Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Throwaway post...

Off to teach now. Problem with all this waterfront politics stuff is that at the same time as that's been going on, and I've been feeling duty-bound to say stuff about it (oh, and actually I'm kind of jazzed about the whole business with the design task force, it is SO refreshing to have Julie Nadel at CB1 really saying "Whoa, slow down, let's take a look at this" and I'm hoping that this may actually affect how the Trust looks at boathouses in the future, too...more on that before too long, sorry non-locals, access is important and a blogger's gotta do what a blogger's gotta do), I've also been having some very productive pool sessions, and I'm psyched about the how-to-pick-a-paddle presentation I'm doing for Sebago at the Long Island Paddlesports Symposium, and I think I'm also lined up to teach at the Hudson Valley Kayak Symposium and on top of that...glory to Cod, thanks to the whole crazy barge shutdown insanity I am actually looking at the first year since I left Manhattan Kayak Company (early 2002) that my teaching season doesn't end in May. Thank you, Sebago, for making that possible.

Of course the sad part is that the hours in the day remain 24, and the days in the week remain 7, and something has to give way for me to pursue teaching. Yesterday I emailed the builder/owner of the Adirondack - primarily to ask him to verify some of the entertaining creation myths that I've heard floating around the boat (like she was built from leftovers from the America replica that the Scaranos built. That's a nice one except that when I started checking my facts (I'm writing something for something) I realized that the Adirondack predates the America by a year. Wrote the builder to sort out the truth from the yarns, and at the end thanked him for a great 5 years crewing on the fastest schooner in the harbor & told him I probably wouldn't be back this year, except as a passenger (never got TQ out for a ride last summer, so at least one trip is a must in 2007).

I'll still be sailing of course. Starting with a Sunfish, then if I'm not so completely inept that the sailing committee asks me to please not darken their dinghy shed door again, maybe Lasers -

gonna miss that beautiful schooner & all the people we took out though.

OK, time to go drown my tears in teaching...

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

A Plug for NYCKayaker

I'd posted this to my old listserve after exchanging some emails with the folks from the Hudson River Paddler's Guild (no real website at that link as I post, been that way for a couple of months now, but now that they're done with the proposal, maybe it actually will be "coming soon") about the boathouse design group meeting and the importance of participating in the local paddler's grapevine this week - the trunk, if you will, of that grapevine being the long-established NYCKayaker list (yes, the very list that I used to regularly clog with my ramblings until I created this blog as a diversion - I still participate, and I do still ramble sometimes, but on the whole Frogma lets me keep my list posting to things with an actual point, or things that are too cool not to share).

I'm so happy to be out of the stupid musical-kayak-storage game, but I just can't seem to leave well enough alone. Guess I'm feeling a little antsy about hoping to get the people who aren't really in that grapevine INTO that grapevine now, because with 3 major storage facilities in play, this is really a time when I think that if all of the Hudson River Park paddlers could just pull together, it would be incredibly useful. Unfortunately I've managed to make enough of a pain of myself that I'm not in a great position to rally people to do that, but I couldn't not at least try. Posted it to the Rustbucket group yesterday, and figured I'd post it here too since the week's turned busy I don't see having much time to post anything here until Friday or so (work's busy, and there other non-work things that are mostly but not quite finished - no major blog writing until those are all the way finished). Anyways, here was yesterday's Rustbucket rally:

For anyone who's interested in what's going on in the New York City kayak & waterfront communities beyond the barge, the Hudson River Watertrail Association's NYCKayaker list has been pretty interesting this winter. There've been meeting announcements posted (most recently, Jim W. of the Downtown Boathouse organization had posted about the Tribeca boathouse design committee meeting that happened last Wednesday), there have been some extremely interesting discussions about the types of access people want (more than I realized); activist Harry J. Bubbins has been looking for emails to help stop the Randall's Island water park, Dragonsandy very happily announced this morning that the Jersey City Resevoir is being saved & turned into a park; Rob B. occasionally weighs in with beach & natural access news. On a purely fun note, the beaver story had some excellent stories being swapped -- beavers love to flood access roads by blocking culverts - they look at the road & say "What a lovely dam, but look, some silly person has left a big hole in it - let us finish this sloppy job!", and Ralph Diaz, Mr. Complete Folding Kayaker himself, shared a very funny tale of crafting & maintaining a "beaver deceiver" which allowed him and the beavers to co-exist for a long time (the sad ending, though, is that he had less patient & creative neighbors who called in the trapper - not a catch & release operation either, sad to say).

That's just a recent sampling of the topics. Lots going on out there beyond the barge. The NYCKayaker list is a great way to keep up with that, and a great place to bounce ideas around. In the end, it's still important to communicate the ideas that you think bounce in a promising way on out to the outside world (the Trust, government people, newspaper, community boards, wherever), but NYCKayaker has, in the past, been the incubator of some of the more effective actions of the paddling community as a whole.

That doesn't happen all the time of course, mostly just in response to major events or changes (like the Hudson River Park Trusts announcing Kayak Rules that basically said "No winter paddling, and no getting wet" - those got turned into "guidelines" PDQ when the NYCKayaker gang got hold of them & went to town). NYC paddlers are an awfully disparate crew, but every now & the differences just drops & everybody starts working together. When that happens, the outcome can be pretty neat

Some of the stuff that's been posted there has been making it over here, but not all. It can get a little nutso sometimes when somebody strikes a nerve & a debate breaks out & people start taking sides - but joining it is a good way to get a sense of the larger community of which all the groups at the barge are a part.

If you're interested, you can find a full description of the purpose of the list (and the guidelines which keep it all civil - well, usually ;D) here on the HRWA's website.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Cold Day on Coney Island Part II

More from Coney Island (so I can post & write an article I promised to write all at the same time!):

People being amazed at the New York Aquarium.

Sea Lion

One of the new residents of the reef tank that used to be the dolphin tank. Now I'm no PETA member, but I think that this is a FAR better use for this tank - as I mentioned on Friday, it just didn't look big enough for dolphins. Watching these guys "fly" around while the sunlight filters through the water - lovely. Lots of other fish in this tank, too.

