Tuesday, January 20, 2009

MLK Day Snow Paddle

Wow! A puttering around the house day on Saturday, a pool session Sunday, and a Serious Snow Paddle on Monday, TQ's company from Saturday evening on - darned good 3-day weekend.

Trip Report!

Right - so Sunday, as mentioned, TQ & I joined a lot of my clubmates someplace where we didn't have to worry about that pesky ice stuff. About time, too - we were both feeling a little rusty! Yes, I've been rolling - but for me, coldwater rolling is purely about getting the boat rightside up again. I don't mess around with anything but my plain-vanilla works-almost-every-time sweep roll. All the other party tricks get rusty. I wasn't as intense about it as I could've been but it did feel good to get in some warm water & work on some of the stuff I'm not so good at. Got some got pointers, gave some (hopefully) good pointers, shared my boat a bit, and it was fun seeing some of the club folks who don't come out for the outside paddles this time of year.

Next day - I had the day off for Martin Luther King Day (as always, I'll say I always wish we didn't have to have a Martin Luther King Day - especially this year...). I'd made a vague "anybody want to paddle on the 19th" noise on the winter paddler list. Got a couple of "If I didn't have to work" replies; considered re-posting & posting to the Sebago group, but in the end decided against - sometimes it's nice for me & TQ the luxury of getting to the club whenever we feel like it - or not.

Monday, I have to admit that I was having a smidgen of the lazies. 2 days of even half-serious exercise in a row just hasn't happened this winter, best I've been doing is 1 day of exercise, 1 of moderate activity (housework, walks, that sort of thing) - think the body just kinda went "OK, there was our usual Sunday activity, now it's time to be sedentary again". Fortunately TQ was really up for a paddle, so my lethargy went unmentioned & it turned out to be a great snow paddle!

I can't remember if I mentioned why a good snow paddle is such a rare thing on the Seals in the Snow report. Basically a snow paddle requires a triple alignment of 3 things that are completely beyond one's control (unless one has a job which allows for spontaneous vacation days, or is willing to call in with the Arctic Flu - neither of those work for me):
1. It has to be snowing. (well duh!)
2. Conditions must in every other way be as benign as conditions can be in the wintertime. Gently falling snow is pretty. Horizontal snow whipping at you & sandpapering whatever skin you've left exposed? That sort of stuff I'd rather watch out the window.
3. The gently falling snow has to be falling gently on a day when you are free to go paddling. Gently falling snow tomorrow? No use. Gently falling snow yesterday, when I had a day off & my favorite paddling companion to go out with?


We got to the club around 2 in the afternoon. Commodore John had been there in the morning - the shovelled path bore witness to that!

The ice was still all around the dock (which the Commodore also shovelled - I think TQ & I were the only ones who got the benefit).
It was still quite mushy, though. I'd actually checked that before we even took TQ's Sparrowhawk off the roof rack - I didn't think it would've solidified overnight (especially since Sunday got up over freezing during the day), but if it had, there's always the option of cartopping to a put-in with open water (Plumb Beach, where we sometimes put in when we want to go surfing at West Bar, is usually still open for a while after the basin gets locked up). No trouble yesterday, though!

There goes TQ, playing icebreaker. A minute later I realized something that I MUST remember next time I go to a pool session - if I let anybody else use my boat at the pool session, I have to remember to reset the footpegs before I leave! Why? Well, I took this picture, then hopped into my boat. I found the footpegs were a hair short - not bad, but more set for rolling than distance paddling. I went to move them out one notch & discovered that they were frozen in place! I'd knocked some pool water ice out of the boat as I was getting ready - I guess the footpeg tracks had enough moisture on them to lock up! I was lucky that K, who'd used my boat, has legs about the same length as mine. Of course I imagine a careful application of hot tea would've fixed things, but I'd planned to put the tea in me, not in my boat!

