Sunday, January 29, 2006

So Long, Pier 64

Note the evening of the following day - inspired by BlogChelsea's success in finding a historical photo of Pier 64, I dug further in Google than I had before & found this moment in the history of the pier. Also found this, which gives a south-to-north view of the sites from Battery Park up to the north end of the Hudson River Park, with brief descriptions of each pier combining history and planned uses - similar to website's Hudson Piers Virtual Tours but more concise & at first glance perhaps a little better researched. Just thought I'd share those links before turning in. May not get in much in the way of posts this week, kinda busy with the non-virtual world!

Well, from the barge parked alongside, and the orange netting festooning the upper levels, it looks as though they're getting ready to tear down the old piershed at Pier 64. I went paddling yesterday & right at the end I took a ton of pictures because they are very efficient at dismantling things once they get going. My friends were very patient & waited for me to go for a post-paddle dinner, I was just afraid that, if we have any bad weather that precludes paddling next weekend, the whole thing might just be gone - I'd been meaning to take a last set of pictures & suddenly there's no more time.
Afterwards, reviewing the shots on the way home, I found myself sort of wishing that they could have figured out a way to leave a little more rust in the Hudson River Park - it's a nice park but everything's so shiny and new. This piershed - well, if they'd gotten to it earlier, it...coulda been a contender (to borrow a line from a movie that this piershed always makes me think of) but there were people who wanted it to go, too, and while people were debating, the elements were working away above and the gribbles were munching away below and eventually the debate was rendered moot because it would have cost a ludicrous amount to even make it safe, let alone useful. Still - I will miss the old ghost that's marked the start and "home again" for so many paddles, and sheltered so many classes I've taught & personal practice sessions from the wind & the waves.

Still, although I do wish the Hudson River Park could have kept a little more in the way of nods to the history of the area as a genuine working waterfront, there's more to this story than just a lack of interest in preserving history (aka useless nostalgia, it's all how you look at it...) it's absolute desperation on the part of Chelsea residents for a real waterfront park. Way way way back when, when people were first looking at revitalization of the North River piers, there was a proposal for an anchor for such activity that was shopped here & there along the waterfront - well, Chelsea said "OK" when all the other candidates said "NIMBY!", and that's what put the Chelsea in Chelsea Piers. One thing Chelsea folks found very appealing was a promise of a certain amount of square footage of waterfront public space. In the proposal, Pier 62 looked like it was going to be a park. That turned out to be a skatepark - which is great for the kids, but hardly the quiet waterfront retreat that a lot of Chelsea residents envisioned. The public "passive recreation" (that's the park's term for quiet areas to sit & watch the river go by) space proper turned out to be a walkway that runs around the perimeter of the Chelsea Piers complex - basically a sidewalk that faces the river. Then the park started construction down in Greenwich Village, and there's some nice stuff being put in down there, where there wasn't much of anything; Chelsea got something called the Chelsea Waterfront Park, which is much nicer than you might think a park bordered by freeway is, but the fact is you can't really see the water from it...well, this piershed is going down because a group of Chelsea residents got fed up with such treatment & started actively demanding that they get a waterfront park that's actually on the water - understandable even if I would've liked to see this old relic turned into...say...a giant boathouse where anybody that wanted to keep a boat could pay some money and keep a boat, instead of space always feeling like it could be pulled out from under you at a moment's notice (that's looking less possible now, thank goodness, but there have been times when the fate of the barge where I keep my boats has appeared to be hanging from a VERY slender thread)!
That's at least the story I've pieced together from various board meetings I attended back in my Manhattan Kayak Days - please note that I could be WAY off base! However it all came about, I expect that it will end up looking something like the Christopher Street Pier (seen in rare deserted condition on a very rainy day in this post, and will be a similarly pleasant place to hang out & catch some rays - and that will be really nice for the long-deprived residents of Chelsea. Still hard not to get a little nostalgic, though, when for the last seven years or so, this view has meant the beginning & end of so many journeys.

and here's a bonus shot for being patient with my sniffling...the whole reason I took my camera was 'cause I knew the Rosemary Ruth was going to be lurking about somewhere in the harbor - it was a powerful ebb yesterday, and they were approaching Pier 63 just as my friends & I were coming in at 4:30, finishing a 3-hour paddle - I spotted them actually just after I took the last picture and bolted down to get some nice schooner-at-sunset photos - well, I think this was the best one & I thought I'd share it, just for a nice upbeat finish -

Friday, January 27, 2006

Salisbury Mark's tag!

