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!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

One Year Ago

 Such a beautifully normal day today - got up, went to work, came home again, really appreciated the ordinariness of the day as contrasted to what we all went through here in NYC one year ago. This snippet was taken on my last trip outside that day, I was coming down with a cold and a little before 3:00, with the wind and rain starting to pick up, I decided to run out and get some cold medicine, I really didn't want to deal with the asthma that sometimes crops up if I don't keep myself dried up with decongestants when I'm sick with the weather being this bad. After this, I just hunkered down at home and watched the storm get worse and worse outside. TQ, who works for NYC Parks, spent the first part of the day out on the Rockaway Peninsula with his co-workers trying to shore up whatever last things they could; at one point we'd talked about me going over to see to the dogs if he couldn't make it home; fortunately he did because after a certain point I would have been scared to make the ten-minute walk to his place.

I still feel very very lucky that I was so basically unaffected, my big Sandy story is that we had the power go out in our building for a couple of hours so I had to eat a steak that was in the refrigerator. And my rosemary bush died out in Canarsie when floodwaters covered the club - but each time I walked to the club for quite some time after the storm, I would be walking past sodden heaps of the belongings of the local residents who'd also been flooded. A rosemary bush is nothing, and replaceable. The club itself looked quite messed up when we all first got there, a big workday put a lot of it back to rights and then the members who are electricians and carpenters and such got to work fixing the things that required professional intervention. TQ worked very hard for the rest of the winter (he works for the parks department and works on the Rockaway Peninsula) and I did a couple of days volunteering for cleanups and saw a lot of destruction, but as far as our own personal lives & property, we were very fortunate. Still very grateful today.

Here are a few albums of the aftermath - the first is from my neighborhood, the next day. It was perfectly sensible of me to be afraid to go outside too much later than the hour at which I shot the video - we have a lot of beautiful old trees in Midwood, and with the speed the wind was blowing many of them went down. Mostly it was cars and less frequently a roof or a porch that took the brunt of falling trees, but we did lose a young couple who went out to walk their dog at the height of the storm, very sad. Day After Sandy, Midwood.

The big cleanup at Sebago was on Saturday, November 3rd - click here for that.

The following Saturday, the 10th of November, I joined my friends from the Coney Island - Brighton Beach Open-Water Swimmers (CIBBOWS) for a day of cleanup at Coney Island. This was the only day I was able to join these folks but they did a lot more - I was really impressed by how much they gave back to the community, which like so many shoreline communities was one of the hardest hit. The CIBBOWS crew did a lot of cleaning up and then they also helped out with distributing food and checking in on older residents who were trapped in their apartments by power outages. Swimmers like to swim but for a while the CIBBOWS crew was getting their exercise climbing stairs - my hat is still off to them.

My third volunteer day was a few weeks later, right at the beginning of December. This time I joined a friend from the New York City kayaking community who had also really impressed me by the amount of volunteering he's done; Carl is actually an outdoor-sports professional, does a lot of work coordinating athletic events. This was his off-season and he was throwing himself into the cleanup effort with gusto, going somewhere different every time the call went out. He'd done a couple of days out on the Rockaway Peninsula where he'd met TQ, who was serving as a crew chief and working a lot with the volunteers - he mentioned on Facebook that he was going out that weekend and what started out as a joke (Hey Carl, I should come with you and surprise TQ!) ended up actually happening when we figured out that I could actually get to somewhere where he could pick me up on the way. That was a rewarding but sobering day - at that point my neighborhood was pretty much back to normal, the city workers had done a very efficient job with the trees, our subway was running, and my office was open; I did have regular reminders that things were far from normal from friends who lived in more affected areas and were posting regularly about what they were dealing with, plus of course TQ was out there dealing with it every day and he would come home with stories, but for me it was pretty much over and done. Visiting the Rockaway Peninsula was a good reminder that it wasn't close to over for a whole lot of people. Click here for that album - and keep in mind, I wasn't entirely comfortable taking pictures of smashed homes, there is one at the end but we saw a lot. The park we were working in was actually a bright note - TQ had been helping to oversee the cleaning from the beginning, when he said the entire brand-new playground was under 3 feet of sand. Keep that in mind, it'll help you appreciate how many people had worked terribly hard to get it where it was the day I went - people really did pull together in the most admirable way after Sandy.

PS - Best wishes going out to any friends or readers who have just gone through the big storm in Europe. I hope you and yours are all well.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Vacation - quiet but good.

Pictures at the end if you haven't got time for all the blah blah blah.

