Monday, August 30, 2010

Packrat Payoff = Swimming Solution! Plus - Why You Should Always Read the Labels On Your Gear.

Tonight's post is a Gear Review, brought to you at the request of my friend Elizabeth at Sex in the Public Square. OK, she only wanted a picture but I'm so excited that I finally figured out a really good use of a piece of gear I've had for ages that I'm gonna write about it too!

Without further ado, I am pleased to prevent - (drumroll) -

The Swim-Purse!

Oops, wait, that's a mermaid's-purse. Easy mistake, right?

ok - HERE is the Swim-Purse.

The item in question is an early version of the SealLine Seal-Pak that was given to me as a birthday gift many years ago by one of the other partners in the kayak company I was involved in at the time.

That must have been...yikes...1999? Because that was the first year of the kayak company at the barge, and she left at the end of it, and I ended up playing a rather uncomfortable role in her departure (I handled a lot of the legal communications, and it wasn't a particularly smooth parting-of-the-ways) & was no longer on her gift-giving list after that (to put it mildly).

I wouldn't even mention that if there wasn't a story of a very near case of karmic payback involved in my keeping & eventually using this. I'll tell that at the end.

Anyways, she gave me this early in the first year. I was still collecting gear at that point (as opposed to replacing it, which is what I do now) and I thought it was very, very neat.

But I was purely kayak-focused at that point, and I assumed that this was supposed to be kayak gear, and guess what - I never, ever ran across a kayaking situation where I thought that an aquatic fanny-pack would be a handy thing to have along! So much storage already - between the pockets on the PFD, deck bungees, and storage hatches, I never found myself looking at a piece of gear & thinking "Why, a little pouch on a belt around my waist would be the PERFECT place for that!"

But although it remained unused, year after year, for some reason I always found it just a little too nifty to give away. It made it past the time in 2002, when I thought I was going to leave NYC after I worked myself out of the temp job I was wrapping up (in the end that temp job led to the one I still have today, so that didn't happen, but I was making a concentrated effort at getting rid of stuff before the editorial director I was working for referred me to the folks who brought me on as full-time staff). It made it through 2003, when I finally got to feeling secure enough in the new job to actually buy the place I have now & moved there (getting rid of MORE stuff in the process). It ended up in the linen closet & there it sat until June of this year.

What happened in June?

I went to the Mermaid Parade!

And we all went SWIMMING afterwards!!

And even though there were six ZILLION other people there, which is one of the things that's always made me tend to stay away from Coney Island in the summertime, IT WAS AWESOME. You know what I hadn't realized? 99.8% of those 6Z people DON'T GO PAST WHERE THEY CAN STAND!

So all you have to do is swim out a little bit deeper -

and there you go! Plenty of space for a person to

"hold their breath and kick their feet
And move their arms around, moved their arms around"

And that reignited the itch to get swimming back into my life (hm, swimmer's itch?) - because I've actually been doing less of it since I moved to Sebago than I ever have. Before I started kayaking, I did a lot of lap-swimming in pools. Once I started kayaking & keeping boats at the barge, I'd jump off the dock for a swim all the time. Even got inspired to do a couple of 1-mile open water swims as a swimmer during a time when I was doing a lot of swim race kayak support, and found that I really enjoyed those!

Unfortunately, one of the few drawbacks I've found in comparing Sebago to Pier 63 is that at Sebago, jumping off the dock for a swim would be kind of gross. The Paerdegat is polluted. It won't kill you to fall in but you really don't want to. Things improve out in the bay, and I'll sometimes splash around in the water a bit during lunch breaks out there -- and my fellow paddlers sometimes laugh at my tendency to go float around in my drysuit & lifejacket like a big old magenta-and-yellow sea otter in the wintertime. Real swimming, though? Hardly any. A little at the lake but I didn't make it up there at all last year & this year's going the same way.

The idea of really starting to use Coney Island as a swimming venue had always had 2 major obstacles, in my mind. "Too many people" was one. With that more or less out of the way, I started really thinking about the other one - which was how to keep my stuff from being stolen while I swam if I went on my own (and asking friends to go when you know perfectly well you just want them to go to watch your bag while you go off & play Flipper for an hour is just not right). Besides Coney Island swimming seeming like it would make a nicer addition to my exercise than I'd ever thought, this was also going to be an issue during my trip to Hawaii - and with that added impetus, suddenly I realized that I'd had the perfect solution sitting in the linen closet the whole time! Actually I wasn't even positive that I still had it, but after a little digging (it had migrated to the very back of the shelf, of course) I found it. Perfect! Of all the items in her purse, what does a woman need for a trip to the beach that would matter if they disappeared while she was swimming? Not a whole lot! Keys. A little cash. A piece of ID (just in case, y'know), and here in NY, a MetroCard (subway fare card). Maybe a bank card, for the cheerier just-in-case scenarios like "Just in case I'm suddenly overwhelmed with a craving for blini & borscht on the Brighton Beach Boardwalk" - oh yeah, and for me, the camera!