Oy, what a week - glad at least that my last post was a nice one since I didn't have a chance to do any writing after that this week! I had to be very diligent at work this week because it's half my department's turn to move this week, so in addition to the usual work, I also had to pack my desk up. That's all done, and now I keep reaching for a calculator that's not there, or going to put a faxed invoice in a tray that's not there, and so on and so forth - so that kept me busy & working late (and last Sunday too, just to get one very bulky project finished off, which I'm glad I did even though it cost me any paddling last weekend, 'cause I'd be sweating right about now trying to finish that off before the IT people come to take my computer away). Plus Wednesday night was the first Sarah Lawrence pool session (beginning kayaking for Sarah Lawrence students from 7 - 8:30, immediately followed by rolling classes for the Yonkers Paddling & Rowing Club from 8:30 - 9:45 - so that kept me out pretty late. I intended to post a little about that last night, but stayed a bit late finishing my packing, got home & first my dad called to say hi, then I curled up on one of my pieces of living room furniture with a kid's book (Guardians of Ga'Hoole, if you must know) - piece of furniture in question was something I think I should call the Futon of Nap, friends of mine gave it to me when I moved as they had needed to put a stationary bike in the little corner that the frame had been made for. The futon is a standard double & a bit too long for the frame, so it's bent up in one corner & the effect is like a cross between a hammock and a chaise-longue, and if I'm the least bit sleepy, curling up on it with a good book is guaranteed to lead to dozing off (particularly pleasant on a sunny summer afternoon, when a nice breeze is coming through the open windows, the living room light is all dappled with the light filtering through the leaves of the ailanthus tree - that's the a-tree-grows-in-Brooklyn tree btw - and the birds are chirping & kids are playing somewhere a ways away...ahhh) - anyways, last night was no exception.

How's that for a digression? I should have called this "In Praise Of The Futon My Friends Gave Me". I started out meaning to just do a quick post, 'cause Salisbury Mark has tagged me with a game that I think even I can keep short, perfect for a lunchtime blog break. Without further adieu - the challenge is to list 8 points that my "perfect partner" would have. Way to put a person on the spot, eh? At first I asked if I could get off the hook with a forfeit eating haggis to celebrate Burns Night (and posting a photo of self doing so) - which was last night & I forgot to even have a Scotch in his honor - but then I decided this was preferable. So here goes:

1. He should be a mensch (wonderful word, hooray for Yiddish!)
2. Shares my liking for boats & the other outdoorsy stuff I like doing every now & then.
3. Likes me for who I am (convincing me of that may be tricky...).
4. Likes himself for who he is.
5. Funny would be lovely.
6. Intelligent would also be nice.
7. Reasonably adventurous
8. Doesn't need to be together ALL the time...

ok the moving guys are here so I gotta shut down (which is good 'cause I'm already looking at this going "ok, what did I miss, where does it cover 'accepting of imperfection without being defeatist about it', wouldn't something about liking to cook be fun, this is why I'm bad at memes, 'cause I actually get perfectionist about it...) but quick quick, I get to tag 8 people - off the top of my head, Chosha, Happysurfer, Wenley, Loup, FH20, and I'll think of more later 'cause they're coming to take me away (or at least my computer)!

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Chinatown Gets Ready for Lunar New Year

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April Free Friday is going to feature....

Super quick addition to yesterday's post - I just went to the South Street Seaport site to send Mrs. KB the Free Friday calendar, because I'm kicking myself now for not inviting people because I thought everybody would think it was silly, when she actually thought it sounded like fun - anyways, I noticed that for the Free Friday there in April, Shelley Seccombe herself is going to be giving a personally guided tour of The End of the Waterfront. How cool is that gonna be?

Monday, January 23, 2006

Another fun Free Friday at the South Street Seaport

In my last post, I'd asked a semi-rhetorical question involving whether the educators at the South Street Seaport would let an unaccompanied grownup join in with their Family Fun: One Scratch at a Time kid-friendly scrimshaw activity - the answer was yes, absolutely, and I wasn't the only one, and as you can see here, I had FAR too much fun with it. Actually I didn't try to round up a gang to go this time 'cause I knew that was likely - it was one thing last month to try to gather my friends for an interesting lecture about rum and a rum-tasting, that's all fine & good but - "Hey, who wants to go do Family Fun tonight, it's Scrimshaw for Kids?"...well, somehow that was something I didn't see a lot of people having much fun with. Now me, I'm a compulsive doodler - I don't think I've ever owned a notebook that didn't end up with the margins completely filled with small but lively scribbles. This seal, or variations thereof, is a pretty standard one - I thought about trying to do an Adirondack (the doodles in the notebooks feature a lot of schooners in the summertime) but decided to stick with something easy, hence the seal.

