Thursday, March 01, 2018

Saturday's Paddle

It wasn't a day when a lot of people would've looked out the window (let alone at the forecast three days out) and said "Ah, the perfect paddling day!"

Two things mainly - it was February, and it was going to rain.

But the wind was going to be light, and it was going to be relatively warm, but not too warm.

Too warm? That can happen as we head into Spring. Already happened last week, in fact - last Tuesday, it was sunny and gorgeous and got up pretty close to 80 degrees; I would've loved to play hooky from work to go for a hike, but even when it's that hot, you still need to dress for immersion, and this time of year that's a drysuit, so you're out there sweltering. It was great for lunch-hour errands, but mid-50's and gray is actually better for a winter paddle. And a little rain (and it was just a little) is no trouble when you're dressed for immersion.

I was not the only one who thought Saturday was a good paddling day - I got to the club and there were four or five others there with the same idea. It's so easy to get to chatting at the club and suddenly realize that you'd planned to launch half an hour ago; this time TQ was actually going to be picking me up at 6 on his way home from work (
we both have Sunday off and usually have dinner on Saturday and then hang out on Sunday; Sunday wasn't going to be as nice a paddling day, though) and I was planning to launch at 3 and be out for somewhere between two and two and a half hours, so I managed to pull myself away and launched right at 3.

Originally I was thinking of a longer paddle but I've had a slow recovery from the flu I had a month ago (hence the inactivity here, I just haven't been doing much) and haven't been in the best shape anyways. 2017 was supposed to be the year I got back in shape after a year of giving myself a break because I'd had cancer, but things didn't work out that way. Maybe 2018. Anyways, realizing I was not up to snuff health-wise yet, I decided to keep it short and sweet. High water was at 3 so instead of doing my usual 2+ hour exercise paddle, which is hanging a right and going to the Marine Park Bridge and back, I hung a left and went to the Cross-Bay Boulevard bridge. I definitely have a thing for going either to something or around something - whether it's an island or a point or a bridge, the distance of a lot of my paddles get determined by my looking at something and deciding I want to go there. I didn't set out to go to the bridge, but once I was paddling towards it it looked like a good goal. 

Ended up being a fine paddle. Just me and the birds out there. I always love that about paddling on Jamaica Bay in the wintertime - it's such a privilege to be in the middle of NYC and yet be alone in the middle of all of this space. There were a few people on the beach, but the only other boat I saw was the Coast Guard or maybe harbor police zipping by in a big orange RIB with their blue light flashing. For a minute I was afraid that somebody had called in a kayaker in distress from the Belt Parkway and they were coming to "save" me - I wasn't doing anything to cause alarm but it wouldn't be the first time that had happened to a Sebago club member! Fortunately that wasn't the case, they buzzed on past me without even veering towards me for a look. 

Seriously, if you're going to see one motorboat while out for a winter paddle, it's nice when it's the folks you'd want to be there if something happened to go wrong. 

Aside from that, it was just me and a fine assortment of winter birds -  brants, loons, buffleheads, and a lovely pair of mergansers, plus swans, mallards, Canada geese, and of course gulls (year-round denizens). I was very excited for a little while when I saw a spot of white on Elder's Point Marsh, there've been snowy owls around this winter and I thought it might be one, but it was a sign. I did actually go looking for an owl a couple of years ago and found one, but that was a paddle where I didn't have plans afterwards, so it was able to be pretty open-ended. 

I got to the bridge a little before 4:30, a little under an hour and a half after launch. That had included quite a bit of stopping for pictures and birds, plus a side trip to retrieve a stray balloon so some poor bird or fish wouldn't eat it and die, but I'd gone left because with high water at the same time as I was launching, that meant some assistance going home - I could feel the current building as I neared the bridge so I knew my planning was OK.

Going back, I mostly left the camera alone and just got into a good steady pace. I was back at the dock at 5:30. Eight miles in two and a half hours. I felt it, but not too badly.

Not the most exciting paddle I've ever done, but oh so good to be out there on the water for the first time in February (note later - actually I realized after I posted this that this was my first paddle of 2018 - see comments for how I managed to not know that when I wrote this). Hope I can make that happen again soon!

All pictures after this - click for a slideshow view. 


JP said...

Sounds great - its a great feeling to be alone with nature but in a big city

clairesgarden said...

looks lovely. glad you rescued the balloon...

bonnie said...

It was absolutely wonderful.

Actually, it turns out that this was my first paddle of 2018, too. I thought TQ and I had gone for a paddle in January but I think I was mixing up our January pool session with the solo paddle I did in late December. January got pretty cold and the basin froze/ February warmed up but I completely lost one weekend to the flu with a fever that lasted from Friday night until Tuesday night, and then I just haven't had the opportunity since then.

TQ and I had talked about paddling on at least one day this year, but the wind forecast kept going up and by that morning it was just looking like more of a slog than we were up for. We ended up opting for a lazy day at home instead. That actually made Saturday easier, I'd optimistically packed my bag that day so all I had to do to get ready on Saturday was throw in a water bottle and a thermos of hot cider.

Rebecca Olkowski said...

It looks so relaxing. I love kayaking, although I've only done it a few times. I'd love to see all those birds.

bonnie said...

Seeing the birds come and go with the seasons is one of my favorite things about paddling Jamaica Bay. It's actually part of the National Parks Service Gateway Recreation Area, and the bay is a wildlife refuge and a major stopover on the North Atlantic Flyway. I used to see a few birds when I was keeping my boat in Manhattan but nothing like what we have there.