Saturday, January 06, 2007

1/6/2007 Paerdegat Bay to Howard Beach

Picures follow the following post - I have to warn folks right up front that I got a little kayak-geeky in this one. Those who don't really care how a kayak behaves in a following sea miiiiiight want to scroll on down to those!

With the hurry of the holidays behind us, I've been finding myself wanting to get out for some longer paddles. Earlier this week, inspired by my New Year's Eve Day walk in Sheepshead Bay (which ended up, to my surprise, on Plum Beach, where we've launched for a couple of great paddles to Breezy Point), and hearing an unbelievable weather forecast (high 60's? did they say high 60's?) I tried to instigate a lunch paddle from the Paerdegat Basin to Sheepshead Bay for lunch.

Didn't really fly. Stevie, who helped me out with some crucial info (like the distance - I need to get a J-bay chart - and assurance that we'd be able to find somewhere to land once we got there - local knowledge is a REALLY good thing, I hadn't noticed any public docks there, but then I wasn't looking when I was going by the docks) was interested; I. was interested but coming down with a cold, and beyond that, there was nothing. The forecast did call for a 50% chance of precipitation - if it was going to be in the high 60's, that was fine with me - this time of year we're all wearing drysuits anyways - but not everybody feels that way.

As the weekend approached, wind speed forecast starting looking not as good as it had at first. It had started with "sw at 10 kts, gusting to 15". It ended up calling for 15 gusting to 20. A look out the window this morning at the tall, sometimes leafy telltales (aka "trees") outside my apartment showed fairly agitated branches. Stevie picked me up at about 8:45 and if I recall correctly, by the time we got to the club, we'd scrapped the Sheepshead Bay plan (15 miles, and leaving the shelter of the bay for the less protected water of Lower NY Harbor)for a more restrained paddle to an Italian restaurant in Howard Beach (9 mile paddle, staying entirely within the bay).

Ended up working out well. We were on the water around 10. The wind was west, and at our backs, and was already fairly peppy. It was just past high water, so the current was beginning to ebb - fortunately, the currents in Jamaica Bay are just not as strong as those of the Hudson, so that only slowed us a bit - and even that may have been cancelled out by the small waves that were coming up behind us, driven by the wind. Romanys just do really well with following seas.

I used my Greenland paddle all the way there, as a bit of a challenge to myself - I tend to put the skinny stick away & pull out the Euro pretty quickly when the boat starts wandering a bit, but the first night of the pre-Christmas camping trip, Quint & I had paddled around Sheffield Island, and I was using the GP, and on the Long Island Sound side there were fairly good swells, and although my immediate reaction was "Oh, this is a little tough, I want my Euro", I decided to stick with the GP. It was a good exercise - the Greenland blade doesn't give you as assertive a hold on the water as the Euro, so my thought was to intentionally use that to focus my attention on using the boat itself for control. I do that anyways, but my being less confident with the Greenland blade really made me pay closer attention to doing everything else just right. There's never enough fine-tuning of technique. Anyways, I did that again today & had worked up a good appetite by the time we turned into the Howard Beach basin!

Our lunch destination was an Italian restaurant called Gino's, where Stevie had had a fabulous risotto the last time a crew had gone. We found it, although after a little walking around (I was of course dressed in my drysuit - Stevie left his tuiliq in his kayak but even so we were getting some funny looks!). We actually walked right past it at first - Stevie had remembered it as a proper sit-down restaurant, but from the street it looks like just a pizzeria. It wasn't until we found that the Ristorante on the next block wasn't open until 5 that we went back to investigate Gino's, figuring pizza would be fine - turned out that behind the pizza counter, there was, indeed, a quite good, moderately-priced, full-service Italian restaurant. They bring you bruschetta the minute you sit down, then bring you a menu that's far beyond pizzeria. We started with buttery baked clams, then Stevie had his risotto and I had linguine matriciana - that's with prosciutto, onions & tomato. Simple but delicious. Generous servings, too - I only made it halfway through mine - had the waiter pack it up for me, even though putting a doggy bag of pasta in the day hatch precluded any thoughts of rolling!

We earned our lunches on the way back - by the time we left, the wind had picked up noticeably, the bay was covered with whitecaps, and we had one of those fun paddles back where every now & then half the front of your boat goes flying out of an oncoming wave into the air above the following trough and then goes SPLASH! I did at one point let loose with a few measures of the "Ride of the Valkyries", timed with the accented notes to hit right when Stevie's bow hit the water. We passed on the rolling today (I did think about it but there was the pasta), but I think we were just as salty as we would've been if we had, just from the splashing!

I did switch back to my Werner paddle for the upwind leg. I'm just plain faster when I use that one, so when it comes to getting home against a headwind, I'll let myself be lazy!

We were back by 2, and I have enough energy left that I think I may go out again tomorrow. No particular plan, just felt really good being out there & moving.

Here's a few pictures from the day!

Howard Beach. I love these little Jamaica Bay waterfront communities - they integrate water use in the communities SO much better than happens in Manhattan. We actually couldn't find anyone to ask if we could leave our kayaks on their docks today (it's nice to ask, and we would've if we could, but for such a glorious day, there were surprisingly few people out messing about on boats) - but we found a place where we were able to land, walk up a ramp, open a gate & head off in search of Stevie's risotto without any problem. You just can't count on that most places in Manhattan.

OK, usually I'm on the other side of the camera but thanks, Stevie, for taking a picture of me (oh, btw, the Frostbite Regatta pictures - anything I'm in was taken by TQ, who's enjoying his waterproof Christmas present from me, although I may be enjoying mine from him more - that sharp & comfy new drysuit)! I'm in a boat, I'm on the water, I'm full of good pasta & there's more in the day hatch. Life, as they say, is good.

Santa must be enjoying the weather too much to go home!

I did not know that they made seagull discouragers from stained glass - but I guess when your dock is an extension of your home (which is really the sense I get along here - some of the setups people whose properties back up on the water I can just picture them using as an amazing outside room in the summertime), why not something a little classier than ho-hum sheet metal?

These folks just clearly love their dock. OK, clearly there's a section that could use a little more flotation, but isn't the folk art on the piling cool?

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