Thursday, March 31, 2005

ugh ugh ugh you remember getting any inscriptions - or signatures or whatever it's called when high-school kids sign each other's yearbooks - in your high school yearbook that read:

2 good
2 be
4 gotten


I have a variation on that theme to offer as an excuse for a post tonight.

2 tired
2 write
2 night.

Augh. I think I mentioned here or there that we're in the throes of budget season at my full-time job...did I mention that we also have a sales conference next week AND I'm getting going on March close documents as well? Who said that we had to do all 3 at once?

Whimper whimper.

I need to go play with the kitties now. Did you know that when you talk to people, your blood pressure goes up, but when you talk to animals, it goes down? Good thing I'm kittysitting right now.

I'll write a real post this weekend, honest. Unless I'm just too fried to write anything interesting which is possible. Oh man, I never did get down my notes on what I was doing in the pool in Stamford that was working so well...something about really isolating the hip action used to start the rotation of the boat, cutting down the involvement of the upper body as much as possible - the best Greenland-style rollers can roll with their arms crossed & held tight against the torso (check out the 'straightjacket roll' on Cheri Perry's website - no, that is not an actual straightjacket she's wearing, it's a tuiliq - she's awesome btw) - I'm nowhere close to that but I was up to handrolling (rolling without a paddle) with my hands held in fists (one step more difficult than open-handed) & should have tried the one where you put one hand behind your was all feeling really good.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

oooh ooooh ooooh ooooh!

ok...can't resist just posting a snippet from the end of a quick email exchange I just had with a friend:

"tonight's blog topic: what is it that I did right in a past life to deserve finding myself faced with dilemmas involving choosing between sailing with friends in the BVI's or kayak camping with friends in Cape Breton. Dang. Life, to coin a phrase, is good. Somewhere along the line I must have done something right!"

dang. sometimes I actually LIKE being me...

11 pm rats. not tonight. worked until 8, had to get in at least a good walk after that, grabbed some dinner, and I just have GOT to play with these kitties I'm taking care of (they are adorable, I have to warn people that I may be succumbing to the temptation to post cute-kitty stories before too long!) for friends before I get to bed, which needs to be quite soon as tomorrow's going to be another long one...oh well...

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)!

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Dolphins in the Hudson! (D'OH!) + Pale Male Update #3

Wow. Harry posted this on the NYCKayaker listserve this morning:

"At the end of paddle to Mitsuwa I saw 2 dolphins just off of Pier 40
yesterday ( Saturday March 26) at around 4pm. The sightings lasted only a couple of seconds each but the arched grey backs and characteristic dorsal fins were unmistakable."

Cool, yeah?

Not the first time I've heard about dolphins being spotted in the area - a couple of friends saw a little one by itself when they were out a couple of years ago; plus one of the schooner captains mentioned once last summer (we may have been talking about seals coming into the area) that there was a small pod that was hanging out in the Upper Harbor a couple of years ago that a lot of the commercial boat captains had spotted. Maybe those guys are back!

Where the "D'OH" comes in is that I went on this trip (plan to write my trip report this afternoon or tomorrow - as I said Friday, I had some things I just couldn't not write about, but now it's time for me to get back to my more typical topics). But I keep my kayak at Pier 63, so I'd peeled off there. At the time Harry was spotting dolphins, I was peacefully puttering around with the lines & fenders on the Pier 63 hold dock about a mile north of there.

Ah well. At least the dock was back to looking properly secured & fendered when I left. It was a really good day overall - even after finding out I missed maybe seeing dolphins by "that much". Somehow, though, even though I didn't get to see them - it's still just neat to know that they're around.

also - totally cracked me up today. Here's the text from Lincoln's post:

"To to member of The Media that inquired about Pale Male having two new mates named 'Linda #1 and Linda #6'. Please note that these are the names given to window railings on the 16th Floor of 920 Fifth Avenue on which he loves to perch. In a nutshell; Lola has been sitting on eggs fertilized by Pale Male since March 9th. Pale Male has since then been sharing nest sitting duties and hunting daily for both of them. He has, since the Fall of 2001, been unfailingly faithful to her and we look forward to hatching somewhere around April 15th."

Some poor gossip columnist got bored of Brad & Jennifer & discovered an interest in natural history, perhaps?

Thursday, March 24, 2005

a couple more links - then tying this up.

a couple more links today

"A Different Portrait of Schiavo's Husband", Carol J. Williams, AP, in

"For Parents, The Unthinkability of Letting Go", Benedict Carey in the New York Times (requires registration; article will go into archives, which are still available but for a fee, on the 27th or 28th).

I have also followed Ticklebug's link to this site, which has as a description "A blog exposing the lies of the media, judges, and elected officials who are attempting to cover up the attempted murder of Terri Schiavo, a disabled woman"...

which just doesn't make sense to me in and of itself, but fits in perfectly with what I said about our desire to read the simplest good guy/bad guy dramatic arrangement into even the grayest of real-life scenarios. The first 2 links get into exactly the psychology I thought I recognized in my earlier reading - and it was only after reading a lot of what both sides had to say that I got to the point of wanting to say anything myself.

Again, I think the most objective history & timeline of the legal case I've found was the one I linked to yesterday - Abstract Appeal - being maintained by a lawyer it's much freer of the tendency to overlay factual statements with emotional biases on either side.

Finally, if you are very patient & a good reader - here is the 2003 Guardian Ad Litem report by Jay Wolfson, DrPH, JD referred to & quoted in the Carol Williams article. 38 pages. No good guys, no bad guys, and no easy answers. Just the legal system really trying to do right by Terri - and trying to figure out whether "doing right by her" meant letting her go or keeping her on.

This is a job I would never want. Numbers - they're right or they're wrong. Simple as that.

anyhow...I'm putting these links up too because I felt like I owed it anyone who's been reading - particularly those who didn't agree with me - to at least try to share some of the kind of reading I'd been doing that (along with the parallels I was seeing in what I'd been through in my own life) eventually led to my putting together Monday's post. I doubt that that information is going to change people's minds here but hopefully this at least gives some insight into the underlying thought process that led up to that post (which I still stand behind).

And that is where I'm going to close this week's 3-day departure from my usual work/life/paddling post routine. Any more and what am I doing but adding to the very circus that I find so distressing? I said what I said Monday because somehow what I was thinking wasn't something I was seeing talked about much. Today, just kind of rehashing. Made my point, I think - time to bow out.

Yes, back to kayaking for my next post. Interesting stuff going on. More invitations to teach, plus never did write on what I did on Sunday while my friend was exploring his innate goofiness - want to get some notes down on that because that way when I forget, during the next couple of weeks, which will be unchlorinated, what I was doing that was working, I can come back to those notes as a memory jogger.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Thank you all and more info

Short post today - I'm still thinking of yesterday's as being my "current post", but I did want to add sort of p.s. to that one here.

1. Thank you to everyone who has commented (and Ruben - you're amazing). I don't even know what to say except thank you. Thank you seems like a good place to start - would try to do individual responses but I'm feeling a little at-a-loss-for-words right now.

2. I've been seeing a fair number of international suffixes (e.g., .de and .au) on my sitemeter & wonder how all of this comes across to people from outside the U.S. - the media has been so focussed on this here that most of us know about it, but if anyone who hasn't been subject to saturation coverage is interested in reading what I think is a very well-written objective history of the case, here's a good link for you: - I actually ran across this while doing a little more research to make sure that I could really stand behind what I wrote yesterday in the event that any critical comments came in. I was expecting more of those, since this is a topic on which people have very intense opinions, & I wanted to confirm in my own mind that I wasn't just talking through my hat - this overview served that purpose well.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005


I apologize to anyone who’s looking for kayak tales today, but with this all over the news, I can’t help doing at least one post on Terri Schiavo. Too sad about it not to - going to let myself.

