Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Trip Log, 6/7 - First Surfski Run of the Summer!

I walked out of the office last night around 7:30.

The air was still warm and still.

Hudson River water temperatures are low to mid 60's these days.

This all meant that it was finally time to pull out my poor old neglected surfski!

And oh my. What a filthy, dusty, rust-encrusted boat it was, too. Poor poor thing. Oh well, I will make sure it stays sky blue from now until October!

Hm...I feel a digression coming on! Dusty & dirty you might see, but do you wonder why the rust?


As part of my "severance package" from Manhattan Kayak Company, I was permitted to just keep this boat stashed in the MKC hold as long as they don't actually need the space for a fleet boat - and since it actually fits into a space in the "rafters" of the fleet hold that a sea kayak doesn't (a surfski is longer than the average sea kayak, but the cross section is much smaller), that won't happen unless MKC decides to add another surfski to their fleet.

These holds that I refer to occasionally are all compartments in the barge known as Pier 63 Maritime (the barge is moored at the site of the former Pier 63 - the pier itself is actually long gone as are so many of the old piers). This barge is actually a bit of Hudson River history - once upon a time (not so very long ago at all, I think this was going on into the 1970's), a lot of goods were delivered to Manhattan by rail, using barges to transfer loaded boxcars across the rivers. The barges had tracks on them and there were special transfer piers with matching sets of tracks that would line up with the tracks on the barge. Once the connection was made, the pier would serve as a bridge between the barge & the land (just like a ferry loading ramp, only with even more precision required to make the 2 sets of rails line up) and a locomotive would hook up to them & make the final delivery.

The interior of a car float was basically a set of watertight compartments with support columns (perpendicular to the deck of the barge) latticed with sturdy steel crossbraces to support the weight of the loaded boxcars. Since the Pier 63 barge is enjoying a genteel retirement as a waterfront public space, restaurant, mooring site for historic vessels, performance venue, and general neat place to hang out, and loaded boxcars will never be in the picture again (although there is a nice red caboose there), most of the crossbracing was able to be cut away, leaving only the major support columns. This opened up the spaces in the holds to be used for kayak storage and other uses.

The Pier 63 Maritime barge is constructed of steel, and has been around since 1946. That's a long time to spend on salt water, and naturally, there's a lot of rust.

Inside the kayak storage holds, there's a steady, although imperceptible, snow of rust particles.

It's always a bit of a shock the first time I pull my surfski out of its' roost in the rafters after 6 months. It's completely covered with rust & dust & it looks more like I disinterred it (next year maybe I'll get something to wrap it in at the end of the season) than just pulled it off of a rack.

This year it was about as bad as it's ever been, so we started with a good rinse, then off for a short spin. Nothing spectacular, just Pier 63 to just past the Gansevoort Peninsula twice plus a couple of laps - somewhere between 2.5 and 3 nautical miles. Didn't want to go too far because I was paddling solo & it was the first run of the season - if my Romany is a good reliable little cow pony of a boat, a surfski is a thinskinned Thoroughbred that likes to move fast but is prone to bucking off a nervous rider if a wake hits it wrong.

First trips of the season on this one are more about regaining the balance it demands than speed. I did get a pretty good workout, though, and only had to wimp out & put my feet down for one really big breaking wake. Later in the season, I would be able to take that bow on & be OK - but I wasn't really into swimming last night & putting your feet down over the sides & into the water might make surfski master Bob Twogood look at you reproachfully, but it does instantly boost your stability.

I did manage to not fall off, which was my goal. Speed will come as I get back into the surfski groove & start gearing up from the good strong touring stroke - which moves the boat pretty well - to the higher-angled racing stroke - which makes it go "whoosh" through the water. Whee.

It's feeling more and more like summer. All I need now is to see a firefly...

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