Here's a view looking down the length of that tank. They really have made a nice exhibit out of it.

Walrus coming in...

to check me out!

It's funny, it's a little hard to tell with the sea lions and fur seals whether their swoops that take them sweeping by inches away from awestruck childrens' noses are intentional (although in the picture of the people looking at the sea lion above, that sea lion is just HANGING there in a way that strongly suggests that the looking is indeed going both ways), or just part of the loops they swim in their tank - but this walrus is very clearly very interested in the human beings that are looking in the window - she'd swim up to a person and pause to take a good close look. It may have been my imagination, but it seemed like when I'd been standing there for a while, she started swimming past me more often & taking longer looks.

Ah, there's the exit - time to go walk on the boardwalk.

Astroland, in the winter. If I was a better blogger, I would have a sound clip here - there's this unique sound that a seaside amusement park makes in the winter, a steady tone as the wind sings through guywires, stays, and girders - very lonesome sound.

Seagulls settle in for a cold night. That's the Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge in the background - that marks the entrance to Jamaica Bay.

Photograph of a photographer photographing an outbound container ship.

Out at the end of the fishing pier, looking back at the Parachute Jump. It's pretty cold - you can tell because there are only 2 fisherman. I've only been here once when there were none, and it was bitterly cold.

Ice on jetty.

A flock of brants seeking a sheltered spot behind the jetty

Most adorable little sandpipers - not positive but a little looking has me wanting to call them semipalmated sandpipers, if any birders stumble across this, I'd love a positive ID. Only thing I'm positive about is that they are cuter than all get-out.

End of a very nice day.

Friday, February 23, 2007

New Resident in the Bronx!

No, I'm not moving to the Bronx - somebody else has, though.

Bronx RIVER, that is!

Remember that Bronx River video I loved so much?

Well, that cleanup effort has now drawn a very exciting new resident!

Have a happy weekend!


Fur seal at the New York Aquarium.

Haven't been to the New York Aquarium for a long time - maybe even this time last year. I guess I tend to gravitate to the aquarium in the wintertime, when I'm tired of all the icy greens & browns & grays & whites & am starting to crave sunlight filtering through blue water. Sure, I'd rather indulge that craving with a day of snorkeling, but since that's not an easy craving to indulge this time of year, in my chosen city of residence, sometimes I just end up at the aquarium instead.

Nice on cold days in the wintertime, too - tends to be a little quieter.

Interesting changes over the last couple of years.

Last time, the dolphins were gone & their old tank was occupied by a graceful school of rays. The dolphins had always looked a little cramped. For the rays, these were some spacious digs.

This time, the beluga whales were gone, and the fur seals had been moved from a smaller tank to the relatively wide open spaces of the old beluga tank. The decor may be sparse, but this seems like a better for these guys. Amazing to watch them swim - they used to move pretty well in their old, smaller tank, but in this one? I think everybody who walked up to the tank said some variation on rocket, missile or torpedo.


I could have watched them for hours except that I think someone rang the dinner bell - it was getting towards closing time when I found them, and one minute, it was whooooosh, whoooooosh, whooooosh - the next, not so much as a whisker!

I sometimes think that if I could be one animal for a day - it would be something in the seal or sea lion range. Although river otters always look like they are having such a rollicking great time, that might be fun too. But I remember standing on a cliff somewhere near San Francisco when I was a kid & my folks were there, and there were sea lions playing in the breaking surf, and it just looked so amazing.

Not a sea otter. Sure, you'd be the cutest animal in the ocean - but way too much grooming time for a person who doesn't even own a blow drier.

Only thing is, if you got to be any of those for just one day - don't you think that that might just ruin watersports for the rest of your life?

Except maybe sailing. Sailing, you'd have to pick something more like a bird to never really enjoy it again...

Thursday, February 22, 2007

CB1 Boathouse Design Group Update

Life interfered last night (in a pleasant way, for once, not just getting stuck at work!) and I was unable to attend that CB-1 organized boathouse design group meeting, but I was really curious, so this morning I sent out an email over the local NYCKayaker list asking if anyone who'd gone could fill me in. Got a couple of responses from Downtown Boathouse folks, with the comments that that organization has compiled attached. They gave me permission to post those, and you can read them in their entirety here.

The Downtown Boathouse group has been following this with particular interest, as this boathouse is being built on the site of their original boathouse, which they had to leave in 2004. They were the single, uncontested applicant to run the boathouse that opened up in Clinton at that time, and their experiences running their free public paddling programs at that clean & shiny, but somewhat over-architected, boathouse gives them a very good point of view for critique of the new boathouse (unfortunately, it's too late to do the same for the Pier 66 boathouse, that one's already built). I think they'd like to get back to where they started. Based on the community comments I'd seen about what the area residents liked about the original, grassroots version of Piers 25 & 26, it sounds like the locals would like them to come back, too. I'm not saying that the Trust should hand the keys over without any questions, but they do have quite a history in that community. Can't just blow that off.

btw, this was the follow-up meeting from the one I'd attended, written about, and actually found quite cheering back in January.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Method to the Madness...

So although I couldn't resist claiming that Stevie going fishing at the Greenwich YMCA was a symptom of some baaaaad cabin fever, his apparent irrationality was actually quite purposeful. As a fisherman, and a Greenland-style paddling enthusiast, been working on on a site for kayak fishermen (and women) who, like himself, don't necessarily agree with the conventional wisdom that says that the main characteristic of the ideal fishing kayak is that it should display all the

nimble responsiveness of



these! :D :

On Sunday, he was playing around with some videos demonstrating rolls you can do without dropping your gear. The cool thing about that is that guess what - that's EXACTLY what most of those rolls were developed in the first place. Silly though it may look - I think I may see some true historical homage here:

Curious? Drop by and say "Hello!"

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Cabin Fever?

Ways to tell that cabin fever is setting in:

1. local paddling, blogging, finance analyst start generating spreadsheets to project possible shortfalls in the supply of kayak storage in the park she used to consider home base.


Monday, February 19, 2007

Boathouse Meeting #2

In case anyone's interested, there'll be another meeting of the Community Board 1, Pier 26 working group on Wed. Feb. 21, at 49-51 Chambers Street, 6:00 PM, 7th floor. This has been being circulated on the local kayak listserve & Downtown Boathouse volunteer group - figured I'd post here, too.

There's a security check in the lobby - no pocketknives that you care to keep, and do bring a picture I.D.

The working group is made up of a group of interested & active people from the Hudson River Park paddling scene. This isn't a meeting for the public to make speeches, but the public is definitely welcome to come follow along with the progress of the boathouse. I believe that this time there will be a better set of plans available for the group to review - based on that, they'll put together some recommendations for the Trust & if all goes well, this will lead to a boathouse which is both less expensive and more functional.

Still doesn't solve the potential interim storage problem I tried to outline in that "Storage by the numbers" post - but a solution to THAT problem - if it actually happens - doesn't have to be fancy at all. Shipping containers make pretty good kayak storage - here's an example at Sebago: Actually there are already some shipping containers being used to store private boats at Pier 40 in the Hudson River Park. It was just a lot more convenient to take a picture of the ones at Sebago.

Today's Outdoor Activity - Walking!

Lovely paddle last week - interesting challenges though!
Here's Kayak Boy working his way across the ice sheet at the mouth of the Paerdegat -

and there goes Stevie, oochin' along towards open water...

oops...well, maybe not so VERY open! This was on the far side of Ruffle Bar - funny, we came around the island and all of the sudden, there it was.

One might say we were stopped cold!

nyuck nyuck nyuck!

It was windy, too, and getting back across the ice sheet in the basin was even MORE interesting, because when you stopped, the wind would slide you back. It was funny, too - I'd paddled the downwind leg, out to Ruffle Bar, with my Greenland paddle (handmade by Jack Gilman) - coming back into the wind, I finally switched back to my Euro (I know a lot of people think that's just where you need a GP - personally, I just find the more positive "bite" of the Euro to be reassuring - it's funny, I think a lot of it really is mental, just using the paddle I'm better at using makes me feel stronger) - but then when we got back to the ice, out came the GP - far better suited to crunching along through the ice! Glad Jack made it stout. Paddle tip's kinda fuzzy now. That'll be a good story to tell in the summer.
OK, I know Stevie's taking my picture here and I'm exaggerating - but you really did have to do a little spearing to break through. Eventually it just got too thick & that's when the knuckle-walking started.

Anyways - it's lots colder today, a glimpse of J-Bay from the Belt Parkway yesterday showed a lot more ice, the ice band sealing off the basin was more visible from the dock, it's not supposed to go over 20 degrees f/-6 c today and, oh, let's go check out the marine forecast...

1022 AM EST MON FEB 19 2007




Yeah! Really cold, basin ice-locked, way more ice on the bay, lots of wind, and on top of all that, that low-water business, applied to Jamaica Bay, means no water in an AWFUL lot of the bay! Just lots of ice left high & dry. Guess I won't go paddling today!

We had a sea kayak committee meeting yesterday at Sebago, a number of us had gone to Greenwich for the pool session & got back with time to spare. JH and I had wandered out to the dock, and we'd noticed that the water was freakishly low - new moon was the night of the 17th, but this was extreme. Spring tide + high wind = floating dock that may be at least touching bottom on the inshore side!

Looking down at the dock from above -

Looking up the ramp from the dock. Amazing pitch - way steeper than normal. I wouldn't have come down here if there's been ice on the ramp!

Looking back towards the clubhouse, surrounded by slick & icy crusted snow.

Sailing dinghies, waiting for spring...

a beautiful winter sunset at Sebago.

Speaking of beautiful sunsets, it's about as bad a paddling day as I can imagine - but it's absolutely stunning out there & as I've been uploading these pictures, I've been gradually layering up. Can't stay inside on this vacation day - it's the perfect day for a Coney Island/Brighton Beach stroll. Outside, yet never more than a few minutes from a nice hot pierogie. Perfect!

Saturday, February 17, 2007

What Is It?

'Nuff serious stuff for one week.

I took this picture yesterday. Do you know what it is?

Here's a hint!

P.S. Happy Lunar New Year! What a Boar!

Friday, February 16, 2007

Hudson River Park kayak storage - by the numbers.

I have this tendency to forget that there are more than Hudson River Park paddlers reading this blog when I get going on the possible problems with the kayak storage prospects in the Hudson River Park. I get a good reminder of this every now & then when I call my folks in Hawaii. They've heard a fair amount about the various trials & tribulations of the Hudson River Park paddling community over the years, but when I start talking specific people, organizations & the fluctuations in the statuses of their various home bases, they get a little confused.

In fact it's a little hard to keep track of for me - I only get so much information. Back when I was doing the kayaking thing semiprofessionally as a partner at MKC I was a lot better informed - now, as I said to the Pier 63 gang the other day, I feel a little bit like I'm standing outside in a high wind, trying to catch pages an unbound galley that somebody dropped as they blow past & then trying to explain the story from that. Every now & then somebody else with a few key pages will share them, too - I guess that's why I get so upset when people let the grapevine get shut down, because I'm convinced that the more people are sharing information, the better the overall picture & the more truly representative of the paddling community as a whole the responses.

Whatevers. Anyhow, I've been thinking that it might be helpful to sort of step back a bit & try to start explaining the big picture (inasmuch as I have a big picture - I think I do but I may be seeing it wrong) in smaller, hopefully more coherent chunks.

Tonight, I got to playing around with Excel - I have this vague picture of an impending potential storage crunch; depending on a number of variables it could be anywhere from nonexistent to severe & permanent. I built this little model that would give me year-by-year changes, from 2004 (which is the year in the past at which I believe the Park had the largest number of spaces for individual boats).

