Sunday, April 30, 2006

Schooner Season has begun!

Sail ho!

Wonderful Weekend!

Been having the nicest weekend so far (except for the #*@&in' lack of a subway!). Have put up a FEW shots over on Buzznet - I'll be doing up a full gallery for the Amazing Bronx River Flotilla, I also have more pictures of Renata's launch, but right now I have to go for a schooner ride - yep, the Adirondack's back in town, was swinging by the pier to drop off some stuff at my boat last night when I heard this really familiar horn...I thought "oh, that's cute, the Scaranos used the same horn on the Manhattan so their boats all sound the same" - but then I looked over & there went those masts!

Not crewing tonight. Probably crewing next weekend when the Adirondack, the Adirondack II & the Manhattan will all be there & running. Party at the pier!

Friday, April 28, 2006

Renata's off!

Note prior to running out of office - Renata said her next major stop was Newport, Rhode Island, that'll be early next week. If I hear any details, I will of course post 'em here!

Not much time to post now but I've heard from a couple of people who got the chance to go meet Renata & paddle with her. I'm so glad to hear people had a good time -totally makes all the running around making a pest of myself worth it! Particular thanks to Phil who read about it when I posted on & was nice enough to send me today's pictures with permission to post!

I got to go see her off this morning - that was great. She is a really neat person & having the chance to actually hang out while she packed up to go more than made up for having to miss the Wednesday event. I just wish I'd just taken the whole day off & could've actually jumped in my boat & paddled down at least a ways with them - she's being joined for the next couple of days by a couple of journalists from Outside Magazine. Might be just as well that I did not get in my boat, though -watching them pack up their boats to go I found myself wishing I was going too & it might have been reeeeally hard to actually make myself turn around & head back to my home pier. Somehow I'm thinking of that one chapter in The Wind in the Willows where the Water Rat meets the Sea Rat & nearly leaves The River...

I'll be having a water adventure of a VERY different sort tomorrow though - my friend Andy, being the head guide, was able to get me in (on an extremely last-minute basis) on the 7th Annual Amazing Bronx River Flotilla. Yes, you read it right! The route goes right through the Bronx Zoo. This should be interesting!

Assuming I am not eaten by a tiger, I expect to spend all day Sunday sorting through all the pictures from today & tomorrow.

I think it may be time to get an external hard drive.

First though, I must go get some work done!

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Yikes. My gallery links have been messed up for HOW long?

Egads. Just got home from the pool session & decided to check in online before I went to bed. I looked at Sitemeter, idly followed an "out click" that was supposed to lead to a gallery of pictures that I took last Halloween while we were delivering the Adirondack to the Scarano's boatyard up in Albany & discovered that the links I'd set up oh so long ago under the "Virtual Paddles & Sails" blogroll (before a complete redesign of Buzznet, the photo thing I use) were no longer working. ARRR! I think they all worked when I set them up but now every single one directs you to my home page there. I've fixed those now & I apologize to anyone who's tried to go look at something & been stymied - try again, you should actually go straight into the gallery you wanted to see!

Oh, as long as I'm mentioning the Scaranos - check out the new kid on the dock! This is the Manhattan, a brand-new arrival at Pier 62 (summer home of the Schooner Adirondack. This motor yacht was under construction when we took the schooner up, I wish I'd been able to take some pix but I ran through both batteries. The boat was originally scheduled to be operating in time to get some holiday office-party business, but the Scaranos got a commission for another big replica schooner, so the Manhattan got pushed back, ended up coming down in March (they had crew but they invited the Adirondack crew to come along for the ride - I was incredibly bummed I had to miss that but there was something up at work, as usual) & is now open for business!; The schooner should be turning up any day now - and I'm having my annual Spring internal debate as to how much I want to work - of course that internal debate has a history of ending the minute I turn up at Chelsea Piers & see those familiar masts at Pier 62. I don't know though, I feel like I've had this insanely hectic spring somehow - ah well, we'll see.

OK, now it is time to sleep.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

More Brooklyn Botanical Garden (featuring one fortunate cormorant)

Looks like a LOVELY night for Renata's visit - if you are looking for info on that, the post before this one has everything I know about it, no updates since then.

I will of course be teaching up in the pool at Sarah Lawrence. So sorry I have to miss it but I hope others have a great time!

Here's another photo from last weekend at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden - that's all I really have time for right now. This one, I took in the Japanese Hill and Pond Garden in the Brooklyn Botanical Garden.

The cormorant was an interesting touch. I see cormorants on the waterfront all the time, perching on pilings, fishing, spreading their wings to dry their feathers - seeing one here was odd. Still, he's (or she's) got him or her self a nice setup - quiet, sheltered, pond full of big, lazy, breadcrumb-fattened fish - the BBG better hope that the next step isn't set up housekeeping & raise some hungry babies!

Somebody else thought it was a black swan. Ah, city people...

That's all for now although I have all kinds of things I'd like to write about - my friend Brian, out racing a yacht to Victoria, BC, has been through another storm; I had a pretty exciting paddle myself last night (in a fun way!); the Bronx River Flotilla is this weekend - and that's all just off the top of my head - but I'd sort of wanted to post this anyways as I'd done it over on Buzznet on my lunch hour & could fit it in quickly & get right back to work.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Renata update - the semicoherent version!

Nothing new but I'm going to try to express everything a little more coherently than I did in my excitement last week. In fact better yet, I'm just going to borrow the standard announcement that was in the original email I received:

Info on Event for public/kayak club members:
5:30 Gather for Safety and Equipment.
6:00 Sunset paddle
7:15 Reception/Presentation with Renata @ Pier 63 Maritime
Would you be interested in paddling or meeting Renata while she's in town? Grab your kayak and join Renata at 5:30 pm, April 26th for a sunset paddle. Following the paddle, at 7:15, there will be a reception complete with photo's of her journey thus far, a Q & A session and more.

Info on Pier 63 Maritime can be found at

Info on Renata Chlumska:

Swede Renata Chlumska, one of the world's premier female expedition athletes, is going to be in New York the last week of April. She's currently pursuing a solo circumnavigation of the U.S. via kayak, bike and skate, something no one has ccomplished before.