I wasn't sure how "kid-friendly scrimshaw" would work, but it turned out to be a very clever, simple & inexpensive art project - the blanks were cut out of white plastic disposable plates, they had a variety of sharp tools that you'd use to scratch your design into the plastic (kid-friendly but requiring close supervision), then once you finish scratching out your drawing (which you could draw first in pencil), you'd scribble everywhere there were lines with what I think were oil pastels, then you took a paper towel & wiped off the plate - the paper took everything off the flat bits, the places you'd scratched would retain the color, and there you were. The docents who were supervising this were really wonderful with the kids - there was no "now you should draw a ship", although there was a good simple pattern available for drawing a square rigger, it was more "you should draw whatever you want to". The little girl sitting next to me came up with a marvelous little Chinese junk with a little fisherman in a little Chinese hat, while her more impetuous little brother dashed off a number of sea creatures - the kids did mostly seem to stick with nautical themes, but I'm sure scrimshaw rocketships or dinosaurs would have been praised just as warmly. The nautical themes were coming out though, because to prime the idea pump, the docents were encouraging people to go walk through the museum's "Soundings" exhibit first.

This was one of two small but lovely exhibits I had time to visit that evening. "Soundings" is a collection of some of the museum's best pieces; this included scrimshaw (I got the idea to do even as much crosshatching as I did from looking at the detail of some of those pieces - the ships in particular were incredible, every bit of rigging seemed to be there), carvings, and some incredible ship paintings. The one I found the most mesmerizing depicted a square-rigger being towed to her berth beneath the Brooklyn Bridge - the towboat is an early steam tugboat, and I think what I found so astounding about this was that the bridge is the same, the tugboat could have been any of the tugboats that I have visited in the Graveyard of Ships in the Arthur Kill - for that matter, the ship could have been one of the barques that are now nothing more than a still-proud bow, before the outline of a ship traced out in stubs of ribs, protruding from the water...that sort of thing just gives me shivers in the same way these lines from Walt Whitman's Crossing Brooklyn Ferry did when I read them at the Museum's Walt Whitman exhibit last month -

Flow on, river! flow with the flood-tide, and ebb with the ebb-tide!
Frolic on, crested and scallop-edged waves!
Gorgeous clouds of the sunset! drench with your splendor me, or the men and women generations after me!

And I'm standing there going, like, "Yo, talkin' to me?". Seriously, though - ever read a poem that made you feel like the poet was speaking quite specifically to you (extremely eerie when he's been dead for years)? I felt like those lines were written for me - and the other people I know on the river - in a way that no other poem I've ever read was. Actually maybe that's not so presumptuous - maybe that's the whole point of the enduring quality of Whitman's poetry - the way it still speaks to ordinary people like me. Whatever the case, those lines got me where I live (and I think that quite coincidentally it was the same weekend that Pia and I went for a walk that took us right by the Fulton Ferry Landing - where they have lines from the very same poem cut into the railing).

ahem. Oh yes. The other exhibit resonated maybe even more - this one was called The End of the Waterfront; I knew it was there but I walked into a room that was full of large photographs of exactly the same piece of waterfront that I spend so much time in - circa 1970. The photographer's name is Shelly Seccombe; her website is here, and if you are a New York City resident with any interest in the Hudson River, I really recommend this - especially if you happen to be downtown, it's not a huge exhibit but, well, let's just say that those little midget pictures on her website are nice enough, but they don't do her stuff anything CLOSE to justice. Now of course the trick is that when I'm out with my camera, I need to keep taking my own pictures, the way I have been ever since my folks sent me the best toy ever & not start trying to make everything an imitation Shelley Seccombe (here, do you like this? there was water on the lens but there was still something I liked about this one -

There was also a performance by New York Packet, a local singing group that specializes, copying from that link, "working shanties, ballads, the Hudson Valley, immigration, African-American song, the Port of New York, inland waterways, Irish traditional song and the repertoire of New York's concert saloons and early vaudeville". They stuck to the saltier stuff for this one; it was fun, I love to sing but a dear friend of mine who's a really good singer put it very well one day when she diagnosed me with acute FOSA - Fear Of Singing Alone. However a concert like this one is well suited for a person of my inclinations - the sea chanteys were all work songs and everybody's supposed to sing along to keep in rhythm, so audience participation was not only encouraged but just about required. Actually we tried one summer to sing chanteys on the schooner while we raised sails but I for one couldn't do it, I'd get self-concious & start laughing to cover the nerves - plus we kinda go hell for leather when we raise, we want it to look as smooth as a seagull unfolding it's wings, and the chanteys were meant for sails a lot bigger & heavier with everybody yo, ho, hauling away steadily on the "yo, ho, haul away boys" bit. But with plenty of other people also singing away, I was comfortable enough to even play with trying to match the harmonies during the choruses (I used to sing alto in my choir days, harmonizing's fun when you get it right).

