Thursday, June 28, 2012

My Beautiful Baltic Adventure, Part 1: Getting There (is NOT half the fun).

Note later...ok, that's a slightly cranky-sounding title, isn't it? Fact was, though, for an overseas flight, it wasn't that bad; there was one major glitch caused by a passenger not turning up when he was supposed to, which led to a missed flight and luggage that didn't turn up until the next day - but the staff on my flight and on the ground actually did an excellent job of sorting things out to get me to Tallinn without too much additional hassle, my habit of packing my carry-on to cover for a day's delay of the checked baggage kept the late luggage from being a hassle & all in all, it wasn't half the fun but it oh so easily could've been worse. A friend just got back from an overseas trip of her own and had a much worse story - she also was on a flight with a person who decided that he did not really want to be on that flight after all, only instead of just not getting on in the first place, he stood up and went to collect his carry-on just as the plane was 2nd in line from taking off...yeesh!

That being said, I was rather meanly delighted when was I was in either CDG or Helsinki when they publicly shamed
someone who pulled the same stunt - over the PA, in 2 different languages, "Joe So-and-so, Joe So-and-so, you should be on board your plane right now, you are inconveniencing your fellow passengers and if you are not in your seat in 5 minutes your luggage will be removed from the aircraft". I hope they were doing that in JFK too. I wouldn't know, I was on the plane!

Well, once we were sailing, getting there became half the fun. But to begin with, of course, there's this:

Thursday, June 14th. Lovely sunset going on out there over the snippets of Jamaica Bay that I can see from the gate. Bet some of my friends are out enjoying it. Me, I'm waiting to board Air France Flight 11, scheduled to depart for Paris at 9:55. There she is. Pretty bird!
Actually I kind of liked this evening start. I'm SO not a morning person, I always have to have myself all packed up the night before, I end up being up 'til 3 am obsessing over my packing, and then I sleep the 3 hours until the car service calls with my eyes half open - this was actually really civilized, I packed the night before, I got up at the usual time, I went to work, attended the meeting I had to attend and then packed it in there and headed home, where I had a nice comfy couple of hours to romance the packing-up a little more, clean out the fridge, water the plants and generally breathe a bit (and start in on Fahrenheit 451, combination trip reading part 1/homage to Ray Bradbury) before the car service came. Nice. No problem checking in, dropped off the giant dufflebag at the x-ray stand, went on in to the gates, found some not-half-bad Chinese-style noodle soup with roast pork for dinner and was at my gate with all sorts of time.

Unfortunately somebody else didn't have things quite as well under control - the boarding process went off right on schedule but some chucklehead decided not to board. We waited for said chucklehead for a good 45 minutes, I think - then they had to find chucklehead's luggage to take off the plane and that's how our 9:55 flight became a 10:55 flight.

Which was an issue given that my connection in Paris had started out as a one hour 10 minute one - landing at 11:10, flight to Helsinki at 12:20 Ooops.

Oh well. I tend to be a bit crazy when I'm getting ready for a trip - but when the car service turns up, I can finally calm down and let things go. Anything I have I have, anything I've forgotten I'll just do without, and the minute the phone rings to tell me the car's downstairs, whatever happens, happens.

Good thing, too. We touched down in Paris right about the time I was supposed to be boarding. I knew I wasn't catching that plane. I asked one of our flight attendants what I'd need to do, she told me to visit the Transfer counter to get another flight, which I did I did, letting anyone who still had a shot at catching their flight go first before I went up to the counter. At first the young lady who was helping me out was having a hard time finding a good connection. I didn't come right out and say it but thoughts of having an evening to visit Paris started dancing in my head - it would be inconvenient but heck, I've never been to Paris so that would not have been such a terrible thing!

However, the young lady called over the young man at the next desk as soon as he'd finished with his other clients, they started clicking through things and pointing at various possibilities and speaking French very rapidly, but I understood just enough to realize that I wasn't getting a night in Paris, which was ALSO fine.

I had to go to Finnair to get my boarding passes; I was warned there that my connection in Helsinki was technically doable but only because Helsinki is a small airport - no guarantees but worth a shot. I was also told that the flight from Helsinki to Tallinn was possible the shortest flight on the planet and that the front end of the plane would be landing while the back end was still taking off.

Got my boarding passes, was warned that there was some chance that my checked bag wouldn't make the connection, found an internet terminal where I sent my friends a message that I'd be in closer to 9 so they wouldn't be stuck at the hotel waiting for me, and then went to the gate for the Helsinki flight.

And here's Finland -

and I kind of liked that because it reminded me of a picture that had been posted in the Wikipedia article about the Estonian flag proposing a winter forest as a possible inspiration of the Estonian blue, black and white - just imagine a little snow on the tarmac, right?

The flight to Helsinki had actually had a good tailwind so we got in half an hour early or so, so I had a little time to start getting into my proper silly American tourist role - I bought a curious-looking chocolate at a coffee stand, a big bell-shaped thing that turned out to be a thin shell of rather nice chocolate filled with a fluffy cream (yummy), I went looking for the reindeer jerky I'd jokingly promised TQ I'd bring him, I didn't find that but I bought some dried reindeer soup mix which we're going to have for dinner tomorrow night ("I'll bring the potage de Rudolph", I said and I am sorely tempted to go buy some little jingle bells and put them in the pouch as a joke - seriously, though, it sounds really interesting, it's called "Porokeitto" and in addition to reindeer meat it's got potato, barley, onion, carrots, leeks, lovage, nettle, and savory - sounds good, right?), and then I just couldn't resist taking pictures of these candies...we're, like, soooo totally not in Kansas anymore! OK, so you can buy Moose Droppings-type chocolate candies in any cutesy gift shop in Maine, but can you imagine mule balls candy in a vending machine in this country? The "lady" counterpart is pretty funny too. 

