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.

Monday, May 14, 2018

One Paddle, Two Paddle...one week later, much better, trying to find a WHALE!

NOT MY PICTURE! Photo taken by Captain Frank of the American Princess, that's a whale RIGHT OFF RIIS LANDING!!! 

2nd trip report (pix at the end of the post)- As mentioned, the paddle on April 8th (trip report on last post) was way too short when I was craving a long one, and the meeting that brought us off the water too soon was just the first one in a string of 3. The next weekend's meeting was actually one that ordinarily I would have wanted to attend, a gathering of some of the club's more experienced paddlers plus a couple of board members to discuss clarifying certification requirements for the independent use of club boats. Getting more members "safety certified" is something I've been very interested in; I just remember it as being so great and so freeing to get to that point where instead of waiting for other people to take you out, you can start planning your own trips, and my thought is that it would make for a better and livelier club if more members are shooting for that instead of just being stuck waiting for the club's volunteer trip leaders to organize things.

So ordinarily, a meeting to discuss just that was a meeting I would've liked to attend. But work was still crazy and the 3-mile teaser on the 8th may've just made me want to get out even more. TQ had been there for my post-paddle pre-meeting meltdown so he did have an idea of how stressed out I was getting over having all of these meetings right when I was literally crying for a nice long paddle, and he offered to go to the meeting while I paddled and fill me in afterwards. This was a very tempting offer. He and I have very similar views of the desirability of getting people to graduate to being able to paddle on their own, and he was a professional kayak guy for years and knows about as much as anybody I know about getting people onto the water safely. I was still thinking it might be good for me to be there, though; he would make the same points I would just fine, but I think the two of us back each other up really well, I was a professional for less time than he was but I did have that experience that I could share if others were looking for confirmation beyond his say-so.

But then on April 13th, still on the fence about the meeting, I checked Facebook at work (as I do entirely too often), and there on my wall I found a video post from Gotham Whale that was absolutely jaw-dropping to me! It was a whale - that's what Gotham Whale is all about, of course, check out their website if you haven't heard of them. It wasn't the most spectacular whale video you've ever seen, the whale wasn't indulging in any of the (literally) splashy acrobatics for which humpbacks are famous, just quietly swimming around, surfacing for breath every now and then - but it was jaw-dropping for me, and for anybody else who paddles Jamaica Bay, because it was swimming around RIGHT OFF OF RIIS LANDING, where the American Princess is docked. Riis Landing is on the bay side of the Rockaway Peninsula, just outside of the Marine Park Bridge. The whale was right there in the Jamaica Bay inlet! If you're on Facebook, watch it here! Photo above was taken during the same sighting.

Well. Meeting, shmeeting, that knocked me right off the fence. Since I've gotten so enthusiastic about the Gotham Whale/American Princess whalewatching cruises (full details there if you'd like to go, unsolicited plug/link), people frequently ask me if I think we could paddle out to see the whales. I always say no, it's really better to go on the American Princess if you really want to see whales - the NY Bight, where most of the sightings happen, is a big place, and the AP is a big, fast boat that can and does cover a whole lot of territory during one of their whalewatching trips. Highly unlikely that a paddler going out from Jamaica Bay at 3 kts (average cruising speed of a trained kayaker) is going to find a whale. It's possible that they could be super, super lucky and have a whale find them, but from our location, at least, I don't think a whalewatching paddle is a very practical thing.

With that video, though, I decided that for all that, I was still going to give it a try. Maybe the whale would still be hanging around in the inlet. And what I really wanted was a good long paddle - so this was perfect, I would go out to where the whale had been, that would be the kind of good long paddle I'd been craving, so that would be a fine thing, and if I saw the whale, well, holy cow that would be the whipped cream, cherries, rainbow sprinkles and hot fudge sauce (and I mean a really good rich yummy truly fudgy hot fudge sauce, not a little drizzle of Hershey's syrup that somebody stuck in the microwave for a few seconds) on top. Win-win.

And that was just the right attitude to take out there. Because no, I did not find the whale, it had apparently moved back out into more open water somewhere. But it was just the paddle I'd been daydreaming about during the busy days at work. Beautiful weather. Light winds - got down to pretty close to mirror-calm at one point as I was paddling out. Lots of birds - cormorants, oystercatchers, brants, ducks, and a couple of loons, and one of the loons was in that dashing black-and-white checkerboard breeding plumage that they put on for their summers at the lake instead of the soft grays they wear for wintering in coastal environments. I'd never seen one in summer plumage before so that was pretty cool - maybe not as cool as seeing the whale would've been but still a lovely first. Sorry no picture, I just looked for a bit and then just when I started fumbling for my camera, the bird dove.

I made it out to the Breezy Point "Light" - really an old WWII fire control station where observations and calculations were made to direct the guns in the batteries at the forts that protected NY harbor. Today it makes a good Thing To Paddle To - I tend to be something of a landmark-driven paddler, I like to paddle to things or around things. It would've been tempting to keep going but I'd kind of whooshed out there, the currents weren't really right for what I doing, the ebb had not been going for too long when I launched; it was most helpful going out but would be against me going back. Currents in Jamaica Bay proper are pretty light but strong enough in the inlet that I knew it was going to be a bit of a slog going back, so I made the tower the turnaround point of the trip and headed back for the club.

Paddling back to the club against the ebb, the tops of the old metal bulkhead along Floyd Bennett Field started reminding me of highly stylized Greek theatrical masks, so I stopped for a bit to take some pictures of those for a "Found Art" Facebook page I'm on where people share photos of things that aren't meant to be art but look like they are anyways. One nice thing about a solo paddle is that you can stop and futz around with something like that if you want to, which I frequently do.

Also paused here and there to pick plastic bags out of the bay. Malama honua!

And the final nice thing about this paddle was that I went back to the club because I was ready to, not because I had a certain time. Oh, ok, I was ready to go back because a blister, but that was OK. Otherwise I would've gone to see the ospreys - but this was 13 good miles and I was very, very happy with the day.

And the meeting went just fine without me.

Here are a dozen photos from the trip, and a bonus forsythia picture - we were still in the early spring flowering at the club and the forsytha was so festive, I couldn't resist it. Click on any photo for a slideshow view. 













Thursday, May 10, 2018

One Paddle...one very short paddle, boo.


One paddle, two paddle, three paddle,
Four to take me home...

Boy, am I falling behind on my trip reporting! So here's the first in the catch-up. April 8th. Beautiful day, had potential, but not nearly what I was wishing for that day - we short-changed ourselves when we probably could've gotten away with a little more time than we gave ourselves.

This wasn't the best boating winter ever; January and March were kind of a wash for paddling what with the snow and the snow and the snow and the cold and aaaaagh the snow, plus the flu that was going around flattened me for a week or two in there. I did sneak in that one 8 mile paddle to the Cross Bay Boulevard Bridge and back on one less Arctic weekend in February in
 between snowmabombaggedon fun, but then that was pretty much it until April. And this is of course the time of year when work gets extra extra crazy, and paddling is the absolute best way for me to blow off some of the stress from that, so by April I'd worked up a pretty intense craving some time on the water.


But then all of the sudden in April it's time for the club to start gearing up for the season, and so right when I was really NEEDING some time on the water, there ended up being a string of meetings three weekends in a row.

First one was a kayak committee meeting on April 8th. Potluck beforehand, then a meeting with scheduling.

Now, Sebago has the most astounding potlucks, and meetings - well, I don't always enjoy them but you just have to have them if you're going to have a well-run club, which we really do. But this one was running at cross-purposes against getting out for much of a paddle (OK, could've gotten a great paddle in if we'd gotten up at 6 am, but I am very seriously not a morning person even when well-rested, and I'd been working some long days in April).  So I dithered and grumbled about what to do with the day until finally a couple other trip leaders proposed a pre-meeting paddle. I talked to TQ and we decided we'd go for that. 

It ended up being a bit on the breezy side, and we were the only other ones who showed up. We ended up running late, so we told Chris and Stephen to go ahead and launch without us, we would catch up with them.

We found them hanging out by Green Can #3. It turned out that part of their motivation for calling for a pre-meeting paddle was an interesting project for a navigation workshop they were teaching - they'd brought along a GPS and were checking actual locations of a couple of the nearby aids to navigation to see how closely they matched the locations on the charts. I must remember to ask them next time we paddle together how that turned out - that was some serious commitment to teaching a good class!

TQ and I left them to their location-finding and proceeded to go on a teensy weensy loop - first we blew down towards Mill Basin, then realized we were setting ourselves up for a long slog into the wind going back to the Paerdegat, so we cut over towards Canarsie Pier to get the slog into the middle of the paddle, then back to the basin.

That was short. WAY too short. We got back to the clubhouse and for one reason and another, but at least in part because I'd just been dreaming and dreaming about a good long work-stress-vanquishing cruise and ended up with this stupid little tease of a 3 mile paddle, I had a little bit of a meltdown right before the meeting. Fortunately not witnessed by too many. Hindsight 20/20, afterwards TQ and I agreed that we should've just stayed out longer.

Note to self: You joined a paddling club to go paddling. Next time you NEED to go paddling, just go already. It's not the end of the world to be late for a  meeting at the club.

PS don't worry, next one was better! And at least I got some pretty pictures. Click on any of them for a slideshow view.