Been back from vacation for a week now, sorry no blogging, been feeling a little bit of the post-vacation blahs. It was a good vacation - pretty low-key, not as much boating as I might have liked but we got in a good visit with TQ's parents, and we also both took a couple of days to catch up with housework and bills and stuff, not terribly exciting but I'd just been working flat-out since the beginning of September and my apartment was falling apart so it was good to do that. I made that chicken adobo I'd made for the club general meeting for TQ on the first day (Saturday), he loved it; Sunday we did take out a couple of Sunfish for a spin, there was racing but the forecast was for a bit more wind than I'm really comfortable with for the close-quarters manuevering racing involves, and TQ just doesn't like to race at all so we just decided to go for a short sail on our own. We ended up mostly just staying in the basin because it was very gusty, I did make one brief foray out to the green can just outside the basin and that was quite a frolic! No camera, conditions were a little on the feisty side to be juggling expensive electronic toys. Good sail though.

The garden had a great surprise for me when we went got there - I had more or less abandoned it in September during the work blitz, which coincided with the longest dry spell we'd had all year, and the most I was hoping for was maybe a few green tomatoes (oh, and onions, the onions lived through Sandy, nothing is going to kill those guys) but instead there were a whole bunch of ripe tomatoes, and a couple of cukes, and the chard had also failed to shrivel up and die! I put some of that in with tortellini and added in some of my summer's end batch of pesto for dinner that night - that was good. 

Tuesday night we went to hear our friend Rick from the Old Salt Blog give a talk, AC72 and the Evolution of the America's Cup - we'd been plotting a canoe camping excursion for Wednesday night and we might have headed for CT on Tuesday if not for that, but it was a fascinating talk and really worth a bit of extra scrambling the next morning. I hadn't quite followed the America's Cup race-by-race, blow-by-blow, but I was definitely paying attention to it and even tried to watch the last race live at my desk at work, which is very unusual for me, I do take Facebook and email breaks at work and there is the occasional lunchtime blog post, but I draw the line at watching videos. This one, I was ready to do it just this once, but in the end I couldn't find a live streaming feed that would work for me. The only one I could find was touted as having a simple sign-in process, but it turned out that step 1 of said simple process was, "First, tell us which of these fine companies is your cable provider" -- d'oh! I haven't got one! I ended up watching that night when I got home, and then the Monday night before Rick's talk, TQ and I watched it together and then entertained ourselves for the rest of the evening watching videos of other crazy sailing speed machines (Sailrocket was one, and then there was some landsailing and ice yachting and on a less-out-there note the commercially available Windrider Rave - TQ had had the opportunity to play with one of those at the Small Boat Shop, where he used to work, and he DOES "Rave" about them, says they're terrific - and the Hobie Trifoiler) and that got us all properly jazzed for Richard's talk, which was great.

 There was a whole lot about how the America's Cup works that I either just didn't know, or had heard about but found completely confusing, and Richard made it all much clearer. Now I'm really going to be interested in finding out whether the next America's Cup is really going to be in Lanai, like somebody who'd had dinner with Dennis Conner the night before the talk said that Dennis Conner said it was quite possibly going to be. Larry Ellison had joked about that during the press conference after the America's Cup but he did buy Lanai, so maybe he wasn't joking so much. Would definitely change the boats again - the waters around the Hawaiian Islands would simply dismantle one of those carbon fiber flying machines they were using this time.

Wednesday we headed up to CT, with the first stop being at TQ's folks' home to say hello and pick up the canoe. The weather had been looking good enough to take that boat, which lets us take Bella along, which is much easier than sorting out a dogsitter for that sweet but rather strong-willed dog (plus Bella LOVES it when we take her with us). We haven't boat camped in a long time and this worked out wonderfully - if we do it again we might get some boots for Bella as the shelly beach on the island where we camped were very hard on her paws but other than that, oh, it was lovely. It was warm, the wind was quiet, and although we got a later start then we'd wanted to and were setting up camp at twilight, the moon was so bright that it never got too hard to see (in fact it was so bright that we could see everything around our camp, not just the little circle of firelight). We'd been worried about rain as TQ has had his tent for a long time and something weird happened to the coating of the rainfly a couple of years ago, it's got this weird slightly sticky feel to it now and we're not sure it's really waterproof anymore) but aside from a tiny sprinkles that sent us scrambling to get our gear into the tent's vestibules, there wasn't any. TQ's mom had donated a couple of nice steaks to the cause, TQ cooked those on the little charcoal grill while I took care of the sides (couscous, and homegrown Swiss chard sauteed with onions) on the camp stove. Yum. Thursday dawned cloudy, but cleared up shortly before we were ready to launch. Photos below, of course! As usual, click on a photo for a slideshow view.