She left Seattle on July 4, 2005 and has completed about 6,000 miles of her 11,000 mile adventure paddling and cycling around America. For more information on Renata's adventure, you can visit

I hope we can show her a welcome that's a good bit warmer than our water is right now!

Further information - I believe that the above schedule is meant for normal situations where people car-top their kayaks to a beach somewhere; in our neck of the woods, I imagine that most people will be paddling from elsewhere. I haven't heard what the nature of the 5:30 safety talk is but it would probably be considerate to try begin gathering in the water south of Pier 63 Maritime around 5:30 (as I mentioned before, if I get updates I will post them here).

Don't forget, the 7:15 part is on land, no boat required, great for non-paddling friends & family & anyone who hasn't got proper cold-water paddling gear, or just wants to meet Renata but doesn't have a good way to get their boat there. If anyone is considering cartopping in, it is possible to drive up to Pier 63 to drop off a boat but leave yourself plenty of extra time for parking & getting your boat down to the dock!

One more alternative - Manhattan Kayak Company is running a sunset tour concurrent with this event - this is not a rental, but a formal guided tour which will be paddling along with Renata. I don't know availability at this point, but they originally had space for a dozen experienced paddlers at a significantly reduced rate of $25.00. You would need to contact them with the topic "RSVP Renata" as your subject. That cost covers all the basic gear, there may be an extra charge for cold-water wear, please make sure that you mention that if you need it.

And this all bears repeating:

If you're an NYC kayaker & decide to paddle in to join in on the sunset paddle, please remember that the landing restriction - do NOT enter the embayment on the north side of the barge (between the barge & the piling field that used to be Pier 64), paddle in on the south side, over to the land end of the barge & under the bridge. Please don't mess things up for the residents, losing our right to launch would SO ruin my summer!

Another thing - please remember that the air is getting warmer but the water's still cold, dress for it, wear your PFD & make sure you have lights - there's been a lot of discussion of safety lately, there was just a meeting with the Coast Guard & commercial vessel operators, we're trying to get out the message that we're all good safe boaters - there will probably be media at this thing so let's look the part!

Finally I should just mention -

I am in no way formally connected with Renata's adventure - just very excited about it & wanting to spread the word - and my only current formal connection with MKC is that I pay them to keep a boat at the pier. That's all.

If anyone has any questions, please leave them in comments, I'll do my best to answer. BTW, that "low water - 0", "rising flood - 1", or "high water at the battery - 2/3/4" thing - that's my comments, may be too cutesy to be 100% intuitive, I have at least 1 friend who didn't figure it out until I explained on that & a window for comments should pop up. Hopefully that covers all the basics, though!

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Brooklyn Botanical Garden Spectrum

Had some fun with my camera on a drizzly day at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens today!

Of course the main color I went to see was:

Friday, April 21, 2006

Renata update! Yeah!

Got this back from Hayter PR, concerning Renata's arrival in NY & that sunset paddle:

The event is open to the public. Renata is going to be in New York Monday through Thursday but she is mostly going to be meeting with journalists those days...Renata will arrive at MKC around 4 p.m. On Wednesday. The paddle will be from 6-7 then a reception will follow.

That's right at the barge, Pier 63 -

If you're an NYC kayaker & decide to paddle in to join in on the sunset paddle, please remember that the landing restriction - do NOT enter the embayment on the north side of the barge (between the barge & the piling field that used to be Pier 64), paddle in on the south side, over to the land end of the barge & under the bridge. Please don't mess things up for the residents, losing our right to launch would SO ruin my summer!

Another thing - please remember that the air is getting warmer but the water's still cold, dress for it, wear your PFD & make sure you have lights - there's been a lot of discussion of safety lately, there was just a meeting with the Coast Guard & commercial vessel operators, we're trying to get out the message that we're all good safe boaters - there will probably be media at this thing so let's look the part!

agh. Of course for all this, I can't go 'cause Wednesday nights are my teach-at-Sarah-Lawrence nights!!! Argh!

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Renata's Coming to NYC!

NEXT WEEK! I'm still on the MKC mailing list even though I just keep a couple of boats there now & they just sent out an invitation for an MKC Sunset Tour on April 26th (Wednesday) on which she's the guest of honor. Plus a possible presentation afterwards if there's interest. NEXT WEEK! Jeeze! I knew she was doing this but with budget madness at work I haven't been paying a lot of attention to, and somehow there's been nary a peep on NYCKayaker (if anybody wants to peep, be my guest btw)!

I'm checking with her publicist to find out a little more in the way of, like, when she's coming in, when she'll be leaving, that sort of thing - will post anything I find out. Figured I'd go ahead & say this much now.

If you're interested in the Manhattan Kayak Company tour, you'll find contact info (and a pretty cool blog, too, I'm loving the fact that Richard's doing that) on - there's no info posted there about her visit but they should be able to provide details.

Oh, and for non-kayak-geeks who may be curious as to who this Renata Chlumska is that's got me all giddy? Just some nice Swedish lady who's CIRCUMNAVIGATING THE LOWER 48 STATES, that's all!!!

Cool, huh?

Actually there's more to the story, but you can read it all over at her website.

Somebody's saying nice things about me.

So Mr. Sea Level has a good post up about tuning up a rusty Greenland roll it he says some nice things about me. Good thing since I've been on an insecurity bender all week. I'm occasionally prone to those. Sorry about that.