Everyone seems to have taken sides. Either her husband is the villain, or her parents are the villains. We do like the characters in our dramas to wear their appropriately white or black hats, don’t we?

I feel so sorry for both sides. Her husband – well, what a nightmare he must be living. He has let this be his life for 15 years, rather than just washing his hands of the matter. That sounds to me like the actions of a person who genuinely, deeply believes that the woman he married would not have wanted things to be as they are. Her parents are clearly ready to care for her – the easiest course would have been to let them, and get on with his own life.

Her parents…how terrible for them as well.

Naturally they don’t want to let go. They think that if they can just keep her alive, somehow, sometime, a miracle might happen and they’ll have their daughter back.

There’s a word for that state of mind.

It’s called denial.

I have gone through some terrible grieving myself. I worked at the World Trade Center. I was there that day. More than eighty former co-workers of mine did not make it out. Shortly thereafter I lost my kayak company – which was probably one of the things I’ve cared the most about in my entire life. Well – I let it go because after what I’d gone through, I didn’t have the personal resources I needed to keep being part of it, so I resigned. The end result was that in March 2002, I found myself simply not wanting to get out of bed in the morning. Just wanted to sleep. Sleep was where I didn’t hurt.

I guess that was my denial. My mind is too clear, and the separation & losses were too overwhelming, to be able to actually deny. The towers were gone. I was not going to be invited back in to the kayak company – I was clearly under enormous duress and even under the best of circumstances, the relationship between myself & the founder wasn’t good & that put some very unfair burdens on the other partners. Post-WTC…me being in the company simply wasn’t a viable option. I understood all of that and I knew there was no way to change things.

Sleep became my refuge, the place where I could hide, the way I could turn my back on what I’d been through & what I'd lost or given up. Being awake was being an ache.

So…where this ties back to Terri Schiavo is that I think her parents are asleep right now. Sleeping, and dreaming of a miracle.

And in that state, they have found people who would help them stay in their limbo, instead of people who would help them travel through it and eventually learn enough, find the strength to carry what they needed to - the fact that their daughter was gone.

The people who have prevented them from doing that – the people who have conspired to keep the Schindler’s false hopes alive - those are the people who look the cruelest to me. They have essentially taken this entire family hostage and turned them into a vehicle for their own political ends or even just personal gratification (great ego boost to play defenders-of-the-helpless, isn’t it?)

Letting this be over would be the truest act of mercy possible – even for the Schindlers, who I don’t imagine could see that possibility when they are clinging so hard and letting go after so long would hurts so much.

They have been trapped in that limbo of a first stage of responding to a catastrophe for fifteen years.

Fifteen years.

Seems like the worst thing about false hope is that the longer it’s nourished and encouraged, the deeper the roots go, and the more it hurts when the bearer finally has to let it go.

Monday, March 21, 2005

DDF the Goofy Roller!

First off – I must post a quick excerpt from an Upper West Side-dwelling friend’s email by way of correction to a rather major error in “Pale Male Update”:

“PLEASE be informed that we on the UWS do not mistreat our birds. The crimes against Pale Male and occurred at 927 Fifth Ave., and not CPW.”

Oops! I don’t know where I picked up the misconception that they were on CPW – somehow I just always thought that was where the nest was. Funny. Well, now I know better & I hereby apologize to any and all Upper West Side residents who may have been hurt by my false accusations.

I had an interesting kayak rolling practice session in the pool at the Stamford Y on Sunday. I’ve been pretty happy with what I’ve done with my 6 hours over the last 3 weeks but that’ll be for another post, I think.

Usually I take the train up - one of the things I like about the Small Boat Shop sessions is that I don't have to impose on anyone else to get there, the Stamford Y is completely accessible to even the carless Brooklynite. This time I was offered a ride up by one of my P63 paddling friends, DDF, who was coming up for his first practice session after getting his roll for the first time (and second, and enough more after that to be comfortable with a practice session) at a class in Garrison, run, if I'm remembering correctly, by Hudson Valley Outfitter.

He stumbled across Frogma last week, so I had solemnly sworn - in writing, too - that in exchange for the ride, I wouldn't write about it if he fell out of his boat 27 times. He didn’t, so I get to write. Yay! 'Cause it really ended up being an eye-opener for me at the end.

There were a couple of bailouts but really no more than you’d expect from someone who’d taken a class, gotten a roll, and then not had a chance to practice for more than a month. Waiting that long after your first class to try again is definitely not ideal. It's a weird & counterintuitive skill to learn, and your body just has to remember how it feels, and the longer you wait to try again, the vaguer the recollection gets to be. His first try just didn’t work. Everything just sort of went screwy in an absolutely, 100% normal way – his arms tried to do the whole thing & his boat just sort of swung around 90 degrees instead of coming up. I nearly dislocated my shoulder the first time I tried to roll a sea kayak, after having gotten my first roll at the pool in Stamford months before, because I made precisely the same mistake & I am of a light enough build that my shoulder was literally the weakest link. Long time before I rolled again - that's all I'm saying now 'cause that'd be a good post of it's own though (and heh heh heh, it's already written 'cause that was one of my long postings back when I was actively cluttering up people's inboxes on the NYCKayaker listserve). Anyhow, nothing so dramatic for him, just didn’t come up. Bailed out instead.

A couple more tries & it started to come back. First one wasn't pretty, but hey, he was rightside up & the pieces had begun to fall back into place. Once he’d gotten back the basic feel of what needed to happen, he started coming up quite reliably – but the strength of the rolls were pretty variable. A good roll feels effortless, and a bad one feels, well, bad, and he'd gotten the roll well enough at his class through Hudson Valley Outfitters (I have to go check but I think that's who ran it) that he could tell a good one from a not-so-hot one. Well, he worked and he worked and he worked, and he was getting that here & there, even got three in a row at one point (I think that was when I quit watching him & went to the locker room for a minute), but he was also doing some that he wasn’t as happy with.

Towards the end of the class, one of the instructors for this series came down to say hello to to the denizens of the deep end. We got to talking a little bit about teaching, and he mentioned that he’s strongly in favor of teaching a person to roll on both sides at the same time. Now, I’m not sure I entirely agree with that; when I learned, I got the on-side (“handedness” definitely counts in rolling, so for most right-handers, it’s easier to learn to roll setting up on the right side of the boat, and vice versa for lefties), then once that was solid, I was able to start messing around with the off-side, always knowing that when I blew it, which I did plenty of times, I could go back & roll on my on-side. Practicing with friends outside of a class situation becomes a lot more fun once you’ve got something that you know will work to fall back on! However, there’s that, then there’s the view the instructor was taking, and then I think I’ve heard that in Greenland, they teach the “off-side” first because once you can do it on that side, getting it on the “on-side” is easy. Personally, this sounds to me like one of those things where nobody’s really right or wrong – all three approaches have their points, and one might work great for one person, while another might be more effective for another, depending on individual learning style.

Anyways - this short conversation went on shortly before the end of the class, and that’s when things got quite interesting. D was pretty tired, but it was suggested that he try an off-side roll. Just to see what would happen, y’know?

What happened was one of the prettiest rolls he’d done all morning. Followed by another, and another.

He was doing Pawlata rolls – this is a pretty easy roll involving a shift of the hands from a standard paddling grip to holding the end of the paddle in one hand and the shaft in the other – the extended paddle affords a lot more leverage. It’s sometimes taught as a first roll. Very curious by this point, I asked him to try a standard sweep roll.

Same result. Perfect sweep roll. No problems.

Turns out that what had been assumed to be his on-side (and he is right-handed, so this wasn’t a bad assumption – just didn’t happen to be true in this case!) was in fact his off-side, so he’d quite inadvertently done it in what I’m thinking is more Greenland learning style – putting the extra effort into drilling on the more difficult side first, then switching over to the easier side.

