Thursday, June 02, 2005

An evening like a seashell.

Sometimes the best times on the river are the ones you don’t plan. Last night was so good it was worth taking an actual lunch hour to write about.

I’m so happy we’re back into the after-work paddle time of year. I was joking about the trials of urban paddling the other day – but then there’s the flip side. With the water temperatures up to the point where the big, bulky drysuit is optional, and daylight lasting until well after 8, it suddenly becomes feasible to just pack up a backpack of clothes & some lights - your boat is down there by the river, just waiting for you to come & play – if the urge strikes, and the workday allows, off you go for a sunset spin.

I did that last night.

It was wonderful.

Nothing I haven’t done a thousand times before – just a one-hour-and-change paddle south & back - but isn’t it wonderful when you can do something for the thousand and first time & still have your breath taken away?

And get a great workout to boot?

My company has just begun a new fiscal year. As a member of a temporarily short-staffed finance team (one team member on vacation, one position temporarily vacant), I had a rough week last week & was not making any weekday plans this week or next week. Paddles will have to happen when they can - planning ahead would just mean standing people up, or at least making them wait for me in a most inconsiderate way.

I had paddling clothes with me last night in hopes that I might be able to sneak out early enough to get in at least a short paddle. 7:00 was pushing it – but I went.

I was at the barge, changed, lights on the boat, and on the water by 7:40. Sunset was at 8:20. High water was around 6 so by this time current wasn't a big factor - given my druthers, for a short paddle, I go south so I don't have to deal with the Waterways terminal & security zones around the cruise ship piers.

Since this was unplanned & unannounced, I thought I’d be going solo, but one of the Pier 63 gang, Tom, was out doing laps in his 18-foot carbon-fiber Epic kayak. I asked him if he’d like to join me, he said yes & off we went. The company was nice, and the “great workout” part was the result of two fairly evenly matched paddlers pushing each other all the way. Tom’s boat is designed for racing & is inherently faster than my 16-foot fiberglass Romany – if he keeps practicing he will smoke me, no two ways about it, but right now, I can still stay with him IF I am paddling almost perfectly (when I pull that off I feels like I’m just breathing my boat through the water) – and working to keep up with Tom in his speedy boat lit off a certain thoroughly enjoyable competitive intensity & focus that I can’t get to as easily if I’m just paddling by myself (when I’ll be working at, oh, probably around 80% max output & trying to tell myself I’m working as hard as I can, only I know I’m kidding myself). Tom said something about me having him working at about the maximum too – well, that’s a good paddle, then.

There was a tour (or maybe guide training) out from New York Kayak Company (based at Pier 40) – we blew past them in a most satisfactory manner (doubly so if it was guide training – triply so ‘cause it was mostly, if not all, guys - bwa ha ha haaa, yes, it's true, in some cases I am an evil nasty competitive rhymes-with-witch).

And then on top of all this good fast paddling, it was absolutely beautiful. It was a very hazy evening; the Verranzano Narrows Bridge and the south end of the Upper Harbor were hidden in a deep bank of fog. The sunset was a gentle one – all pastels, blues and pinks and golds – the haze in the air blurred the edges between land, sea and sky – the evening ferry rush hour had passed & there were few motorboats out, and we were right around slack water, so the water was moving towards glassy, reflecting the sky – and with the haze softening the boundaries, the whole world filled with the colors in the sky.

It was like paddling inside of an enormous, gently glowing, pearly seashell.

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