Quick update on that front - I talked to the person whose email I perceived as dismissive; he absolutely didn't mean to do it, his response totally convinced me of that which is GREAT 'cause he's somebody about whom I've heard good good stuff, and he's heard good stuff about me, too, and it would have been a shame if my own insecurity had screwed things up since he's hoping to start doing some paddles with my crew & we're really looking forward to it. The stupid insecurity thing - well, I've never been the most self-confident person in the world, but that trait was unfortunately exacerbating by having gotten my toes tromped pretty badly & pretty regularly back when I was actually trying to play "leader" in my MKC days - that's just NYC politics for ya, but the end result is that I do tend to go into porcupine mode a little too fast now. Anyways, the good thing about this guy's email was that it DID make me come right out & say what I'd been hinting at - which was basically "We did a bad crossing, here's what I think caused the problem, here's the solution, and also here's some group paddling & paddling in traffic stuff on which I think we could all stand to brush up". The way I first did it I was basically dropping hints in a way that ensured that only the other paddlers who were there would understanding what I was talking about while the other 50-odd Rustbucket paddlers would be left thoroughly in the dark. Being put on the spot so that I came right out & said what I meant so that everybody could get it wasn't such a bad thing. And the guy didn't mean to so I believe we've got a genuine no harm, no foul, some benefit, which is all for the good.

But anyways - at the same time as I've been beating myself up here, in real life I've been having a luverly time teaching and/or practicing at pool sessions in Rye (Small Boat Shop, tell 'em Bonnie sent you!) and Sarah Lawrence College (Yonkers Paddling & Rowing Club) - good stuff. I ended up working quite a bit with Mr. SeaLevel last week and...well, his writeup makes me a little embarrassed that I indulged my insecurity as openly as I did in the last 2 posts. Thhhbt. I'm not so bad.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Vote of confidence

OK, so just got home from a very good Irish music session to find one email from one of the head free spirits agreeing with my little conniption fit about the crossing. I feel a little better now. Email silence is rough, it's so easy to just read your own worst feelings about yourself into it.

BTW - Here was the mitigating factor that I believe led to our crossing in an uncharacteristically chaotic & strung-out fashion:

That's the Norwegian Spirit. This is one of those ships I'm talking about when I occasionally refer to "the big guys".

Don't worry, we didn't actually end up anywhere close to this one, or the second one that was lurking at the cruise ship terminal, engines running.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Easter weekend ups & downs

Odd weekend, had ups, downs & now some repercussions (most of which may be in my head but I'm feeling very un-self-confident about something I've said on my trips group)

Got to run now but here's some pix from one of the good parts - fantastic half-day paddle north for a picnic on a beach on the Palisades. Beautiful weather, a good pace, nice group and lots of chocolate.

Here's the beach at "Lower Alpine". I LOVE these paddles 'cause in a relatively short time you go from New York City to spectacular cliffs with trees, and birds, and relative peace & quiet - it's like a little vacation.

We had a good crowd - 9 paddlers - we needed another picnic table!

Heading home again - George Washington Bridge, with the city beyond.

The bad part was that we did a truly wretched crossing on the way home - very strung. I of course had to say something to the entire trip list. Started out trying to be casual & offhand, but then somebody posted an answer that I read as being rather dismissive of my concerns (the guy said he didn't mean to, and I do get spooked when I'm trying to make suggestions, don't like telling people how to paddle when they haven't asked me to). I instantly went from trying to word my post as a suggestion to feeling compelled to jump up on a soapbox & go into lecture mode. Silence ensued.

Problem is I was really trying to communicate something sort of important, I paddle with some individuals who are a LOT more free-spirited than I am and I'm always afraid that when I start lecturing, they're more likely to just tune me out than anything else.

I really do have to run now - I do intend to write a little more about this but in the meantime, the thread is the topic of a good post over on SeaLevel - including some really excellent links which I may or may not have thought to include in anything I end up saying about this.

Side note to Tillerman - Frogma will feature some NON-masochistic sailing next week, if all goes according to plan I'll be part of the gang on the Rosemary Ruth when Richard sails her from Liberty Landing Marina down to Tottenville (southwest side of Staten Island). Ohboyohboyohboy!

Friday, April 14, 2006

Meanwhile, off the coast of Japan...

(Sunday 4/16 note - This picture was sent to the Brian's-friends list today, and was taken during the storm he wrote about below - that's him at the helm. Salty enough?)
Bonnie's note: This just in from Brian's wowwow wow wow wooooooow! WOW!!!! I am rendered wordless. Fortunately Brian's got a few to make up for my lack!

Day 527: Did someone say “beatings?”

I’m actually not sure how long this has been going on now. I think
we’ve been in the roughest stuff for at least 18 hours, with fairly
rough weather for the past 24 (or more?).

Yesterday after lunch I went to my bunk to try to sleep, but found that
sleep was impossible. The angle of heel made it uncomfortable, even
after trying to level my bunk. Plus the side to side and lurching
motion, combined with the stomach-turning, freefalls as the boat topped
a wave. So, I was lying there, listening to the howling winds, and the
machine-gunning of the spray across the foredeck, imagining what it
must be like topsides. Foolish me, I decided to get dressed and look.

I got up on deck just as the on watch was putting in a third reef in
the main. The waves looked ferocious – all nasty churning gray,
streaked with white foam, maybe 10-15 ft high. I should have stayed
below. Anyway, with half an hour till I had to be on watch, I stayed
on deck, going up to the foredeck to help bring down the Yankee 3.

When my watch came on deck, it was me, Tom and Jenn. Jenn and I went
forward to lash the sails down more securely. With our lifelines
clipped to the jackstay, we crawled on hands and knees up to the
foredeck in 40kts true wind, 45kts apparent. Once up there it was like
swimming, what with all the water coming over the bow. Anyway, we
managed to get the sails secured, then crawled back to the cockpit.
Occasional waves would wallop us, and the spray would sting like
bullets or razor blades where it hit exposed skin.

At 9pm we came off watch for dinner, which I was unable to eat.
Seasickness finally hit me. For the first few days I wore one of those
patches, but when it came off, I went without. We had some fairly
lumpy seas after that, and although I felt queasy, I did not get sick.
Yesterday was just too much, I think. More the stress of being in
these waves and trying to work on the foredeck than anything else.

The rest of the night was more of the same. To bed in wet clothes,
trying to dry them by body heat in my sleeping bag. 2 ½ hours later,
back into wet socks, boots, oilies and up on deck to face 15-20 ft
waves. An hour or so on deck, then down to the saloon while the next
shift went up. Trying to sleep on the saloon floor. Back to bed in
wet clothes, and the whole cycle starts again. I’m not even sure how
many times I’ve done this now. It gets old really fast. The days blur.
The beatings continue.