Well, those Greenlanders do know a thing or two about rolling.

DDF thinks that the key to this oddity – and I’ve seriously never really seen this happen so dramatically – is that although he’s a righty, he’s a fairly ambidextrous righty; in fact he said this really made sense in light of the fact that when he used to skateboard, he was a “goofy-foot” skater – one who skated with his left foot forward.

He now says that he’s a “goofy roller” too.

Funny stuff. Fascinating, too. At least for me.

As I said, I’d never run across this before, but now that I have, I won’t forget it – good to know that there is such a thing as a “goofy roller”, just in case I ever find myself teaching another one!

So DDF - thanks for the ride & the lesson, too!

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Trying Haloscan.

Haloscan commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.

So says the Haloscan auto post. Yep...thought I'd try this. I like the way people use it to answer comments - it gives a very friendly sensation of dialogue to the comment section, plus even though I had the "anyone" option selected for "who can post" in the Blogger comments, I got an email today from Ignacio, at On Kayaks that Blogger wasn't letting him post. I'm hoping use of HaloScan will rectify that.

jeeze. now my only question is why IS it the rare occasions I am actually hit by an irrestistable impulse to tinker with this thing instead of just writing in it, it's always hits, oh, around 20 minutes past my bedtime (which isn't all that early anyways)? WHY???? Problem with that is that by the time I finish, it's gone from a little past bedtime to WAAAAY past bedtime. YAWN.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Pale Male Update #2 - Incubating!

OK…enough about me – time for a Pale Male & Lola update
because the pix today are FAAAAbulous and plus THEY’RE INCUBATING! Yes, if all goes well, our local redtails with the CPW address will be raising another set of fine young eyases again this year!

For anyone to whom that paragraph makes absolutely NO sense at all, here’s the back-story:

Pale Male is a 14-year-old (estimated) red-tailed hawk who’s a longtime and much-loved resident of New York City, having first been sighted here in 1991. He and a series of mates (Lola is his current mate; if I remember correctly, the last mate, Blue, died after eating a poisoned rat or pigeon – he and Lola have been together since 2001) have been nesting on an ornate parapet at 927 Central Park West (same building as Mary Tyler Moore, no less!) since 1993. Since 1995, at least one of each yearly brood raised in that nest has fledged with the exception of 2002 - Lola’s first clutch, according to the statistic page fromwhich I’m gleaning all of this info. I wonder if redtails don’t do that well on their first try cause it looks like the first 2 clutches Pale Male & Blue had were abandoned and didn’t hatch, while over the subsequent 4 years, 11 of their 12 hatchlings fledged. 1992, Pale Male & First Love’s first full year together also produced no young – they had a run of rough luck, the first nest was destroyed, and then after they rebuilt in another location, they were both injured.

I’m quite fascinated by this statistics page, can you tell? I just found it today – included the link here ‘cause I really just stumbled across it. Have to put on my blogroll!

There was an interesting documentary produced within the last couple of years. I’d known about them for a lot longer – they were local celebrities even before that. A couple of years ago I was out for a walk in Central Park when one of the youngsters, who was still working out the kinks on the flying thing & was being harassed by a bunch of smaller birds (which was what first caught my attention – this was a few years back & I can’t remember if it was crows or some smaller birds, I think it they were smaller but isn’t it more usual for crows to mob predatory birds?) came working it’s way right over my head, flapping rather awkwardly from tree to tree. He or she finally made it up to the roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and from there, where the smaller birds finally left it alone and it was able to finally get enough wingroom to work up into a proper upward-spiraling soar & dissapear. What a moment that was – and I remembered that the night I happened to catch the documentary, which was a fascinating picture of both the hawks and a dedicated coterie of hawk-watchers, on the Discovery Channel last year.

This winter the co-op board at 927 CPW, in a stupendous display of the unique arrogance that Manhattan co-op boards sometimes display, tore down the nest & removed the anchoring pigeon spikes (wire bristles designed to keep pigeons from landing on your fancy architectural details). Too messy, they said. Too many nasty carcasses & stuff. Poor Pale Male and Lola – they came home one day to find their nest just gone. They tried to rebuild – they’d bring sticks, but without the spikes, it was a useless effort as the sticks would just blow away.

But although they couldn’t speak for themselves, the hawk-watchers could. The media picked up the story; there were protests in front of the building, there were letters to the editor, and, finally realizing that they were embroiled in a complete PR nightmare & that even some of the residents of the building were angry (I think Mary Tyler Moore was among them!), the co-op board relented and hired someone to design, build and install a custom-designed falling-stick-and-dead-rat-proof redtail nest cradle on the parapet!

Once again…all together now…only in N.Y., yeah?

There was no guarantee they’d move back in – it was quite possible that after such a disturbance, they might want to look for new digs – but in the end, they chose to do so & proceeded to rebuild their nest in time for mating season. And now they’re incubating their 2005 clutch – I’ve been so busy with other stuff I actually hadn’t checked up on for a couple of weeks (after all the waiting with bated breath to see whether they were going to rebuild was over & they’d begun their annual mating flights) and then one morning I was listening to the news as I was getting ready for work, and there in the middle of all the usual death, destruction & misery was the announcement – “Pale Male and Lola are expecting!”. Or something like that.

I was thrilled. I’d posted a Pale Male update back when they started building & just couldn’t resist doing it again!

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

"Promethean Fire" burns away a dreary day

So – I did it. I got the letter off to the swim guy today. I actually came to think of it more as “the bomb”. Not the positive-kind bomb either - as in “it’s da bomb”, you know – but as in “bombs away”. Well…swim guy wasn’t happy…sigh. Oh well. I kind of knew he wasn’t going to like it but I just felt like I needed to bring up some of the liability issues that the better paddlers end up getting stuck with when they work stuff like that whether we like it or not. It’s done, and I think I said everything I wanted to, and fairly clearly, and that’s the best I can do.

But he definitely wasn’t happy. Usually I like to make people happy. Unfortunately in this case that I couldn’t manage happiness-making and giving my actual perception of the situation, as requested, at the same time, and me being me, I usually go for telling the truth rather than trying to say what I think someone wants to hear. That’s not such a bad trait, is it? Even if it’s not the best way to win a popularity contest. Oh well (yes, again). Popularity schmopularity.

So it was a sort of depressing day – but also something of a relief in that now it’s done.

Ended up having one of those “lucky I live New York” finishes, though. Where else can you, on a random Tuesday after a not-so-hot week-and-a-half of work and non-work crap, decide, on a spur-of-the-moment whim that you need to go do something that very night that is guaranteed to completely blow you away & wipe all the nastiness out of your brain - and then not more than 3 hours after that, after a fortuitous check of a schedule on a website, be blissfully ensconced in a fifteen-dollar seat in the nosebleed section, watching the Paul Taylor Dance Company perform “Promethean Fire” & being duly blown away – as you knew perfectly well you would because you’ve seen that dance, like, 4 times, and it has the same effect of just completely lifting your mind out of whatever crap the world has been throwing at you & just washing it in pure awesome magnificence every time you see it.

It really is the most amazing dance. I’m no dance critic, and if you’re curious I’m sure a quick Google of “Promethean Fire” will give you much better descriptions than I can muster. But wotthehell, Archie, here goes. It’s the whole company. The music begins with the curtain closed. As the first measures of Bach’s Toccata & Fugue in D minor play the curtain rises to reveal all 16 dancers on stage – standing like statues - all dressed in sort of chocolate velvet leotards – arms, shoulders & upper chests bare – then starting with one, and then moving out through the group, they start to move. The patterns they make are hypnotic. They swirl, they melt together and break apart – they fragment into subgroups – they open out, fall away, weave together…they collapse, and writhe away from the center…they’re seagulls, they’re leaves blowing past – they’re beautiful, so beautiful it can make your heart catch in your throat. There’s no applause between the individual parts, it’s like the whole audience is just holding their breath afraid to break the spell. And there’s this one moment, when, after a duet has gone from tender to blundering & awkward (as though all the sudden the grace they were sharing just stopped working, and they aren't sure why - Taylor does that a lot) to the edge of desperation – the woman turns to the man, who stands upstage of her – holding his arms out to her – and she breaks into a short diagonal run that ends in the most breathtaking leap – feet first, body flying through the air, laid out horizontal to the floor – she has got to have such complete trust that her partner is going to catch her to commit like that – he catches her – but at the moment she takes flight, there’s always an audible gasp from the audience. I still gasp even though I’ve seen it so many times. It’s just that amazing.

