Sunday, December 08, 2019

2019 Challenge Plus

Got in another 11 miles towards my 2019 goal yesterday with my friend Ilene. It was a pretty day but a little breezy; I'd originally looked for people to paddle with me to Dead Horse Bay and back, but the northwest wind wasn't quite west enough for the shore to give the protection I'd hoped for, so rather than a long slog back against the wind, we did both arms of Mill Basin. Ordinarily that's around 10 miles, which was what I'd hoped to do, but we ran into a couple of other paddlers, one of whom was trying out a new drysuit. They were going around Canarsie Pol, so we started out paddling with them to the island before heading for Floyd Bennett Field, so that added a little extra distance, and then there's this little bay in between the two arms of Mill Basin, and Ilene suggested we paddle the edge of that, as we were enjoying looking at the of homes (interesting mix, there are some basic bungalows and then mansions in all sorts of styles from modernistic concrete boxes with giant windows to Italianate rococo fantasies).

When I measured it out last night, that came to 11 miles for the day, which leaves me with 33.5 miles to my self-imposed 2019 paddling goal of 300 miles.

That's not really that many miles compared to what some people do (and even compared to what I've done in more active years), but I like round numbers and when I got back from my November 23rd trip and realized that I was approaching 250 miles, I figured that 300 would be a good target for the end of the year, doable but requiring a little extra effort on my part. Good for getting me to pry myself off the couch and away from the Christmas cookies a little more than I might otherwise manage, right?

Theoretically, I could now get to 300 using the 3 remaining weekends in December, but that would require some serious cooperation from the weather gods, who are fickle this time of year (and seriously can't be challenged), so instead I'm taking Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday off this week. All 3 of those days are looking good for some paddling. My plan right now is to paddle 10+ miles each day on 2 of those, probably Wednesday and Thursday and then join a friend to do a Jamaica Bay boat team for the Audubon Society's annual Christmas Bird Count. Not something I've ever participated in before, but it sounds like a pretty neat thing to be a part of. The course my friend described should be another 10 miles, or close to it anyways - and then if there's any left to do I can definitely (knock wood) wrap that up with one more paddle.

So here's an embarrassing admission for somebody who's supposed to be a good paddler -- I've never actually tracked my miles before this year. When I was more involved in the British Canoe Union instruction, the thing I was always the worst about was keeping logbooks. You were supposed to log your paddling and I've just never been good about diaries - when I was a kid, I was occasionally give a diary, and none ever went more than a few days. In fact given my journal-keeping track record, I'm a little astounded that this blog has endured as long as it has - coming up on 14 years old this coming January! I guess actually writing something with the intent of sharing it makes all the difference - lots more fun than writing down your gloomy teenaged thoughts in a book you stick in a drawer and hope your parents never read. Anyways, I did make efforts at keeping a log because that was part of the deal, but even when I was doing that I wasn't keeping a running total.

But I have felt, in the last couple of years, like I haven't been paddling as much as I want to. 2016 was the year after cancer. I started that year out in chemo, so that year I totally gave myself a break. Figured I would get my act back together the next year. In 2017, somebody in the Church of the Double Bladed Paddle Facebook group proposed the "2017 Challenge", suggesting members try to paddle at least 201.7 miles that year. They set up a spreadsheet for participants to track themselves. The racers in the group had no trouble with that at all - I think the first to complete 201.7 miles was this amazing lady who lives in Australia, she'd wrapped it up by early March, and then lots of others came in throughout the rest of the year.

I looked at that, thought "What a good idea, I should do that" and then just didn't. And to this day I don't know if I paddled 201.7 miles in 2017. I thought about it and didn't do it again in 2018.

But this year I got a special treat in kicking off my paddling season in Florida! Usually Sebago welcomes in the New Year with a January 1st Frostbite Paddle, but this year began with a day of high winds, so the paddle was called off and we just gathered for potluck and cameraderie in the clubhouse. So my first paddle of the year was with friends who winter on Anna Maria Island, and my second was with my sister and my dad in the canal behind the VRBO that my folks had rented as part of a fantastic celebration of my mom's 80th birthday. We enjoyed it so much we're doing it again this year, I'm really looking forward to it.

Anyways, neither of those ended up being very long, but they were both so much fun that it occurred to me to actually write them down in a small notebook I had lying around and started adding up my mileage as the year went by, with the idea of doing my own private 2019 challenge and seeing how long it took me to get to 201.9 miles. I hit that mark on September 22nd, and by then I was well into a habit of writing things down in this little book and just kept going.

So I hope I'm not cursing myself by saying this but I'm looking forward to sharing the day I get to 300 miles!

More pix from Saturday - I don't go quite as photo crazy when I'm paddling with a friend who's a strong paddler as I do when I'm by myself or with someone who likes a more relaxed pace, but it was a pretty day and of course I grabbed a few!

Thursday, December 05, 2019

Bonus Escape, Saturday, 11/30/2019

Saturday the 30th was another beautiful day here in NYC. I've come up with a goal for my 2019 paddling that I'll talk about in another post - I've been tracking my mileage for the year and after the 12 mile paddle on the 23rd, I looked at my total and thought, "Hey, if I worked at it just a little bit I could get to ___ miles by the end of the year". This is going to require a couple of days off from work and some cooperative weather, but I'm gonna give it a shot.

The weather on Saturday couldn't have been any more cooperative - in fact it was a great day for both sailors AND paddlers! As I'd mentioned, my official Escape from Black Friday was on foot because it was a little too breezy to be a good kayaking day; Saturday morning, there was still enough of that breeze left for some of the club's sailors to have a good morning spin. They were coming back just as I was setting out in the afternoon, when the wind was forecast to settle down to a fine level for a long paddle.

It was going towards low water, and I was mostly after getting in at least 10 miles on this one, so I decided to just go along the north shore of the bay, hang a left at the Howard Beach basin, paddle the full length of that basin, back out to the bay, and then back to the Paerdegat, going up to the end of our basin and back down to the club if I felt like it at the end.

That worked out nicely. I saw my first DEFINITE pair of loons of the winter. That's as opposed to what TQ dubbed "Wish Loons", where you see a bird and it dives before you can get a close look at it and it was most likely just a cormorant but you still say maybe it was a loon because you wish it was a loon. Hence Wish Loon. I've seen at least 2 of those but this pair were definitely loons in that pretty, soft gray their plumage goes to in the wintertime. Lovely to see them.

There wasn't a lot of boat traffic but one of the few boats I saw was the Coast Guard! For a moment I actually thought I was going to get pulled over for an inspection - I heard their motor as they came up behind me; I was on the edge of the channel & pulled further over to make sure I was well out of the way as I heard them coming up. Then I heard them throttling way back and looked over my shoulder to see what was going on and saw blue flashing lights! That got my attention! I paused where I was to see if they wanted a word with me, but they just cruised on by, and I waved & they waved back. I was thinking they were just being polite & not "waking" me (I can handle a wake but that's still a considerate thing for a motor vessel to do); when I told TQ about it he also suggested that they might also have wanted to take a look & make sure I had my lifejacket on. That's definitely possible as we are now in the season when NY boating law says anyone out in a recreational craft of 20 feet or less needs to be wearing a lifejacket
 (Nov. 1 - May 1, and about as sensible a law as you could ask for, in my opinion). Either way, I do always like seeing them out there - if you see one boat all day, that's a good one to see. 

Oh, and btw, if they HAD decided to pull me over for an inspection, I totally would've passed - I haven't done a Vessel Safety Check in a long time, but I always have the things I'm supposed to have and then some.

I raced the sunset back, just for fun - I had lights, and paddling along the shore I wasn't worried about getting run down by an inattentive motorboat, but having set out at 1:30 I was shooting to be back to Sebago by then as that would mean I'd maintained a decent clip without too much lollygagging. I did have to pause to take that picture up at the top of this post - the sky with those clouds & sundogs was just too nice!

Ended up back at the club right around my hoped-for time and decided to head on up to the top of the basin & back to make it a full 12 miles. More pictures up there of the new moon over the marsh grass, then back to the club & home.

An excellent bonus escape!

That's the full writeup, all pictures after this, click on any one for a slideshow view. Don't miss the first one, I was really happy with that one! 

Friday, November 29, 2019

Escape from Black Friday 2019

Another Black Friday successfully evaded! HOORAY!

I escaped by land this year -- the forecast was for a lovely day but a bit on the breezy side for paddling, so I decided to go for a shorewalk. It ended up being a fun one, making good use of part of the Brooklyn Greenway to change the Sheepshead Bay to Gerritson Creek and back walk I'd set out planning to do into a 6.5 mile one-way walk, beginning at the Sheepshead Bay station on the B and Q line and finishing at Riis Landing in Queens, where I caught the Q35 bus back to my neighborhood. This was really neat!

The walk to Gerritson Creek is a favorite of mine, but I've done it several times and have been thinking it would be fun to mix it up a bit. I think it was the last time I did it I found myself standing at the inlet to the marsh behind Plum Beach, which is a little too deep and wide to cross without hip waders even at low water, looking up at the bridge over the creek, seeing a cyclist or a walker up there, and thinking "OK, another time I will have to figure out how to get up there". Fortunately I remembered that this time! I started out on the beach, then took a well-traveled trail that took me up along the north shore of the marsh. That let me get onto the bike and walking path as I approached the bridge over Gerritson Creek, as I'd figured it would.

There was a great view of Manhattan from up there - I switched out to my zoom lens and was able to grab a nice shot between passing cars (the walkway is on the bay side of the bridge). I followed the Greenway path to Flatbush Avenue and then turned south, getting onto the beach at Dead Horse Bay through the Gateway Marina. I can't remember exactly when I decided to add Queens to the day's itinerary, but it hit me at some point that the timing of this escape was such that catching the 4:30 sunset from the Marine Park Bridge was highly plausible and would make a splendid finish for this new walk.

And that worked out perfectly, even though the Dead Horse Bay section of the walk was at the usual low-water beachcombing amble pace (I don't bring many treasures home these days but I still love looking at things and taking pictures). The sunset was magnificent, I just missed a bus so I walked over to the Riis Landing parking lot for a couple more pictures, then headed for the bus stop, where the next Q35 showed up before too long.

A fine escape, and a walk I'll do again! That's it for the write-up, all photos from here on - click on any photo for a slideshow view. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Manhattan Bridge Walk

Got out of work early due to the Thanksgiving holiday - the weather was fine for a walk across the Manhattan Bridge! I walked from the office in SoHo to the Atlantic Avenue subway station. Click on any photo for a slideshow view.

Completely forgot to take a picture of the empanada truck that waylaid me just at the end of the walk, or any of the goodies that followed me home from there, but they were delicious!