On to my flight, then...oh, wait, no, that's not my flight...

there's my flight, shortest flight on the planet is a puddlejumper of course - 

but what a puddle. Oh my. I'm already being blown away here by the amazing Finnish coastline. If you'd told me that I was looking dpwm at 2 of our stops (Pihlajasaari, just below the frame, and Suomenlinna, right in the mouth of the harbor, there's a red-hulled boat with a white superstructure steaming past it which you might be able to spot if you click on the picture for detail) I would have caused an international incident by leaping up and doing a little happy dance in the aisle - fortunately nobody told me - 

and we flew on to Estonia - 

And here we are at the Tallinn airport - unfortunately my big bag didn't make it and pretty soon I found out it was still in Paris, but the folks in the baggage claim area said that it would be there by early in the morning and they'd make sure it got to my hotel, and it was, and they did, so that was all fine 

And this has really nothing to do with my trip except that, like the mule-ball candies, it caught my eye - friends who are parents of small children, doesn't it seem like every airport in the world should have a place like this???  Children must be so much happier when they get on the plane if they get to wait in a place like this. Just lovely.
And speaking of just lovely - a five-euro van ride later, here's Captain Kat saying "Welcome to the Old City of Tallinn!" Hooray!


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Map's done -- or should I say "finnished" before anybody else beats me to the pun?

At the request of a friend, I spent my lunch hour finishing up with the Google map of the trip. Wish that Google map had some feature on a multi-leg map like this where when you click on the description of a leg, that leg would light up somehow, instead of just giving you a little pointer that maybe points somewhere where several lines run together, but hopefully you'll be able to more or less sort out the route. What might help would be clicking on the overnight points - those I know are right and if you click them in order you can probably then sort out the legs that run between them.

I did indulge in one little cartographical joke in Suomenlinna Harbor, which doesn't look anything at all like Park Slope, Brooklyn, but sure felt like it for a while - zoom way way in on Suomenlinna to see that.

Again, this is not accurate, I'd need Finnish charts to retrace our routes through all those amazing islands (incredible!) but it's at least a decent overview.

Click here to visit.

According to this we logged somewhere around 180 miles. I'll have an idea how close I got to right when I get home tonight, I jotted down Capt. Kat's estimates while she and F. worked on their more official log (F. had a US Sailing Association logbook that I rather loved, wonder if the ACA would ever consider something like that, it was cool, stickers for classes, and then lots of room for logging trips...) in my own little journal. If Kat's numbers add up to anywhere close to that, that means that although I may not have drawn our courses in exactly the right place, I wasn't too far off. I'll be very curious to see that myself.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Gulf of Finland - Photos for Friends

OK, I'm a little bit late for the party known as Tillerman's Photography for Bloggers 101 group writing challenge, but as I have been sorting through my 300+ pictures (auuugh!) from Estonia and Finland, I realized that I might have another hint for what makes blog photography fun for me. I never thought that this blog would last as long as it has. None of the diaries (yes, plural, there were repeated tries) that I started as a kid ever lasted more than a month. Many blogs end up having similarly short lifespans, and I sort of expected this one would too - but I hadn't taken into account the sociability factor that you get once you've found a nice spot in a circle of like-minded bloggers.

Funny how a bunch of people that you've maybe never met in person get to feel like friends, but they do (or if you're one of the usual suspects, YOU did -- hopefully you all know who you are even if I don't happen to call you out in this post!). And a lot of times, even if I don't specify it, I take a picture and post it here because I look at something and think "Oh, so-and-so would get a kick out of that".
Here are a BUNCH of cases in point (as usual, click on any picture for more detail).

The dinner picture above, from my first night in Tallinn? Who would I have been thinking of when I took that (and a number of other food pix which I'll inflict on everyone in due course) but Food Industry Professional Baydog?

Also from my first night in Estonia - this one was for archer extraodinaire Fuu. I'm not so extraordinaire but the arrows did actually start hitting the target by the 5th of 10 shots and moved steadily centerward from there. Haven't done this since the summer I worked as a camp counselor after my senior year in high school, but the camp had an archery range and on my free afternoons I would sometimes go do a bit of shooting for fun and it was fun to try it again.

Flemish coils of course remind me of the former "unblogger" Oh Docker - (thank goodness Blogger has relented on their temporary decision that he was a spammer - careful what you say about Marmite, everyone!)

and the same coil drying out in the sun after the storm passed through reminded me of a very old post featuring a Rhode Island weather report as given by a wild rose, with which the Peconic Puffin had been quite taken.

This didn't remind me of a blogger, but of my friend Joe Glickman, who has been after me to read his book about Freya Hoffmeister - Joe, my goodness, you didn't have to pay these people to remind me all the way up in Estonia, but I promise you your book is the next one I buy (even if I have to break down and get it from amazon!!!!).

I expect that my photos of the oldest operating drydock in the world (built beginning in 1740 if I'm recalling correctly, on the fascinating island of Suomenlinna, Helsinki Harbor) will be enjoyed by both Tugster (note the people for scale, I was trying for a Tugsteresque touch there) and Captain JP, who I unfortunately just missed there in Finland!

Antique telegraphs always remind me of the sort of details that the Bowsprite illustrates so lovingly.

Getting ready to wrap up -- this one's for the woodworkers and boatbuilders -- Doryman, Jimbo, Bob Easton, anyone else I've missed in that area and also Canoe-Building Uncle up in Jonesville (he doesn't blog but he would love all the lovely wooden boats in Suomenlinna so I was totally thinking of him too).

Here's some foiling Moth action in Helsinki Harbor for all the dinghy sailors out there - too many to list, sorry, and this is just a tease btw, I'm saving the GOOD one for the trip report for that day!

and here's one to get all my kayak friends dreaming.