Anyways – just what I needed tonight. I’ll go to sleep with those images playing behind my eyelids instead of all the dreary day-to-day stressors of the last couple of weeks. And all on a whim I had around 4 in the afternoon. Isn’t that fantastic?

Um…but I left out the most amazing New York part of this whole very particularly New York evening. The really incredible part is that one of the people weaving all the magic down there on the stage is a friend of mine. He’s also a former business partner, was one of my first kayak instructors, and was a valuable mentor when I then first started learning to teach. I've learned so much from this guy both on-water & off.

Actually, it was his suggestion about the cheap seats – I’d been torn between going to see some classic Paul Taylor dances that I hadn’t seen before on Saturday, or going tonight to see this piece that I love so much, and I’d said as much in an email. Well, he’s a thoroughly practical person & instead of coming back with an either/or suggestion came back with “The cheap seats are always good”.

Oh yeah. Cheap seats. I forgot about the cheap seats. Fifteen bucks. Imagine that – a top-quality live dance performance for not a lot more than you’d spend on a movie. They were great, too – from that height, the patterns formed by the moving dancers are even clearer. You actually miss some of that from the floor…great stuff.

Anyways – every time I see him dance I just end up shaking my head & thinking “I can’t believe I actually KNOW that guy”. Unbelievable.

Yep. This town does have its’ points...

Monday, March 14, 2005

How to Make A New York City Kayaker Really Really Envious

OK, any NYC Kayakers who happen to be reading…check this out…

This made me…just…oh, just go look for yourself.

Offending site can be found right

there. Did you LOOK? Am I wrong? Is that not truly disgusting? Jeeze. Jeeze LOUISE, even.

Non NYC kayakers…don’t worry, it’s a NY thing…I’ll explain it sometime when I’m back in an “explaining why us NYC kayakers are all a little insane” mood (NO, it's not just me!)

Sunday, March 13, 2005

That was the weekend that was.

There went another weekend.

No trip report this time. Sadly, I suppose - no, but not really. I had been trying to drum up a joint sushi trip (that’s a paddling trip that involves landing at a ginormous Japanese supermarket & food court in Edgewater, NJ, and having sushi – or saimin, or musubi, or whatever looks the most onolicious when you get there – urban paddling is fun even if there ARE garbage barge piers here and there!) involving the people who store private boats and the Manhattan Kayak Company “Polar Paddle” clients. No, “I had been trying to drum up” is not quite right, it was more serendipitous than that – things are very weird between me & the MKC founder, so mostly I steer clear of mixing in with MKC stuff at all, just give ‘em money once a year to keep my boats there. Drumming up a joint trip is WAY outside what I would dream up on my own.

However, there’s now this funny circumstance where 2 of the rolling students from the class I was assistant instructor for in February happen to be clients of MKC, and I was telling them about a planned sushi trip a couple of weeks ago, and they were so envious because the polar paddles they’ve been doing all winter have been limited to the (as O. described it) the “Concorde-to-Downtown Boathouse Corridor” – there’s a retired Concorde on a barge at the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum at Pier 86, about a nautical mile north of pier 63, and then there’s the Downtown Boathouse at Pier 26, a little more than a mile south, and the polar paddles haven’t really gone outside of that. Well, I’ve been trying to pull off this sushi trip for a month now (we work around the tides, so you can only do it every other week) – and when they heard the last one had been abandoned in favor of the thoroughly enjoyable “Saturday boring paddle” I wrote about 2 weeks back, they put in a request with the Polar Paddle guide to please please please let the Polar Paddle this week be for sushi. And he seemed to be into that. Surest way to make things weird would’ve been for me to say “no, I don’t think we should because that could make things weird”. No, I was happy to go with circumstances this time.

Well – would’ve been fun. But a lot of my usual gang were out of town, and there was sort of yucky-looking marine forecast for Saturday (possible small-craft advisory, winds W at 15-20 gusting to 25, and snow) when I checked the NOAA weather site on Friday, and O & D had not hearing back from the polar paddle guide after he’d said he was checking some boat issues with the MKC partners. Add to that the fact that I was just utterly exhausted after an insanely busy and stressed-out week at work coupled with a lot of stress about the un-fun stuff I need to tell the swim guy, plus a stupid personal issue that I should just write off as a loss, already, but am having a hard time doing (please forgive moment's whimper - just not answering a personal plea is about the meanest response of all – there’s answers I would like to hear, and answers I wouldn’t like to hear – but no answer at all? Makes me feel like I’m just not considered worthy of acknowledgement - I know that I am even if he doesn’t think so, and that’s why I should let it go – working on it – sorry about the whining but hey, what are blogs for? Get it off my chest here instead of wasting any more time trying to get an answer out of a stone, y’know?) and I decided to just not do it this time.

Naturally NOAA had gotten it wrong & it was a stunningly gorgeous day. Breezy, yes, but “nothin’ but blue skies!” However, I think this time I was grateful to NOAA. Sometimes it’s good to have a quiet weekend to just catch up with yourself. I slept in. I read. I had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a glass of milk for lunch (must take care of the inner child, yeah?), and then I cleaned and vacuumed and scrubbed, and then later I finally sat down and wrote my Letter to the Swim Guy. It wasn’t easy, but I think I said everything I needed to say. He is not going to like me very much after he gets it. I talk about basic safety requirements, and liability and potential lawsuits, more than I like to – but these are the things that I & a few others are really afraid he’s losing sight of in all the excitement. Anyways – I got it all down on paper and now I send it off. And then there’s another person that writes me off as a nasty negative naysayer, y’know? Oh well. Seems to be my job, sometimes. Somebody’s gotta do it, right? Personally I’d be perfectly thrilled if all of my concerns were completely groundless & he’s already working on all of it. Anyways, I’m not sending a totally unprecedented message to him – just one of a type he doesn’t like to hear. And I can understand that – the swims are great, I love ‘em, that’s why I’ve done as many as I have and it’s neat that they’re growing – but…

I seem to say “Oh well” in my blog posts a lot. Hm. Oh well…

Anyways, today’s main event was 2 hours of rolling practice in Stamford. Rolling practice is like yoga-in-a-boat for me, clears my mind of everything except me, the boat, the water & the paddle & how they all balance and turn together – great thing to do after a very rattlesome week. Came home afterwards to my nice clean apartment – took a long nap, then went for groceries & cooked up a big pot of homemade split-pea soup – even was domestic & nurturing enough that I moved all of my plants (hah, all 4 of ‘em, no green thumb here) into the kitchen to enjoy the humidity & fluorescent light as the soup simmered away for hours – the ti plants should particularly appreciate that, one has been thriving amazingly well for a Hawaiian plant in a Brooklyn apartment, but one’s been looking a little peaked.

And that was the weekend that was. Quiet, and restful, and productive in exactly the ways it needed to be, and unproductive ditto. God bless NOAA. Just what I needed, I think. Now I’m ready for whatever this week throws at me. Hm – let’s see – Monday I go watch JH open up the proverbial can of whupass at the Vintage NY Trivia Night at my local leftist-communist-anarchist coffee shop (ostensibly whoever of us river-rat pack show up play as a team, but JH is the one who knows everything there is to know about this city – it’s really fun to watch!) Tuesday is going to be interesting – I’ve been invited to participate in art – sounds pretty cool. She doesn't want anything fancy from me - just wants me to talk about weather on the Hudson. I think I can manage that! And work should be a little lower-key this week than it was last week. I’m really hoping that the worst piece of March is behind me now.

