Saturday, June 23, 2018

Great Post-Work Paddle, plus Winter Sounds and Summer Sounds, Jamaica Bay, NY

Cityscape from Broad Channel Island - click for detail!

Yesterday was the 2nd day of summer. I'm embarrassed to say that after posting that big Statement of Purpose post earlier in the week, I promptly "celebrated" the solstice by working until dark (insert sad trombone thing here), but there was a forecast that had to be turned in for review so there was not much I could do about it. I did promise myself that I would make up for it with a Friday post-work paddle; we're on summer hours right now which means we can leave early on Fridays, so that works well. 

I launched around 5 and had a really nice 8 mile paddle. It was windy and gray so it almost felt like winter in that I practically had the entire bay to myself - there were a couple of sailor friends coming back in after enjoying a spin on the in their Aero sailing dinghies (breeze was a steady 15 mph with a few gusts, which is good fun for sailors) just as I was heading out, and then one of our fisherfolk was heading out just as I was getting back. Beyond that, only a couple of official-looking rigid inflatables, no recreational motorboats or jetskis. Just me and the birds. Kind of amazing for a summer night.

With a steady easterly breeze and the ebb picking up while I was out (and also being out by myself so not really wanting to wander too far from populated shores), I decided to hang a left after the basin and head over towards the Cross-Bay Bridge . I ended up paddling out pretty close to straight into the wind, which made for a good workout, and the reward was a very sweet downwind run back. I don't wish for electronics very often, I'm paddling such familiar water most of the time that I have a good sense of where I've been and my average speeds, but it would've been fun to know what my top speed was yesterday - it took me an hour and a half to go out and an hour to come back, so my average speed on the first half was a little under 3 mph (a skosh below the average cruising speed of a trained kayaker) and going back I was averaging 4 mph, but I did make some stops for water and picture breaks, and when I got into the channel between Canarsie Pol and Brooklyn and had the current and wind both helping me along I was just whooshing along at times. Just the sort of paddle I want to be doing more of. 

I mentioned that the lack of boats was reminiscent of the off-season, and I was especially reminded of one particular winter paddle when I got to my turnaround point at a beach on Broad Channel Island, where a large flock of laughing gulls was settling in for the night, with all the raucous hilarity for which they are named. A few years back, I went out for a paddle on a calm winter day. It was just me and the winter birds - a few ducks and gulls quacking and calling, and then a big flock of brants all hrnk hrnk hrnking at each other. As I was sitting there enjoying being out there, it hit me that that's just the quintessential sound of Jamaica Bay on a winter paddle, and I did a short video to share it. 

The laughing gulls reminded me so much of that, so here's the summer equivalent. It's too bad that there weren't a few oystercatchers punctuating things with their demands of "Wheet! Wheet! Wheetwheetwheetwheetwheet!" but this'll do. 



A few more pictures from the evening. Not the most lovely summer night, but nice in its own way. Aeros in the Paerdegat; water, clouds, and light; osprey at the nest; plane coming out of the low-hanging clouds; back at the dock; and look, my kayak actually collected some plastic trash all by itself! Nice work, Trusty Romany. Click for slideshow view. 







Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Four (plus many more) to take me home

Back in the day. Wish we lived a little closer to Deception Pass, such a great class there with Body Boat Blade. I did have to be fished out a minute later - that's FINE, I was playing hard at the upper limits of what I could do, and that's what makes a paddler get better.

Just finishing off the one paddle, two paddle series I started but stalled out on in favor of pretty pictures from vacation. I'm of course quoting the 60's era Hawaiian song that's remained popular to this day, and I've done one paddle, which was frustratingly short, two paddle, which was way better even if I didn't find the whale, and three paddle, which was a lovely spin around Canarsie Pol and Ruffle Bar with a new member who was looking to get out and turned out to be a very good paddler. In that one, I mentioned running out of steam a mile or so from home, and my frustration with my continuing relatively poor physical shape.

So - four to take me home. Pardon me while I get a little more metaphorical here than I usually do, but have you ever heard it said that your body is your home? I think the business about your body being your temple is maybe more common, but I've seen the "home" description from time to time. Going with that, well, my "home" needs some serious work to get it back to a semblance of what it used to be, particular where it comes to paddling. In the not terribly distant past, I've been a pretty skilled paddler. Under the old BCU scheme I was a 4-star paddler, in the ACA, I'd gotten up to being a level 4 open water coastal kayaking instructor. I was strong, pretty fast, maybe not the bravest surfer in the world (seriously, every time I have ever gone to go into surf or whitewater I started out just about wanting to pee my wetsuit, but I always knew that if I could just get past that and get myself out there, I was going to have fun), but basically somebody who was able to get out in rough conditions, have fun, and show others how to do that too. If your body is a home, mine was a solid, comfortable, and strong one. I knew what I could trust it to do, and more often than not, when I tried something challenging that I wasn't sure I'd be able to do, I ended up being pleasantly surprised, finding that whatever it was was not just within my capability, but actually fun.