Thanks to all the friends who inspired these. I don't always spell it out quite as specifically - but if you ever see a picture here that particularly appeals to you, there's a fairly good chance that that's not an accident.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Gulf of Finland - A Quick Trip Overview

I started working on a map of the trip - have to drop it to run into the city for dinner with some old friends from college (yay) but here are the 1st two day's sails and all our overnight stops.

The sailing routes are estimates, Google Maps doesn't have navigation aids; I need to find the Porkalla light to make sure Day 2 is right. Also need to figure out where is the place in Finland where I make sandwiches, but at least this gives you the general outline!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

A few preliminary pictures from Estonia and Finland

 Monday - Gulf of Finland, en route from Tallinn to Porkalla, Finland

Dinner at Von Krahli Aed restaurant, first night in Tallinn - smoked fish plate, cold cucumber-mint soup and a nice Riesling - a perfect light meal after a long, long flight.


Our Estonian flag

The Wesilind in Elisaari (possibly the most beautiful of our overnight spots)

6/20 - en route to Pihlajassari

Barnacle geese on Pihlajassari

The bow of Kikka3, our neighbor on the dock at  Pihlajassari, with her birch bough decoration for Midsummer's Eve - and a late arrival (this would probably be around midnight, the sun did set but it never got entirely dark).

Salty dog!

Beautiful wooden boats on Suomenlinna

Many more to come - I've just begun looking through my pictures. What a beautiful place for a summer sailing adventure!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Tere from Tallinn!

1st night in Estonia! Keyboards have umläuts here. Luggage not here yet due to JFK flight leaving late, but luggage did make it to France & should be here soon. Tonight's fun - A little archery and a wonderful dinner (cold cucumber soup, smoked fish plate & a nice Riesling) and walk in the Old City section of Tallinn. Twilight at midnight! Now shower & bed. Boat intro in the AM!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Oh, did I mention what I'm DOING in Estonia?

I'm Going Sailing! :D

More Amazing Estonian Song

Two more... "Tuljak"

I found the link through the suggestions at the end of the Estonian National Anthem. Glorious. I went looking for a translation and found a translation plus a fascinating mention of the role song has played in Estonian history on a website called All Around This World:

Country: Estonia Language: Estonian Lyrics: Everybody come together, everyone in town's invited We are going to have a wedding, it will be today. Wedding, yes we'll have a wedding, everyone in town's invited We are going to have a wedding, it will be today.

Hõissa ja trallalla!

Tõnni's going to marry Manni and we're going to have a party Eat and eat and eat and then we're going to eat some more Look at them they are so happy, in their eyes the sun is shining Their whole world is beaming brightly.... Everybody dance!

Hõissa ja trallalla!

More info: An Estonian folk song that joyfully celebrates a wedding. Estonians love to sing, and they especially love to sing in public...As documented in The Singing Revolution, public singing played a crucial role in enabling a peaceful transition of power in the late '80s/early '90s as Estonia became independent from Soviet rule.
And here is the trailer for The Singing Revolution. I wish I had time to watch this before I go -- but even a visit to was an amazing crash course in the history of the country I'll be visiting very, very soon. I can't wait.

The National Anthem of Estonia (Eesti Hümn)

It's very late, I'm very tired, I still have a few things left on the to-do list before I'm ready to go, but yes, yes, I am getting excited!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

"I feel happy!"

Got a nice surprise on Sunday night when I discovered that the Pentax Optio W80 that I'd listed as the latest of a string of deceased point-and-shoots wasn't dead yet!

I was going to go get another one soon, but I ran across the battery (which I'd taken out after the camera had malfunctioned during the Sandy Hook adventure weekend before last) while I was digging for something in my backpack & since I had it in hand I figured "Well, I might as well give it one more try - probably won't work but it's had a week to dry out".

It worked!

Water had clearly gotten into the battery compartment sometime during the hairier section of the swim, the viewscreen wasn't working at all that day. I think that I will assume that it's not completely waterproof until I can send it to the Pentax repair center for gasket replacement - but I think I have at least have a pocket-sized point-and-shoot that can stand up to a rainy day in Estonia when I might want to leave the Lumix down below!

ps - hat tip to My2Fish for inspiring today's title with his comment on the "BRING OUT YER DEAD" post!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Lewis Colam arrives tomorrow, June 12th!

OK, I have a million things to do today but I just can't resist another post about Lewis Colam!

According to his IAmFine Challenge Updates SPOT tracking device, he's at Sandy Hook. I am sort of glad to see that because the Intra Coastal Waterway runs out about 20 miles before you get to New York Harbor, and tomorrow's marine forecast didn't look so hot for an open-ocean row. Technically he could row on in today but his scheduled arrival is for 2 pm tomorrow at the Intrepid and I would expect that he'll hold off until then - maybe do some sightseeing at Sandy Hook. I'm very bummed out that I still can't make it (getting too close to my own departure for Estonia to spare the afternoon) but at least I can post about it - maybe some of my North River based friends can make it out to say hello, it's hard to collect a flotilla on a weekday but even a few would be fun (and maybe good press if there was a nice photogenic crew of small craft bringing him in)!

It's been quite an adventure; I've been following him since the Bowsprite sent out a Huffington Post article about him. That article ended up making him sound like a bit of an airhead, heading out without a clue, but he had gotten some pre-trip mentoring from Bill Larson at Little River Marine. Larson is a former Master Nationals Medalist in rowing and his boatbuilding company specializes in what he calls "adventure rowing craft", think the guy knows what he's doing & probably set Louis up with quite a bit of pre-trip planning help, as well as a couple of days of pre-trip training with the boat. The media, of course, LOVES the "never rowed a boat before" aspect so that all sort of got glossed over, but it seemed to me like he wasn't quite just leaping off into the unknown the way that article made it sound.