Still off the coast of Japan
4151nm to Victoria

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Pier 63/Pier 64 Access Restrictions -

Posted this to NYCKayaker today after a rather sternly-worded email from the Hudson River Park Trust was sent to the Pier 63 hold crew. This is the PERFECT demonstration of one of the reasons I tend to be a bit of a bore when I get onto the topics of rules & responsible paddling - you take any given group of paddlers, and 97% of us can behave ourselves like perfect little captains of our own little boats, and then end up getting punished for the 3% who either decide rules aren't for them - or just plain aren't on the grapevine & don't know any better (big sigh). If you are NOT likely to be paddling in the Hudson River Park in the near future, well, I put up the second set of pictures from last week's lovely Robbins Reef Light trip earlier today. Hope you like 'em. OK, anyone still here? Here's my cri du coeur du jour:

Good news & bad news -

1. Good news first: Word on the street is that the Pier 63 grill opens tomorrow!

2. Bad news (actually not really bad, just needs to be mentioned in conjunction with the good news) - As you may know, the Trust has been doing work at Pier 64 & they've banned access to the water surrounding Pier 64, INCLUDING the embayment area between the Pier 63 barge and Pier 64, where the gray plastic-lumber dock that's usually available for use by hand-launched craft is located. That's a very active construction zone now - barges, cranes, tugs, moving around extremely heavy chunks of stuff. Until further notice from the Trust, they've told the Pier 63 gang that
we must launch from the south side of the barge. I thought I'd mention that here as well as the barge makes a nice break, especially when the grill's open.

To get to the dock area that's still open, just paddle in to the embayment on the south side (Chelsea Piers side) of the barge & head in towards the land end of the barge - you'll actually go under the footbridge that leads to the barge & you'll see the dock there. Please be aware that Manhattan Kayak Company does run tours off of that dock - it would be nice to not leave your boat in front of their hold, just move it off to the side & keep the land-side edge clear so others can launch & land.

The Trust originally tried to allow us to continue launching on the north side (much more convenient for the storage hold people) at times when work wasn't being done, but unfortunately some people apparently didn't get the word & have been launching while work has been underway, so the Trust has simply had to extend the ban to all the time. Please, please, please help us Pier 63 people keep the access that's left to us while the construction's under way & respect this temporary rule. I don't know if they'll shut us down entirely if they see any more infractions but I'm afraid that if they do, they just won't have much choice - they're already very concerned about safety on the site. I'm usually still good for at least a little bit of a tussle when water access is threatened (although decidedly past my MKC-partner heyday) but in this case I can totally see where they're coming from.

If you know anyone who paddles in the Hudson River Park & isn't on this list,
please pass it on!

Mahalo nui loa, merci beaucoup, grazie mille, domo arigato, and a good old plain
English "Thank you so much"!

Robbin's Reef, 04/09/06

Here's the rest of last Sunday's fun. Tuesday's pictures were actually the last quarter, not the last half - I didn't pull out the camera 'til we were down at Robbin's Reef. So here's the 3rd quarter.

Here we are at the Robbin's Reef Light. It's a little ways north of Staten Island. The paddle from the Statue of Liberty down here is nice because you are travelling down an area called the Jersey Flats, which ranges from four to ten feet deep at mean low water. Here's a chart of the area Maptech (I love Maptech, Maptech is cool) - I've fiddled around with centering on this one so you can see Liberty Island on the upper edge, over to the right, and the Robbin's Reef Light at the bottom edge. Channels have been dredged through for access to the marine terminals in Jersey, but those are all extremely clearly marked so if you know where they are & how the buoys run, you can mostly put yourself in areas where the "big guys" just aren't going to go. I try to never let myself NOT be keeping a lookout when I'm paddling, but there are different levels of alertness & over the flats, the eyes in the back of the head can ease up a little & that's nice. There's one thing about the history of the Robbin's Reef light that I like - the keeper of the light from 1894 - 1919 was a woman by the name of Kate Walker. You can read her story (and more about the Robbin's Reef Light) at Worth a visit. Found myself imagining her coming out of the lighthouse & inviting us to stop in for a cup of tea or something. Although from the sound of it she would've been just as likely to join us in her rowboat & show us all a thing or three about how to move a small boat!

Back to the present - here's Port Liberte, New Jersey. Strangest place. It's a luxury housing development - with canals, so everyone who wants gets to have their boat practically at their doorstep. Sounds neat, but it's this weirdly isolated-feeling place - if I could have sent my camera up on a balloon, you'd see an industrial landscape just on the other side of these condominiums.

Makes for a nice leg-stretch/energy-bar break though.

Here's a comb jelly, one of a whole school that was drifting past. Maybe not as spectacular as a seal or a porpoise, but it's still a living animal & proof that the Hudson's made huge strides since the bad ol' pre-Clean-Water-Act days. And there's a sort of neat thing about these guys that I would've had to be extremely lucky to catch with a camera - if you watch them for a while, when they catch the light just right every now & then, you'll see a flash of iridescent sparkles run down their ribs. Very attractive in a quiet comb-jelly sort of way.

Looked back up from the comb jellies to find that the leg stretch/energy bar break had moved into Phase II & become a doze-in-the-sun break...those energy bars were clearly misnamed.

After that, we headed for home. Good paddle. Got another nice one planned this weekend too - picnic lunch on the Palisades, then burgers on the barge. Aaaah, Spring!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Randall's Island update & 4/15 bike tour

So the The New York City Franchise and Concession Review Committee has OK'd the plans for the Randall's Island water park thingy I posted about the other day. Been in the news quite a bit this week - this is a lunch break post & I don't have much time to look for stuff but here's a New York Times article about it (registration required, will be archived in a few days). Here's an article about it in today's Columbia Spectator too although the Times article is more current (notably in the detail about how Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer has changed his position after the developers offered to work some discounts into their entry fees to make it more accessible to local families with low incomes - I'd heard that on WNYC news on Monday morning, too, Spectator article still has him opposing). Have to correct something that was posted here, too - I posted Harry's comment as it stood, including the phrase "Access: Price of admission to this private enterprise will be more than $60." - the admission fees I've seen elsewhere have been in the $30 - $40 range. OK, long story short, if you're interested, I'd really recommend the Times article even though they are pains & make you sign in.

