie a good knot when your fingers are already a little numb from the cold.

This time conditions were much more puttering-friendly, which was a good thing since we’d gradually gone from 4 lines & 2 fenders to no fenders and 2 lines – with 1 good fender, 1 half-sunk fender, and 3 lines, it was sort of OK, but now it had gone from something that sort of needed attention to something that just had to be done. So I messed around with it until everything looked pretty good, and then – well, it was so nice being out there that I just sat down on the dock, leaned back on my boat, and watched the water going by. So glad it’s getting warm enough to do that again. Hurray, hurray, spring seems to be maybe actually really and truly here now (knock wood please)!

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