I played around with a few different scenarios, and thought I'd share a few with you here. In this exercise, I only care about the numbers - I'm just looking at the overall pool of available storage & trying to get the numbers I've been imagining down more clearly. There is no Randy, there is no New York River Sports, there are simply boats at locations. The only breakdown is at Pier 40, where some of the boats from Pier 26 got moved after Pier 26 closed("Pier 40 public"), augmenting the number that were already stored there at the Pier 40 kayak company.

My basic assumptions for the numbers are just that - assumptions. Some are guesses of the educated variety, some less so. In general, I've tried to be conservative in my estimates so as not to skew the picture to the alarmist side.

Here are the assumptions. The order is north to south. HRPT indicates a new boathouse built under the auspices of the Trust. Downtown is the Tribeca boathouse I've referred to before, the one that the Trust was saying might be up in the air & that's now being looked at closely by the local community board - it would be built on the same pier as an old grassroots boathouse that was closed in 2004 (and btw I think that old one held considerably more than the 100 I've estimated here - that's one of my more cautious estimates).

The numbers to look at are the totals and the "yearly change" numbers at the bottom. Anywhere you see red, that means lost storage. An individual year with a loss of storage means people scrambling for interim storage. A loss in "change from 2004-2009" indicates that unless another boathouse comes into the picture (and there IS supposed to be one at Chelsea's Gansevoort Peninsula, although that's going to involve getting the city to move a lot of city equipment), that space is pretty much just gone.

Let's look at the worst-case scenario first (cue Darth Vader music). This one's just ugly - the DEC permit covering the barge in Chelsea doesn't get revised, the new tenants at Pier 40 don't make any space for kayaks, and the Trust doesn't get the money for the boathouse downtown. 60 boats out in the cold in 2007, 70 more looking for homes in 2008. 140 spaces lost from 2004 through 2009.

Next, let's look at the rosiest scenario (cue full choral version of the "Ode to Joy"). This assumes that none of the extant facilities get shut down, and the new boathouses just end up being room for expansion, and everyone lives happily ever after.

Tra la la!

btw, anyone interested in a bridge?

Finally, a midpoint scenario (I did a few of these for fun - this one's actually an outcomes that I could imagine happening based on how things seem to be lined up right now - that could of course change at any time, though).
In this one, the DEC holds fast on not allowing human-powered boats at the barge, the new Pier 40 tenant decides that a public paddling program fits well with their program, but not the kayak company, and a nice new boathouse opens up downtown. 2007 is a bad year for a lot of paddlers. Some spaces open up in 2008, but the overall number of spaces ends up down 20 from our starting point of 2004.

You get the general idea, right?

A couple of additional things to consider looking at that last one - note that I'm assuming that the boathouse downtown is open for business in 2008; if it's not (and it's still in the planning phases right now), and I'm guessing right on the 2008 timeline for the new tenants taking over Pier 40 for development, instead of having a 60-boat loss this year followed by a 50-boat gain in 2008, there'll be a loss of 60 in 2007 followed by a loss of 50 more in 2008. Of course in 2009 you'll have 100 open up, so the overall change for those 3 years ends up being a mere loss of 10 storage spaces either way - but that still leaves 110 boats scrambling for interim storage during the first 2 years.

And one other thing - the barge not being available, even for one season, automatically means a major loss of storage in 2007. Many of us (particularly those of us for whom paddling is a year-round activity) did scramble when they shut the place down in 2006, but I believe there are still a lot of boats stored there & if the closure IS pemanent, there will be an even bigger crunch as soon as the barge moves & people can retrieve their property.

So those are the basic numbers in a few different potential situations.

Next time I feel like tackling the topic, I think I'll match up some of the cast of characters with the current facilities, and thinking about possible outcomes were group 1 to move from Pier A to pier D.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Blizzard, and Rosemary Ruth sails home (on Tugster)

And here are a couple of pictures from my morning commute -

Here's the view out the subway window on the Manhattan Bridge - looking north up the East River. Ordinarily, looking this direction, one would see the Williamsburg Bridge. Not the case today. BTW the pier in the relative foreground is Pier 42, a former banana pier. There's still a sign on it featuring a bunch of bananas - tried to find a picture, no luck. The area it's in is actually neat place to wander - along the river, under the bridges - and is next in line for "parkification" (a presentation of the very earliest stages of planning was one of the agenda items on the agenda at the community board meeting I attended not long ago about out of interest in the Tribeca boathouse situation). There is actually a little natural beach some way further down, near the Brooklyn Bridge - it will be interesting to see how they treat that. Would be very easy to turn into access for cartop or folding kayakers - all that needs to happen is space put into a barrier - and there are a couple of people working to try to make that happen. The usual concerns about liability are in play as they always are, though. The East River does have some strong currents, and there's always concern among the people in charge that if you make it easy to get to the water, eventually somebody's going to drown & then there'll be a lawsuit. That's just NYC for ya.

Walking down Broadway in the snow.

The word "yuck" may have featured prominently on this morning's post, but actually I'm somewhat enjoying the blizzard. If I'd thought of it, I might tried to get out on the harbor, just to see how things were out there - I've done that before & it can be sort of fun. The trick, as usual, is choosing the right gear. In this case, it's all about the boat. Here is my idea of the perfect boat for a blizzard in New York Harbor:

Of course the one little bummer about it was that TQ & I decided to postpone Valentine's Day. He was talking to a snowplow driver this morning & the gentleman told him that it was a very good day to not drive if that was an option. Wednesdays & Thursdays being TQ's days off, and both of us being in complete agreement that our plans tonight were not worth him ending up with his car in a ditch, or worse, he decided to listen to the snow-driving professional. Smart, my guy. I was looking forward to seeing him tonight but I'm not a big enough fan of Valentine's Day to want him to do anything stupid.