The learning curve was still pretty steep. He had some terrible headwinds the first week but toughed those out in admirable fashion, he showed he had some good common sense by making a couple of very good judgement calls early (one involving a tanker, one involving an open-water crossing), he NEVER went out to sea to avoid the alligators (Huffington Post claim, I suspect he was joking but they made it sound like it was actually part of his trip planning - in reality the entire trip was within the relative shelter of the Intracoastal Waterway and I'd bet that had been his plan all along) and all in all it sounds like his first rowing trip ended up being a good one. It never sounded like it quite got easy, but he seemed to have a good time meeting people and seeing the East Coast, and he's raised quite a bit of money for Alzheimer's research in the process.

I added a bit this morning, as I'd been planning to do for a while. I figured it was the least I could do after getting so much enjoyment from his podcasts during March and April, when my department traditionally ends up working very long hours prepping for the next fiscal year. A little 5-minute adventure break was always a great pick-me-up!

Podcasts and the SPOT chart are available at the first link I posted; beyond that, Facebook seems to be the place where arrival updates are being posted with the most regularity. visit Click here to visit that page. Note added later - Oh, right, he's twittering too - I don't twit myself so I always forget that!

Note on Monday, June 11th, 4:45 PM - OK, the "official" landing is still apparently tomorrow at 2 pm on the Intrepid, but about 2 hours ago, Lewis posted on Facebook "Day 100 - passed under the Verrazano today. " In my book, he's done!

Saturday, June 09, 2012


A Hint for Waterblog Photography...

Cameras are replaceable. R.I.P., W80...(sniff) This has been a very quick entry in Tillerman's Photography for Bloggers 101.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Lunchtime Late Links

And as long as I'm catching up with things I've been meaning to do (SO glad to have gotten the annual Ways To Get On The Water post up!), might as well get up a couple of links I've been meaning to share for a while. Blogging's going to get a bit spotty here for a while - I've got good plans for tonight and both days this weekend, my sailing vacation in Estonia is coming up unbelievably fast, I just accidentally lost myself the packing & prep day I was going to take the day that I leave by scheduling a meeting that needs to happen at 2:00 in the afternoon that day - I'm a key participant & although I thought about rescheduling for about 5 seconds when I realized what I'd done, I decided to just stick with it, my flight's not until late and it's a very tricky group of people to collect, so it's all good, except that now I'm feeling very, very pressed for time.

Have enough time here on lunch to share a few links I've been wanting to share, though - month-end close is over & it's quiet now, desk-cleaning time, but first:

Firstup - the link that made me want to do a link post - Capri's writeup on Saturday's adventure, now up on the CIBBOWS blog, Salty Tales. A really excellent writeup.

Next - blogroll updates that I'll probably do when I'm back, but would like to share now...make new friends, but keep the old, we used to sing in Girl Scouts -

New friends:

1. Gianmaria and Claire are a young couple who live here in NY who've decided that the summer of 2012 is the summer they learn to sail. A lot of my kayaker friends and I actually got to meet them when they showed up at the Blue Drinks last month - I didn't actually get to talk to them much but they seemed very nice! They introduce themselves on their first post on The Sun Over the Yardarm. I'll be following (and envying...they're in the BVI's now!!!).

2. The Knitting Sailor...ok, actually I don't think I've said so much as "Howzit?" on her comments so "friend" is a stretch, but she's absolutely lovely. The Knitting Sailor - a Tillerman find. (ps - Tillerman, I haven't got time for essaying an essay right now but I think I will have a photographic entry for your Photography For Bloggers 101 group writing project. Nearly took it the other day but there's an errand I have to run first. Part of the prep for the Estonian trip, woohoo...)

Old friends: Way back when when I started this blog, I went looking for kayak blogs.

I didn't find many.

I found a lot of paddling blogs, but they were a different kind of paddling, if you get my drift (heh heh). After a little more hunting, though, I did find 2 - Kayak Quixotica (then known as Kayak Wisconsin), by Derrick Mayoleth, and On Kayaks, by the dashing Ignacio Wenley Palacios. They were some of the first blogs on my blogroll - but when Google Chrome delivered the coup de grace to the Blogrolling service by blocking users from looking at any blogs using the service, I had to rebuild the entire blogroll. I've always had a feeling that I'd never quite collected the entire original gang, but I was quite shocked recently to discover that I'd left these 2 off! They'll be back on soon. Sorry, gentlemen!

Finishing off with a couple of good books -

1. Kevin Stiegelmaier's Paddling Long Island and New York City. Some Sebago friends and I took Kevin out for a trip in Jamaica Bay as part of his research for this book and it published this Spring. I've mentioned him a few times in the last couple of months, but I don't think I ever quite reviewed it after he sent me a signed copy - I will probably try to when I get back but in the meantime, it looks like a really good resource for any paddler in the Long Island area - his writeups are very informative, I actually learned a couple of interesting facts about Jamaica Bay from his writeup of our trip (like I always knew J-bay wasn't named after Jamaica, but I could never remember what Native American word it WAS named after - it's "jameco", beaver), and he gives great little nutshell ratings with length, skill levels, time of the year, ease of rescue, and even scenicness! Good stuff.

2. One of the fun things about blogging is that every now and then somebody just sends you a book. I would like to thank Sarah Russo at Sarah Russo Publicity for sending me the new Pegasus Press edition of Justin Scott's The Shipkiller. Holy crap. Giant tankers that people down without even noticing. Giant waves that treat your 36-foot keelboat like a sugar-crazed toddler treats a bathtub toy. Sails that shred themselves in one wayward gust of wind. losing your mind sitting in the doldrums...all the things that have always made me find the idea of open ocean cruising kind of scary and keep me happy with my near shore and in shore boating existence are in this tale of one man's quest for revenge on a soulless behemoth (nope, not Moby Dick, although the comparison came up in pretty much every review that popped up when I googled for the publisher). Sea snakes and evil spies, too, just for good measure. Yep. Excellent read, I couldn't put it down.

Although maybe I should've waited until AFTER my Estonian adventure to read such a scary sailing book. Brrrr.

PS - I link to Amazon but it's always lovely to support your local independent bookseller!

PPS - Feeling terrible, haven't read my friend Joe Glickman's Fearless yet! Thought I'd be able to get a copy from Randy, that fell through, thought I'd be able to get a copy from him at the Open House but was out leading trips all afternoon, I don't think I even saw him - soon, though, I swear! cheeee!

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

25+ Ways to Get On The Water In NYC Without Having Your Own Boat

Wait...what...Memorial Day was when??? A week and a half ago, you say? Eeek, I'm late for my annual update of "25 Ways to Get On The Water Without Owning Your Own Boat"! Amy at NewYorkOlogy had once again asked me if I was going to update this, and I said yes, absolutely, and then proceeded to not do it. So yeah, it's now PAST high time to update what was probably one of the more useful posts I've ever done here - 24 Ways To Get On The Water In NYC (And Environs) Without Owning Your Own Boat. This was originally done back in 2009, in response to a Proper Course Group Writing Project, "Lists". Last year's edit was a little depressing because I had to take off a couple of old favorites - this year I'm a lot more gleeful because this year, the edits are ADDITIONS. I'm going to put them right up at the top here! Oh, and don't worry, I get a lot less wordy after I finish with the new ones.

OK, enough preamble - let's start things off with the best - I'm absolutely tickled to restore the schooner Pioneer, right here at the top of the list!

Built in 1885 as a no-nonsense freight schooner, she spent her long working life hauling cargo on the Delaware River, and upon retirement was lucky enough to be acquired for the fleet at the South Street Seaport museum, where she embarked upon a genteel second act carrying passengers out for summer sailing, staffed by a licensed captain and an eager crew of volunteers. The experience was a little more basic than the posher yacht-like experience offered by the other schooners I'll mention later in the list (no champagne, no cushioned seats, no uniformed crew), but it was always great to see this handsome old vessel out there in the harbor. Luck seemed to run out for her and the rest of the South Street Seaport Museum Fleet last year, when the mismanaged, fiscally depleted museum closed her doors in March, but early this year the Museum of the City of New York rode to at least an interim rescue, and by this Spring, the Pioneer had been spotted on her first shakedown sail of the season. I guess all went well, because she's open for business! Welcome back - SO nice to see you again!
From A Schooner, Two Kayaks and a Yellow Submarine: The Boats Of Labor Day Weekend 2010

My other addition is actually a new and different kind of kayaking option than I've ever been able to list before, and kind of a nice one. NYC's "Sixth Boro" is mostly a very tough environment for paddlers, and up until now, the options that I've listed have always been either free programs where you get to go out for a set amount of time (ranging from a couple of hours at my club, Sebago, where we take you out to see a bit of the bay, to twenty minutes between piers at a number of more centrally-located not-for-profit groups, great for folks who really just want to try this strange thing out, also very popular with parents who just want to give their children a bit of a taste of boating) or formally guided tours and lessons, either way under close supervision. Mostly even a good kayaker who wasn't familiar with the area would be wise to be cautious & do some research about the tides, traffic, and other local hazards before launching around here. However, there are some nice quiet marshy areas out in the far end of Jamaica Bay, near the wildlife refuge, where a person with a little common sense could take a stable sit-on-top kayak out on a pleasant summer day without someone watching over them, and Broad Channel's Sunset Marina is taking advantage of that unique situation and is now renting. I don't know much about them, just saw a "Kayak Rentals" sign during a trip to Broad Channel a year or so ago and got curious (thank you so much to my friend Rockaway Viv for helping me out with their website!) - if you've got any questions about skill level required, age limits for kids, or anything else, give them a call or an email, I expect they'll be happy to help.


That's it for my additions - back to the oldies and goodies! And as always - if I've missed a good place, let me know in the comments! I may just have left 'em out because they're outside of my self-imposed geographical limits (hence continuing omission of a couple of friends who run fine shops up in the Highlands and other slightly more distant locales), but it's quite possible that I just don't know about 'em!


The kayaking that is my favorite sport is a wonderful way to get on the water in NYC, but it's just one of a whole lot of options out there - there's really something to suit just about any taste and budget. The various options I'm listing here are all things that I have done or given serious consideration to doing at one time or another; me being a very squarely middle-class, middle-aged person, none of these require either a huge amount of money (some are free, some easily affordable, some I'd consider a bit of a splurge but worth the money) or any particular physical prowess (although a basic level of fitness & coordination will make some of the more active options more enjoyable).

Own a boat already? Please see "A Note To Boaters" at the end of the post!

OK, enough (ka)yaketty-yak. On with Twenty-Five Ways to Get Out On The Water in New York City Without Owning Your Own Boat. Since it came out kinda long, I've divided by type (Kayaking, Rowing, Canoeing, Passenger Schooners, Speedboats, and a few other miscellaneous craft) to make it easier to follow.

I'll start with my favorite, of course -

I'll be the first to admit that kayaking the way I kayak does eat up a good bit of money over the years. For me, though, it works out - I do it for fitness & for my own sanity, among other things, and it's a heckuvalot cheaper than a gym membership & therapy! :D

But the way I do kayaking is the way people who've long since fallen in love with a sport or activity do it. For people who just want to try it out, the city is now positively rife with opportunities to do so for free (or very low cost), no experience necessary, just basic comfort with being in the water. Here are some of my favorites, starting with my own club of course!