But then the home got hit by the surprise storm of cancer.

This is all getting to be a while ago now.

That's why it's frustrating that I'm still flailing around not knowing what I can do.

Timeline:

I found the lump in August 2015.

I had the mastectomy in October 2015.

I went through chemo from November 2015 through April 2016 and then had breast reconstruction surgery in late April of that year.

I was given the go-ahead to get back on the water pretty fast after the mastectomy, and my first paddle was almost exactly one month after my surgery. So much faster than I'd expected! Here, that was so awesome I have to put up the picture: 



Now this was probably the shortest paddle I'd been on in years, aside from those where I was leading short trips for club open houses and such, but OH so satisfying.

I kept paddling through chemo. I was getting my foundation back together, and I think it really helped my attitude in getting through what was a pretty tiresome procedure - I did pick what I jokingly called "chemo lite", a regimen that was much gentler than the ones that make you lose your hair and your appetite, but it does run twice as long. I'm pretty sure that keeping myself physically active made it easier and it certainly gave me a mental lift to post stuff like this: 



And I continued working on re-solidifying my foundation through 2016. I kept paddling on weekends, and the Coney Island Y had a great deal for the summer so I joined and was swimming laps on weeknights, I was taking it all pretty seriously and actually working at it.

And then last year I let it all just kind of fall apart. We had some extra stuff going on at work, and I just stopped doing the work I still needed to do to get the "house" back in shape. I was doing some paddling on weekends but I stopped swimming. I did pick up Monday night dance classes after running into a dance teacher of mine from years back when I was doing a lot of Irish dance, back before I started kayaking, so that was good, and I had gotten back up to the point where I could keep up with beginner to intermediate groups  and even take pictures and not end up getting left behind too badly (that was a shocker from an early group trip around Canarsie Pol in 2016 - I stopped to take pictures as my friends paddled by, and then I went to kick into high gear to catch up and EEK NO HIGH GEAR - fortunately TQ was along and came back to babysit me, but that was a shocker), but I just stopped making progress towards getting back what I'd had.

And I've lost confidence. A friend had once asked me if I thought I'd lost my nerve once when I got to talking about this, and I think I said "Not really" but I think I just didn't want to admit it out loud. The reconstruction I chose to go with involves a significant re-rigging of the chest muscles, with the pectoral muscle stretched over the implant to make the shape. It looks fine but it feel a little weird and although my plastic surgeon has told me that I can do anything I guess I'm not entirely trusting things yet.

And the rebuilding that I have done so far has all been on flatwater. With the exception of some fun class 2 whitewater last year in Colorado, I haven't tested things out in anything resembling rough conditions.

And at this point, because I haven't tested them in anything except flat water, I literally don't know what my skill level is these days.

So, this needs work.

For the fitness, I should get back to the swimming; I love the Coney Island Y but the Park Slope one is easier to get to so maybe I should just suck it up and join there. I did swim there once when the Coney Island pool was down for some reason and it was perfectly nice. Could try running again too - I've been finding my friend Jenn's Brooklyn Runner in Calgary blog has been getting me thinking about how running is such a wonderfully simple outdoor excercise; I used to run but I never enjoyed it that much but I think that was partly because I was always pissed at myself for being too slow (somewhere when I was a kid and running a lot more, I picked up the idea that a 9 minute mile was "respectable", which made being slow very depressing). I recently ran across a plan for getting into running (or back into running) that suggested starting with going out for a half hour WALK into which you insert short bouts of running, even as short as two or three minutes if that's what's comfortable. Then you build as the running gets more comfortable. Simple, and I do like to walk so this could work.

And obviously, I need to paddle more. I've been wanting to get weeknight paddles back into my life - those are so nice in the summertime, and I do get to the occasional club evening paddle, but I would genuinely love to make those a little more regular. One of the members of the Church of the Double-Bladed Paddle Facebook group had suggested the "2017 Challenge" last year, where members would log their miles and shoot for 201.7 miles. I was thinking about doing it and then just utterly failed - I have no idea how many miles I did paddle in 2017 but it wasn't anywhere close. I was thinking I might do a 2018 version. I have been tracking my mileage this year and I am going to have to pick things up if this is going to happen, it's mid June and I'm only at 54 miles, but between bad weather and a bad flu I did get off to a very slow start. I'm not saying this is a resolution - resolutions work about as well for me as 9-minute mile expectations, the only New Year's resolution I ever kept was the one that I would never make another New Year's resolution - but it would be something to shoot for.