Anyways, another really enjoyable night there at the South Street Seaport (with the usual bonus of getting one Hawaiian-kine plate lunch from the L&L Drive Inn by the seaport for dinner (eternal gratitude to Mr. SeaLevel" for cluing me in to the fact that this even existed). Free Fridays, every month on the third Friday of the month - as the old saying goes, "Be there, or be someplace else!"

Friday, January 20, 2006

Frogma is One Year Old!

Yup. One whole year! I'm at 10,382 hits on my sitemeter, broke 10K I think it was week before last - didn't post anything about breaking 10K though because that includes 292 hits for my own posts, which I tend to re-edit after posting & each republish adds another, plus every time I look to see if there are new comments from work (more often than I should) - all in all I'd probably shave at least 700 off that number as self-generated. Anyways - wow, yes, one year of my waterlogged randomness and dang, I'd love to talk more about this but I have a trifecta of deadlines that I'm dealing with (Lyn, that's why I haven't emailed back but THANK YOU THANK YOU for that additional & rather key info about the campsite NOT being right at the launch site, they said beachfront, I assumed, we all know the phrase about "assume", right?) and tonight it's Free Friday at the South Street Seaport Museum - I wonder if they'll let big people try the scrimshaw, that sounds like fun, plus they will have sea chanteys & a guided tour of an exhibit of traditional sailor's crafts - so I don't know if I'll have much time for any kind of retrospective post like you're supposed to do when your blog hits a year. In a way, though, how very reflective of my life - too many things I love to do so I never do any of 'em really well. Sure beats couchpotatodom, though.

Anyways, as I said I have a ton I have to accomplish in the next couple of hours, but I did want to say thanks to the people who've been stopping by, commenting or not. What a lot of really interesting people I've "met" - and in a few very cool cases, even actually met - over the year.

And that, my friends from all over, is all I have time for now! I am sorry about that - but I thought it would be fun (& make up in some degree for today's hurry) to repost my very very first post, in which I answered the question:

"What's a Frogma?" (Frogma Post #1, January 20, 2005)

I'm a sea kayaker.

Well, like most people, I'm a lot of things but I made up the word "frogma" while enjoying a flame war on a rather lively kayaking list server, so it came from a sea-kayaker frame of mind.

Kayaking is a sport with a lot of subdivisions - whitewater, flatwater & sea kayaking barely begins to touch it. That's part of why I like it so much - so many different avenues to explore & so far ALL of 'em fun. But then I just like being on the water in the water, around the water - I swim & sail too - as long as I can get out there in some way on a regular basis, I'm pretty much happy.

But to return to the point of the story - these subdivisions do sometimes produce divisiveness. Surprise surprise. Recipe for a great flame war - take a bunch of people who have been drawn by different routes to a sport that can be approached a lot of different ways. Make some of 'em fanatically devoted to THEIR approach. Make a lot of 'em opinionated New Yorkers just for kicks. Put them on a list serve where real names don't show, drop the temperature to 15 degrees, freeze the river they love to play on, stir in the resultant cabin fever and...yee-HA! Very amusing - from the sidelines anyways.

Anyways, I was following this particularly violent thread one day when the word "Frogma" hopped into my brain. I can't remember whether it was the one where paddler A accused paddler B of trying to lure beginners to an ICY DEATH after paddler B posted a winter trip notice or the one where an inflatable fanatic (I mean a fan of inflatable boats, not...oh, you know) went on this howling rant about the terrible dangers of decked boats. It's always about the terrible danger. Whichever it was, I was following the postings & almost got to the point where I felt like I was reading fundamentalist religious maniacs, it got that fierce. The unquestioning cleaving to certain sets of beliefs - the certainty that all others are doomed...Unbending, self-aggrandizing, dogmatic...only amphibious. Voila. FROGMA - the dogma of the semi-aquatic.

Rather delighted with having made up a good word like that, I did a Google search, found that the only other people using it was some band in Denmark or someplace, and stashed it away for future use.