Now, I had some other pictures I was going to post but I went over to Tugster to look for pictures or interesting info about the banana pier - surprisingly, didn't find any of those, but he had some pictures I really enjoyed seeing, taken when he joined Richard in retrieving the Rosemary Ruth from Tottenville (I unfortunately couldn't have made that trip without cloning myself - so glad Tugster posted!). In fact, I think I may detect the makings of a maritime soap opera...could the interest Tugster seems to be taking in the sweet little pinkie schooner's shapely bottom mean that he's recovering from the spell cast by the alluringly bulbous-bowed, but distant Alice?

Stay tuned for our next exciting episode!

New York, New YUCK!

Lovely lovely day here in NYC!

Picture "taken" using the Wired New York webcam I call the Cruise Ship Terminal Webcam. Yes, there's a river out there somewhere. Good sized one too.

This webcam actually used to be one of the ones that I'd use to check out the Hudson ice situation for winter paddles.

The Sebago Canoe Club could use a Paerdegat-cam!

Monday, February 12, 2007

The weekend, and why I have said nothing about Andrew

Well, while I'm waiting for this last sales report to run (ok so I got a little obsessed about tracking down a certain number) might as well post a completely disjointed post.

Stevie took this picture during the Saturday paddle that he, Kayak Boy and I went out for. I never knuckle-walked my kayak across ice before. I joke from time to time, when it gets cold, about how I need to get my screwdrivers (I read somewhere once that people who paddle in places where ice is a regular obstacle sometimes carry a pair of those to assist in crossing ice). I don't think I'll be joking any more. Might even get some. As it was, at LEAST I'd had the foresight, temps hovering around freezing, to bring my heavy Stearns gloves. Kept my hands nice and warm. We paddled out with no specific destination - ended up heading towards Ruffle Bar - thought we'd circumnavigate but halfway around, we ran into this giant saltwater Slushee - with way more ice than we wanted to knuckle-walk beyond. Seems the northwest wind had pushed all the ice (except the band across the mouth of the Paerdegat) over to the southeast corner of the bay. Stevie had been talking about pizza in Broad Channel - think we would've needed skates to get there.

More pictures, uh, sometime this week. It was a lot more of a workout than any of us had planned on, but I had fun...

Went to a rolling session on Sunday, 3 hours long so LOTS of time to get loosened up. This session is put on by Elizabeth O'Connor of Sea Kayaking Skills and Adventures of Long Island. One very cool thing about it was that there were canoes rolling there - now I knew that that was possible but I'd never actually seen it done. Sebago's participating in her the Long Island Paddlesports Symposium - I'm actually, er, giving a presentation, I'll be talking about some of the questions a person should ask when buying a paddle so that they have the best chance of ending up with the right one. Remember "Of Paddles & Planes"? Won't get that esoteric but some of the same ideas may come out. Then we all jump in the pool and roll for the nice people - YAY!

Speaking of rolls - Stevie has a friend who'd never been in a kayak before a couple of weeks ago - that was when D. had gone to his first pool session out of curiousity. Strictly as a spectator. Went home fascinated, watched some videos. Stevie put him in a boat the next weekend & started teaching.

D. got his first, second, third, and so on rolls this weekend. Dont'cha hate people like that?

Nah, actually I just love getting to be around when somebody gets their first roll. Don't care how disgustingly fast they got it, it just rocks. The Yonkers sessions there's a bit of a tradition of everybody drumming on their boats when somebody hits their first one. Just part of what makes that such a cool session. Doesn't work quite as well in the bigger pool at Sarah Lawrence - the YMCA pool was so small everybody knew what happened - but a first roll is always worth making a little noise about!

Speaking of rolls, there are a lot more over on my Yahoo videos now. I did more for Adele than I realized! Lots more Sebago-ites a-rolling at, too - plus a few from Jack Gilman, my Cirque du Soleil tryout partner.

Cripes - and speaking of Cirque du Soleil - Nancy, the metropolitan coordinator for the Hudson River Watertrail Association, sent an email to the NYCKayaker mailing list with a description of 2 proposals for Pier 40. Where Randy's New York Kayak Co. is based. You can read them (and see renderings) on the here on the Hudson River Park Trust's website. You'll notice that the word "kayak" doesn't appear once. The Cirque du Soleil is an anchor tenant for one of the two.

Hard to say what's going on behind the scenes but it's really too bad that neither of those proposals seems to involve the kayaking aspect of the current uses at Pier 40. That could explain why Randy all the sudden wants to move to Chelsea. Pier 40 is a big pier. Why isn't there room for a couple of human-powered boating groups?

Well - I think I'm giving up on this report. Maybe it'll run itself by tomorrow morning. NO! It just rang. It's done. So am I. Busy tomorrow, busy Valentine's Day (if the snow doesn't keep TQ from coming down - I told him I'd rather have him stay in CT in one piece than put himself at risk driving down if the promised snow hits)...probably post again on Wednesday. If I'm not such a big ol' mushball that I'm embarrassed to inflict myself on the blogosphere, that is.

OK - hate to close on a sad note - but if you're wondering why I've been heartless enough to not say one word about Andrew McAuley...well, it's because it's too sad for words. Or at least for my words. I have a lot of thoughts about it but none that I would consider sharing right now. Most of them involve brilliant stuff about how very, very big the ocean is.

Not worth the electrons it would take to put it on a screen.

For those of you who aren't kayakers - Andrew McAuley was an Australian adventurer who decided to make the first ever solo kayak crossing of the Tasmanian Sea. The crazy, sad thing is that he was a day from finishing and had survived days of stuff that most of us would have vanished into within hours.

For a rational & caring response, please go visit Kayak Quixotica.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Updates on past posts

Meanwhile, back on the windowsill, my little squash seedlings are doing well!

(actually this was a while ago - this same plant has 6 leaves now!)

And it is believed that the monk parakeets that had built this nest are also doing well - just not at Sebago. I'd seen them in the trees, but the nest has been suspiciously quiet - I took this one evening when we got back from a paddle around sunset. Now that's when parakeets should be chattering away saying good-night to each other...nope. With the warm weather, the gardening committee has been enjoying a lot of winter gardening, and Adele said that with all the people around, the birds were visibly & audibly unhappy. She thinks they tried again a few blocks away. Well, too bad they put in all that work, but at least there weren't babies in that nest when they figured out that a kayak club has people (yikes)!