I'll give a very brief description of the programs but for full info, check the websites I'm linking to.

1. Sebago Canoe Club, Canarsie, Brooklyn. $10.00 insurance fee. Our Open Paddle program (2 to 3 hour paddles in Jamaica Bay) is now underway, and continues on Wednesday nights & Saturday mornings throughout the summer. We're a little harder to get to than some places, but many of the paddles feature guest speakers & our club may be the only one around where a complete novice is going to be given a true sea kayak & be taken out on a guided tour for a couple of hours. If you've made the trip, you deserve the time!

. Much more common in NYC are free walk-up programs where people can try out a stable sit-on-top for 20 minutes or so in a sheltered area between piers or in a cove. It makes for a fun part of a nice day in one of the city's waterfront parks, but keep in mind that on not-so-nice days, the lines will be shorter and the volunteers will have more time to talk story and give pointers & might be less concerned about holding you to the official tryout time. Some of these places have boats big enough for parents to take out small children & a lot of city kids get their first taste of boating this way. Many of them also offer longer trips for people who've developed some basic skills.

The grandaddy of all of these programs is

2: Manhattan's Downtown Boathouse - not sure exactly when that group was founded but they'd been around for a while when I started kayaking in 1999 - they've got pictures on their website dating back to 1995. The original Downtown Boathouse was actually downtown, not far north from Battery Park City; that building, an old piershed, is long gone now but the DTBH carries on just fine at 4 locations - 2 in the Hudson River Park, 1 in Riverbank State Park, and 1 out at Governor's Island note - as of this posting I have not heard confirmation of the Gov's I program happening in 2012 - the logistics there are trickier than the other locations and may just not be underway yet; I will update when and if I hear anything new.

Over the last decade, a number of similar programs - most founded by DTBH "alums" - have sprung up in other boroughs (and I'm including Hoboken too 'cause it's just not right to leave them out). In no particular order, here are the most established ones (notice to local paddlers - if I'm leaving anybody out it's an oversight, I'm not shooting for comprehensive here but feel free to add links in the comments):

3. Kayak Staten Island
4. Hoboken Cove Boathouse
5. Long Island City Boathouse
6. The Red Hook Boaters
7. The Yonkers Paddling and Rowing Club ( a leeetle teeny bit outside of NYC proper but just BARELY and a really great bunch, I've got a bunch of friends up there, so here they are).
8. The Brooklyn Bridge Park Kayaking and Community Rowing program is a joint effort in a particularly spectacular location. The kayaking is run by the Brooklyn Bridge Park Boathouse, while the rowing continues to be handled by the Village Community Boathouse (1st link in the next section).
9. New to the list as of last year, the Greenpoint-based North Brooklyn Boat Club!
10. Paddling is good exercise, but most of the programs listed so far are fairly sedate. If you are athletic & enjoy team sports, you might get a much bigger kick out of Kayak Polo! Pier 66-based New York Kayak Polo offers introductory sessions about once a month, no experience necessary

Those are all great places to go get your feet wet (and your okole too). Want to get a little more serious? With the exception of New York Kayak Polo (where you'd just join up and start playing if you enjoyed your intro), all of those places welcome & train volunteers, so that's one way to do it (and I will mention that some of the more stalwart volunteers at these groups are very, very good paddlers); if, like a lot of people in the city, you're busy enough that your leisure time is a scarce & precious resource, you might well find it worth the money it takes to patronize the local outfitters,

11. Manhattan Kayak (where I used to be a partner) or
12. New York Kayak.

Of course there are other places slightly further afield that I love & would recommend in a heartbeat but I am trying to keep this in the actual NYC area - so instead I will move on to

Most of the local community rowing groups row the Whitehall gigs which are traditional to our harbor - no-one knows whether the gigs were named after the street, or vice-versa, but the fact that there is a Whitehall Street in Manhattan is not believed to be a coincidence! Fun for all ages, and with all boats captained by experienced local coxswains, these sturdy 6-oared craft strike me as possibly the best way for kids who are old enough to start getting serious about boating to start learning the skills a person needs to enjoy NYC's waterways safely - they can even help build boats if they're so inclined! Pretty cool. I'll start with the one I know the best:

13. The Village Community Boathouse, located at Pier 40, where Houston Street hits the Hudson. As mentioned before, this group also offers rowing in the Brooklyn Bridge Park.

As was the case with a lot of the free kayaking programs in NYC, a lot of the groups that build & row the Whitehalls were inspired by and/or spun off from one original, which was:

14. Floating the Apple, which was founded by Mike Davis, who passed away in 2008 but left quite a legacy. One of the earliest thoughts I had of ways to get on the water around here was seeing one of their boats being built as I walked past the old green McGraw Hill Building in midtown. That particular spark of an idea failed to take hold, but it was definitely something that got me thinking about getting out on the river in some sort of small craft. Another 2012 note - the link still works but the site doesn't appear to have been updated since October 2010. I'll see if I can find anything out - will update if I learn anything interesting.

Hopping back over to Jersey again, there's

15. Weehawken based WeeRow, and up in the Bronx we've got

16. Rocking the Boat.


Canoes don't quite seem to be the craft of choice around here but there are a couple of places where canoeing is offered regularly, both pretty unique -

17. the Gowanus Dredgers will take you on a canoe trip on the Gowanus Canal.

18. The Bronx River Alliance will show you the wonders of the Bronx River (and I'm not joking, folks, the Alliance has been working their Bronx buns off cleaning up that river and I tell you with a straight face, it is beautiful).

19. New York Outrigger: The traditional Hawaiian 6-person outrigger canoes that NYO paddles out of the Pier 66 Boathouse in Chelsea are an eye-catching sight on the Hudson River. Outrigger racing is a highly competitive sport, and the club is not as geared towards getting large segments of the paddle-curious public on the water as some of the other programs I've listed, but they do have regular sessions for novices who are interested in giving the sport a try.

PASSENGER SCHOONERS (plus a nice motor yacht)

Afraid this is where things stop being free - but this is where you stop having to do the work to move the boat - the wind & a well-trained captain & crew see to that - and start getting to stay dry. It's a much more leisurely experience!

I'm going to start with a plug for my old employer,

20. Classic Harbor Lines, now operating the schooners Adirondack & Imagine, out of Chelsea Piers. The schooners are designed as sightseeing boats, but in the spirit of the old pilot schooners who would race to meet vessels approaching the harbor (whoever got there first got the job). They're very fast & a lot of fun to sail, and the captains and crews love to show what the boats can do. I LOVED working on the Adirondack. Sails start at $45 for a 2-hour afternoon sail to the Statue of Liberty & go up from there. The least expensive sails include complimentary beer & soda, evening sails add better beers, wine, and champagne. Going up from there...whoa, sake and sushi? That's new since I left! And, NEW FOR 2012 - Schooner America 2.0, modeled after the 1851 yacht America, winner of the original America's Cup (no catfights back then, baby!). Classic Harbor also offers Manhattan circumnavigations & other more far-flung trips aboard the 1920's-inspired motor yacht Manhattan - whichever one you pick, you'll have a wonderful time.

21. Manhattan By Sail is now offering sails on 2 schooners. Shearwater's been operating out of North Cove for years; not as fast as the Adirondack (there was one mischievous Adirondack skipper who used to like to sail a circle around the Shearwater, because he could) but this is a lovely boat, a genuine classic luxury yacht, circa 1929. I've always wanted to go out just to see what she looked like up close. The more recent addition to the fleet, Clipper City, operated in Baltimore for 20 years before the company who was running her there went bankrupt (or at least I think that was the story). MBS bought her, did a full refit to bring her back up to Coast Guard standards for commercial vessels & she's now sailing out of the South Street Seaport (although not a member of the South Street Seaport Museum fleet, next on the list).

Next year the Schooner Pioneer will come back here, but this year, she's up at the top in celebration of her return, of course! Want to see a fantastic post on the various schooners that you might see out in NY Harbor? Click here!

Rather learn to sail the boat yourself? I'm not quite counting these as part of the list because that will take a bigger commitment of time & money than the other options I've listed here, but check out Hudson River Community Sailing at Pier 66 in Chelsea, or the Offshore Sailing School locations at Chelsea Piers in Manhattan and Liberty Landing Marina in Jersey City.

3 More Categories

Right, you wouldn't think a kayaker would approve but these guys can actually be a really fun way to see the harbor. Great for people with kids who might like a little more excitement than the normal sedate Circle Line cruise. You might even get wet.!

22. The Shark and the Beast. These are actually identical speedboats with different paint jobs - back when I was working on the Adirondack, we always found their antics at the Statue very entertaining and although I've never gone, I suspect they are a lot of fun! They'd usually be driven by tough-looking skippers (frequently with mullets), and the two speedboats would always meet at the Statue, strong words (although rated PG)would be hurled across the water & then they'd drag-race up the Hudson. We on the Adirondack liked to pretend we thought we were gonna race too, we'd be adding our own challenges, and they'd yell at us to give them our beer, and it was all just good silly salty fun.

23. BTW, both of those speedboats are operated by Circle Line. You could call it the ultimate tourist cliche, maybe, but I think you could also call it a classic.


Each in a class by themselves!

24. Having just put the ultimate tourist cliche on the list, perhaps I can redeem myself with this one - the Working Harbor Committee's Hidden Harbor Tours. I simply cannot explain how frustrated I am with myself that I have never gone on one of these, they just sound great. Maybe this year.

And for the grand finale - It's Free. It's Big. It's Orange. It's #25, the Staten Island Ferry! How could I leave that out?


You might not think of it but it's got some points - aside from being free & sailing A LOT, seriously, you can jump on board on a whim, you can go out on it to see what the harbor looks like when the weather's too bad for anything smaller, and it's got the best views of downtown NYC that money can't buy!

A Note To Boaters: if you DO own your own boat, you might still find this useful in looking for ways to get less-boaty friends & relatives on the water, but for yourself, may I recommend a visit to nycwatertrail.web? There's a link to the Parks Department's interactive map of kayak launches, a downloadable tide wheel that, if used correctly, can help you sort out the area's tricky tides, and more. NYC's "6th Borough" is home to a busy commercial port, so if you're considering paying a visit to our area for the first time, please consider contacting one of the local boating groups to gather the information you'll need to have a safe and fun experience, or at the very least (and possibly in conjunction with looking for local knowledge) pay a visit to (it's aimed more at larger recreational vessels than paddlecraft, in fact we are mostly portrayed as the obstacles that we can be should we happen to fall asleep at the wheel out there, but Capt. Bacon has put together an excellent collection of traffic patterns & discussions of how to deal with extremely large traffic in the "Boat Handling" sections & that's relevant to everyone). NYC is a wonderful place to paddle, but there's a lot to be aware of!

Misfortune Cookie

Anyone who's already heard about my weekend will have some idea how appropriate this was for me. TQ had the cookie but I told him it was obviously supposed to be mine!

Anyone who hasn't - don't want to go into gory details, but I will be making one small change to my road-trip loading procedure that I was a bit of an idiot not to have been doing already, knowing perfectly well that I'm not the world's most organized person. Far from the least, but keeping my act together is not something I have ever been able to do without some effort.