And there are daffodil leaves in the back courtyard, spring is coming, la la la!

Friday, March 11, 2005

A minor change

Repeat visitors may have noticed that I have updated my subtitle. Yes, "Because it's too cold to paddle and I'm bored" worked GREAT back in January, when it was, indeed, too cold to paddle and I was, indeed, bored. As you may have noticed, it hasn't been too cold to paddle now for several weeks. And boredom? Can someone please tell me where I can buy some of that? Let's see, calculating the various arcs of the Budget '05-06 season, closing of the books on '04-05, and oh yes that little matter of A Certain Much-Anticipated Children's Book coming out in July (yikes yikes triple yikes), and then boating season, I would say that my forecast for the earlist possible time at which I am likely to be bored again is...crunch crunch crunch...yep, same answer as before, early to mid November.

oh btw about The Book? Don't bother asking, the answer has already been no for more than one close friend (with a sincere I'm sorry 'cause for every person who's asked me so far, if I could, I really would, it just doesn't happen with this particular series of books). Sorry. Not even if you're Brad Pitt. Not even if you're Chow Yun Fat, and really lonely, and paddling is your secret favorite hobby. Nope. you are, say, Johnny Depp...ummm...depends...

wouldyoudressuplikeJackSparrowforme? (blush blush blush)

Thankful for...

Taking a quick break in a very very very stressful day (and one of my occasional veers away from the Hudson & into the dicier turf of politics, religion & ideology) to say it always makes me feel better about the world when I see reasonable people actively standing up to fundamentalists. In ANY religion.

No time to rant/reflect but just had to say -

Thank you Some Amusing Blog Pun.

Thank you Sardonic Bomb,

And also...Hooray for the Spanish Muslims.

Update: Took the time to leave a comment on Alan's blog - thinking about it, I realized it would make a good addition to what I'd already said here without taking any additional time out of the work day. So here it is:

This is the sort of thing that makes me feel a little less like shying away from religion entirely - last time I went to church(other than going to Aiea United Methodist, the church I went to as a kid & where my parents still go) was Christmas 2003. I went to a little Episcopalian church around the corner from the apartment I'd just bought.

The minister turned out to be a raving Pentecostal type. Preached The Gospel According to "Left Behind" authors Lahaye & Jenkins.

I wish I'd had the guts to quietly stand up and walk out on his horrifying sermon. I'm entirely too well-trained for that though. Just left afterwards without shaking the minister's hand & have had no urge to voluntarily attend a service since then.

Later update: Why didn't anybody tell me my link to the Spanish Muslim's fatwa story was broken? Fixed now. :)

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Spring? What was I thinking?

I’m glad I had such a good weekend last weekend, because this is a rough week.

Fortunately it is at least a prescheduled rough week. We have these roughly once a month when it’s time to close the previous month – this one’s a quarterly close so even more work. So I knew it was coming.

Still, I didn’t get home tonight until about 10:30. That was just because I was just determined to finish the last of my reports. I did, too. Yay me. Rather just have tomorrow to review everything for errors. Maybe I can even make it to yoga at the company gym – that would be nice although my chances of actually getting calm & centered is just about nil. At least it’s moving around. Today was all about hunching over my computer churning out numbers. Bleah.

Worked pretty late last night too, and last night getting home got to be a bit of an adventure! My “Spring Peeper Song” post a while back was (ahem) perhaps a touch premature, as I should have known. That was a most amazing storm yesterday. I’d actually listened to the forecast in the morning – it said something about rain possible turning to snow in the afternoon but I wasn’t envisioning ANYTHING like that. The company I work for has a cafeteria on the top floor (well, almost top). Big windows, great views of the city. I went up there to get lunch, which I had to eat at my desk as I’d gone to a Pilates class in the afternoon (ok usually I’m not so into classes that I’d do yoga AND pilates in one week – but in weeks like this I just don’t feel like making up my own workout circuit) and had a ton to get done – but I did stop & gape for a while at the snow whizzing around outside, and at the trees in the planters on the deck whipping around, and at the way you could almost hear the glass flexing as the wind beat against it. I got to a good stopping point (point of frustration with missing data that is) at around 8 and heading for home.

Well – the B train made it just past the stop 2 express stops from my home, then stopped and sat there between stations for about 45 minutes. And I had managed to leave the office with no reading material. Boo. So I sat there & tried to formulate what to say to the swim-race man – the more I’ve been trying to write up my concerns, the more I’m finding myself worried about some major liability issues not just for him, but for myself (one of the drawbacks of being a BCU 4-star paddler is that hell yes, if anything goes wrong, and I’m involved in any way, I automatically carry a lot more responsibility than Joe Recreational-Kayak-Paddler, who can legitimately say “How would I have known?” in a way that I can’t) – it’s all kind of scary, and this is just the kind of stuff the guy has a history of not wanting to listen to, so in addition to trying to get work done yesterday, I also couldn’t stop thinking about that. A stalled train with no reading material was as good a place as any for such bleak and gloomy thoughts. Finally they did manage to sneak the train into the next station, but at that point they announced that there were power outages & that there was no telling how long we’d be sitting there. The station being a mile from my home, I decided to hoof it.

Exciting walk, that – the snow had stopped hours ago but it was icy cold, and that wind – wow. It would settle down from time to time but then you’d hear a roaring (I passed one house that had wind chimes on the porch & the things sounded like an old-fashioned wind-up Big Ben alarm clock jangling away) and see the trees start to dance a gale-force blast would hit. Yes, a much more exciting walk than my usual fair-weather post-work saunters through Chinatown. My hands were starting to feel unpleasantly tingly by the time I got home. That was one of those nights where I was really glad our building super takes pride in keeping that boiler roaring all winter! Not quite as glad of that as I was that I didn’t get clobbered by a falling tree, though - that definitely wasn’t outside the realm of possibility.

So maybe I should take down “spring peeper song”…NO! Darn it all those daffodils are still out there. I won’t give up.

Well, I have got to get some sleep now. With the financial presentation on Friday who knows how late I’ll be stuck at the office tomorrow. Wish me luck…once more into the breach…

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Seals - Right Here in New York Harbor!

I just have to point out a new link on my "Hudson Tides & Weather" blogroll - just added a link to a site giving a clear, concise set of guidelines for viewing marine mammals. This is due to a very neat development - seems that New York City kayaking types may eventually find themselves needing to familiarize themselves with the Marine Mammals Protection Act, as it seems that seals have begun to decide that our city is sort of OK (she said while crossing ALL of her fingers and toes and her eyes, too).

As the river's been getting healthier, there have been more & more sightings of seals in the area. There have been seal sightings for the last few years down at Swinburne and Hoffman Islands, a bit south of the Verranzano Narrows Bridge. The Verranzano Narrows is where the less sheltered, more open water of the Lower Harbor meet the more confined & heavily trafficked spaces of the Upper Harbor. Hoffman and Swinburne are uninhabited, so made perfect winter haul-outs where the shy harbor seals can mostly be left alone (except for the pesky kayakers who would go down hoping for a glimpse). Apparently, though, the seals are getting a little bolder. The cleaner the waters around the piers & docks of Manhattan have gotten, the more the pilings beneath those piers have come provide a home for a wide variety of fish - seals like fish - no reason for seals not to come up & get them some fresh Manhattan sushi. And evidently, they are.

