Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Tow, Tow, Tow Your Boat

I believe I've mentioned that although the currents aren't so strong in Jamaica Bay that they determine your trip plans quite as inarguably as the 3 knot currents on the Hudson do, one does still need to be aware of the tides so as not to paddle to somewhere while the water is dropping & then find the way back blocked by surfacing sandbars? Well, here's a demonstration.

Have to say that I've towed a fair number of boats, but this is the first time I've ever towed my OWN boat!

This was actually somewhat intentional. I did go paddling on Sunday, but although the day started out gorgeous, I didn't manage to get on the water until 4 or so and by then the weather was deteriorating & in fact looking like it could turn worse pretty fast. Add to that that I was feeling sort of lazy and I decided to try to recapture that vacation feeling by going and sitting on a sandy beach on an island, watching shorebirds. Canarsie Pol being the nearest available island, and me being totally fascinated with the ospreys, that was the island of choice.

OK. It's just not the same when you're wearing a drysuit, and the wind is feeling small-craft-advisorial, and it's drizzly.

But the birds were great, and although not quite as tame as the Hawaiian ones, once I'd sat quietly for a while they proceeded to go about their business.

Oystercatchers. These have been back from their migration for a while. At first, seeing the red beaks, I'd mistaken them for skimmers. However, skimmers skim, and oystercatchers potter around the beach poking their beaks into the sand and going "wheet, wheet!" - when you're paddling in their area, you can always hear them coming when they're on the wing, the call precedes them by quite a ways. The skimmers haven't returned yet.

Frogma word problem of the day: An osprey and a 747 take off from Jamaica Bay at the same time, both heading NW. The osprey has a maximum flight speed of 28 kts. The 747 has a maximum cruising speed of 507 kts. At that speed, how long will it be before the osprey gets bored & decides to go fishing.

Based on my observations, about 30 seconds. It was actually interesting watching an osprey fish in such shallow water - I've seen them do the hover-and-dive routine, but this guy didn't seem inclined to go far from his mate, who looks to be incubating, which meant that any fishing had to be done in the shallows around the Pol. He did this by flying very low along the surface of the water, with his feet actually skimming the surface of the water. He didn't catch anything that I could see from the distance I was sitting, but there was one trip back to the nest when it looked like he may have been dropping off a fish. There's a convenient piling that he spent a lot of time perched on, keeping an eye on the gulls. The plane/osprey moment (SO Jamaica Bay...) actually happened right after keeping an eye on the gulls finally turned into running them off - after that he fished for a bit.

Eventually I decided to head on around the island - wanted a bit longer of a paddle than just heading back would've given, plus with the wind being from the northwest, going around meant being in the lee of the island, then paddling straight into the wind for the last leg. I probably could've clawed/ooched my way across the shallow bit, but why sand the bottom of my boat when it doesn't need sanding & it was faster & easier to tow it?

Saw one motorboat out there. Boy do I bet they wonder what that nut-job kay-whacker was doing! Fortunately they did not report me as a boater in distress (that's happened more than once to clubmates since I joined in October - I try very hard not to do anything that could be interpreted as distress where people can see me, it's actually quite good that people ARE alert enough to call, but it's also not really great to have the harbor police getting all sorts of false alarms over kayakers). Anyways, less than five minutes & I was over the shallowest bit & back in my boat.

I was relating this bit of silliness to TQ tonight, and he brought up something that had actually crossed my mind - what about quicksand? I've actually never heard anyone who paddles the NYC area refer to quicksand as a hazard (although there is that really awful, stinky mudflat up by Edgewater, but that's not quite considered a hazard, just something that's really nice to avoid), and the sand seemed solid enough. Figured if the footing did get to feeling treacherous, I'd go from towing my boat to walking, straddling it, hands on the coaming (have done that for soft mud with a little water over it, lets you benefit from the boat's flotation & not sink in so far). However I wasn't terribly concerned because of the aforementioned fact that I have never heard one mention of quicksand from anyone at Sebago. Quite the contrary, I've heard someone say "We're spoiled safety-wise, 80 percent of the bay, if anything goes wrong you can just stand up & walk to shore". Seems like if quicksand were a hazard, that wouldn't be the conventional wisdom.

But I was curious enough, after TQ was a little worried about it, to do a little Google checking. Found the following reassuring & also quite interesting answer, emailed it to TQ, and now I thought I'd share it with you!

And speaking of keeping track of tides, and sandbars, and water levels...it's nothing new...

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