Thursday, July 10, 2008

Sunday, 7/6/08 - Around Canarsie Pol & out to Ruffle Bar

The original weekend plan - Thursday evening & Friday up with TQ in CT. Saturday, a longer paddle. Sunday, I'd been asking around for somebody to go sailing with - until an email popped up from a clubmate J., looking for a trip leader who would be interested in paddling with her & her friend M., who was interested in seeing the bay.

She had me when she mentioned that M. works for the Bronx River Alliance. I've thought that was the most amazing group ever since being totally amazed at the amazingly well-named Amazing Bronx River Flotilla. Those people are all too cool. Didn't think twice, said "I'd LOVE to!". Prof. M decided to join us. J. was the officer of the day in the morning (our agreement with the parks department states that the grounds must be open to the public during summer weekends, so someone has to be there to answer questions & generally keep an eye on things), so our launch time was a civilized 2-ish.

Sunday was one of those quiet gray days out there. There was a chance of thunderstorms in the afternoon. There's always a chance of thunderstorms in the afternoon. If you only paddled when there wasn't, you'd never paddle at all in the summertime.

You do have to respect that "chance of", though. Right before we launched, we checked. I pulled out my VHF. Prof. M. pulled out her Treo. OK, the moderner technology won, I was still listening to conditions in Central Park as she wrapped up her update & put the Treo away. Still just chances of thunderstorms for the next few hours - good, it's a go. We all had something to wrap up in if we had to wait something out, and we agreed that sticking close to shore was a good idea.

We decided to start out around Canarsie Pol. Prof. M's great to paddle with, she's an avid birder & can actually tell you which kind of tern or gull or other shorebird you're watching - going around the Pol with her is an extra treat, since the islands in the bay are all favorite hangouts for all sorts of birds.

It was quiet out there. Not a lot of boats. We traveled the north shore of Canarsie Pol, watching the weather as we went. Not a rumble. The sky was gloomy but stable. We passed the osprey's nest, rounded the tip of the Pol, and aw, there's Ruffle Bar. Let's go to Ruffle Bar.

We went to Ruffle Bar. It had rained hard the night before. We passed through the foulest-smelling murky plume of sewage outfall as we crossed the Pumpkin Patch Channel - no idea where it came from out there in the middle of the bay but it was awful. Ugh. Well, our guest might as well see the bad with the good. I hadn't planned to roll anyways since there are always water quality issues after heavy rains. I was glad I'd stuck with it.

We got through it quickly, though, and by the time we got to the bar, the water & air had cleared. So strange how localized that thing was - probably following the ebb out the channel.

We landed on the north side. I said that the best beachcombing was on the other side of the island (there used to be a casino, I think it was, on Ruffle Bar - that's gone but there's all sorts of old bottles & stuff), but we were having a nice leisurely paddle & I think by this point the Prof. had us focused more on birds than bottles - so we stopped, and went for a nice long stroll on the beach, birdwatching all the way.

We saw birds & the tiny black snails that pepper the shorelines, we watched tiny fish scrambling to not be left high & dry as the water ebbed fast from the beach. We wondered about discolored upwellings in the sand. I startled a large & handsome garter snake. We watched hermit crabs. I told about playing a mildly mean child's game with them in Hawaii -- I loved taking them out of their tidepool homes, setting them down a short distance away, and watching them unerringly find their way home.

And as usual, we watched the horseshoe crabs.

I can't remember which of the other 3 finally made the connection between the discolored upwellings and the horseshoe crabs.

It seems that when they are trapped on shore by the outgoing tide - they dig in to wait for the water's return.

Many don't make it. Their domed remains litter the sands.

The tiny black snails are carnivorous. Clamshells and crab shells that the seagulls had abandoned as picked clean were thick with them, for whom the leavings of the gulls must have been a feast.

Other things buried in the sand -

An old boat or barge, just stubs of ribs now.

And for all I had dismissed the side on which we landed as having sparse beachcombing pickings, I found the best bottle I've found yet.

We paddled home after that, working up a good appetite keeping our boats tracking straight in a following sea. J. told a story about a man she once saw eating plate after plate of mussels at Nick's Lobster and Fish Market Dock, a Brooklyn classic in Mill Basin.

Of course that was where we ended up having dinner. Even though we had to finish paddling & drive there. 'Cause guess what -

Nick's Lobster and Fish Market Dock has lobster. Nick's Lobster and Fish Market Dock has a fish market.

What Nick's Lobster and Fish Market Dock does not have is a dock!

They used to - but for some reason, not any more. They should. The kayakers would come in droves.

But they had beer, and fantastic calamari, and steamed littleneck clams & lobster sandwiches, and there's something to be said for dining in clean dry clothes with your boat-washing-and-putting-away all finished. A perfect end to a perfect day.

cross posted at the Sebago Canoe Club blog

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