The first sighting I heard about was from TG - the guy who likes to tow things. He posted a very neat account on NYCKayaker; he was out for an early morning paddle, the seal was out for an early morning swim, and they didn't notice each other until they were quite close. Really, you just don't expect to run into a seal off the Holland Tunnel ventilator shaft. Sounded like there was a moment when both seal & paddler were thinking a very startled "Holy cow, that's not a...ohmigod, it is!".

Then on our paddle on Saturday, there were a batch of bystanders watching the DTBH set launch - there had been more seal sighting over the week, one was checking out a model boat regatta, another was hauled out on the River Project pier, and there'd been photos in the paper, so people were coming down to the river hoping to see them. All the attention may well have sent the animals back out to their private resorts on Hoffman and Swinburne - but I remember paddling to Angel Island in San Francisco Bay when my friend & mentor RCS & I had gone there for our Instructor Development Workshop with Eskape Sea Kayak Tours (he went back for certification, I just went for the training half 'cause I was still pretty green at the time - but it was a great experience) and having a curious harbor seal follow me for quite a ways, popping his or her head up out of the water & watching me with those big misty-looking eyes. So it does not seem improbable that if these New York Harbor visitors are treated well & with respect by us locals, they may eventually be as common a sight as they are in San Francisco Bay.

Can't hurt to brush up on these guidelines. I can dream, right? Now I do wonder what you do if you come back from a paddle & find a seal has hauled out & is having a nice snooze on your dock. Is it an infraction of the Marine Mammal Protection Act if you eventually politely ask it to leave so you can land? Or does that constitute harassment? Hmmm.

Actually the new docks & get-downs in the Hudson River Park are all going to have seal exclusion gates precisely to minimize the chances of that sort of human-seal interaction. Army Corps of Engineers rules, I think.

Me - I have a feeling that in the unlikely event that I EVER get back to my home pier & find it occupied by a seal, I'd just sit there & watch it as long as it wanted to stay there. Probably holding my breath the whole time for fear of scaring it away. Then I'd fly home & write the most excited post ever.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Saturday Trip Report - Robbins Reef Lighthouse

Southbound from Pier 63. Low water at 9:07 a.m. Nautical forecast – winds 5-10 kts. Temperature – High 30’s, low 40’s. Fantastic! Let’s go paddling! RS had proposed a Statue of Liberty trip with a stop at Liberty Landing Marina – about an 8 mile roundtrip – I suggested that to the rest of the gang & it was a go. 4 of us met at Pier 63. I had also checked in with the Downtown Boathouse winter crew (HS, TG & NB) – they were planning an 11 a.m. meeting time with an 11:30 launch.

We launched a bit late, but still got down to their pier just in time to see them bringing their boats out. They have an interesting winter setup in that they launch from a small dock kept by the River Project – unlike the Pier 63 situation, where our dock is attached to the side of a barge, which you access from the land via a large ramp, solid enough for a vehicle, this small dock is accessed via a ladder from the land & rises and falls according to the tides. Interesting watching the three of them work together to get their boats down the drop, they’ve clearly done this a few times. Being terribly useful paddling companions, those of us on the water naturally gave much helpful advice ("We wanna see a 12-foot seal launch from the pier!"). As they finally got into their boats, Randy from New York Kayak company rounded the corner. Nice surprise – I honestly don’t think I’ve ever seen that guy in a boat before. Maybe once. He always has to work in his store. But there he was, having decided to actually go paddling himself for a pleasant change, and we had a nice conglomeration of representatives from almost all the active Hudson River Park kayaking organizations.

Anyhow, we all set out in this glorious weather and with the current still running in our favor, and no one ready for lunch yet, we decided to make the Statue of Liberty our first stop. There were the usual cautions by the Coast Guard about the 150-yard security zone around the Statue & Ellis Island (clearly marked by buoys in the summertime but they take the buoys into the shallows behind Ellis Island in the wintertime) – they must have been bored, poor young fellas, not a lot of recreational boaters out there. A little creepy watching a small plane circle low & tight around the Statue right after that, though – the Coast Guard can watch us pesky kayaks, but what if…ugh. Hard not to think that way though. Wonder if low-flying planes will ever stop making me flinch, anyways? Probably not. Think that’s just burned into my brain for good. Oh well. At least it's just a flinch. We then conferred, while drifting south – nobody was ready to go home yet, so we decided to add a couple more miles, past a barge or two moored south of the Statue (TG wanted to tow one back for the Downtown Boathouse to use) and continued south to the Robbins Reef Light. This is a sort of cute little lighthouse just north of Staten Island.

Cool thing here is that I don’t have to describe it – you can go see it on Harry’s photoblog, which I can’t believe I forgot to link to right from the start as he’s got lots of good pix of just the territory on which I have lavished so many words! TG wanted to tow the lighthouse back too. TG likes towing things & getting them for the DTBH. As you’ll see in the photoblog, he’s even been known to claim icebergs. Hey, you need something to keep the post-paddle beer cold, right?

We then headed back & stopped for a good hot lunch at the Lightship Bar & Grill at Liberty Landing in Jersey – pulled in there around 3:00 if I’m not misremembering, and hungry as a pack of bears after finding that the current was still not helping us out one bit coming back. Even after eating, it still hadn’t changed. Every Spring there is always a period of time the Hudson simply ignores what it’s “supposed to be doing” & just does its’ own thing instead – which is having, instead of the standard issue 5-hour flood and a 7-hour ebb, something that looks more like an 11-hour ebb of rising & falling velocity followed by about an hour of slack. This is due to runoff from snowmelt which adds a lot of water that wants to go to the sea – that water just overpowers the underlying tide-driven currents although the tides carry on as always. It’s fairly predictable, we just weren’t expecting it when the weather had been a little too cool to be melting ice, but you get what you get out there, and we were definitely seeing that no-flood-today business. The prevailing tendency for drifting kayaks to head south instead of north at an hour when we’d expected at least some help heading for home was accentuated by the wind picking up a bit & swinging to the north. Bit more of a slog home than expected (ok - I still say there are no boring paddles, but even the nicest paddles can include bits that are slightly more tedious than one might wish) – but great to have a full day out on the water instead of the planned half-day trip! And not a cloud in the sky, and the river pretty much to ourselves, recreational-traffic-wise. Nice. Gotta savor that, it’ll be stinkpot season (and jetskis too) before we know it!

My face is actually a little sore today – not sure if it’s sunburn or windburn. Either way, it’s a price I’m happy to pay. Sunscreen next time, ya doofus!

In other news – well, I wrote this overlong trip report instead of the swim problem writeup I promised to write this weekend. Hopefully I can discipline myself enough to do that tomorrow. This was more fun & it’s just been such a nice weekend (OH YEAH! O. GOT HER FIRST ROLL TODAY! She was one of the students that Hadn’t Quite Gotten It last week when I was so down on myself – well, we must have done something right because she got one today! We're on to the March series, I’m not teaching this time, just doing 2-hour practice sessions – but I was so glad I was there when she got it!) and I just didn’t want to finish on a down note.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Did you notice the date?

Did you notice the date today?

It's 03/04/05. Cool, yeah?

Getting ready for the summer Hudson swim series (sigh).

Summer must be coming.

Leaf buds on the trees – daffodils poking up through the snow –

And the annual planning for the local open-water swimming race series has commenced.

Yes – there’s an organization that runs a series of open-water swims right here in the Hudson. It’s cleaner now than it’s been in years! I’ve been a participant for the last few years – I volunteer as a kayak escort for a number of them (the classic Manhattan circumnavigation swim is always my hands-down favorite – the fact that these people can do this blows me away every year, that’s a 28-mile swim with no rest breaks in water that can get fairly choppy). I actually swim a couple of the shorter ones, too.

They are a blast. I’ve talked in a couple of posts about how powerful the Hudson is, and that’s speaking as a kayaker. As a swimmer, you feel even smaller. Toylike. My first swim was the shortest one they run, the Cove-to-Cove Half Mile. Half a mile, no big deal, I’ve swum much further than that in a pool. The first year I thought of jumping in & doing it, it was drizzly, a lot of the swimmers dropped out (being the shortest it draws a lot of first-timers & they’re the ones who tend to drop out if it isn’t perfect beach weather), and the water was so calm, I looked at the course, which finishes at the marina right in front of the Winter Garden (which is right in front of where the WTC was for non-NY readers) and starts at a little cove (designed to “give the impression” of a marina – thank goodness our waterfront planners have at least gotten past the idea that the river is just some sort of scenery) half a mile south, and I thought “Hey, I could do that”.

So the next year, I escorted the earlier of the 2 races – the cove-to-cove is always the 2nd of a pair, probably because it would be entirely too much hassle to deal with all the pre-race planning & logistics for a race that the winners knock off in something like 10 minutes (if that), and then I parked my kayak on a dock at the marina, stripped down to my swimsuit, grabbed my goggles, got my arm marked with a big “1” (last name starts with “A”, that’s all) in permanent marker (I like that you get marked in permanent marker ‘cause unless you really scrub hard, it takes a couple of showers to go away, and every time somebody asks what the fading traces of that mark are you can casually say “Oh yes, that was from the swimming race I did in the Hudson last weekend” and watch the jaws drop), and hoofed it on down to the put-in. We all got in, I worked my way to the back (I’d watched enough starts to know that things get a little frenzied as all those seriously competitive swimmers fight for the early lead & that starting in the back of the pack might lose you a few places but will save you getting trampled by the people who actually want to win), the countdown went, and off we all went.

Well – it was a little spooky, really. I’m not afraid to swim in open water – I grew up in Hawaii after all – and I knew the distance was something I could handle. But the fact is, most of my distance swimming has been done in pools, and since I never competed and never learned a flip-turn, I use a touch-turn, which does give you a very regular split-second break. Also, in Hawaii, the water is clear & you can see the bottom. There was something very different & unsettling about swimming in the murkygreen water of the Hudson, where you can’t see the bottom, and the other swimmers and kayaks are looming into and out of view in a spooky way, and there’s nothing to touch down on until the ladder at the finish line.

To make things even more interesting, it was not placid that time. It was, in fact, really choppy, in the very criss-crossy patternless way of water confused by winds and boat wakes converging & bouncing off of the seawall. I could feel myself starting to stiffen up as my confidence started to decline – and of course when you stiffen up in water & start to fight it, your energy drains out fast.

My plan for the race had been to do the crawl stroke, switching off to breast stroke if I found I needed it. Well, here I was barely off the starting line & feeling myself weirding out a bit. Time to go to breast stroke.

I made about 3 strokes & then a big wave came up & smacked me right in the face right at the moment I’d come up for air. And then another, and another.

Chain of thoughts in my head went something like this:

OK, so much for that plan. Yikes. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea. Maybe I needed to train more. Maybe I should pull out. Oh God, North Cove’s so far away. I don’t know if I can make it. Maybe I should…oh. Look. Isn’t that a wooden kayak over there? Heck. Yes it is. Yep, it’s HS (one of the people I really like paddling with) in his Guillemot. Dang. Can’t wimp out in front of him. I’d never live it down. Chill. Breathe. Smile & wave at HS. Hi HS. Look, isn’t this fun? Good girl. Relax. OK, now swim, damn you. Crawl stroke. Do it. You know how to swim. Swim swim swim…

Hey…look, I’m past the first building. And now I’m passing that tree, and another tree, and…hey, this isn’t so bad. Hey, this is kind of fun. These waves? They’re not that big, and if you just go along with what they want to do they just kind of bounce you up & down. I feel like a cork. Swim swim up we go. Swim swim back down. It’s like the water’s playing with me. OK – this is really cool.

Being a kayak escort has been fun, too. The swimmers really appreciate our being there, it’s a nice day on the water with a bunch of other paddlers, and it’s a good feeling to help people do something they love. Plus it’s just plain fun, watching all those people swimming along in the Hudson. There are some incredible swimmers that participate. Nice folks.

Yes – I’ve definitely enjoyed participating in a lot of these swims, on both sides of the waterline.

But there have also been some bad times. The kayaks & support boats are there to protect the swimmers.It’s an important job, it needs to be done right, and it can actually be rather dangerous when the current’s running fast & every pier becomes a potential “strainer” – a place where swimmers & paddlers alike can be trapped by the current. As the swims have been getting more and more popular, the burden that lands on the shoulders of the all-volunteer kayak escorts has been getting heavier and heavier. Certain recurring problems never seem to change, and the expectations seem to keep getting higher. Earlier start times, more swims, an alarming willingness, at one race last year, to expect paddlers to set out during a severe weather alert – and a lot of pressure on the regular kayak coordinators (one part-time paid person and a few race-day on-water coordinators who are all volunteers) to somehow make it all work. There’s also an alarming faith that somehow everything just will keep working because it always has in the past.

The rumblings were pretty loud last year.

Within the last month or so, the situation has really come to a head. As one of the volunteer coordinators, I’ve let myself get stuck in the middle of things. I’m such a sucker. I was approached for advice & guidance as though I still had even the limited influence I used to have when I was a partner in one of the local outfitters. I’m a great one for wanting to help out as much as I can. Especially when flattered that way.

However, this time – I just don’t have the solution for them. And I’m already pretty much maxed as far as personal resources (time, energy, dedication, drive) right now because of budget season and monthly close at work. I did agree to do a bit of a writeup of my thoughts on where things have been going on – but then there was a round of emails among the paid & volunteer coordinators today, and as I told them what I’d agreed to & others shared – it occurred to me that all I’d be doing was restating the same problems I’ve heard reiterated again and again and again.


Makes me sad that this has somehow turned from something I’ve always done purely for fun into something that’s putting me, and a number of other people I like, under a lot of pressure.

We’ll see how it all works out.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Egads. People really buy this stuff?

So I had to skip the Wednesday night pool session tonight because I just had a lot of work to do & decided it would be less stressful not to go. Last week I got to roll for 3 hours straight (unfortunately because only one of our students made it, which bummed me out because I was pretty excited about getting 'em rolling - as it was, the head instructor got the lone student rolling beautifully while the rest of us just played), but it took me the first hour to work out the tension I'd built up trying to get out of the office on time. We're working on our financial close & budgeting right now at the day job, so the finance team is just swamped, and there was a report that never works right if I rush it that I wanted to finish, and the apt needed a little attention as well, so I decided to make tonight a work/gym/errands/bed before midnight night.

On the way home, I stopped at a drugstore to buy some socks since almost all of my pairs of office socks have done the one-sock-vanishes-in-dryer act. Something I saw there really grabbed my eye. Grabbed it like a mugger grabs a purse, even.

Now - I know I am not exactly yer model of traditional feminity or anything (I do own nylons & heels & a few odds & ends of makeup, but don't use 'em much - 'specially the heels & nylons which I may dislike even more than my drysuit - 'cause wearing at least wearing a drysuit means I'm doing something fun!), but even granting that I'm on the tomboy side of the scale & my reaction to this product can't be taken to represent any statistical norms, I still can't help wondering - is there really much demand out there for spray paint for legs?

No. Really. Here, I'll prove it.

Quick, let's all run out & buy some!

p.s. oooh! can't resist mentioning - heard some unbelievably fabulous news from a friend today - if you are my friend who gave me fabulous news today (you know who you are!) or her husband, know that I am still smiling fit to sprain my smile muscles when I think about it! congrats congrats congrats!

Heck, I hope you hand-rolled the Calabria, too! just to make a good day even better!

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Saturday "boring paddle"

It was so beautiful outside this morning, I wish I could've played hooky from work. It wasn't windy, and trees had all their branches lined in white. There's a house across the street with a big evergreen of some sort -- it was so heavy with snow, it was sort of leaning into the house --looked for all the world like a big, tired person. It would've been the perfect day to put on fleecy clothing & curl up on the couch with a book. Oh well.