So that's all a good enough plan and all stuff I can work on myself.

Getting the higher-level skills back up to speed is going to take some help. I think that the only way to knock out this stupid timidity is to get myself out with some instructors - except for the May whitewater class last year, I haven't taken any classes in a very long time. Now this is something that I AM determined to do this year; I didn't just magically get into a kayak and become a good kayaker, I have relied on a series of instructors who I trusted, and I think that getting myself back into some training situations is the key to getting back some of what I've lost. I don't know exactly what I'll do this year, there are budget limits and I don't have a car, but I'm starting out with a couple of days at the upcoming Hudson Valley Paddlesports Symposium that Facebook had been dangling under my nose for a while. I'm not expecting the rough water that I'm feeling like I need to get back into to really see what's still working and what isn't, but I'm expecting that this is going to be an excellent skills refresher and a good step back towards where I want to be.

After that, there are a couple of instructors around who I used to take classes from with whom I'd love to get back on the water. Bill Lozano's Atlantic Kayak Tours used to be at Annsville Creek, but moved to Norrie Point (first he just opened a branch there, then decided to make that the full-time location), so he's a little bit harder to get to, but I do see he's got something in NY Harbor in September - he's an excellent instructor and had a lot to do with my getting as far as I did. I don't see this on the AKT calendar but I would also give my eyeteeth to get in on a weekend in Rhode Island with him and his team - I did my 4-star assessment with them up there years ago and it was phenomenal.

Bill was actually the main mentor for instructors and higher level paddlers at Sebago for a long time, but he was more involved with the BCU back then, and at a certain time Sebago made the decision to switch over to the ACA. At that point Elizabeth and Gordon O'Connor-Dayton from Sea Kayaking Skills and Adventures started coming in to run our instructor training classes and other higher-level skills classes. They are also excellent instructors from whom I have learned a lot. When I started taking classes from them they weren't married yet and Elizabeth lived on Long Island; in 2010 they got married and moved to Connecticut, opening up a new company called Changing Tides for their business up there. The relationship with Sebago tailed off after that, and I'd lost track of them for a while; I actually went looking for Changing Tides last year, probably already thinking I needed to get back into some instruction, but couldn't seem to find them, but then Gordon emailed me to say hi sort of out of the blue last October and sent me the updated websites for their businesses. Also turns out that they're still teaching at Empire so that's another really good possibility - again, pretty quiet water there, but again, would be a great skills tune-up to spend some time with them.

And then there's a friend at the club who has been going out for some rough water practice pretty regularly - she's offered to take me along and I should take her up on that.

So...wow. Sorry about the novel, but there, more or less, is a plan. And to quote something my dad used to say to me when I was tackling school projects - I've planned my work, now let's see if I can work my plan. This should at least be a little more fun than homework!

To be continued (knock wood).


Sunday, June 17, 2018

Happy Father's Day

My dad and his dog, Jump-Off Rock, Hendersonville, NC. TQ and I visited in honor of his 80th birthday. They moved here after he re-retired (he retired from the Navy and then had a shorter 2nd career teaching math to 7th and 8th graders at Waipahu Intermediate School) and thoroughly enjoys sharing the scenery in and around their new hometown. Belle (the dog) liked it too!

Friday, June 15, 2018

2nd Annual Hudson River Cup - Coming to Hoboken in July 2018

Delighted to see the announcement for the 2nd annual Hudson River Cup! I had a wonderful time at this last year and I expect it'll be even better this year (although I doubt I'll win the kayak race this year, that was a bit of a fluke). Maika'i, Ke Aloha, maika'i! 

Click here for full details and race registration 

Click here to read my trip report from last year. Was good fun! 

Monday, June 04, 2018

Biltmore Roses (plus a corpse flower cousin)

We paid a visit to the Biltmore gardens while I was visiting my folks in North Carolina. We went to see the Chihuly exhibit there and it was fun seeing some of the same pieces as I'd seen at the New York Botanical Garden with my friend Mandy last Fall, and I will have some photos from that, but first, here are some photos from the rose garden, which must have been just about at peak.