The rest of the vacation was more of a visit with TQ's folks, I hadn't been up there since Easter so it was nice to catch up. The heron at the end is in the pond at TQ's folks' home - I took that from the front porch, I might have been able to sneak a little closer but I didn't want to scare the bird away. The foliage was starting to get nice up there.

We drove back to Brooklyn on Saturday and got in early enough that I decided to run out and get a DiFara's pizza for dinner (worked out well, it was once again that too-late-for-lunch-too-early-for-dinner time plus they had a leak that meant you could only get your pizza at the takeout window and I think that put off a few people, standing inside & watching Dom make the pizzas is half the fun - between those and a good bit of luck - the line at least doubled within a couple of minutes after I arrived - I had my pizza in about 20 minutes, if that, which for DiFara's is like lightning); Sunday I headed home for a little quiet time to myself before heading back to work.

Nothing exotic, but all in all, a very nice week off.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Passing the Buck? Swimming stag, Norwalk Islands

 Finally saw one! Deer appears in the 2nd & 3rd picture, 1st one is just for the prettiness of it. Last week Wednesday night. Click on the pictures for a better view.   

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Fall Colors, Ditmas Park

Finishing off vacation with a quiet day in the neighborhood, including a walk over to the Cortelyou Road greenmarket early in the afternoon to get some stuff to cook. Pretty pretty day! Click on first picture for a nicer slideshow view.

Tonight's experiment from the greenmarket - celery root! Roasting it to add to a lamb stew, should be good.

Saturday, October 12, 2013


Even better without the breakup. I totally forgot this was a breakup song. I'm just on vacation. YAY!

Nothing spectacular planned, just spending a little time with TQ. Good chance that some of that will be in boats. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Sunday, October 06, 2013


I should have had pictures of dinghy racing for you today. Instead, here is a potato. 

Work's been running me down. I didn't decide to go dinghy racing until too late to get a ride to the club and then when I got up this morning it would've been bit of scramble to get home from TQ's place, get my stuff together and get my lemu on the bus, and with work having been one big scramble after another since the beginning of September, I'm just all scrambled out.

And besides, there was this: 

This is how Bella asks to go out - TQ has taught her to sit to have her leash put on so so she does her very very best sit with the big brown eyes laid on thick. The day I originally posted this, I had someplace to get to, but this time I caved in. Is that what "cave canem" means?

After I walked her I was still toying with going - I could've gone and rigged and gotten out to the course in time to catch some of the races, but I generally really like to have one day on the weekend when I don't put myself onto public transportation so I was just feeling reluctant, and then I started thinking about how messy my place is, and then I walked by the crepe place on Newkirk Avenue and realized I was very hungry and that was the end of that.

I have been feeling like a horrible potato lately though so I did get myself to do something - I went for a RUN! Usually I like walking better but I just felt like I needed to get the blood moving a little more than that. I actually was thinking of going to the Brooklyn College pool and getting a half-year membership on the spot 'cause a swim would've been terrific, but this was around 2:30 and it turns out they close at 3:30 on Sundays. So instead I fell back on running, which I haven't done in ages.

I'm not a good runner and the who-knows-how-long hiatus hasn't helped (surprise surprise) but I did get myself to do two miles -- and then I managed to talk myself out of doing a third (which would definitely have been the point at which some joint would have gotten hurt - that's one of the things that makes me a bad runner, I get stupid about trying to force myself to do what I think I should be able to do and then I hurt myself), instead just walking another quarter mile or so to cool down. It wasn't bad, but as usual it felt I was just trudging. Tillerman was talking once about why he likes running so much and he talked about how kids love to run - I can see that, I remember liking to run and jump (there was one point in California when some of the neighbor kids and I were going for weekly riding lessons and we spent a lot of time playing horse show in our back yards), but "jogging" doesn't feel anything like that to me - and to the best of my recollection, I have never hit the "Zone" while running. I hit it kayaking and I hit it swimming, that's why I love doing both of those. Never ever running - and I have done a LOT of running, I was in track at Iolani (although I sucked).

I found myself wondering today - if a running-coach-type person ever looked at me, would they say I'm just not built for running, or would they say I just have bad technique that could be improved?