Personally...well, although I must sheepishly (froggishly?) confess to a fondness for water slides (well, are you surprised?), I don't like the aspect of "oh, la la la, let's hand over 26 acres of public park to the first developer that raises their hand" (the City Comptroller is still opposing the project in part because of that exact thing), plus it looks like it might eat up some waterfront (including a popular lunch break spot for kayak circumnavigations of Manhattan) with something that doesn't really need it...

It still has to go through the whole public hearing thing.

Harry Bubbins' comment included a couple of emails where opinions can be sent: (council member) (city comptroller's office)

and/or you can contact
Mayor Bloomberg - that's a link to a contact form, give it a minute, it does pop up

BIKE TOUR INFO: If live in the New York metropolitan area, have a bike, and would like to get a look at the area in question, Harry's organization Friends of Brook Park and Time's Up (the group behind the Critical Mass bike rides) run a series of environmentally-themed bike tours there. The next one's this Saturday, April 15th, 12:30 pm, Meet at Brook Park, 141st Street and Brook Avenue, the Bronx.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

2nd half of Sunday's paddle

Note: When this was first posted I said Saturday. Oops. I meant Sunday. And as long as I'm making random corrections, it was pointed out to me at one point that I accidentally referred to the Manhattan Bridge as the Williamsburg Bridge on every single post I did on the transit strike! Guess I am thinking of that because Roger Toussaint, head of the Transit Worker's Union, has to go to jail for 10 days and pay a $1000 fine for doing that. Anyways better late then never.

Lunchtime, thought I'd post some pictures from Sunday. Beautiful day. There were all sorts of trips going out from the barge, that's always cool when you have an assortment. I picked the shortest one, let me sleep in & get a nice leisurely start - and anyways, I was pleasantly achey after 3 hours up at the pool in Rye (I'd say I was rolling intensively for 2, observing Tom & Dominick teach for .5 and just plain horsing around for .5 - felt great. I said that already though, didn't I?).

Anyways, I was going to put up all the pictures but Blogger won't let me so I'm just giving you the last leg of the trip today. We started at 1:30, planning to go to Port Liberte, aka Venice-on-the-Hudson; ended up going down to the Robbin's Reef Light, then back to Venice. Beautiful day.

Now I'm very proud of this picture. I mean, everybody knows what the front of the Statue of Liberty looks like, right? A day like this, a sky like that, I could so easily have taken yet another ho-hum picture-postcard shot...but NO. I decided I would show a side of the Statue that most people have never seen (unless they live in New Jersey, of course).

Northbound, heading for home! Notice we've still got the harbor amazingly to ourselves. We're sharing the water with the normal year-round commercial folks but the fair-weather recreational set isn't here yet. For all I kvetch about the gear, there are some wonderful things about off-season boating. Experiencing something approaching solitude is one of those things.

O & D passing Ellis Island. O. had a great day at the pool on Saturday, got her sweep roll working beautifully, then played with my Greenland paddle, and I also shared with her the trick about this sculling brace thing I like to do to warm up for rolling (and it is a trick, too - once you get your back down in the water, it floats you) stuff. D. & F. were also doing some very nice rolls too.

Heading north on the Jersey side. See the geese? We're in the full migration swing here. We've got Canada geese here year-round, but the brants are passing through right now, and there were a lot of some sort of very small black & white ducks which I'll have to check my bird book about tonight too.

Bad picture 'cause there was water on the lens - but look at all the people out soaking up the spring on the Christopher St. pier! See, when Pier 64 starts looking like this I'll be a lot more resigned to that piershed being gone.

Here's the new homecoming view from the south

And here are a couple of shots of what's left at Pier 64

Oh, and the restaurant at the barge opens on Friday! Bargeburgers on the Hudson, Hurray!

Monday, April 10, 2006

Brian's Boat

After a day of on the nose 25 kt winds, lumpy seas and cold, the fleet
is now encountering fog and light air. New York has already lost its
staysail and, more sadly, its toaster.Overnight (EST) NYC gained three
positions, moving from 10th to 7th place.
A developing low pressure system promises some more exciting sailing.

Putative blog owner's note: I'm tempted to just change the name of this blog to "Brian Goes Sailing" for the next month.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Sunday Shoutout

OK, it's been a couple of days, but I wanted to grab those Times articles before they went into the archives - but I did want to say a quick "congratulations!" to one of my favorite NYC bloggers, Pia of Courting Destiny. She got the most incredible front-page article in the Long Island Press - head over there to read it 'cause the cover itself is part of it - Pia Paints Press Pink, is how I described it! - and my picture thingummy still isn't working.

I'm going to keep it at that tonight - I'm pleasantly tired, got in about 2.5 solid hours of rolling practice, plus a half-hour watching Tom & Dominick from the Small Boat Shop in Connecticutt teach, it was a good opportunity to observe a couple of really good instructors working with people (good way to pick up some pointers for my own instructing technique); then today a bunch of us paddled to Robbin's Reef (just north of Staten Island) with a side trip to "Venice on the Hudson", aka Port Liberte, this very odd luxury residential enclave plunked down smack in the middle of the Jersey docklands, with canals running through it, so all the residents can keep their boats at their front doors. Great trip, great weekend, perfect weather for both activities (pool was on Saturday, it was doing that really messy precipitation you get when it can't quite decide whether to rain or to snow, then today was incredibly beautiful) maybe more on that tomorrow depending on how bad work ends up being.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Go Brian Go!

Waaaaay back in February, I'd written a post in which I included the following paragraph:

Also since I am doing a quick post here I also just HAD to put this up - one of my new friends from the Rosemary Ruth is going off to do a couple of legs of the Clipper Around the World Yacht Race! Way to go, Brian! To quote a Hawaiian-style high school football cheer I dimly recall...GO, GO, GEEV'UM!