Seems like as good a name as any for a semi-aquatic persons's personal ramblings.

As I mention in the description, btw - I'm starting this because it's too cold & dark right now to go paddling & I'm bored. There's a very good chance that it will last only until it's more inviting outside - and that's at the outside. I don't think I've ever managed to keep a journal for more than a week. But for what it's worth, figured I'd give it a try. the question is - do I tell the bloggers whose blogs I already read & occasionally comment on that I'm blogging, thereby giving my blog at least a base of people I know (and that's the weird thing about reading these blogs - I feel like I know these people but only one of 'em is actually a friend of mine) - or do I just keep quietly anonymous for a while & see what coalesces?

Final note on 1/20/2006 - Oh man. Have you seen Derrick's hydrofoil kayak writeup (I'm sorry Wenley I know you found it first, I just don't have time to go find it when Derrick just did his!)? Well, I thought that looked pretty interesting. But this is INSANELY cool! Go take a look! really! it's intense!

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Sweetwater here I come!

The deed is done, I actually reached Jean Totz (president of Sweetwater Kayaks) on the phone Tuesday afternoon & after a brief discussion about boats, I gave her a card number & it's done, I'm all signed up for Sweetwater's BCU/Greenland Skills Week! I was being so paranoid that somehow if I didn't get them the money, somehow the classes I wanted were going to get booked up - it's a very specific set of classes & instructors they have that made me want to do this. Now I have to work out the logistics - that's going to be interesting.

I started with a vague plan of flying down & camping out, renting a boat from them; today I checked with a friend who's been down there & has offered to loan me a tent and a stove (was considering getting one of those for myself, I had one on sort of on a long-term loan from another friend & it did get used a couple of times, but not averse to putting off that purchase a little longer, camping opportunities in the New York City area being sadly limited...gee, I never did write that letter to the new head ranger of the Gateway Recreation Area - the one where I was going to ask couldn't they please please please make there be somewhere a LITTLE closer than Croton Point where a law-abiding kayaker could paddle from NYC and camp legally?) about there being any food available in the vicinity - answer was nope, no food. That means that esentially what I'm planning for is a completely self-contained camping trip, four full days with a partial day at each end. And everything has to fit in my giant duffle bag! And just to make it even MORE interesting, Lyn mentioned that there are extremely aggressive raccoons at the campsite & that if you leave food in your tent & they are feeling clever, they will unzip it; if they aren't feeling clever they will just go right through the side. Tonight I asked her if the presence of a human being in the tent with the food was a deterrent - haven't heard back yet! I do rather expect to be the single carless weirdo from NYC (well, Dubside doesn't have a car either so a - I'm in good company & b - I should be careful about equating carless with weird...) This may all sound like a bit of a challenge for somebody whose idea of a good time is paddling for Japanese gourmet delicacies, but I think this is going to be a good time too.

I am actually finding this kind of funny - on the whole, when I say the word "logistics", it's usually paired with the word "headaches" - but somehow I'm already having fun thinking about the logistics for this one. What will I need, what can I dispense with, how can I keep my kit down to my one big bag plus paddles now that I'm adding full set of camping gear, I wonder how those dried scallops you can buy in Chinatown would go in a rice dish for dinner... But then I thought for one split second about renting a car & taking my own boat down, and immediately my head started to hurt. I guess this is also where being a little bit of a loner when it comes to doing this sort of thing comes into play - having at least two people involved would make a big difference - loading the boats is so much easier, plus then you can switch off during the (ugh) 18-hour-plus drive. Mostly, though, I just want to get there in the most expedient way possible, with all meals & such planned for. As long as the logistics are aimed at making that happen, I guess I feel like they're worth it.

I also just thought of something that Captain Peter likes to say to Adirondack passengers when the prevailing conditions on the harbor are such that we could have a wonderful sail north, or a motorsail to the Statue of Liberty. Ordinarily, your thirty-five bucks (includes beer & soft drinks) by day or forty-five (we add champagne, wine & better beer) buys you a 2 hour trip which will includes as close a pass to the Statue of Liberty as we can manage. That's what people expect and that's what we give 'em. However, every now & then, we'll have a small group of passengers who are clearly there because they like sailing & they like our lovely schooner. Under that rare circumstance, the captain will sometimes offer to run the sail to maximize the sailing - the issue won't be forced, but the offer will be made. Sometimes somebody will be on the fence, and that's when Captain Peter likes to say, "Is it going to be about the journey, or the destination?".

