Sunday, April 27, 2008

Saturday Solo (Slightly Stupid, But I Survived) - also Race Curse, and Why I Missed the Sebago Season Opener

Last week sort of fell apart on me in various ways, which led to a Wednesday night date with TQ in Brooklyn transforming into a Friday night date in CT. Interstate dating does require a certain amount of flexibility - fortunately we both do work where occasionally things happen that aren't under our control but do require our attention, so we're patient with each other. Anyways, Friday night date in CT leads to uncertainty as to time of return to Brooklyn on Saturday, which meant that if I wanted to paddle (which I did, as my Tuesday bridge walk was otherwise my main exercise in a deskbound week), it was gonna have to be with team Me Myself & I, as I couldn't possibly ask anyone else to work around my totally unpredictable schedule.

Looking at the conditions, it was pretty marginal for solo paddling - winds 15 knots, gusting to 20, maybe more.

Fortunately the water's warmed up (I can't get over how fast, too, it's in the 60's now - J-bay's so shallow, it changes FAST), and the temperatures have continued to be in the appropriate 60's. Decided to go for it - I'm actually signed up for that 3-mile fun race out at Empire Kayaks on Saturday. I'm hoping to get out for a couple of paddles over the week, but if I can't pull that off, I really didn't want to turn up at a race when I hadn't paddled for 2 weeks!

Proper clothing gets to be an interesting call this time of year. Based on water & air temps alone, I would have opted for farmer jane wetsuit, long sleeve wetsuit top & a windbreaker. I'm more than ready to leave the drysuit home (wonderful though my TQ gift one is, it is still a drysuit) - but with the additional factor of some serious wind, I decided that it wasn't time to leave that at home just yet.

That was a good call - by the time I paused about a quarter mile outside the basin to try to get a shot that would show all the whitecaps & Joe here shot past me on his surfski,

I was pretty much drenched by the spray from my bow crashing through the chop. Joe of course was making me feel like a whuss - it wasn't so much that he passed me like I was standing still (well, I was, how else would I have taken his picture) as that he was out on his surfski & mine hasn't touched the water yet this year. But then that's because Joe is a serious racer (and a REAL writer, if you've read a Canoe & Kayak article about the Molokai race, he probably wrote it) while I am going in this race next weekend pretending I don't care to the point that I'm doing it in my slow boat, ha ha won't this be fun, because I am convinced I have a racing curse.

Why? Because I've gone in 2 serious races on a surfski & both were utter disasters. 1st one I'd trained for, but it was fall & the rudder on the surfski I'd borrowed picked up every leaf & branch it hit. Never knew what was going on either - I'd feel the drag, I'd pull over too see what I'd picked up, and there'd be, like, one blade of eelgrass. I'd start paddling again, the boat would zip nicely for a few minutes, then start dragging again. The finish line was a bridge, and Eric & everybody else was standing on the bridge waiting for me to come in (DFL by like half an hour, I think) - they all saw me coming slogging along, oozing misery & dejection from every pore, burst out laughing, and Eric yelled "YOU'RE DRAGGING A TREE!". And of course the minute I stopped, the water pressure that kept everything fixed tight to the rudder was released & they'd all go fluttering away. That was on the Delaware-Raritan Canal canoe & kayak race.

The other one that made me really decide it was a curse was one I went in in Hawaii one year - Bob Twogood had fixed me up with an Offshore, a nice stable but fast ski - it had gotten blown off a rack & damaged, I'd rented a Scupper Pro in the meantime, but he managed to get it fixed by race day - yay!

Except that I somehow didn't hear about the pre-race meeting where they said all the surfskis were going in the first wave, ended up being a little slow getting on the water as my dad & I improvised a tether (I don't think PFD's were required, but they did require that you be attached to your boat) & was heading out as the first wave went. Didn't realize it was MY wave until the outriggers saw me & starting yelling "THE SURFSKIS ARE GONE!" - I bolted to them all yelling GO GO GOOOO! Actually picked off a couple, too, but then rounding Flat Island, there's a beautiful little surf break...and I'd been surfing the same break the day before in the Scupper Pro sitatop, paddle steering, and without thinking I just twisted, dropped the blade in behind me, and BOOM. Game over dude, you do not paddle steer when surfing on a surfski. Then an outrigger canoe coming on the next wave ran me over. Somehow I failed to be DFL that time but 2 in a row sort of took the wind out of my racing aspirations.

So this time, I'm thinking maybe a fun race in the boat I've been paddling all winter, instead of tempting that curse by getting all competitive & taking my surfski (which I put away for the winter with a not-quite-fixed rudder after bashing it into a sandbar during what turned out to be the last surfski run of the fall, anyways), might be a good way to stick a toe back in that water...

But I'd really like to NOT be DFL, which was the whole point of why I was out on my own on a day when yes, I probably would have been happier with a couple of friends along. Of course the nice thing about Jamaica Bay for borderline paddles like this is that you can make it not so borderline by hugging the shore, which I did. Um, mostly!

Winds were SE. Hugging the shore means heading about due south for the first 3.25 miles, so that leg I seriously had to earn & it was something like work. Hanging a right at the corner of Floyd Bennett, the last 3/4 of a mile were west - that meant a bit of a current & a bit of a surf. Nice break.

I'd originally thought I'd like to head on a ways beyond the bridge, I changed my mind because I didn't much like the looks of this:

Thought it might be smarter to get my solo okole back to the Paerdegat wikiwiki like.

Of course I immediately had to earn back every inch of that 3/4 mile that had been a nice break when I turned around & went the other way. Against the current - not much current in Jamaica Bay compared to what I used to see on the Hudson, but this being the mouth of the bay, this is where you feel it the most.

Got around the corner & then I was dealing with the one condition I find the most annoying in the Romany. In general, compared to a lot of boats, the Romany really shines in a following sea - it loves to surf - but it's also kind of short, with lots of rocker, so it also broaches pretty readily. Paddling the shoreline meant due north w/wind continuing from SE. If you picture the boat on a clock face, with the bow at 12 and the stern at 6, the swells were coming in from about 4:30, which meant all kinds of edging & other labor to keep the boat heading north when it really wanted to swing to the east with every push.

Sticking with that plan was going to be doable, but dull, and I knew that if I just went over towards Ruffle Bar, the waves would be a little more astern & that would be fast & fun.

Well, I was warmed up, I was doing fine, there were people fishing here & there & those clouds hadn't budged, so I finally I gave in to temptation, sprinted across the channel & over closer to Ruffle Bar & woohoo. The surf home was beyoootiful. 2 and a quarter nautical miles plus in just shy of half an hour (average cruising speed of a trained kayaker generally given at 3 knots per hour)

I don't know if the extra leg actually saved me any time, but boy, it was fun! 9 miles & change - a little shorter than I've been doing, but that wind made it a fine workout.

Today was a little more New Yorky. Sadly, the Sebago in-house season opener was today, but I had to miss it -

Had another engagement, it was a tough call but a possible one-time opportunity to see a friend do something cool trumps paddling (even opening day - there will be other great paddles & potlucks at Sebago).

A couple of fun things en route. The event allowed a walk through THIS lovely place - isn't it lovely? You'll never guess where it is ... back in Connecticutt, perhaps? Grand estate on Long Island (pay no attention to the flamingo behind the hydrangea)?

Nope - it's the Liz Christie Garden on 2nd Avenue. I love this garden - came to a party here once on a summer night, and it was all full of fireflies, since then have made sure to spend at least a few minutes here on the rare occasions I'm in this neighborhood in the daytime. I think it was actually one of NYC's first community gardens. I think it's grown, too - I was a little disoriented coming off the subway, we were walking past a new building & I thought the gravel walks & young plantings were just part of that, but then we got to the little sheds that I recognized & I realized where we were.

A few more pictures from the Liz Christy Garden:

I'd read about this in the paper just the other day, so it was fun to see - this is a recreation of a mural that Keith Haring had painted in the area sometime in the 80's, I think it was - the Day-Glo colors he'd used had faded pretty fast & it eventually got painted over, but somebody decided to redo it. The outdoor pool I sometimes swim at in the summertime has a wonderful Haring mural, all dolphins & starfish - I'll have to remember my camera sometime.

And the reason I decided to miss the season opener? My friend Jack, along with classmates of his at a Cooper Union "Writing New York Stories" class, was giving a reading at the Bowery Poetry Club.

Couldn't miss that, and it was great. More tomorrow if work doesn't blow up on me again!

And to close - here's some Lower East Side wisteria.

No comments: