Sunday, December 10, 2006

Jamaica Bay - Paerdegat Basin to West Pond, 12/9/06

Here's most of my pictures from yesterday. There are a couple more, but the Blogger photo upload thing sometimes just gets to a point where it uploads, but doesn't put 'em in the post. Got to that today. So here's yesterday's trip, starting at our destination, West Pond, in the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Sanctuary. Temperature was I'd say in the low 30's, windspeeds 15-20 knots - when I'd posted this trip to the Greenland list, I referred to the predicted conditions as "feisty", and indeed, it was. Great workout. Slept like a log last night!

Clubmates Stevie & Ami, at the pond. This pond is actually a freshwater pond, artificially maintained, with easy walking paths around it & a spiffy new visitor center, where we gratefully took a warming break. I was kicking myself, too, I had money in my kayak, I knew there was a visitor center & it just didn't hit me that I should take the money & buy that eastern bird book I was talking about). We startled some birdwatchers, who told us they were there trying to get a couple more key species before the migratory flocks moved on. I was sorry we didn't get here a little earlier, because just as we were approaching the area, enormous flocks were taking wing, I suspect they'd been on the pond & that would've been a sight to see close up (it was even pretty spectacular from a distance, it was almost like clouds of smoke, they were so dense).

If you're looking the right way, it's easy to forget that you are in the middle of a major metropolitan area - but see that plane? It just took off from John F. Kennedy International Airport, which is located right on the shore of the Bay. Now, you need your airports, but this turns out to be one of the major contributors to the pollution levels in the Bay. De-icers, jet fuel, road salt, all kinds of things running into the bay with every rain. Stevie, on the way back, was telling me about how he & another paddler were out fishing one day, noticed a strong smell of jet fuel, and realized that they were in the middle of a slick - apparently there are circumstances under which a plane has to discharge fuel, and since they absolutely can't do that over a populated area, they have to do it in the Bay. One of the issues that came up at the workshop was that the airport is apparently asking to renew or expand some permit, and there hasn't been much oversight of that.

This was just a nice view from the walking path - old rowboat in the foreground, marsh full of brants in the middle ground, and the community of Broad Channel in the background. Stevie told me that there used to be other residents in the Bay, but when they went to clear the islands & make it into a wildlife refuge in the 60's (not coincidentally, that's when Sebago Canoe Club moved there from their namesake lake), but the Broad Channelites succesfully resisted eviction. The people who live there are very important to New York City - lots of policemen & firemen. Now, I have also heard that these are the people who first started raising the alarm about the shrinking marshes - when you live somewhere, and you love it, you notice when it starts to change for the worse. The idea of instilling a sense of stewardship for the Bay in the surrounding communities was mentioned repeatedly in the water-quality breakout session at the workshop - there's definitely already some of that out there.

I never knew that Brooklyn counted cactus among her native flora. However, as I learned from one of the trailside signs on the path around the pond, the sandy, salty conditions of Jamaica Bay are close enough to desertlike for a couple of desert species to thrive (note the yucca plants, with their swordlike leaves, behind Stevie & Ami, in the first picture).

Back to our boats after a nice warm-up and pit stop with plumbing. Ami wonders where the water went.

Phew. Good thing I pulled my boat up that 15 extra feet from the waterline. Force of habit, y'know?

It was a long haul back to Sebago. The wind seemed to get up to around a steady 20 kts as we went, not many whitecaps in this picture but they got to be frequent as we went on. The original plan was more sightseeing, but I enjoyed the workout. We didn't do any rolling today - I've been trying to do a few rolls every time I've been out, so that I can acclimatize myself to the dropping water temperatures, but it was just at that level of cold & windy where it just didn't seem smart to mess around. Even without rolling, I think the 3 of us did probably get some good work in on our "sea okole". BTW - see the Empire State Building and downtown Manhattan awaaaaay far away?

Buoy Number 12, and the Paerdegat bridge. Almost home! You can't see it in this shot but there's ice on the buoy. Somehow it doesn't seem like it made it up to the predicted high of 40.

And here's a holiday scene from the beautiful Paerdegat Basin. They had Christmas carols playing, and a little later, the lights went on. Happy Holidays!

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