Sunday, April 10, 2005

Hudson River Spring super ebb treadmill time!

Yesterday was a 10-hour workday - no, wait a minute, I got there at 10:30 am and left at 10:30 pm. That's 12, isn't it?

Anyhow, long day, but the idea was that we all were willing to just stay and work as many hours as it took to keep from having to come in today (my boss & the sr. finance analyst did work from home - fortunately at my level, I haven't been suckered into remote access so if I'm not at work, I'm not working. I rather prefer it that way. This particularly paid off today as I was free to (yay!) go paddling!

What an incredibly perfect day. Mid-60's, sunny, warm - just as forecast. And the best thing was - everybody had come out to play! This was the first day that I paddled this year that we shared the river with anyone besides tugs, barges, ferries and other working boats - I saw a small powerboat, a jetski, and a sailboat that's berthed at the 79th St. Boat Basin all passing by right when I got there. Pier 63 Maritime, the retired Lackawanna Railroad barge where I store my boats, was bustling - on the water, Manhattan Kayak Company (which has now begun their season so I can quit playing dockmistress if I want to) had a good-sized tour going out, one of the MKC guides was just out practicing his advanced strokes & edging on his own, Eric, the founder, was repairing a boat that had gotten a hole punched in it over the winter (the private boat hold has racks with a space for each boat - the MKC fleet hold is a lot more about boats being thrown in & piled up, most of their boats are "plastic fantastics" - plastic boats can take a lot more beating than a glass boat - but they do have a couple of nicer ones & this one ended up with a big hole, which couldn't be fixed until the weather was warm enough for the resin used in repair to set), Danillo, the general manager, is back from Chile. In the private boat hold, there was the circumnavigation, the 3 of us going North to meet the circumnavigation, and a few other people that just came down for shorter paddles. Great to see everyone. And beyond the boaters, the barge was full of people who had just come down to sit & have a beer at the Tiki Bar (really, every kayak storage facility should have a Tiki Bar!) & watch the river go by on a beautiful day.

And my was there a lot of river going by. If you've been reading for a while, you may remember how I mentioned, after the Robbin's Reef trip, that we seemed to be getting into the time of year when the runoff from snowmelt can simply overwhelm the underlying estuarine tidal currents (as Tom put it today, "it's acting like a river") that ordinarily give us the ability to do long out & back trips without ever having to fight the currents? Well, if we were on the leading edge of that, now we're in the thick of it. The water was full of flotsam - all sorts of loose boards & driftwood & junk - and it was also full of dirt - it's ordinarily a deep olive green, and although it is not & probably never was crystal-clear (the bed is silty mud, after all, not stone) you can see, for example, the blade of your paddle when it's submerged. Today, it was almost a tan color - and your blade disappeared from sight the minute you dipped it in.

I refrained from rolling!

The ebb current velocity was quite spectacular. There's a cruise ship terminal we had to pass. Cruise ships seem to be considered a tempting terrorist target, so there is a 100-yard security zone around that terminal. Now - when a Hudson river paddler is working to make progress against a strong current (the currents in the Hudson can get up to 3 knots during max ebb. 3 knots is considered to be an average cruising speed for a skilled paddler. See the problem?) we usually try to stay as close in to shore as we can - the way the flow of a river works, the current is much faster in the middle, where the water is deep, than by the edges where it's shallow. In addition to that, if you have a line of piers, they will block the current on their downstream sides - we take advantage of that by ducking between the piers into the calmer embayments between them, going out into the current only to go around the end of each pier. Sometimes paddlers will actually paddle under the piers to avoid even that much - I was never crazy about that 'cause then you are in tight quarters in there, surrounded by pilings, and if a boat goes by throwing a big wake, you could get banged around a bit, but it's done. Well, since September 11th, that pier-ducking option isn't available in the cruise-ship terminal area (which covers quite a distance).