Time to go paddle now!

Friday, February 09, 2007

What's to be done about it?

2/9 note - Paddling friend, bottle-hurler, free-diver and majorly committed DTBH volunteer Tim emailed me to let me know that the rumour about the DTBH submitting a proposal for the Pier 66 boathouse is just that, a rumour. No truth to it, and in fact they can't submit because they won the last one. I now wonder if that would also apply to the Tribeca boathouse, if the Trust DOES build it, or if the DTBH history there would be taken into account. Very confusing. Anyways, immediate situation is just Pier 63 vs. New York Kayak. Still messy.

Wow. No comments at all about yesterday's post. And one email. That's even more depressing than people getting mad at me! :D

Well, the weirdness of the Hudson River Park paddling situation IS sort of old news, I guess, and the NYKC vs. Pier 63 gang is just an ugly new variation on a theme that's been playing for a long time.

However, I did want to make a suggestion - if you happen to have an opinion & want to get it in front of people who can do something about it - emails at the Trust are: - Noreen Doyle, EVP Hudson River Park Trust - Connie Fishman, President, Hudson River Park Trust

To email our new steamroller - er, I mean our new governor, Eliot Spitzer, click here

To email Mayor Mike: click here.

The group at the non-official-meeting gathering where Randy came to speak came up with an idea I thought was good - rather than choosing sides, possibly just writing a letter of support to the Trust for the paddling community in the Hudson River Park.

Actually, I think that could be rather effective coming from individuals, too.

At one point, it looked like theoretically, there was enough storage planned that there'd be room for current users, plus room for growth. Now, with the Tribeca boathouse up in the air, and the barge still in limbo as a paddlesports center, that's not so clear - and that's what I mean when I talk about playing musical chairs with water access.

And that's not even getting into the issue that I realized I never thought about much - an easily accessible launch for cartoppers & folding kayakers (24/7/365 access being something that the barge had provided but that the Trust may not really have on their radar, as it's generally been the storage people who've been the squeakiest wheels).

Storage and a place to launch - provide enough of those to serve the current demand & leave room for future growth, then the competition between the various groups can be of the healthy variety - let the companies & not-for-profits thrive, or not, based on how well they run their operations.

That can be healthy.

But the kind of competition that's happening now is based on a sudden scarcity that's been caused by sheer lack of foresight. One big oops.

If that bothers you - just say so - use these emails to share your opinion with people who can actually do something about it.

Back to fun posts after this, I promise. OH -BTW speaking of fun, I went to Cheri & Turner's slide show last night - the Canadian CKayaker was RIGHT - it is FABULOUS. If you hear about them doing this presentation in your area - just go, you'll LOVE it!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Hudson River Park boathouse update -

note, since I've actually reached out for people to come read this now - I have known about the 3-way competition for a while. All the organizations are just trying to survive - there is NOTHING wrong with that. I didn't say anything for a while because it just didn't seem like my place to do so (particularly regarding the Randy/Sebago thing - please note, at this point Randy had actually only approached a couple of members of the club, then came & spoke to an informal gathering of a few people of which I was a part - it was a privilege to be invited to that meeting & I hope talking about what happened there isn't abusing that privilege) - but it just kills me that this 3-way cutthroat thing has been set up by the choices & actions the Trust has made, the Trust themselves may not realize it, and nobody seems to be saying ANYTHING about it. If anyone feels like I owe them an apology, they're probably right.

One week from now, it's the final due date for proposals to manage the boathouse at Pier 66.

Last time the Trust put out a Request For Proposals was for the Pier 96 boathouse in Clinton. That time, as far as I know, only the Downtown Boathouse put in a proposal.

This time, there's a little more interest. Naturally, the paddling community at Pier 63 has joined forces as New York RiverSports - that group again is made up of:
Manhattan Kayak,
New York Kayak Polo,
New York Outrigger, and the
Hudson River Paddlers Guild.

Randy at New York Kayak is putting in a competing proposal. This isn't surprising at all as I think he is now about where MKC for the last year or two - no definite shutdown date, but no guarantee of being able to continue at his Pier 40 location from one season to the next, could be over any year. He approached some of the Sebago stalwarts about asking the club for help, though - that was an unpleasant surprise, one of the things I was happy about was that moving to Sebago got me clear of the unpleasantness of the Hudson River Park situation, and here was Randy trying to drag my new club back into it.

Now, I don't want to see Randy go out of business. Randy's shop the ABSOLUTE best place in NYC to go buy any basic piece of kayak equipment when you needed it yesterday - my office is near an Eastern Mountain Supply that does have a few items, but for anything beyond the bilge-pump/handi-rack level, I generally end up at NYKC. Still, it was very disconcerting to have him approach my new club asking us to agree to something that would help him out with his proposal when his proposal being chosen could potentially lead to the demise of MKC...

and then I also hear that the DTBH is putting in a proposal. Don't know whether this is in response to the Tribeca boathouse being possibly on the chopping block, or even if it's true, but that's the rumour. note, later on...this was NOT true - see comments for details - the DTBH was not allowed to apply as they are already managing a Trust boathouse.

It's like the Trust is running one of those experiments where you put too many rats in too small a cage and they all turn on each other. That they probably don't understand the effect that playing musical chairs with water access is having on people's lives doesn't make me feel any less bad about it.

Ignorance may be bliss - but it's a crummy excuse.

BTW, I haven't heard thing one about whether the DEC decided to let the barge continue to function as the paddlesports facility it had been until the September shutdown - have been extremely out of the loop since I left. Only thing I HAVE heard is that nothing's been accomplished on the demolition of the old Pier 63 headhouse that had housed BasketBall City & the mounted police.

Oh well...

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Scenes from a Pool Session

OK...trying this...Google Video won't give me the time of day, but these uploaded in Yahoo ok.

These were a few scenes from the Pool Session that Got Me Hooked. Yonkers Paddling &, ROWING club. Head instructors Jack Gilman (Greenland) and Andy Laiosa (ACA with a whitewater bent).

Boy, there was something about these sessions, in that funny little basement pool with the fish murals. I don't know, maybe it was just the novelty, but things just got sublimely silly...

Here's Jack demonstrating some unstoppable norsaq rolls. Well, he does stop, but just 'cause he was getting to the edge of the pool. Otherwise he would've rolled a mile!

How to scare your pool session lifeguard:

Actually we would usually let the lifeguard know before any breath-holding silliness. It's just the nice thing to do.

Andy decided that Jack and I needed to try out for the water version of Cirque du Soleil. So we started choreographing a routine...

Unfortunately we had a short attention span & never got past that.

Some of the funniest moments weren't captured for posterity - like one time Jack & I were doing an upside-down in-kayak swimming race. It got cut short because we happened to look at each other at the same time, instantly & simultaneously began laughing at how goofy we looked, & since when you start to laugh you are not holding your breath, we both had to hand-roll up. And then the entire class got into this thing where we'd try rolling with pretty much anything that wasn't actually bolted to the floor (a hockey stick, btw, really only works well in one direction).

And then there was Marcus and his German Roll...sorry, that one you just have to see, and I don't think anybody's videoed it yet. Maybe when he gets back from Australia - but it originated right here among the tropical-fish murals.

Boy, those were a couple of fun, fun winters.

Sarah Lawrence is great, but there's something about a smaller session - I don't know, maybe it's the proximity of old hands to the learners that gets everybody going. I started these classes as a good, but nervous, roller - it was at this pool, with Jack & Andy & a few other Yonkers & Pier 63 folks, that rolling became flat-out, giggle-to-guffaw-fit-inducing fun.

And that's the most wonderful feeling when that happens.

Suggested Motto Revision for Google.

Has anyone noticed that half the pictures on this blog now don't appear half the time? Or when they do, do so veeeeeerrrrrrrry slowly?

Here's what's changed: Sometime last week I was finally forced over into the faaaaabulous new Google version. They were very polite about it for a long time - oh, look, lovely templates, new this, new that, come on, give it a try - well, my simple blogging needs being fairly well served by Old Blogger, I remained unmoved by Google's blandishments & stuck with what I knew.

Last week, though, Google's patience came to an end & I was forced to open a Google account & transfer my blog.

Haven't been thrilled. I haven't had any real problems, just minor annoyances, and it's sort of silly to kvetch about a free product, but as I said to Happysurfer (who got forced over about the same time), it seems it seems like they took something that was generally fairly OK, with occasional glitches, & turned it into something that's generally fairly glitchy, but occasionally OK.

I'm sure it will get better. I was once involved in the development of a banking website, I did a lot of test coordination & tracking, so I do have an idea of how these things work, and I do expect the hiccups will improve. Just wish that they'd maybe put a little more time into debugging before they smacked us reluctant ones into the new version.

Isn't Google's motto "Don't be evil"?

Well, here's an idea - how about the less-grand goal of "Don't be annoying"?

Actually if it was just Blogger, I probably wouldn't be whining. The additional factor is BrooklynKayak has some new pool videos - Adele was the cinematographer/director/producer, and Stevie's posting them. I thought I might put a couple up here just for kicks. And I liked the way Google Video works, and since the switch to Blogger required joining Google, I thought "Cool, I will give that a try".

Can't get Google Video to work right, either. Thhhbbbt.

Well, something with the scope of Google is sort of like New York City, I guess - somewhere, sometime, I've heard the comment "It'll be a great city, if they ever finish building it".

If you're curious, the videos are over here. BTW please be nice commentwise* - this was my first serious rolling practice my rolling since November or so (I kept rolling through January, but 3 rolls onside, 3 rolls off does not a practice session make!), and I'm particularly less confident on the forward finish stuff (it's getting better, but there's SO much room for improvement!).

*unless you are Cheri or Turner, in which case, oh, go ahead...

Monday, February 05, 2007

Farewell, SeaLevel NYC

Just a quick post as I head out the door - this is gonna be One Of Those Weeks at work, although I AM hoping to sneak outta here on Thursday to go see Cheri & Turner's Fabulous Adventures in Greenland slideshow (yes, that was a reminder!) -

But I did want to ask people to go say something nice to Mr. Sea Level.

Derrick wrote the other day about how the kayak blog scene has absolutely burgeoned in the last year or two. It really is amazing - actually it makes me a little sad, because there are so many interesting blogs out there, and it would be such fun to keep up with all of them (including YOU, if you happen to be one of them), but there are only so many hours in a day, and at this point it would be a multi-hour endeavour each day to keep up!

Such a change from when I started this blog 2 years ago. One of the first things I did after setting this up was to do a little internet surfing trying to find like-minded bloggers.

After a little searching, I found Derrick and Wenley - and at the time, that was all I could find!

But gradually, more and more kayak bloggers began to surface - and one day I discovered one right here in New York City. Well written, interesting observations, good photography, and a set of local links that put my little set over on the right to absolute shame (particularly since I never remember to update - cripes, I think my tide predictions still links to 2005...). Eventually we met in person during the 2006 Yonkers pool sessions, where he was a pleasure to have as a student (actually I was wishing I had him there last Wednesday to demonstrate relaxing & letting the water hold you to a tense student). He ended up moving his boat to Pier 63, where he joined some of the summertime paddles out of the barge (at some point coining the name "The Rustbucket"). As a fellow Brooklyn resident, when the barge shut down, he joined in the Flight to Canarsie (thank you once again to Sebago's 2006 commodore, who made the actual boat move happen in time when we were all scrambling desperately to get out before the Trust locked down the barge).

After the move, I didn't hear from him for a long time. He doesn't have a drysuit & has had some stuff going on in his personal life that is of the type that you simply have to find time to deal with - something had to give way, and so he decided not to try to continue paddling through the winter, and also let the blog go dormant.

Sometimes when I know people are really busy, I don't pester them, figure they'll resurface when they have time to breathe - but I did keep checking in on the blog.

Finally emailed him to say howzit the other day - as I'd expected, he'd been busy, but I think he'll start showing up at Sebago once the water warms up & the days get longer.

SeaLevelNYC, though, may be at an end...

I don't know if my hey-how-are-you email made him decide that it was time to let the kayak-blogosphere know what was going on, but a day or so after that, his first post since last fall finally appeared. He's not necessarily going to stop blogging - but as a cyclist, he's got a wider view of this concept of "human-powered" than some of us do, and he'd been talking for a while about a major redo, and it sounds like he's decided it's time for a break & then to move on to something new, something with more space for a wider range of topics.

Well, whatever it is, and whenever it begins, it should be excellent.

Anyways...the point of all of this is I wanted to encourage anyone who's enjoyed SeaLevelNYC to hele on over there & bid him farewell, for now.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Sacrificial Suit

Once upon a time, way back when in the late 1990's, Henderson USA decided to explore the paddling wetsuit market. Their entry in this market was a wonderfully comfy fleece-lined front-zip jumpsuit, cut for freedom of motion where a paddler needs freedom of motion, and reinforced where a paddler needs reinforcement.

The suit was only available for a couple of years - I guess the paddling market just doesn't have the same depth as the diving market.

(oooohh, sorry!)

Lucky for me, as a neophyte paddler who'd decided that she seriously dug this paddling thing to the point that she didn't want to stop when the time of year arrived in which a paddler needs to wear more than a bathing suit & board shorts, I was in the market at the time.

The price seemed steep, but it was soooo snuggly, and I had a pretty good idea I'd be wearing it a lot, so I sprang for it.

I didn't regret my decision. In fall & late spring, it was my outer layer. In the winter, it worked under a drysuit. I got a lot of good seasons out of that purchase.

Then a particularly gleeful series of pool sessions run by the Yonkers Paddling & Rowing Club, led by Andy Laiosa and Jack Gilman (local patron saint of G-style) triggered my winter chlorine addiction - and the Henderson was sacrificed to the pool gods.

I really do have to wear a wetsuit to get the most out of a pool session. Once I get cold, I just don't enjoy it as much. I get tired, and things start to not work so well.

That was true right from the start, and at the start, I was only there to learn. As I got better, I eventually started helping to teach at pool sessions as well, and when that happened, dressing right became even more important. Teaching frequently requires standing in chest-deep water for 2 or 3 hours at a time. Now, I never took physics so I can't specifically quote the laws of thermodynamics for you, but I believe one of those applies to the fact that if you submerge a 98.6 degree human body in an 80 degree swimming pool, the body and the water will try very hard to reach a happy medium of, oh, let's say 81 degrees for both. Happy for the water, if water can be said to be happy. Not so happy for the body.

Wearing a wetsuit really slows down that unpleasantly relentless heat transfer, so although I knew that chlorine wasn't going to be good for the suit, I decided it was a sacrifice I'd have to make.

I washed it after every session, but after lord only knows how many pool sessions (I'll sometimes get up to twice a week, teaching at one, practicing at another) the poor thing is now completely delaminated & the outer layer - that formerly seal-sleek spandex - now bags like an elephant's hide, and sprouts holes slightly faster than I can stitch them up. You can't even see the seams here, but this is truly a Frankensuit affair. Adding to the rattiness, an overly-eager-to-help lifeguard once decided to "fix" one of the earliest "pukas" - one that sprang on my right arm - by (without explaining what she was going to do) pulling the edges of the hole together around my arm and tying them in a knot - in the process stretching them out of shape & difficult to stitch.

Every year, I wear this suit to the pool and I think "OK, this is the year that it will simply disintegrate, falling from my body into rags drifting dangerously drainwards". Against that day, I now wear a swimsuit and leggings as a base layer.

Meanwhile, Frankensuit's successor rests folded on a shelf in my linen closet, safe (for the nonce) from the Pool Gods.

A fleece-lined, seal-sleek Mountain Surf farmer jane. I'd won an NRS HydroSkin long-sleeved top at the Hudson River Greenland Festival in 2004 (first place female in the sprint race plus second place female roller, if you'll excuse my trotting out some very dusty old laurels - plus Cheri Perry let me use her magic Stealth boat for the rolling, which is kind of cheating), and those 2 pieces let me paddle in comfort in an even wider range of temperatures than the Henderson.

And I don't care HOW awful the poor old Henderson looks - as long as I can manage to keep that ragged, bedraggled, chlorine-blasted old suit in close enough to one piece to keep me warm, chlorine shall not touch these newer garments.

Funny, when I started writing this I thought it was going to be about pool sessions, and fear, and magic-feather/magic-boat syndrome, and how easy it is to psych yourself out of doing something you really can do and, oh yeah, all that was going to lead up to how I pulled off my very first off-side hand roll in a non-Greenlandic sea kayak today (and how my rather excellent boyfriend flatly refused to put his camera away when I told him "No, no, put that camera away, I'm just going to fail again" and therefore actually got it on...uh...what do you get things on when you point a digital camera at something and shoot, it's not film, digits maybe?) That was pretty cool, and that's what I thought I was going to write about.

But I guess it's not such a bad thing give a moment in the bloglight to a good, high-quality piece of gear that's served me very well for a long, long time.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Why Can't Chocolate Just Be Chocolate?

Oh, look. The Hershey Company has decided to jump on the Chocolates-of-Prentention bandwagon.

Extra Dark, pure, 60% cacao, macadamia nuts, cranberries. Sounds yummy. Hmmm, wonder what that little logo on the lower left-hand corner is?

Fair Trade, perhaps?

100% Organically Grown Beans?

Maybe even Country of Origin? I understand that's a recent trend in haut-chocolat...

Well, let's take a look -


Excuse me, I need to go eat my exhibit now.

It's good for me!