Friday, March 15, 2019

Calm Before the Storm Paddle, 3/3

click for a better view. SO calm! I put up more photos from this lovely day in a Flickr album, link at the end of the post.

Well, to use a useful Norwegian phrase Steve the Paddling Chef likes to use - uff da! I've been meaning to do this post on my lunch break since I posted one photo from the paddle midway through last week, but work blew up on me as it tends to do in March and there just weren't lunch breaks, there was just reporting reporting reporting. Anyways, finally home at a decent hour tonight so quick quick, before there's another fun Sebago Canoe Club activity to report (and we have a great one planned for tomorrow, in fact!), here's my March 3rd paddle trip report.

The paddle before, when I went to the airport and watched the planes take off, I ended up going on my own. I decided on an antisocial paddle for a number of reasons, not the least of which was that I was just getting over a cold and I really didn't know how my energy level would be. Well, I got on the water and it felt great and I ended up doing another 13 mile paddle, so when I looked at the weather for the 3rd and saw a similarly pleasant and placid weather window in the afternoon before things started kicking up later as the weather that was supposedly going to dump 3 to 5 inches of snow on NYC started moving into the area, I decide to call for pretty much the same paddle. The currents more or less switch directions each weekend, so this time it was going to be better to head out towards Coney Island, but other than that, all the same. 13 miles or so, moving at a steady clip, water/tea/snack breaks in the boats, no shore breaks unless somebody really needed one. Just a good exercise paddle. Move some water under the boat and put some fresh air in the lungs.

I'd posted it the day before and was totally ready to go on my own if nobody could come at such short notice, but it turned out that clubmate Larry and a friend from the Long Island City Community Boathouse had had a Sandy Hook seal paddle fall through on them at the last minute and had decided to go out in Jamaica Bay instead - Mike had only been out on Jamaica Bay once and that had been much earlier in his paddling career, when he'd come to one of our all club invitational day, so he was definitely ready to come see more. Larry saw that I was looking for company and let me know their plans, so we all met up at the club. They hadn't had anything specific in mind ("Just get the blades wet", Mike said), so we went with my plan to just ride the ebb out of the bay and turn around after the flood got going. Their loss in losing out on the seal paddle was my good fortune, it was great paddling with them.

It was absolutely gorgeous. It got up into the low 40's, the wind died down to pretty much nothing by the time we passed the Marine Park Bridge and the lower harbor was an absolute mirror for a while. I was looking and listening for the first oystercatcher of Spring, but if they're here they weren't where we were, but there were some nice winter birds - the usual brants, a pair of grebes just inside the bridge, and then as we got out from under the bridge we started hearing long-tailed ducks calling to each other - we were hugging the shore and they were further out, so I didn't see them, but their three toned, four note call (ha, ha-ha-ha, with the first two notes the same and then raising in pitch) is so distinctive (and quite lovely, to my ear). There were also some loons, no photos of them either but they were easy to spot on the lake-like water and their laughter punctuated the distant longtail calls.

We kept going at a steady pace out to Kingsborough Community College, just outside Sheepshead Bay, pausing there to admire the lower harbor before we headed back. We all had some tea, and Mike brought out some muffins he'd brought along (much better than the Kind Bar I had in my life jacket, so that's back in the snack dish at home), and then we headed back to Sebago.

Mike and I stopped again for a little while just after the bridge - as we were all paddling along, a merganser started to take off, then stopped and settled back onto the water. I thought she'd just decided we weren't that scary after all, but Mike though he'd seen something hanging off of her. We went back to look and she tried to take off again, and sure enough she had some fishing line or something tangled around one of her feet, so we spent a few minutes trying to see if she would let us catch up to her and help her. Well, she wasn't having any of that - she couldn't fly and she couldn't dive as well as a merganser usually can but she had absolutely no problem evading us in our relatively poky boats, and it didn't seem like just chasing her around until she was exhausted was the right way to do it. Sad to leave her like that but I'm friends with one of the Floyd Bennett Field rangers, and there's also a club member who volunteers for Audobon as a wild bird rescuer (I found that out after I posted about finding a poor stunned woodcock on Broadway one night and chasing all over downtown Manhattan trying to find someone to help her, until eventually she recovered enough to just jump up and fly out of the crook of my arm where I'd been carrying her around - Jeff saw my post about that and filled me in on what to do next time I might find a stunned bird, it's unfortunately common in NYC) and I let both of them know about the bird when I got home. At least we tried.

So that was sad, but other than that, another absolutely splendid midrange paddle. This time, about 13.5 miles in 3 and a half hours. Beautiful day, good company, good muffins - can't ask for much more.

Very happy with how the paddling has been going so far this year - hope I can keep at it and pick it up more as the weather warms up and the gear gets less bulky!

More pictures, of course - this time enough that I put them up in a Flickr album. Click here to view, hope you enjoy!

Wednesday, March 06, 2019


OK, there were no oystercatchers on Sunday and it's 22 degrees outside right now but DOGGONE IT, WE GOT DAFFODILS. Come on, Spring!

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Idaho concerns clarified

So I Vaguebooked (vagueblogged?) in my February reading post about being upset by some legislation proposed by a relative who's recently joined the Idaho legislature. I'm working on some month-end close stuff so otherwise probably wouldn't be posting tonight, but I thought I would put up a quick clarification for anyone who wondered what I was going on about.

Click here to read the thing itself, straight from the source. Don't miss the FAQ's, they're charming...apparently they aren't quite ready to put women under house arrest to stop them from getting an abortion in another state (how nice for those with the means to do so, right?) but they can't quite bring themselves to say straight out that no, it's not going to affect birth control - "likely not" is the best they can do.

The good news is that it seems it's not getting considered this year. Just found that out tonight, and I'm quite pleased. They do say they'll give it another shot next year, fingers crossed that it gets the same treatment. 

BTW At least one of these legislators is not a Trump guy, either, I can't speak for Rep. Scott but my relative is smart enough to have figured out Trump for the con that he is pretty quickly. One lesson I am seeing in this is that for all Trump's emboldened the alt-right, him going away wouldn't stop things, in some ways maybe he's just a symptom. I knew that, this just drives it home. Have to keep marching!

Note slightly later: Well, this is disturbing. One of the FAQ's on Rep. Scott's site is: "Is the goal of the AHRA to punish and imprison women for abortions?" And the answer begins: "Not at all." But here's Cousin John addressing his Kootenai County Republican friends. Listen to what he has to say

Note the next day - this was my response to a FB friend wondering how we got here (she'd just shared a interview in which the Florida House Speaker referred to pregnant women as "host bodies" 5 times) - I'm just both startled and sad to find myself saying this: "It's nuts. I've been thinking about how I was raised and the high-quality science-based sex education I got (at an Episcopalian school no less!) and the easy access I had to health care and (when the time came that I chose to become sexually active) birth control and how all of that worked together to let me live life as I chose. And I'm a bit of an odd bird in that I never wanted marriage or kids, so that choice has been SO important. Now my head is just spinning with the idea that -- well, was I raised in the golden age of women's rights?" 

I see what's going on now and I am SO grateful that I was given such freedom. 

Sunday, March 03, 2019

The Paddle In The Calm Before The Storm

Sneak Preview. Glorious afternoon out there.

Saturday, March 02, 2019

February Reading

There's more Florida to come (next up - a really amazing birdwatching day at the Myakka River State Park, shown above) but first, continuing on with my plan to keep track of my 2019 books, here's February's reading:

Barren Island by Carol Zoref: This was a find through the Sebago Canoe Club, one of our members read it and suggested a one-off book club type discussion. I would call it a coming-of-age story, it's about a young girl whose family immigrates to NYC and ends up being part of a tiny community whose men work for a rendering plant on Barren Shoal, a tiny sandbar of a place located off of the real-world Barren Island. An excellent fictionalized slice of history in the years leading up to WW II. PS - excellent teacher character!

Martin Rising: Requiem for a King by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Brian Pinkney. Loved this poetic ode to the life and death of Martin Luther King and the inspiration he left behind, with wonderful illustrations. Teacher friends - Great additional history and suggestions for classroom use at the end. I absolutely inhaled it, as I sometimes do when I'm hypnotized by a book, as I'm writing this I think I need to go back and take a little more time with it sometime. 

Island People: The Caribbean and the World, Joshua Jelly-Schapiro: A travelogue with intensive history. When I went to The Strand to see if they had Barren Island (they did, yay!) this was out on one of the theme tables, and it caught my eye because my Brooklyn neighborhood has a very strong Caribbean presence and I know some pretty remarkable people (friends, co-workers, and one really great boss back in my banking days) whose roots are in the Caribbean, so I have some sense of things I've learned from them, and this looked like a good book for learning more, which It was. It reminded me of Sarah Vowell's Unfamiliar Fishes in that this someone who's not from a place (in Jelly-Schapiro's intro he refers to himself as "a white kid who'd grown up in snowy New England") but has taken the time to learn about it and now wants to share. It gives an interesting sense of the distinctions between the cultures of the different islands. This one was a slow read, it was interesting going from inhaling Marting Rising to this one, because this is very much a book that says "Slow down, there is a lot to learn here", and whisking over, say, the development of the political parties on an island on one page leaves you somewhat at sea a few pages later. I was able to get myself into the right careful-reading frame of mind fairly quickly though and did learn some interesting things, as I'd hoped. I think the next step would be to go back to that same Strand table and find something by someone who IS from there, for a more local take.

That's NOT what happened by Cody Keplinger: This is the March reading for the Scholastic employee book club. This is a story about 6 school kids who witnessed and survived a school shooting and how they come to terms with the mythology that sprang up in the aftermath - a mythology that left one of them a "hero" and one of them demonized. I'm a WTC survivor so this was, uh, shall we say, a highly accessible premise for me (see also Facebook every September 11th...always interesting feeling the nerves get going at the patriotic memes when it's still so real and personal for me and the myths are a really flattened version of my sense of the day). Loved it, looking forward to the discussion.

Finally - Ruff vs. Fluff by Spencer Quinn. My cousin Michael first told me about Spencer Quinn and then Scholastic started publishing kids' books by him. YAY! Tons of fun, crime stories with kid heroes, told from the point of view of their pets. I loved the Birdie & Bowser books I was able to get my paws on and this new one with Arthur the Dog and Queenie the Cat is also great. And that was February.

Right now I'm nosing around in a book of Grimm's Fairy Tales (not the Disney versions) and then with all of the anti-abortion stuff in the government, including some absolutely horrible legislation a relative who's just joined the Idaho legislature is working with a more experienced rep to try to push through (I've never prayed so hard for family to fail), I'm thinking it might be a good time to revisit The Cider House Rules.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Saturday Paddle to JFK

Saturday paddle to JFK and back. Just what I needed after a rough week - a few hours to myself on a quiet bay. This is exactly what I picture when deadlines collide at work. Such a good feeling to point my bow out from under the Paedergat Basin bridge and know that I didn't have to be back by any particular time except when the sun goes dow. And that time constraint was just because I didn't bring my lights, otherwise there's a good chance this would've turned into a Broad Channel Island circumnavigation.

The mental jangle from the week took a long time to clear, but eventually quieted and I found myself just thinking how good it felt to be in my boat. I pushed along against the ebb, first hugging the shore then following the JFK security zone buoys until I got to the ruined pier that juts out into Jamaica Bay from JFK (not shown here, the structure in the last photo is the old pier at Canarsie Pol, which our resident ospreys will reclaim from the cormorants and gulls in mid-to-late March), then turned around and rode the current home to Sebago.

 Once again, only 2 other boats all day - one motorboat, and one of the Sebago racers doing laps in the Paerdegat. No spring birds yet, and more soft grays than the sparkling blues of some winter days on the bay, but Manhattan still clear in the distance. A winter day that's quiet and warm enough to allow a jaunt like this is truly a gift, and it was just lovely to be out there enjoying it.

Here are some photos from the day - click on any photo for a slideshow view. 

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Going On An Early Bird Hunt

Still got my usual bit of post-cold asthma cough after last weekend's cold, but it's a beautiful, quiet, and relatively warm day out there so I'm going to go see what kind of a paddle I can manage. It's still February, and I ordinarily see the first oystercatcher of Spring (robins stay in the city all year, so it's oystercatchers that are the harbinger in my book) in March, but a few years back I was with a Sebago hiking group at Jones Beach when we saw one in February. Something to watch for!

This is the unusually elaborate doodle I did after seeing an oystercatcher in the snow one March. It started out as a cartoon on a post-it but then I got a watercolor set and decided to play. Oystercatchers return well before the possibility of the last snow of the year and I always wonder if they're thinking any regretful thoughts about the tropics they just left when the northeast throws some spring snow at them. It does seem like animals handle bad weather way better than we do, but still...

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Evening update: No oystercatchers, just the usual winter mix of brants, buffleheads, and a couple of loons. Very nice paddle though, this time out to the ruined old pier that's attached to JFK airport and back, with a short pause to watch the planes take off and drink some hot tea. 13 miles again - that seems to be my favorite midrange cruise distance this winter! Photos tomorrow.