Well - I wasn't inclined to post about it the next day but that going-away party ended up just being a bunch of people who like boats having a couple of beers. The race ended up getting postponed as 8 of the 10 boats - all built to the same design, by the same boatyard, specifically for this race - were having some problems. THe Clipper Ventures site describes the trouble thusly:

"From the initial inspection it would seem that there has been a failure of the bond between the hull and the internal strengtheners in the area of the keel. This has caused varying degrees of cracking in 8 of the 10 boats, which in Glasgow’s case was leading to quite severe water ingress."

So the race was delayed until all 10 were repaired & pronounced seaworthy. So Brian got to have another going-away party ("this time, for real"!). Unfortunately I spaced out on this one 'cause of the craziness at work; he said he'd forgive me as long as I come to his welcome-home bash. Since then, he's been sending updates to his friends through his folks, I'm enjoying living vicariously & I thought I'd start sharing these here:

Brian has arrived safely in Qindao, just in time for a very important crew meeting at the "New York Bar." The City of Qindao threw a big banquet and party for the crews and they are getting everything in shape to leave on the Pacific hop on sat.

4/7 - This is Brian writing:
Well, the food is loaded, the tanks are full, the sails are all repaired. At 10:12am tomorrow (10:12pm Fri night for you) we slip our lines and head out for the parade of sail. The starting ceremonies will be televised live to 500 million viewers. Depending on the weather we may have 25-mile motor out to the starting line.

Dame Ellen MacArthur will come around to all the boats at 9:00am to wish us luck.

I'm going to go shopping for a few things and try to find a last Chinese meal. I've had a great time in Qingdao. Especially doing all the food shopping (victualling) yesterday. The supermarkets are amazing places. I'm going to wonder one now.

I have not set up my boat email yet, but will get messages to you somehow.

2 1/2 years of wondering what it will be like to set sail across a great big ocean. I still feel remarkably calm.

Let's all give a big "Wooooooo hooooooooo!"

Love you all,

And this just in today, 4/8:

The race started at noon yesterday. At the midnight sched we were tied for third place. It's been a fairly rough start, with winds of 20-25kts on the nose and short choppy sea. I've already lost track of how many watches I've done.

Going to sleep is pretty easy, staying asleep is harder because my bunk is always on an angle and I always feel like I'm falling. Plus the jarring crashes as we bash through the waves. Getting up is hard, it gets real old real fast. But only 29 days to go.

The start was spectacular, with dragon dances, drummers and gun salutes. Ellen MacArthur came by had a picture taken with each of the boats. 1000s of spectators lined the bay.

The sun is out now, so it's not that cold, but the seas have built up and are around 5-10ft. We've been on angle of 20+ degrees since we started, so moving around below decks is quite tricky.

Well, back to work sailing this boat and winning this race.

Love, Me

Now there is a guy having an adventure.

There were a couple of pictures today but Blogger's photo upload feature is not working tonight.

Friday, April 07, 2006

More Waterfront News

My friend Larry left an extremely interesting addition to my NYC-waterfront-in-the-news post in the comments. He'd found a post on BlogChelsea - it's about BasketBall City & it looks like the BasketBall City people are getting ready to make one last-ditch effort to evade the eviction that has been in store for them from the git-go.

Now everybody I paddle with has probably gone to look at the article. For those of you who don't paddle with me - a story about the fate of BasketBall City is, for me and rest of the gang at Pier 63, a whole different level of interesting. Yesterday's articles were hmm-that's-very-interesting interesting. This one is may-you-live-in-interesting-times interesting - because the barge where most of my paddling friends & I keep our boats is a subtenant of Basketball City. When they go, we go.

Fortunately the latest rumor I've heard, as I said in my comment back to Larry, is that we don't go too far, just a couple of piers north. But it's still all up in the air.

Everyone involved has known that the current situation was temporary all along - BasketBall City was an interim tenant right from the start, and the fact that the building was eventually going to be torn down was all written up very clearly in the Hudson River Park legislation. The bit about the barge (which is generally popular with Chelsea residents) being moved was pencilled in right before it was passed. As far as I know no one involved in writing the legislation has ever actually said "I wrote that". A few years ago, when I was still with MKC & attending relevant meetings as the company's representative, I went to a community board meeting where Assemblyman Dick Gottfried, who was very involved in the creation of the legislation, offered to try to have that taken out. Initially it seemed like the board was happy with the idea, but one member was vehemently opposed to making ANY changes, felt that the legislature should be regarded as though carved in stone, and that any changes would be "A terrible, a TERRIBLE precedent". He almost literally shouted everyone else into submission & that was the end of that - Assemblyman Gottfried needed the Community Board to give the go-ahead to do anything. The guy who shouted everybody else down is generally not a bad guy, but boy in that case I do wish somebody had brought along their copy of Robert's Rules. Oh well.

Anyways, the deal was always that when the Trust was ready to work on the Chelsea section, BBC would have to leave, the building they'd been in (which doesn't have any of the haunting quality some of us saw in the P64 piershed - it's just a big square cinderblock thing) would be torn down, and the barge moored at Pier 63 would be moved. It was never a question of if, just when.

You folks with garages? Count your blessings, oh ye fortunate ones.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

NYC Waterfront In The News

If you could make it past the WTC grimness on the front page of the Times this week, there were a couple of interesting articles about waterfront areas in Brooklyn and Manhattan. These require registration, and will be archived in a few days. Interesting articles, though.

Yesterday, there was an article about the Erie Barge Basin in the Red Hook area of Brooklyn. A couple of days ago, when the Harry who is not the photographer of Harry's Hudson Photo Blog left a comment about protesting a water park on Randall's Island, I'd said "there's always this tension between commercial uses & not losing parkland to the private sector." Red Hook is currently seeing a different issue - tension between different types of commercial use. In this case, the barge basin is already there, and the operators are concerned that their potential new neighbors - who will be fairly well-to-do New Yorkers - might find that the quaintness of tug whistles wears off at 3 a.m.