All that, of course, fits in the Aqua-pak just fine. So I was half right all those years - it IS a nifty piece of gear. I had just been wrong in mistaking it for kayak gear, when it really shines as a Swim Purse!

Shines? Well...mostly! Time to wrap up with the story of my close brush with a karmic boomerang coming back to bonk me on the bean. I find there's something guilt-inducing about keeping a gift that was given to me by someone with whom I ended up not being on good terms down the road. So what almost happened with the bag in some way felt like a strangely appropriate payback for keeping the bag instead of doing something guilt-relieving with it, like donating it bag to a silent auction at a kayak event or something.

Especially since it was totally avoidable if I'd just used my head (and my eyes)!

There's that thing they say about ASSUME, right? Makes an ASS of U & ME both? Well, in this case I was the only ass, but it was still a good lesson to keep in mind & follows a good basic rule of kayaking (or any gear-reliant sport).

When you have a new piece of gear, and you are assuming that it's going to do something, and it's going to be really bad if it doesn't do what you want it to do - you should test it out in a non-crucial situation first.

Or at least read the stupid label, stupid.

I didn't read it. I didn't test it. I just made an assumption. Looks like a drybag. Closes like a drybag. Manufactured by a a drybag manufacturer. Must be a drybag, right?

So what was my first planned use EVER for the bag which I assumed to be dry?

I was going to drive the Mustang to Pupukea. I was going to lock almost everything in the Mustang. And then I was going to put the key for the Mustang in the bag. And then I was going to go snorkeling.

Did you know that Mustangs don't come with key holes anymore?

They open electronically.

With the electronic key fob.

heh heh heh.

And in Hawaii, the Hertz cars don't yet feature that nifty thing where they can open them by remote control signals from a Satellite. Nope. They have to send you the spare key which they have at the airport location. They send it to you by cab. You pay the cabbie for the drive.

Shark's Cove is about as far as you can get from the airport as you can get without leaving the island.

The good thing about that was that at least I still got in a nice relaxed hour of snorkeling while I waited for the cab.

Yup, by a positively magical stroke of sheer dumb luck, I managed to completely forestall the end-of-the-snorkelling-day disaster by locking the key in the trunk before I'd even set foot in the water.

Way to dodge THAT karmic boomerang, huh?

And of course, I'm happy to report that the first test of the Swim Purse as a means of leaving nothing worth stealing on the beach while going off for a good long swim at Coney Island worked out just GREAT! I just made sure I didn't take anything that can't take a good soaking & it was all good!

Who knows...maybe if I start doing that a little more, maybe by next year I could join my friends at CIBBOWS for a race - as a swimmer!


Carol Anne said...

The one that I have actually IS a miniature dry-bag, and it has flotation sufficient for a cell phone, a small wallet, and a small key ring -- the picture on the package showed it with a that combination. However, it's an awkward shape, and it doesn't have a belt or strap of any sort, so it would be useless while swimming, unless you're really good at swimming one-handed. It's more designed to protect things in a small boat that might capsize or get a lot of water washing over it.

Di said...

Dave has a small drybag too - I forget who makes it, but it's perfect. Especially for glasses!

He's stuck, however, when he wants to bring the Big Camera to the beach.

bonnie said...

I did a little more looking on the internet & there are definitely the same sort of thing out there that are watertight. For mine, if I were to repeat the Hawaii trip, or do another trip where swimming & a I'd just get an extra little waterproof box or bag to take care of the electronic key issue.

I just can't believe I just assumed that it would be OK!

When I discovered the bag wasn't waterproof, after my nice hour of snorkelling while the driver brought me the key, I really was relieved. Seems I was just fated to be locked out of the Mustang that day & drop a whole lot of cash getting back in - but I preferred having the stress at the beginning of the day, when there was all sorts of time to sort things out (with some invaluable assistance rendered by the gentlemen at the surf shop across the highway, who were absolutely great about letting me use their phone & hang out waiting for calls back while the Hertz assistance guy on the mainland made his own calls sorting things out for me), and then go snorkelling knowing help would be there in an hour or so.

Don said...

The seal pak page you linked to says "watertight protection" in bold type but the fine type description of watertight #2 is that it will withstand quick submersion.

Pandabonium said...

Glad you found a use for this. For snorkeling, I used to use a heavy ziplock bag and put in my pocket (something men's swimsuits usually have). In the boat we have plastic food containers that have four snap down fasteners for the lid and are water proof. They are attached to the boat with suction cups and an a short bit of line - in case of capsize.

Have fun swimming again.

clairesgarden said...

nice bit of kit. glad it finally made it out into the salt water.
elctronic key fobs....hmmm.....a bit technological....I have locked myself out of my car on many has a does not have central locking, so you can lock the drivers door, go round to the passenger side to lift out your stuff, decide its too hot and take your jacket off to leave in the car, push the locky thingy on the inside of the door and slam the door shut.

Reverend Shari said...

Nice Loudon Wainwright!

bonnie said...

Ha! I actually had no idea who wrote that swimming song. Have heard a couple of renditions & it got to running through my head when I was writing the post.