I have notes on two of these photos, everything else is just prettiness:





1. My sister noticed these unusual large blooms and brought me over to see them. The maroon flowers with the central spikes were enormous, over a foot long, and then as I admired them I noticed that there was a rotten smell in the air and that there were flies all over them. I guessed correctly that this is a relative of the world-famous corpse flower, using a similar technique to draw pollinating flies. I got to see a corpse flower a few years ago when the one they have at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden bloomed; it was a seriously impressive thing to see, but by the time I saw it the smell for which the plant is named was gone. Now I have a very good idea! It was actually a little hard to figure out a relative of the corpse flower on the internet, because search terms including "corpse flower" just bring up ten million articles about various corpse flowers blooming at various botanical gardens, but tonight I finally found the name voodoo lily (it has other names too but that was the first one I found).

2. And now I'm wishing that for just one post I could turn on the smell-o-vision feature - if the voodoo lily was one of the worst-smelling plants I've ever smelled, this rose was at the opposite end of the spectrum. There were plenty of roses in this garden that were clearly bred for looks, not scent, but I love a rose that smells like a rose, and I think my favorite part of the garden was the section was the part with the fragrant roses. This may not have been the most glamorous rose in the garden but it just smelled so beautiful! 

And that's it for the sniff notes. All pictures from here, click on any of them for a better view. 




Friday, June 01, 2018

A Paddle on Lake Lure, NC

Especially sad to hear about the NC flooding after such a nice week there last week. Photos here from a paddle on beautiful Lake Lure last week Friday. Hope things clear up for the town of Lake Lure and other affected areas SOON.

TQ's sister lives in the area and she and her kids (who call me Aunt Bonnie, which I love) took us out for a spin. We drove to the lake through some fairly heavy rain, but it was warm and easing off as we were standing in the parking lot discussing, so we went, and I was so glad.

 TQ's sister kept apologizing about the view not coming out to be seen, apparently there are a LOT more mountains back behind the ones we could see, but I loved the Chinese-landscape-painting effects that the low clouds gave. I also suspect that if it had been a bright sunshiny day, there would've been tons more motorboats, being the day before memorial day weekend. As it was it was so peaceful, with only a couple of motorboats and pontoon boats passing us during the first part of the paddle. Around 4 or so lots of other paddlers started appearing from the docks of the lakefront homes but still no motorboats.

No sunset this day either but TQ's sister said that the sunset on the lake is amazing. We may have to go back for that sometime.

BTW the beach in the first photo below is attached to the resort that was the setting for the movie Dirty Dancing. You can read more about the inn and some other neat things in the surrounding area here. Never actually saw that movie myself but I know a lot of people loved it!

All photos after this, click on any picture for a slideshow view (or at least it's supposed to be a slideshow, at the moment it's not quite cooperating - hopefully that sorts itself out soon).

Paddled about 5.5 miles and TQ and I tried out an assisted rescue in the recreational kayak I was using. Always fun to practice in a new boat!


Wednesday, May 30, 2018

I'm back

Back from NC. Here is possibly the most lovely butterfly I've ever seen, so glad it was nice enough to pose so cooperatively. ID'd by a FB friend as a red-spotted admiral. 

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Three Paddle - Island Cruise, saying hello to ospreys

Continuing on with the one paddle, two paddle song -- here's "three paddle", and this one finally brings me up to this month!

May 6th was a very nice day for paddling, maybe not so much for the racers in the spring sailing race series that was underway! Light winds, and very shifty (I asked Patrick, who I'd just passed here, how the racing was and that was what he said).

Our paddle was a pretty straighforward one, TQ is off work on Sundays so we'd decided to go when we saw a decent forecast - nice temperatures, light winds, potential for drizzle but hey, it's a water sport - and when a new club member asked if anyone was willing to take him out paddling, we invited him to join us. We hadn't met him before, but he'd said on his request that he was an experienced paddler; now, people have different ideas about what constitutes "experienced" and and we were ready to keep the paddle slow and short if that's what was appropriate, but it turns out R. was most recently from Alaska and really does know what he's doing. We set out at 3:00 and I'd suggested about 3 hours on the water. I'd first proposed just a loop around Canarsie Pol, clockwise, say hi to the ospreys, on around the island and back, but we were zipping along quite nicely as we passed the nest platform and I suggested maybe extending our course to around Ruffle Bar, too. TQ and R. were both very happy with that idea, so off we went.