In the wintertime, when the cruise ships aren't in as regularly, we can sometimes get away with sneaking in a little closer - the security zone is there, but there just doesn't seem to be a lot of on-water enforcement (unlike the zones around the Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island, which are watched VERY closely). We still stay out a bit - but I'd have to admit that I don't think we do the full 100 yards off much.

Well - today, the Queen Mary 2 was in port and they were taking that 100-yard zone VERY seriously. Coast Guard Cutter Hawser was patrolling the perimeter - when they saw us coming, heading out to the requisite 100 yards off the pierhead line (and the Queen's big regal arse that sticks way out past the pierhead line), they fell in between us & the piers & stayed right there as we clawed our way north. And clawed, and clawed, and clawed. Current was picking up, too - low water today was at 4:21, and around here that's max ebb (anyone reading from a normal place where low or high water equals slack water - don't think about it too hard, it still makes my head hurt a little bit, I just accept it though!)...anyways, out there in the main force of this massive press of water, we were gradually making less and less progress. I did kick into high gear, just out of curiousity & was able to make noticeable progress, so I could have made it, but Rachel hadn't been out for a long time & was making slower headway, and Tom was somewhere between us, and (the main thing) we hadn't spotted so much as the flash of a paddle to the north yet - and by this time it was well past the hour at which we would have expected to see them.

We had paddled strongly and continously from 1:30 until 3:20 and made it all of a mile and a half. We were stalled out just south of the QM2. The cutter continued to hold position just behind us, keeping us to port so that they were between us & the ships they were guarding.

And so after a brief discussion - carried on while still paddling madly, one instant's letup meant instant loss of hard-won yardage - we decided that we'd had a lovely aquatreadmill workout & it was time to take the rocket ride home.

Remember - it had taken us close to 2 hours to get there. I checked my watch to mark the time we turned around (3:20).

We were swinging in to our home embayment at 3:30. Absolutely amazing.

I bet the Coasties had a good laugh over us. As for us, we decided that if we ever found ourselves in a situation where we wanted to blow something up, we'd use a motorboat.

The circumnavigation pulled in 35 minutes later. The same current that we'd fought for two hours was helping them, and they responded by kicking into "la-z-kayak" mode, enjoying the drift and making it more of a float trip than normal. They also investigated a waterway that used to lie between Ward's & Randall's Islands - it's marked on charts as non-navigable, but the definition of "navigable" is a lot broader for a kayak than most boats out there - and took a side trip to the Brother Islands (where Typhoid Mary ended her days) - hence their delay.

Drum Guy, being a rolling maniac, rolled despite the murkiness of the water. Harry, who's one of the Downtown Boathouse folks I like paddling with & Richard N.(another one of the DTBH cool people - he's an artist & boatbuilder who makes replicas of ancient kayaks - this was a really interesting one!) paddled by to say hello, people were coming off the water, getting onto the water, that dock we put in in December has never seen so much activity! Those of us who were in the "coming off the water" set put our boats away & repaired to the Tiki Bar for a celebratory post-paddle beer (and ravenous attention to the remnants of the circumnavigators's provisions, which were quite hearty).

Fabulous day.

Of course then I finished it off by snapping at someone I found had been messing around with my boat while I was having a beer (it wasn't malicious, the guy was trying to do something useful but he took my boat out of it's storage slot & I went down to put away a hat I'd been wearing to cut down on the sun glare & found it sitting out on the floor - if he'd bothered to get in touch with me and let me know, I would've said "sure" without a second thought, but I would never touch another hold tenant's boat without getting permission & I prefer people show me the same courtesy - that boat is kind of important to me), which was a bummer; the I decided to go home to Brooklyn tonight, riding the subway most of the way out there before realizing that I'd made sure the kitties were set for a sans-kittysitter evening, but forgotten my scratch that, took the Q back to Manhattan, walking over to Columbus Circle for the uptown C, only then I got on the downtown C...what was this, instant karmic payback for getting mad about someone moving my boat without telling me?

Oh well. Got things sorted out in the end. & now it's time for bed.

No comments: