Tuesday, September 04, 2007

8/19/07 - Paerdegat Basin to Gravesend Bay

I've been having fun training for this 3-day paddle, Leg 1 of that attempt to break the world's record for longest ever circumnavigation of Long Island by kayak.

Although it seems overly dignified to call what I've been doing "training". Mostly it's just getting in the boat & paddling to whatever destination sounds appealing.

Two weeks ago, in fact, it wasn't even about the destination being really appealing in and of itself, as being appealing to my sense of liking to see what's around the next bend. There's just something about that. Maybe that's why I like the Hudson Highlands so much (oh, ok, or maybe it's just because the Hudson Highlands feature the most knock-yer-booties-off, drop-dead gorgeous scenery in the train-accessible vicinity). I miss paddling the Palisades - you had that same effect in places there.

In this case, the corner I wanted to peek around was Norton Point, the western tip of Coney Island. I've made a couple of trips partway out along the Coney Island shoreline, and there was the temptation to keep going, but it was usually a matter of I'd started a little too late & had work the next day, or I had only packed for a shorter trip.

This time, I almost fell into the same problem. On the surface, Saturday may've looked like the better paddling day, sunny and all, while Sunday was gray & rainy, but I was playing it by ear & Saturday I just felt lazy, so I slept in & lazed around reading all day. It had been yet another long & tiring week at work. The branches on the trees were dancing about in a way that produced a particularly nice play of light & green shadows in my living room - also spoke of rather more energetic paddling than I was in the mood for. I've kept so busy this summer, the occsional day at home feels nice.

The next day, though, was quiet & gray. Sometimes that's my favorite paddling weather. The way the rain smooths the surface if the wind is low makes a kayak just glide, the fair-weather boaters all stay home & you're just sharing the water with a few quiet, like-minded souls.

I didn't get going as early as I would've liked to, and I didn't have a set destination when I set out , but I'd packed for an all-day trip, so when I found myself feeling good & enjoying being out, I decided that I would make it a bit of a longer trip.

The obvious choices were Breezy Point or Norton Point.

I was paddling solo, visibility was less than fabulous, and I didn't like the idea of crossing the main channel into Jamaica Bay in those conditions, especially knowing that I was likely to be returning after dark.

So Norton Point it was.

And it was a very nice trip. I love Coney Island in the wintertime, when the crowds are gone - a rainy day gives that same effect. Like seeing a showgirl relaxing & enjoying a moment of peace when she doesn't have to put on a show. Of course there's something particularly touching about that when the days of the show are probably numbered.

Rainy day at Coney Island. There's the rides, there's the beach, there's the lifeguard in an orange slicker - and there's a guy with a metal detector. Funny, I'd just heard a song about a guy with a metal detector a couple of weeks ago - the National Public Radio show Studio 360 did a show called Castles, Mermaids, Giants - the giants being the band They Might Be Giants. You can hear their song "Metal Detector" at that link. Even better, it was recorded at the Coney Island Museum - that segment of the show was in honor of the present version of Coney Island. BTW, anyone who was around Pier 63 back when I was a partner at MKC (hello? anybody? anybody?) will recognize the face on the upper right hand corner of the Coney Island Museum - yes, it's none other than the original patron saint of the barge tiki bar...

oh my, but I digress. At any rate, there was the beach, there was the guy, and you can go hear the soundtrack which a fortuitous morning at home had put in my head for this very scene.

Onward to the Parachute Jump & the Coney Island Fishing Pier. I must have taken a hundred pictures of this since my folks bought me the first Optio WP. Never from this angle though. Seems like all the times I've come out for winter walks, I've imagined it from out there - well, here it is. And it was good.

Not so good - the police were buzzing around awfully intently. Made me wonder if I should be looking for someone. Or maybe they were looking at me. Wasn't too much else to look at on such a gray & quiet day. They moved on, though.

A bit further down the beach, at about 5:50, the second to the last lifeguard along the beach actually blew his whistle at me and waved at me to indicate I should be further offshore. First one to pay me the least bit of notice. I obliged him - needed to head out for the Sea Gate jetty anyways. He must have been bored out of his skull, I was probably the first thing worth blowing a whistle at all day. A bit later, all the whistles started to blow - it was 6 pm, and that's how signal travels down the beach that it's time to knock off.

On past the Sea Gate jetty - looking back at another fisherman. True fisherfolk don't seem to mind the rain any more than kayakers. This gent caught a ray or a skate just as I passed. I was a little too slow on the draw to catch the catch.

And here's the beach club at Sea Gate a gated community that occupies the western tip of Coney Island. Another thing I'd always been curious to see. Closed gates, bends you can't see beyond - good thing I'm not a cat. This was the perfect day & time to get nosy, too - I'm sure that on a sunny afternoon, their lifeguards would've been five times more emphatic in their guard-dogging than the Coney Island guy trying to kill the last few minutes of a long day.

Hey, look, I must be near Norton Point!

Oh look, I made a wrong turn somewhere and here I am in Maine.

No, just kidding. This is the Coney Island Lighthouse, built in 1890 and notable by being the lighthouse with the last civilian lighthouse keeper in the USA. His family grew up with strong ties to the lighthouse, and his grandchildren now maintain a website with a history of the light, it's keepers, and an interesting essay about their grandfather's life.

On around the corner, and there's the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. I guess that's another bend to head for sometime down the road. Red Hook would be a nice destination.

But here's today's destination! Gravesend Bay! Look, isn't it glorious?

panning to port...

ok, maybe "glorious" isn't quite the right description. Although it would be fun to see how far up Coney Island Creek I could get with my paddle.

If Coney Island were still an island, in fact, this would've been a circumnavigation. Would've come out right about here anyways! As it stands, though, that would be a doozy of a portage. Maybe if you had a good cart, some good walking shoes, and a lot of time, it could be done (ha, people are always circling things by kayak to raise funds for things - maybe the Coney Island Museum should get a kayaker to do that, that would be funny) - but as for me, I'm taking the easy way home. About face & back the way I came.

And here's Kingsborough College, on the east tip of Coney Island. Lights on, it's twilight & at this point there is a little more motorboat traffic. Not as much as usual, but the rain didn't keep everybody home.

Pretty straightforward trip the rest of the way home - one quick pit stop at the east end of Plumb Beach to have a Luna Bar & dig out a jacket when it started to rain a little harder, then on back to the basin.

Another good day on the water. The destination may not have been the most exciting one in New York Harbor - but the journey was totally satisfying.

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