The Canarsie Pol ospreys haven't got much of a nest going, in fact we weren't sure they were there at all as we approached (ospreys add to old nests every year and the things can get massive, but we had some pretty bad storms this winter and last year's sticks must've blown away), except that there weren't any cormorants. The old pier structure here is a favorite perch for the local cormorants until the ospreys get back from their wintering grounds - the ospreys are very territorial and won't let anybody else perch on their pier when they are in residence. Ospreys generally return to Jamaica Bay in March, with the males returning first, with older males reclaiming their nesting sites and unestablished males finding a territory. The females join the males a little later. There was a great project that ran for a while a while back, where one of the established males was fitted with a tracker and you could follow his travels on a website - it was so fascinating watching the bird fly all the way back from I think it was Chile and settle in with his mate back at their usual nest in the bay. The tracking was supplemented by direct observations by project scientists including our baykeeper, Don Riepe, and they did a great job of telling the story. There was drama - there was a 2nd bird with a tracker, and all of us who were following the site were so sad when his course showed that he'd most likely been blown out to sea in a storm and lost, and then there was soap opera - like one year where one established male got held up en route, and another male decided to take over that tempting unoccupied platform, and when the female came back & found the new guy, it seemed like she was going to be OK with that, and the original guy got back just as this was going on - total Days of Our Lives, only with feathers and fish. :D

Anyways, there was indeed a nest on the Canarsie Pier platform and as we went by we could just see an osprey watching us paddle by, just her head - no pictures, sorry, the guys were moving along well and I didn't want to hold them up. We also saw a pair of ospreys when we got over to Ruffle Bar, plus the usual spring mix of gulls, terns, brants, and oystercatchers. R. enjoyed hearing the oystercatchers, turns out those guys make it up to Alaska in the summertime and it's always fun to hear a familiar bird in a new place.

Also some very cool clouds - looked to me a bit like "mammatus" clouds, same root as "mammal" and "mammary" where it looks like breasts hanging down from the sky. You can google "mammatus" to see some really cool pictures - we had a suggestion of that, you can see it in the first photo below, but sometimes it can much more pronounced. Also excellent views of Manhattan, especially for a cloudy day.

I ran out of steam a bit as we paddled into the ebb current on the return home, with R. & TQ pulling away from me depressingly fast. Now this is partly established paddling habits for me and TQ - when we get into a headwind or an adverse current, I do best going into a low gear and then just chugging away, while he does better if he sprints, so when we get into that kind of situation is I'll tell him if I'm feeling comfortable and am OK with him running while I plod, and then he goes (keeping a good eye on me as he goes) - but it's also a matter of conditioning. This is something I'm hoping to work on this year, it's been two and a half years since my mastectomy and I'm still nowhere near in the shape I was before I went my round with breast cancer; last summer got away from me in the worst way, but I'm really going to try to get more water time this year.

We did get back to the club in a nice amount of time, and R. was very happy with his first real intro to the bay, and we were happy with having given that to him!

8.5 miles according to Google. Here's hoping I can get back into a good habit of doing trips like that regularly this summer!

More photos, no more writing. Click any photo for a slideshow view.

Friday, May 18, 2018

An Oyster Reef in Canarsie!

Photo by Sebago clubmate Jeff Krause
I'm taking a break from my slow meander through my spring trip reports (I've done one paddle, two paddle, and then there will be a three paddle and maybe a four to take me home, although the last may fall by the wayside due to other good stuffs going on) to share something very cool that went on at the club this week - the installation of Canarsie's very own Community Oyster Reef!

We've had various little test cages of oysters hanging from our dock for a while, and evidently they did OK, because on Tuesday, club members and neighbors gathered at the club and a van from NYC's Billion Oyster Project pulled up loaded with oyster shells, which the volunteers loaded into wire cages and anchored in the muck of the Paedergat. Baby oysters need certain surfaces to grow on, and oyster shells are one of their favorites, so the installation of this reef should encourage the establishment of a healthy population right there in the Paedergat, where they'll help to clean the water, which is WAY cleaner since the new sewage holding plant was opened (the old one was woefully inadequate to the size of the neighborhood, and on rainy days, and sometimes on other days too, you could smell the basin from the street, it was just foul) but still could use some help. NYC used to be famous for oysters, but between overfishing and pollution, they were pretty much gone - with the water being so much cleaner now, the Billion Oyster Project and the various community groups with whom they work are doing everything they can to bring this key part of the harbor ecology back from the brink. Here's hoping for the success of the Canarsie reef!

I'm very sorry that I couldn't play hooky from work to go help out, but there was some good reporting from the club, and there's some good general info on the internet, so here are some links:

Channel 11 was there, here's their report;

Jeff Krause, one of the coordinators for the day, who took the photo above and who probably knows about as much about Jamaica Bay's wildlife as anyone at the club, is featured in the news report and also put up a very nice set of photos on Flickr.  


Here is the Billion Oyster Project's website

And here is a well written story of the history of NY Harbor's oysters on Untapped Cities.