You would think that I might have gotten a sense of that in my time on the track team but somehow I have no recollection of ever actually being coached. I really wonder if that's the difference - in both swimming and kayaking, I have had the good fortune to cross paths with coaches who really worked with me to improve my technique, not necessarily with an aim to compete, just with the aim of enjoying both sports more thoroughly. I give those coaches credit for how much I enjoy (even crave) doing both of those sports today.

Random thoughts basically, but I may start trying to throw some after-work runs in - just little short ones like today, at least as long as the weather's good. See how it goes. 

Saturday, October 05, 2013

A few pictures from A Day on Jamaica Bay

Here are some photo's from last Sunday's family fun event at Floyd Bennett Field, "A Day on Jamaica Bay". Our friend -- that's "our" as in "most of us at Sebago", not "our" as in the royal We -- John, one of the head rangers there and the one who started their kayaking program, had planned this event to feature kayaking but because his seasonal staff had already gone back to school, he called on Sebago for volunteers to help him run it. Eight of us (I think) turned up to help out.

Things got off to a little bit of a slow start and I was afraid I was going to regret giving up the dinghy racing that was the original plan for the day, but then John went across the street to the Ryan Center, where the rest of the events were centered, and let people know that kayaking was happening at the Gateway Marina. After that, we had a very nice flow of people for the entire time, there were always people on the water but never too many for us to keep track of and also, I think, never so many that anybody had to wait, which was nice because we didn't end up having to pull anybody off the water to give somebody else a turn. John estimated that we ended up getting about 70 people on the water, and as far as I could see everybody had a great time! Gorgeous day, glad this was able to happen (one weekend later and of course it wouldn't have happened). Nice way to see out September!
John gives a five-minute intro to our first visitors

Waiting to launch early on. We didn't have quite enough boats (especially doubles) on the beach at first but we quickly got more off the trailer when people started turning up in good numbers. The doubles were important, we had a lot of parents who were able to paddle with children who were too small for their own boats. In one or two cases there were tears when the parent decided it was time to go - usually you don't really want to make children cry but crying because they don't want it to end? That's not so bad! 

Paddlers on the water. This was at Gateway Marina and it was a great venue, very sheltered but a fair amount of water for people to paddle around on. The less adventurous stayed near the launch, but we let people go as far as the pier marking the outside of the marina and a lot of people did go down to take a look out at the lower harbor. 

Doubles race!

Fellow volunteer - towards the end of the day, we were wrapping up.

Beach cat people came out to play just as we were putting the Parks boats away. Not part of the event but too pretty to not take a picture!

And again, a happy, wet, and sandy Ranger John. Here's hoping he's able to get back to welcoming people to his park SOON.

Cross-posted to the Sebago Canoe Club blog.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Uh oh, what does pink mean?

I am wondering what's up with Scout the Autonomous Transatlantic Boat tonight. Pink is not one of the normal status colors!

I hadn't checked in in a week or so, but I've been following the navigating robot's adventure since Tillerman introduced us in a quiz entitled "What and Where?". She had a couple of false starts but the 3rd time seemed to have been the charm so far. Click here to read Tillerman's reports on her first couple of attempts, click here to visit Scout's website, and click on the "Live Tracking" button on the left side of the page over there to see where Scout is. Interesting project!  

Note on 10/4 - Checked their Facebook page and it turns out that pink means that the transmitter that was sending full details of the robot's status broke down. There's a backup one that's sending now but that one only conveys location. The little icon on the map that the robot has just passed marks the location of the Titanic - one of the folks who are running the project said, "Let's just hope Scout doesn't end up down there too!"

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Happy Ranger, Sad Ranger.

Here's my friend John, the kayaking ranger of Floyd Bennett Field, last Sunday. John was HAPPY.

Here was a self-portrait John posted on Facebook yesterday.

John is SAD. 

As I took the first picture on Sunday, I said to him, "John, you're all wet and you're covered with sand". He said, "All wet and covered with sand usually means it was a good day". And in fact it was - a bunch of us from Sebago had turned to help him out with the free kayaking part of Floyd Bennett's Day on Jamaica Bay, we had absolutely gorgeous weather and John's estimate at the end of the day was that we'd had about 70 people come over to play with the boats, and he was all wet because even though it was a little cool, we did do a little rolling, and then the sand came from moving the boats. Good day? Yeah, the best!

At one point I brought down the mood a bit by asking what would happen to him if the shutdown happened. He said that he's considered essential personnel, so he has to go be on duty even though there's nothing to do. He said, "I will sit on a chair in the entrance and say 'Welcome to the gate to Floyd Bennett Field. You can't come in. Sorry.'"

And that's exactly what the second picture is all about. Sucks.

Hope this is over soon.