Well, that was fun! Last week, I actually got to help organize a paddle that ended up being much more of an adventure than anything I've done lately - somehow, with the one exception of helping out with swim support for the CIBBOWS Breezy Point 5K, I don't think I did any paddles in 2016 that didn't start and finish at the club. I really don't mind this, I love being out on Jamaica Bay all through the year, watching the seasons change and the various creatures that inhabit the bay come and go through the year, and I did have a couple of particularly memorable paddles (there was my solo paddle to see the Hokule'a when she first arrived in NYC, and my Coney Island Fireworks paddle, and then there was a pretty awesome storm paddle), and, well, it's a fact that no two paddles are ever the same. Appropriate quote, from Greek philosopher Heraclitus: ""No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man." I think I've heard this paraphrased among paddlers as "You never paddle the same river twice" and I do think that's true.
Anyways, for all that, I guess I was really ready to do something new and different and fun, because when I was put in touch with Dewey from the North Brooklyn Boat Club, who was looking for information about paddling to Swinburne and Hoffman Islands to see the seals who frequent that area in the wintertime, I said something to the effect of "I'd be tempted to ask if Sebago could come but I don't want to horn in on your plans", and when he said "Actually we'd love to have you along!", all it took was a really nice weather forecast, and TQ saying it sounded like fun when I ran it past him, to have me gleefully jumping in to help organize a Sebago contingent.
This is not a paddle I had ever done, although I've been hearing about people going out there for sealwatching for years now. I've gone to see the seals there, but on one of the Audubon/Water Taxi trips, which was lots of fun, trip report here, never in my own boat. BTW I will give links at the end for three count 'em three very good ways for folks who aren't winter paddlers to get a good look at the seals. Sebago does seal paddles, but usually at Jones Beach (we've also done seal hikes there, which are great because anyone at the club can do that); I think we have gone to Swinburne once or twice, probably launching from Staten Island (makes for a very short paddle, but some of our Jones Beach paddles have been pretty low mileage too) but for one reason or another I wasn't able to join in. So I was absolutely delighted to be included.
I was able to get good launch info for Kaiser Park in Coney Island from one of my friends among the polar bears (thanks Eddie!), Dewey picked that over the shorter Staten Island launch option, and with the weather forecast getting better every day (light light wind, temperature right around freezing, and a chance of snow, snow paddles are great!), I sent out a trip notice on the Sebago google group. Saturday afternoon, six of us from Sebago met up with 8 paddlers from NBBC, and it ended up just being an amazing day. There are a few photos from the day below (including our short visit to the Yellow Submarine of Coney Island Creek), and I've done a whole photo trip report on Flickr (with captions and everything, for once). It was quite the day out there, I'm so glad NBBC invited us along!
And as promised - for anyone who would like to go see the seals at Swinburne but is NOT a winter paddler, here are 3 great ways to do that with minimal risk of ICY DOOOOOM:
Audubon Winter Tours with NY Water Taxi - departs from South Street Seaport in Manhattan, every Sunday except 2/5, until spring. This is the one I went on with a bunch of friends from Sebago, and we had a great time.
American Princess - I haven't been sealwatching with them, but their whalewatching trips with Gotham Whale are fantastic and I'm sure they do a great job in the wintertime too. Out of Riis Landing on the Rockaway Peninsula; on hiatus right now, resuming on weekend in mid-March.
And, if you are game for a little more of an adventure, I think that a sealwatching trip on the NY Media Boat would be just amazing. Bjoern and Kristina are great people and they can zoom you all over NY Harbor in their big speedy RIB's. They're a little more weather-sensitive this time of year, not having a heated cabin (hey, I said adventure!), so there's no online booking, but they've got contact info up their site and welcome inquiries.