Issue: Had a very key piece of gear (sprayskirt) not make it into the car because it had fallen off of the boat where it lives and into a dark corner. Having it would not have changed the outcome of the event (OK, gory details after all - I was accompanying my friend Capri on an attempt to swim from Sandy Hook to Manhattan - conditions just didn't allow it to happen, she still got in at least a 5 mile swim but we couldn't do the lower harbor piece 'cause the current was just slamming us into the back bay and instead of the 1 to 2 foot waves the forecast had mentioned it was a 3 to 5 foot washing machine down there; conditions were way more manageable in the upper harbor, but the winds were still too strong and Morty pulled us just south of Governer's Island because we were being pushed into Brooklyn and were just going to end up the Buttermilk Channel the way things were going) but it would have made the piece in the lower harbor a lot less hairy. Really compromised myself and the people I was with by not having it.

Solution: Since my "everything crucial is on the boat so as long as I load everything that's on the boat, I'm fine" method for road-trip loading has been shown to have a fatal flaw (fortunately not literally, except to my dignity and self-respect), I think I need to take a page out of the pilots' rulebook and make myself a pre-flight checklist for trips away from the club. Laminate it, tie on a dry-erase marker, and actually check everything off before I leave the grounds - that should ensure that I never put myself in such a utterly stupid situation again.

And come to think of it, doing it again before I come home is a good idea, too. I think this is the first time in over a decade of paddling that I've ever LEFT for a trip without something that key. But coming home again? That's a different story, I've been very lucky getting stuff back but I do have a bad habit of not always having everything when I leave. Yep. A checklist. Why oh why didn't I think of that before?

ps - Yes, this was a REAL fortune cookie fortune. We got that and another one that was in similarly un-optimistic vein with the dinner we ordered on Saturday night; we'd gotten this one while having leftovers for lunch on Sunday, when I was supposed to go watch the Space Shuttle, only I didn't lifejacket didn't make it into the car. It had been a discombobulated start anyways - we'd discovered that there was a leak in the roof at TQ's place & that had thrown our original Sunday plans out the window - him taking me to Floyd Bennett Field was a spur-of-the-moment solution, I was a bit pooped from all the paddling in the wind the day before and realizing that I didn't have the lifejacket just took the last bit of wind out of my sails. We ran into a friend who's a ranger there who could've set me up but I'd just lost interest. We had nice bit of a visit with him, though, we hadn't seen him in ages and it was good to catch up, then he drove on and we headed back to TQ's place. TQ went upstairs to talk to the super about the leak; I heated up the leftovers for lunch and when he got back he took the cookie I hadn't eaten the night before, broke it open, read the fortune, started laughing and handed it over to me. "That's mine", I said. He said "That's right, that was your cookie". It was just so perfect for the weekend!

I think it has to go on the refrigerator with the Gaelic curse about an escaped elephant jumping on your car.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Coast Guard launches assets for five adrift kayaks in NY, CT waters

Coast Guard launches assets for five adrift kayaks in NY, CT waters

Poor Coasties were kept busy with runaway kayaks today. The article includes a couple of incredibly sensible & simple suggestions for the owners of kayaks and other small craft:

1. Put your name & number on your boat so that if they someday find it drifting around alone, they can start by calling you. If they reach you, they instantly know that they don't need to look for you (and you know they've got your boat)!

2. Tie up your boat if you keep in on shore - you may be careful about always leaving it above the usual high-water mark, but some tides rise higher than that.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Shuttle Enterprise floats through Jamaica Bay

Although TQ and I had absolutely planned to go see the shuttle Enterprise as it got barged through Jamaica Bay, Saturday ended up being a very rough day for both of us, culminating with the 10 pm realization that there was water dripping from the ceiling of TQ's apartment. I was still going to try, TQ had my boat on his car from swim support I did yesterday so he drove me out to Floyd Bennett Field to launch - I'd killed my Optio yesterday but thought I'd paddle past the Marine Park Bridge, land, and take pictures with the new zoom lens. Unfortunately,upon arrival we discovered that I'd left my lifejacket at home; I considered having him drop me closer to the bridge and I'd just hoof it down to the shore where I'd planned to land, but a second later it sank in that I was just really, really tired and not really up for sitting on a beach for God knows how long with nothing but a Luna Bar for lunch and just scratched the whole idea. Best laid plans, etc. I saw it fly in, that was terrific, and I decided that was enough.

However, I had numerous friends who DID see it and the first set of photos are now up on John Huntington's "Control Geek" Blog - he and a friend had chased it on bikes, which was a great way to do it (although he said stormchasing is easier) - click here to see the spectacular results!

Note added Monday evening: Here's a funny coincidence -- John and Tugster Will turned out to have been standing on the same bridge. Here's Tugster's set. Enjoy again!

Friday, June 01, 2012

Memorial Day in Red Hook, Brooklyn

As I mentioned earlier in the week, TQ and I spent a few hours visiting the visiting ships in Red Hook on Memorial Day. We definitely would've stayed longer and visited more if it hadn't been about a hundred degrees out there on those concrete piers; as it was, we stuck with visiting the ones with the shortest lines, admiring the others from pierside, and agreeing that our next point of interest was one that involved air conditioning and a cold beer well before either of us had gotten too hot and cranky. Timing is everything!

The ships were magnificent and of course I took too many pictures to possibly squish them all into one post, so a couple of nights ago I stayed up WAY past my bedtime putting together another Flickr gallery with descriptions of what we saw. Click here to visit.

Thanks again to Carolina & the rest of PortSide NewYork for taking time off from the search for a home to organize the Red Hook contingent of ships. I really leaned on that great guide to the Red Hook ships in putting my pictures together. From where I was, it looked like the weekend was a great success - hope that was the case!