As it was, I didn't really need to move 'em, so a minute later I was krshlkrshlkrshling through the slushy ice & we were off down the Paerdegat. There was just enough ice to work through that we both ended up ducking our heads in the water to cool down a bit once we got out - we'd both gone for extra layers for this trip & were actually uncomfortably hot by the time we got to the cleaner water of the bay. Far easier to deal with being too hot than too cold.
The plan was simple - paddle out past the bridge a ways then back. Paddling conditions were really just perfect - look how calm! And right at freezing. We actually got to talking about how if it had been just a few degrees warmer, we probably would've skipped the whole thing. Snow can be nice. Rain can be nice. Icy sleet? Yuck. None of that this day, just a steady light snow.

Nice for paddling. Probably not so nice for these guys, who were working on the bridge. Tough way to earn a living. The only other boats we saw during the day were small commercial fishing boats. We did not envy these folks who were out there because they had to be.
We stopped for hot beverages (I'd brought along a thermos of tea & another of cider), a leg stretch & (believe it or not) a little beachcombing (there's a ton of glass here, really have to watch your step). Didn't spot anything as interesting as some of the things I've found on Ruffle Bar, but then it was a little cold to be digging things out of the wet sand to inspect them!

We paddled on for maybe a mile after this, to the point of land just past Gerritsen Creek. I'd gone from my earlier, slightly lethargic, "don't know if I really want to go paddling but I will 'cause TQ does and I know I'll get into it once I'm on the water" mood to one where I just wanted to keep going. If it had been summertime, I would've wanted to go to Brighton Beach. As it was, I thought of suggesting Plumb Beach (a little under a mile more) as a turnaround, but looked at my watch, found it was 4:15 & came to my senses. TQ & I had seen a couple of fishing boats heading for their harbors & we decided we should do the same.
Snowy bow, pointed for home.

Good call, too. TQ had turned on his light outside the bridge; I put my lights on a little later. It was pretty much dark as we were passing the old hangar at Floyd Bennett Field. The snow kept falling & we started having some fog - the lights on the Canarsie Pier had been visible when it got dark, and we'd been using those to keep ourselves on a course for the basin (we couldn't make out the bridge). Then the pier lights disappeared & we switched to following the lights on the channel marker buoys. We never actually lost sight of the shoreline, but we were using channel markers as guides a lot more than I've ever actually done in a kayak. Sort of reminded me of the delivery trips I used to do, taking the Adirondack up to Albany in the fall, following those red & green lights up the river in the dark (OK, those trips were a lot longer, but we did have snow one time!) If it had gotten much murkier, we would've had to switch to our compasses to keep from going around in circles (there are a couple of stories about Sebago paddlers getting mixed up in the bay when a fog rolls in - the bay is not that big, but I do always feel like the compass I always carry is a good bit more necessary in J-bay than it was when I was paddling the Hudson - Manhattan's a little hard to lose track of!). As it was, the markers led us home just fine - but looking back into the bay was a bit spooky, like looking into nothing. It was very nice to get back into the confines of the Paerdegat & finally back to the club (with some very snowy boats!)

Come on, now, doesn't this just look INCREDIBLY appealing? Like my mom said to me the other day, who needs Waikiki? Yeah, right. Whatevahs.

A fire had been going in the stove when we'd arrived earlier in the day; I'd added a log as we left & although the fire was down to ashes, the clubhouse was still nice & warm. Felt good but was even nicer to get home, finish the hot drinks, take hot showers & have a good dinner.

A good paddle, all in all, just shy of 11 miles at a good steady pace. We were dressed right & had the right gear for what we did; that being said, I usually prefer being in before dark in the winter & I don't think this exception that worked out fine is going to change my mind about that!
Interesting to have done it - but we spent a great deal of the remainder of the evening curled up on the couch watching YouTube videos of people surfing and bodyboarding in Hawaii.
I think we did it as an antidote to that last hour of the day, paddling in the snow in the dark.

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