As usual, as the weekend recedes, the disappointments are balancing out with the good things about it. Posting Sunday night was like standing with my nose against a wall - all I could see was the wall. Walk away from it, looking over your shoulder every now and then, and you'll gradually see more and more of what's behind it. Eventually the wall just becomes one little detail in a larger scene.

Besides, I had a good exchange with one of the students, told her I'd heard really good things about Grace Under Pressure, gave her links some other rolling info including a link to Cheri Perry's website, website where there's good underwater footage of Greenland rolling plus galleries of her trip to the Greenland championships last August(she's great - I wish I had some way to get up to the sessions where she teaches more but this is the sort of thing where not having a car is a problem - the bad hasn't yet outweighed the good, yet, though - no insurance, no gas, no parking hassles, there's much to like about being carless!). Plus I've been thinking about how long it took ME to learn to roll - a long time & a lot of work - plus a friend also sent some encouraging words. So I'm getting a little less mopey.

Saturday's paddle really was nice. It started out being a trip to Edgewater for Japanese food (I'm now hoping for that to happen on a larger scale on the 12th, fingers crossed & the weather gods permitting -- I have two words for Punxatawney Phil right now - "en brochette"!) but then we scaled it back a bit. This was partly because I'm always happy to sleep in a little more, and partly because "Kayak Boy" (his wife's very appropriate nickname for him) was getting back on the water for the first time since November. He had sort of a run of health problems last year, the last being a shoulder injury that took some time to recover from. In a situation like that, it's generally smarter to keep things pretty open-ended & not push things too far. Work out the kinks, then go for a destination once you're confident it's going to hold up OK.

Plus did I mention I was happy to sleep in a little more? Oh yeah. Think I did.

So instead of a trip for sushi, we did what I sometimes refer to as a "Boring Paddle".

I paddle with a very enthusiastic group of strong paddlers. The old New York Harbor standbys - like the Statue of Liberty, the George Washington Bridge, or the Palisades - got kind of boring for one of them last year - I'll call him Drum Guy - & he started organizing these crazy long camping trips. One perfect example was a trip to the Norwalk Islands in Connecticut. They paddled there from Pier 63 at 23rd Street in Manhattan.

In one shot.

I never went on those. I was working on the schooner on most Saturdays last summer, and that's hard enough physical work that on days I wasn't doing that I somehow couldn't get enthusiastic about a marathon paddle. Sounded a little too much like more work.

So I jokingly started calling my less ambitious day jaunts "Boring Paddles". In other words, a paddle with no particular destination, no stops on route, a definite start time and a somewhat less definite finish time.

Personally, I love paddles like this. I do them so often, and I'm so familiar with the water you can cover in a 3 or 4 hour paddle, that I almost find it to be like a ritual. Packing up the gear, dressing, arranging the first aid kit, hot thermos, and other possible requirements in the usual order in the day hatch - it's almost like a tea ceremony (well...ok maybe not quite). Then setting out onto that familiar water. Rounding the corner of the condemned old piershed at Pier 64 on Saturday, I found myself thinking of how familiar that building has become to me, and how strange it's going to be when the Hudson River Park Trust starts to work in our section and starts tearing the old stuff down.

I'll miss the old ghost. From the water, there was something about it. I must remember to take some pictures of it before it goes like one of the two "melted piers" -- the skeletal remnants of two piers that burned years ago, their metal girders melting and twisting and sagging from the heat, resolidifying in a tangled, slumping mass as they cooled -- up in the 60's did a while back, amazingly quickly. A construction barge came in one day, and then it was gone and so was the pier. Surprised how long the other one's lasted - wonder if someone gave it a stay of execution?

Five of us set out at noon. We were hoping for a snow paddle - there were some little flurries as we were all heading for the pier - but no such luck. It was a little on the chilly side, but not too bad. We launched at noon, a couple of hours after high water, close to slack (tides are sort of weird here - most places the tide comes in, the current runs one way, the water goes up, then the tide starts going out, the current goes the other way, the water goes down - not here, nope, nothing that rational - I'm not even going to try to explain it right now but "a couple of hours after high water, close to slack" is not a goof, that's how it works around here!). We had a bit of a breeze from the southwest. I felt a little rusty - been doing a lot of pool time, but that's not the same as actually putting water behind your boat. And I always fight with all the stuff I have to wear, and the less winter paddling I do the more I feel constricted by the layers and the drysuit and the gloves. It takes me a while to warm up, relax & quit fighting all my winter gear. I have good paddling companions, they just laugh at me as I whine about gaskets & strangulation & stuff while we suit up. Better than not paddling in the wintertime though, which is the other option (not dressing right is of course not an option).

Think I wasn't the only one who was a little stiff.

But eventually we got loosened up. As the ebb started to pick up & we started to get wind-driven swells coming north, our boats started in on some frisky little surfs. Fun! I paddle a Romany, which is a boat that gets very happy in a following sea - a lot of boats get really squirrely under those conditions, forget everything they know about traveling in a straight line, but a Romany just catches everything & the spray starts flying up from under the bow, and it just feels great. I could've kept going for another hour, but "KayakBoy" is a smart guy & a good paddler and even though he was having lots of fun with the surfing too, he was keeping in mind that he was testing out a shoulder, and that that tailwind that was making such nice little swells was also going to be something we'd be tussling with on the way home. So a little bit south of Grant's Tomb, it was "Southward ho!".

Well - that's when things got really neat in my opinion.

The breeze wasn't too bad, although definitely there & against us. We had a nice current with us, and it was choppy, and I like the feeling of my boat slicing through the waves. And the light - there are certain days in New York Harbor when there are dark clouds in the sky, with the sun breaking through in nice dramatic Cecil B.DeMilles Biblical Epic rays, and the water gets lit up with sparkles to where it’s all silver, and brighter than the sky - this was one of those days.

And then we got to the garbage barge pier (sorry, you only get so much poetry in urban paddling, then you come to a garbage barge pier), and we waited while a tug & barge came out - and then we waited again while the barge & tugboat turned a tight circle - and then we kept waiting while they did another one - and then Kayak Boy said "He's doing doughnuts" which cracked me up.

Finally, a seagull took a liking to us and followed us for quite some time. Opinions as to why ranged from "He likes us" to "He thinks Drum Guy's hat would make a nice nest" to "He's taking aim!"

No rolling at the end, would've been tempted except that I was noseplugless & wasn’t sure how much I'd enjoy a snootful of 38 degree water, plus I wanted to mess around with the lines on the dock, a couple of which were chafing, & didn't want to be any colder than I already was while doing that - Drum Guy refrained too (that was a surprise, he's quite a bit crazier than I am about such things, I'm a big ol' whuss next to him) & we kept the end-of-paddle play session to a little side sculling and stuff.

Sort of got the dock squared away but like I said on Sunday, not really well. We’ll see how it's holding out next week.

Afterwards, we all ended up going to my favorite noodle shop, Noodle Corner - good food, quick, and inexpensive, Mrs. Kayak Boy (see, D, now you are stuck being Mrs. Kayak Boy, you shouldn't have told me about the nickname!) joined us, and we talked about our paddle, and barge doughnuts, and The Gates (we had both fans - the guy who organized the 2 night walks last week, and RS, who's an artist & was able to explain why she liked them in a wonderfully eloquent way - & detractors - neither Drum Guy or KayakBoy were impressed - so that was fun) and Gates spoof sites (that's where I got "The Crackers", the subject of "Go Ye Forth and Laugh") & a lot of other stuff, and we laughed really hard & utterly mystified the other patrons of the place with our mountains of gear!

Yep. It was a good one.

And y'know what?

There are no boring paddles...