Thursday, October 31, 2013

Trip Report, 10/27/2013 - West Pond Breach, Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge

 Back to my usual stuff now! I'm actually switching the weekend around, it was GORGEOUS and I've got pictures from both days, but I'm doing Sunday first because I finally got to go see something I've been wanting to go see for some time now!

I'd started the weekend thinking I might join the sailors for the last race of the fall season, but then a couple of friends from the club and I had brunch at a new crepe place in the neighborhood. One of them, Beth, is one of the people who handles a lot of the work of getting new members all properly registered, and midway through brunch she mentioned that she was going to be heading for the club early the next day to help sign up around 7 new members. She said she could really use a hand with the meeting and greeting and showing people around and I said I'd be happy to do that; I got the impression that they were all going to be coming on the paddle that was planned that day (originally it was to be a paddle and then a sea kayak committee meeting but there was a great deal of confusion about the meeting and that ended up getting cancelled, but people decided a paddle would still be fun, so they kept that) so when I said yes to helping out I thought I was also signing up for helping out with the paddle. I was thinking I could do that and then peel off to go take some pictures of the last dinghy race - I'd left my Optio at work but retrieving that was sort of the excuse for Saturday's pleasant outdoor activity so on Sunday morning that's what I thought I'd be doing - short beginner paddle with new folks followed by some picture-taking.

Turned out I'd misunderstood, though - none of the new members were paddling (one had hoped to but didn't have any proper gear for the water temperatures, which are now in the 60's, I believe - had it been August that would've been fine but we're at the point now where we're getting careful). It was a pretty competent group that was turning up so I was beginning to consider skipping out of the group paddle to either take pictures or maybe even still sail, although it was breezy & brisk enough that I wasn't sure I'd be happy in the wetsuit I'd brought, but then I thought to ask what the destination was and Tony said that we were heading for the West Pond breach (see NOAA photo below)!

The West Pond breach was a souvenir of Sandy. I've been to West Pond before, it's a good destination, nice mid-range distance (10 mile round trip) and lots of birds to see, but I hadn't been there since last year, when the hurricane breached the walls of the  two big man-made freshwater ponds, East Pond and West Pond, that are the heart of the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge over on the island of Broad Channel. The East Pond breach was mended because the subway tracks go there, but West Pond is still West Lagoon at this point. There've been a couple of trips out there over the summer that sounded like they were a lot of fun, and I'd been curious to go see it for myself so when I heard that that was the paddling destination, all thoughts of sailing went out of my head. Still would've taken pictures of the sailing if we'd gotten back in time but although we absolutely scooted out their with a tailwind and a friendly little swell helping us along, we took a nice leisurely lunch break on a point where low trees sheltered us from the wind and the sun was warm, and then it was a long haul back against a pretty stiff breeze - the sailors had landed some time before us and were just wrapping up their derigging and putting away of boats. 

Commodore emeritus Tony was the trip leader and he did an excellent job - everybody on the trip was experienced but we did have a wide range of speed preferences and this could have been one of those trips where the slower paddlers watch the faster paddlers dwindle into dots on the horizon (been there, very discouraging), but Tony broke the return trip up into clear segments with designated spots for re-grouping and that worked out great, the fast paddlers could paddle fast and the slow, slow, but then the faster paddlers would wait instead of just charging off without looking back. Nobody needed a tow in the end but if anyone had, there would've been plenty of people to share the work, which would have been strenuous.

I was very glad I'd gone into town to retrieve my camera the day before, it was a beautiful day and a thoroughly photogenic one. Click here to visit the album. 

I actually ended up being doubly glad that I'd paddled instead of sailed, first because it did end up being a really nice paddle, and secondly because the breeze ended up being 15 knots gusting to 19 instead of the lovely-for-sailing 11 that had been forecast when I'd started thinking about racing, and as I mentioned, the water's cooling down fast. It's not so much that I wouldn't have been able to deal with it - it would've been challenging for racing but at this point I have sailed in winds like that and not only lived to tell the tale, but had a blast doing it, but I think I would have been miserably cold in my wetsuit by the end of the racing. As it was, there were even times during the paddle that I was thinking wistfully of my nice warm drysuit - I would've been freezing in a Sunfish! I'm sorry I didn't get in ANY races except the Sebago Cup this year, and I still would like to get in a Fall sail or two if the weather cooperates, but this was probably a good one to skip. 

Salty (and happy) at the end of the day!

No comments: