Tuesday, July 07, 2020

Sebago Dawn

sebago dawn from Bonnie on Vimeo.

Here is something peaceful for you. Dawn at the Sebago Canoe Club. I am not an early riser as a usual thing, but I got an invitation to try kayak fishing yesterday. I got a ride to the club with TQ, who leaves for work at 5 am.

There was this big peachy nearly full moon setting (sadly no pix, I just glimpsed it as it went down behind some trees across the basin) and a mockingbird performing his Concert To Greet The New Day. 

 My NYC fishing record continues to be "has yet to harm any fish" but I did get to bring home some good fresh fluke - one of the experienced fishers who took me out caught a great big one and was leaving town today. So at least I got a lesson in fish cleaning - and a delicious dinner of fresh fluke and fluke roe sauteed in butter with rice and steamed zucchini. More filets in the freezer, too.

Not many pix from the day because I had my hands full with fishing gear - but it was another beautiful day out on the bay.

Friday, July 03, 2020

Skywatch Friday - Sebago Paddle to Fresh Creek, with float break!

Skywatch Friday again - look at that dramatic sky and gently sparkling slate water in Jamaica Bay today. Looks a little ominous but it was actually a very placid morning out there. As usual, click on the photo for a better view.

And what a nice surprise it was to find myself leading a full-on Sebago paddle today! As I've mentioned before, we're pretty limited on what we are able to do at the club right now - but I'm so glad the board (and especially our Commodore Beth, seen masked and pointing out our dock regulations in the photo below - "MAX CAPACITY 4" is one of our coronavirus customizations & allows for proper distancing on the dock) was at least able to work out arrangements with the NYC Parks (of whom we are a tenant) allowing for use of club boats. The original arrangement was "No shared equipment", which meant only of us with our own boats could go, which was nice for us but sucked for the rest of the members; the new arrangement is better for a lot more of the gang.

I'm still on a 12-day furlough from my job and have gotten a couple of nice paddles in; got to feeling like getting out on the water again yesterday and asked a few friends if anyone wanted to paddle either late in the afternoon or fairly early this morning, to beat both the heat and the 50% chance of thunderstorms today's forecast had starting at noon. Beth was up for this morning, and with the forecast looking pretty placid as long as we got of the water before the thunderstorms, we decided to go ahead and open it up to the rest of the members.

I didn't actually think it was going to fly because I didn't get the invitation out until after 6 pm, and usually people need a little more time to plan - but we ended up with a crew of 11 paddlers, including me and Beth!

And it was a lovely paddle. I'd specifically billed it as a "Friday Morning Relaxed Paddle" because of the need to be off the water by noon and because it's just too darned hot for distance or speed shenanigans right now. I'd promised 6 to 8 miles and we did just over 6 and a half, paddling to the Fresh Creek Nature Preserve and back. Fresh Creek was FULL of herons, egrets and gulls, so that was fun. I hadn't really planned on a break for such a short paddle, but it seemed like folks were ready for a leg stretch once we came back out into the bay, so we found a nice quiet stretch of beach where we weren't going to be invading other people's space and took out there.

I'd pictured this as just being a quick stop and a chance to touch base and see if any of the more experienced paddlers wanted to break off and keep going instead of just going back to the club. The forecast had changed overnight with the thunderstorm risk being pushed back to 4 pm, and this was a generally experienced group with several trip leaders, so I was thinking some might want to stay out longer -- but it was really pleasant there on the beach and next thing I knew people were pulling out sandwiches and Laurie B was floating in the water (she does that, that's just one of the things I love about her!) - and then as soon as I saw Laurie floating in the water, I had to float too, and then all of the sudden half of the group was floating around while the other half ate their socially distanced sandwiches on the beach. This wasn't what I had planned but it was so nice - why fight it? This was the perfect thing to be doing.

And with the temperature going up and the wind dying down, by the time we were ready to move on, my unambitious little trip was enough for everyone, so we all went back to the club together.

What an excellent morning.

All pix after this, click for a slideshow view.

And thanks again to my ramblin' friend Am for the intro to Skywatch!  

Thursday, July 02, 2020

Sebago Summer Lilies & Wildflower Field

Just a couple of pictures from the club that didn't quite fit in with my trip reports. The lilies at the club are beautiful in June (this was June 24th, I think). And then I think I shared a picture of my own little plot growing however it wanted to - but here's the entire Sebago community garden going wild and it's just turned into a wildflower meadow! The bees must be SO happy this year. 

Monday, June 29, 2020

Upwind Downwind 6 26 20

There was some shuffling around of paddling plans this last weekend as we had some stormy weather coming through. Originally there were plans for a Saturday paddle to a restaurant across the bay (the group was going to play it by ear when they got there as far as whether they were going to sit on the restaurant's outdoor deck or have food delivered to the beach); I'm feeling a little less than awesome right now and wasn't sure that I wanted to be in on that one - but then Friday morning I got a call from Lori, one of the trip leaders, saying that with Saturday's weather looking pretty sketchy (50% chance of thunderstorms in the afternoon), she and Luis were going to go out for a spin at 3 that afternoon. TQ was home and up for it, and the forecast looked pretty good, so off we went.

Forecast ended up being a trifle understated windwise. I think it had said 10 knots with gusts to 15 - ended up being at least 15 steady, the bay was covered with whitecaps!

That being the case, and our different kayaks having different handling in various sidewinds, we ended up deciding to just bash straight into the wind up to Ruffle Bar and then enjoy a good downwind run back. That means wind pushing you along and even though the sheltered waters of Jamaica Bay don't let waves build up very much, boats that like to surf (and all of ours did) don't need much of a swell to give some good rides!

Top picture is setting out; first picture below is looking at Ruffle Bar OH SO FAR AWAY. This wasn't a long paddle - maybe 6 miles with the zigging and zagging to catch the waves going home - but boy, it was a workout. The first island we pass coming out of the Paerdagat Basin is Canarsie Pol (2nd photo below) - on the paddle out I would occasionally look over my shoulder and even though we were paddling like maniacs it just didn't look to be falling behind for the LONGEST time. And similarly it seemed like it took forever before Ruffle Bar started looking any closer!

Usually when we go to Ruffle Bar, we end up going around it - this time we just pulled out on a beach on the northwest side of the island where we had a little shelter from the wind. The skyline was beautiful, and Luis spotted a turtle heading down the beach, presumably after laying eggs in the underbrush (unfortunately Ruffle Bar is home to hordes of raccoons, who love turtle eggs, so we hope she hid them well) - that was a very neat thing to see! Oh, and Luis took my picture, that's me partway down with Lori and TQ in the background. I like the shot - you can see how pleased I am with having achieved Ruffle Bar in the teeth of that wind.

Just as we were getting back on the water, clubmate Chris came sailing up in his lovely Melonseed skiff - he asked if we'd seen Severn, another one of the sailors. We hadn't and Chris asked me to let Severn know where he was if we ran into him. We had exactly the fun downwind run home that we'd hoped for - chased my medical woes right out of my head for a little while, spectacular!

We did run into Severn, I passed the message; another sailor was out too - that takes some guts even though the water's bathwater warm in the bay now! Great seeing people out there though.

All pix from here on - click for a slideshow view of a beautiful day!

And btw, I checked the 3-day weather record on NOAA when we got home - that showed winds of around 17 kts for the afternoon. I'm kind of glad the forecast was understated, not sure I would've wanted to go had it been accurate - but oh, it was fun.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Jamaica Bay, Brooklyn, NY, 6/24/2020 - #SkywatchFriday

In addition to a pleasant encounter with our local Coasties, Wednesday's bike-paddle-bike featured such pretty skies that I spent a ridiculous amount of time just drifting around and admiring them (one joy of a solo paddle - you can paddle hard for 2 hours if you want or do a lot of lollygagging or any combination therof) and of course taking pictures of them. So with a baker's dozen of photos of blue skies and wispy and puffy clouds, I'm finally joining in on the Skywatch Friday fun.

My blogging friend Am, who blogs about her rambles in upstate NY at Ramblin' with Am has been doing this since before we got to be blogging friends through a FB page for midlife women bloggers, and every time I see one of her SkywatchFriday posts, I think, "Oh, I should do that!". Heading home on Wednesday with a zillion sky photos on the SD card, I figured this would be the week. So let's see if I can figure out how to join in...aha, and I have done it! Click here for skies around the world!

And it's just photos from this point on, click on any picture for a slideshow view.  

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Operation Paddle Smart Returns

So I am on furlough again - once again with my usual job awaiting me at the end, so not a big deal at all. In fact today I biked out to Sebago and went for a small-kine paddle. I had another mystery fever last week that had me pretty much flat on my back for a couple of days; I'd gone for COVID testing with the first mystery fever a few weeks earlier, but this time I was pretty sure it was the same thing as last time -- mysterious, but not COVID. I would guess something to do with either my cancer treatments, or maybe stress, or a combination thereof. Anyways, that whole thing left me feeling a little low on the energy, and another couch potato day was tempting, but I promised TQ I would make a roast chicken tomorrow so knowing that'll keep me home, I did manage to get myself out the door.

I'm so glad I did. It was a gorgeous day out there and there will be lots more pictures, but I wanted to start with my Coast Guard encounter!

One of my running jokes - except that it's not really a joke - about winter paddling in Jamaica Bay is that although I love having the bay to myself, as I so often do in the off season, if I do happen to see one motorboat all day, I'm always happy if it's the Coast Guard out tooling around in their RIB.

Fine seeing them in the summertime, too!

I was still right outside the Paerdegat when I saw them coming along from down towards Floyd Bennett Field today. They were cruising along in the channel and I pulled out my camera to see if I could get a nice shot - then looked up to see that they'd throttled back and were heading my way.

I waved, they waved back, general attitude was low-key, and when they got within hailing distance one of them called out, "Hello! Can we talk to you?"

I of course said "Sure!" and asked if they wanted to come to me or if I should paddle over to them. They said I could come on over, so I did.

I was actually expecting to be inspected! This is something they can ask of any recreational boater at any time, and I would've been fine with that, I always carry the regulation gear and then some when I'm paddling.

Turned out, though, that they just wanted to give me a sticker. The Coast Guard has a program called Paddle Smart. It's pretty straightforward - they provide waterproof stickers on which a paddler can write their name and contact info and then stick in somewhere in the boat where it can be seen pretty easily.

The idea is that if your boat is found empty and drifting somewhere in the NYC waterway, that sticker is going to give the CG a heckuvalot easier first step. Our little boats aren't registered, so there's no easy way to find the owner. This way, they can give the owner a call. Owner answers and says "Oh, yes, I'm fine and my boat blew off the dock in that squall we had earlier this week!" and suddenly everybody is way, way happier. 
BTW the sticker has lines for 2 contact numbers; one is for your cell and another could be your land line or a friend or family member - if you have a friend with whom you leave a float plan when you paddle, that person would probably be ideal. According to a knowledgeable friend (thanks Scott!) who commented when I shared this post on the local paddler email list, apparently what happens all too often with the cell number is the paddler gets separated from the boat and the cell phone stays in the day hatch. CG finds the boat, calls the cell #, and the boat rings. Not helpful. That's where the 2nd number is key.

I asked if I could have a few in case any of my friends I'll be paddling with on Friday want one. Funny thing was, I thought I had one of these in my cockpit, but when I got back to the club and got out, I discovered that although I'm pretty sure I did at one point, I don't now. So I'll definitely fix that!

Of course if the Coast Guard ever did call me to tell me that they'd found my boat floating around in Jamaica Bay, my answer wouldn't be reassuring at all - my boat lives in a locked shipping container at a private club, and if they find it floating in Jamaica Bay and I answer the phone, something HAS gone majorly wrong and there's quite possibly a thief who fell out of it somewhere out there.

But at least they would know that!

The Coasties explained that unfortunately they were reaching out to paddlers this way because we've had a couple of paddler fatalities in the area this year.

They liked what they saw on me and my boat, though, and complimented me on my preparedness. I was actually in solo paddle mode today so looking extra geared-up - in addition to the spare paddle, light, and compass that are always out, I had my pump and paddle float. Didn't have any actual plans to paddle anywhere I wouldn't be able to stand up and walk to shore today, but this is just a habit of mine.

They liked that I had a radio, too. It wasn't on but it was right there ready to use if I needed it, and they spotted it. And YES, they liked that I was wearing - not carrying, but wearing - my lifejacket. Almost forgot to mention that in this post because again, it's just such a habit, but yes, they noticed and appreciated.

No, I did not show the Coast Guard that I could even roll my boat, the yard sale on my deck would've gone everywhere, so that wouldn't have been much of a show. I'd just done some side sculling to get my head wet when I first got out in the bay and then took a soggy selfie. The water temperature in the bay has quite recently gone from still a little bitey to totally inviting; I don't roll when I'm out solo, but I just couldn't resist getting into the water a bit.

I wasn't surprised to hear about local fatalities - spring is a bad time for paddlecraft accidents around here because the air temperature can be flat out summery when the water is still at hypothermia levels. I usually do a post about that at the appropriate time - think I had other things on my mind this year. 

Nice talking with these guys today. And btw, as long as I'm sharing CG paddling safety stuff, of COURSE I have to share my all-time favorite - the paddlecraft-specific Vessel Safety Check (click here to view) form, which is such a good overview of the things a well-prepared paddler carries, learns, and does that I've used it as a handout for classes, and recommended it as a checklist for seasonal paddlers getting ready to get on the water in the spring. The Coast Guard Auxiliary, who does the Vessel Safety Checks, didn't always have a form for us, and checking a kayak with a motorboat checklist does get the basics (lifejackets, sound producing device, lights, visual distress signal, boat seaworthey and in good conditions) but involved an awful lot of N/A's (backfire arrestor, fire extinguisher, trash placard, etc etc etc). The form they came up with when they sat down with the American Canoe Association is really a great tool.
 And here is my sticker that will be going in my boat.