The second article is about Pier A, at the north end of Battery Park. Now unlike my sentimental attachment to Pier 64, I don't think anybody would ever look at this pier and say anything but "What a neat old pier". It was a fireboat pier until the early 90's (this picture, from, was taken from the WTC in 1990) and with that charming Victorian architecture, clock tower, copper roof, arched windows, what's not to like? Only thing is, it's been sitting empty & unused because of legal wrangling between the city and the leaseholder for something like 17 years. I'd never quite gotten the story straight on it, I'd heard something vague along the lines of it was supposed to be renovated & made into a shopping mall, but there was some sort of legal hangup, then I'd heard that everything was set for work to get going, then it got hung up again - well, this doesn't precisely explain what the wrangling was about, but it's an interesting update with some of the players identified - mostly names I've heard before.

Finally, via the Seattle PI (and I just stumbled across this while looking for info on Pier A, so it's a bonus) - Transportation Alternatives is trying to ban ducks from the Hudson River.


With emphasis on the deity part.

Tillerman has taken the church sign joke to new heights. Or depths. Or something.

I think that the church-sign thing should now be retired & hung from the rafters of Tillerman's yacht club.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

What blizzard?

April Blizzard in NYC

Image taken from Hudson River Cruise Ship Terminal Cam (linked on my Trip Planning stuff blogroll) - radar for the area...

Wow. Crazy, yeah?

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Week from hell filler linkfest.

OK, week from hell well underway. Deadline for 2 major projects was on next week Monday - somebody somewhere realized that was cruelty to finance people (very kind, lord knows we're nowhere near as cute as baby harp seals). But then just to make life more entertaining, a less understanding power that be has decided that my boss should move this week. Not far, just around the corner. But still. Argh.

running of to play Irish music now - wasn't going to go but good heavens, one of our accordion players is celebrating his 80th birthday, can't miss that!

Teaching tomorrow at the Sarah Lawrence pool session unless all hell breaks loose.

in the meantime -

Richard wrote a very nice post on Manhattan Kayak Company's blog, it's about stretching, a topic he knows well as a professional dancer.

Think those paddles & planes posts were a little of me doing some intellectual stretching. Although as I said to him in an email yesterday - there's a fine line between stretching & straining & the personal mental jury is still out on whether I crossed it.

Lemmesee, also my friend Harry (the one who didn't leave the comment about fighting the indoor water park on Randall's Island) is having his 2nd Annual Art & Meat show at Jeffrey's Meat Market & Gallery. Only in New York.

Also Voyageur & a couple of other folks set out from the Rustbucket at 6 a.m. on Saturday. They not only spotted the seals the Times wrote about, they were also passed on the way back by a pod of 6 harbor porpoises. That's the 2nd NY Harbor/North River porpoise encounter in the recent past. And here I thought I was being ludicrously optimistic when I posted the Marine Mammals Viewing Guidelines after my friend Tim crossed paths with a harbor seal down by Pier 40 last year. NYCKayaker has been relatively abuzz over it - am thinking I might post a little more on that sometime when I don't have a session to get to.

Also if you haven't read the comments on Of Paddles & Planes III - I think they're worth a visit. That got interesting.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Paddles & Planes, Part III

Turner Wilson completing an under-the-deck sculling roll in Freya's breakapart kayak (he loooooved it):

Turner making tea for himself & Cheri:

OK, OK, one more to finish this up - I'd meant to do this & the last in one post but I was having fun surfing the net looking for info on the histories of the different kinds of paddles, got more into that than I planned too. I was going to leave it at that until tomorrow at least BUT I went and made it sound like some big cliffhanger, so now anybody who read it probably thinks that Turner let me in on some big magic secret of the Greenland stroke and I'm just holding out to be coy before revealing all. Thing is, "coy" is not part of the human-relations vocabulary I'm comfortable with, I'm a pretty straightforward person & not fond of beating around bushes. I can, however, get distracted into wandering around bushes & examing, oh, interesting stones & small striped lizards & things in a way that could be mistaken for bush-beating.

So I want to end the suspense because the longer I leave folks in suspense, the more annoying it's sure to be when I do & it turns out to not really be all that dramatic a secret!

In fact - the incredible, astonishing, amazing, eye-opening thing that Turner said to me during my first-ever lesson in the forward stroke was simply this:

"The push happens after the blade passes your hip".

We'd started out the afternoon as part of a larger group who were being taught control strokes by Greg Stamer. There were a few minor differences from the control strokes as done with a Euroblade, but differences that the nature of the way a Greenland paddle behaves in the water made feel quite natural. A review under competent eyes never ever hurts, but I was pleased to find that my own independent efforts were not too far off base. As the larger group (which had done their forward-stroke work in the morning while I and a couple other more experienced rollers had worked on our rolls by the beach) moved on to bracing, Turner took me & the other guy who were lined up for afternoon forward-stroke review off to get going on that.

We started out just cruising at a comfortable pace for a little while while Turner watched us. Turner's first pointer was "Cant the blade a little more". I knew just from reading here & there that with a Greenland paddle, you tilt the blade forward a bit for the catch (the moment the blade enters the water) - the paddle automatically dives, but the flotation of the wood counteracts the dive & brings it back up. I'd thought I was doing so, but I needed to exaggerate that more. Actually I should have known that after Sea Level posted a great writeup last fall of a "mini Greenland-fest" (strictly informal) that happened at the barge last fall - we'd both been talking about the interesting way our Greenland paddles seemed to gently vibrate in our hands while paddling, he came up with the description "sloosh, sloosh" - well, Greg Stamer was reading & explained that, uh, that's not supposed to happen, "sloosh sloosh" is the sound/feeling of cavitation (bubbles following the blade) and ideally that doesn't happen. So finding out that I still wasn't canting enough, even though I thought I was doing it, wasn't a surprise at all.

So that cleared up pretty quickly.

The next instruction was a little more push on the upper hand.

That's when he hit me with the instruction that I think actually may have stopped me dead in mid-stroke.

Turner: "The push happens after the paddle passes your hip".

Me:(hearing sounds of screeching brakes & rending metal in my head)"After the paddle WHAT?"

Now I haven't had the chance to really practice the Greenland forward stroke since then, since practicing a new technique is something I prefer to do solo and the conditions on the weekends I've been paddling have been such that I've preferred the safety of "the usual suspects" (as I tend to think of the group of friends with whom I do most of my winter paddling) - but I have a feeling that that seemingly innocuous phrase may have been the key to the detail I figured I must have been missing!

This is also where that whole exigesis with the different planes comes back in, too.

You see, the first fine point of the Euroblade forward stroke that Richard Chen See worked on with me, during my first year at MKC, was that the blade needs to come out at your hip. This is one of those things that I talk about getting from classes - those seemingly minor details that make a major difference, and completely counterintuitive. A stroke that's 12 inches long is going to be more effective than one that's 5 inches long, which is going to be more effective than one that's 2 inches long, so you'd think that the longer the stroke, the better, right? Well, with a Euroblade, you'd be wrong! The fact is that once the blade passes the hip, the angle gets to the point where a lot of drag is being created. I don't know if this is exactly how it works but I tend to be a very very visual thinker, and the picture I have of what happens when the blade passes the hip is that at that point, the blade is actually beginning to angle up towards the surface, and the further that goes, the more your effort is being wasted on shoveling all the water that's on top of that big flat scoop up towards the surface. And water is HEAVY! To maximize the efficiency of a forward stroke with the Euroblade, then, you bring it back only so far, then let it slice out sideways (the same is true of a wing, probably even moreso, only the wing, used correctly, pretty much slices out of it's own volition, you just do the stroke right & don't interfere).

That was a hard thing to learn. Even though I believed what Richard was telling me, it felt absolutely bizarre to get used to keeping the entire stroke in the forward quadrant of the boat. Once I'd trained myself to do that, though, and added it to the nice effective torso rotation that Richard had managed to get me doing before he even started on this, I found myself doing a lot better. With those two pieces in place, it got to the point where once or twice Eric, with whom I was still on good terms at the time, sent me after husky men with high opinions of their abilities...generally they'd get the point that there was something more than muscle involved & be a lot more amenable to listening to pointers after the wimpy-looking chick (I've built up my upper-body strength since then but that first year my arms & shoulders were pretty no-account) cruised past 'em without even breathing hard. Heh heh heh.

Apparently, though, with the design of the Greenland blade being so different that the Euroblade, the blade can and should travel past the hip. I, however, have so thoroughly trained myself NOT to let a blade pass my hip that the concept of even trying such a thing would never have crossed my mind.

I tried it, though, and the boat did seem to be moving through the water with more alacrity. I do need to practice it some but I think the thing I may have been missing all along was nothing less that THE ENTIRE BACK HALF OF THE STROKE!!!

In the immortal words of Homer Simpson - D'OH!

It was a couple of years ago that Nigel Foster first truly made me really start looking at the "why's" of the ways different boats behave in the water (he put me in one of his Silhouette boats & started running me through the basics - I think it was the low-brace turn where I was just about ready to cry 'cause everything that I could do quite confidently in my banana-esque spins-on-a-dime Romany was failing completely in front of this very topnotch instructor - thank God, though, he then explained EXACTLY why I was doing so miserably - that lesson in the basic differences (and the hows & whys thereof) of a long-keeled Silhouette and a rockered-like-a-whitewater-boat Romany was probably the part of that private lesson that was the biggest eye-opener & has stayed with me the longest (AND had me signing up for two full days with Nigel at Sweetwater, too - more of that, please!).

What the water is doing under two different hull shapes, I'm getting better, I think, at picturing. I think I also have a pretty good picture of how the forward stroke works with a Euroblade, and why the forward stroke with a Euroblade is so much of a "front-wheel drive" affair.

Can't quite picture what's going on with the GP yet. Learning this stuff seems to have two stages - first, I just do something 'cause somebody who knows what they're doing tells me too, then gradually I start being able to imagine a picture of what's going on. While still operating within the same basic principals (hello, Bernoulli!) as the Euro, clearly something very very different is going on, 'cause the drag that you get if you use a Euro incorrectly is not a problem with the Greenland.

I was hesitating to draw parallels too direct to my planes, but I can't help but look at those long, thin wings of the Global Flyer - wings designed specifically designed to maximize lift and minimize drag - and see a design that looks an awful lot like a Greenland paddle.

Makes me wish I had access to one of those tanks where they test hydrodynamics of things - how cool would it be to do a comparison between the flow of water & the forces generated by those 3 different kinds of paddles?

As it is, what I do have is a dock and a river...if you're in the Chelsea area anytime in the future and you see somebody who's apparently gone completely insane & is trying to paddle a dock moored to a solidly secured barge, please don't call the loony bin, it's just me experimenting with all my different paddles - the fighter plane/jumbo jet pilot trying to learn some Global Flyer secrets, as 'twere. Not going to make any serious claims to sanity (after this series, how can I?), but I can at least promise that I'm at least harmless to myself and others.

BTW if anybody knows of such a thing having been done I'd love to hear about it.

In the meantime I think I will go spend a little more time in this very nifty physics of sailing site. Got some neat little virtual-lab things that might help my visual images of all things Bernoulli-effect-related. That site, btw, was recommended by Adrift at Sea on Tillerman - the Tillerman (and his incredibly well-informed commenters) have been geeking out (NO disrespect meant by that, Tillerman, sir! Quite the opposite in fact!) on the physics-of-sails topic at the same time as I've been doing the same on different paddles...I could just go on all night (in fact I am not even to go into the different handling characteristics of the 3 different Greenland paddles used in the session - Turner has a big solid one, I was using the lighter of my 2, and the other gentleman in the class had a carbon fiber one - we all ended up switching out & the differences were really pronounced).

Past my bedtime, but worth it - now if I really do disappear into a blogging black hole next week while the March books are closed & the budget finalized, at least I haven't left you all hanging. Didn't want to do that!