Seems that here on my home waters, for me, it's always about the journey, but with something like this - suddenly, the destination is everything and the thousand-mile plus journey to get there is...a hassle to be gotten through as fast as possible.

And this time it's not just the destination, it's who's going to be there, and how much I hope they will help me shake loose the rust that I feel like I've been accumulating lately...

Cheri Perry, Dubside, Nigel Foster, Greg Stamer -

This is NOT going to suck...

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Sushi Paddle Part II - Japanese Goodies!

We didn't quite make it to the George Washington Bridge, which was the original plan - one of our newer paddlers hadn't seen the trip details & missed that part & there's nothing like going on a strenuous paddle, thinking you're at the midpoint lunch break, and then being told "Oh, no, we've got six miles more before we eat." Instead of suffering in silence (which is what I would probably do once I figured out I'd misunderstood), she asked me about turning back...well, honestly with it being as cold as it was, and with a pesky beam wind to contend with, I had been thinking about eating one of the energy bars I always carry in my PFD on our next water break, and going back to the food court for something hot didn't sound like the worst idea to me either - and somehow when we announced that we were going back, everybody else did too. I guess nobody really had their heart set on the bridge. Arrival at Edgewater - ever so ready for a hearty lunch the Asian food court! Onolicious!

Actually I think that we turned back at a good time. If you look behind these bundled-up kayakers, you can see the area that becomes the dreaded Mud Flats of Edgewater as the water level falls. More like tarpits. The problem here is that the bottom slopes out VERY gradually here & once it gets beyond the stones on the beach, it's really nasty. The section along the wall does have stones almost all the way out to the end, and you can usually get boats out there for a while after the rest of the area becomes, if not impassible, at least very awkward - but those rocks are very slick, and as you can see there are sharp pointy things sticking up here and there...back when I was guiding for Manhattan Kayak Company, if you ever asked me where a lawsuit was most likely to happen, I think I would've named this without much hesitation. I could name other spots that might engender bigger lawsuits, but for just a sprained ankle or broken leg being able to happen easily, this was it (we caught on pretty fast - well actually Richard, the guy I'm usually referring to when I talk about my earliest mentor, caught on pretty fast - & started scheduling the sushi trips earlier in the tide cycle, that was better). With the water level where it's at in this picture, we were fine - had we gone to the bridge, though, things might have gotten pretty messy by the time we got back!
As I'm writing this, I'm sitting here nibbling daifuku (a Japanese sweet made of mochi, made from special mochi rice) stuffed with red bean paste. I've been told it's an acquired taste, but it reminds me of growing up in Hawaii, where mochi-pounding is part of New Year festivities. This is not something my family did, of course, being haole (Hawaiian word for "stranger" - exclusively applied to Caucasians & can be anything from neutral to really hateful depending upon the spirit in which the word is pronounce), but I think I remember some of the staff at Iolani, the high school I attended there, bringing in plates of mochi after their families had mochi-pounding parties, just like mainland people bring cookies to the office. Of course any office would have plates of cookies or candies too, that's Hawaii for you, you get the cookies AND the mochi too. It's funny, with all these Pacific Rim bloggers that have reached out & found our little - but growing - circle of Western kayak bloggers, I was getting thoroughly nostalgic over posts like this one, or this one that somehow replicated that sense I used to have that this was going on, and although my family didn't do it it was all part of the fun of the holidays in Hawaii. Anyways, one of my favorite stands at the Mitsuwa Marketplace is the U.S.A. Minamoto Kitchoan, which sells the most beautiful wagashi - and this time I finally had a camera! Look, aren't they beautiful?

Now these are the very fancy kind, which I would never buy for myself - as you may be able to read on the spring-looking ones (the designs and ingredients change with the seasons), these are generally served as part of tea ceremony - or you would give them to someone as a hostess gift or something. They have much humbler-looking ones - still very delicious, just not as painstakingly crafted & much more suitable for popping into the day hatch of a kayak & taking home for personal consumption - and I'm afraid I'm not very generous with my wagashi - for starters, on the occasions I have been generous, the response to the flavor has been lukewarm, and since I consider these a special treat, I get selfish now.

Also there are other things there that are more shareable - like these!

Everybody likes these - they are a kind of sweet waffle filled with either red bean paste, white bean paste, or (a new development since my last sushi paddle) custard. They make them fresh all day & you buy them hot off the iron - in fact the fish ones are empty because I just bought the last two taiyaki (that's what the fish ones with the red bean paste are called) - two to make sure I had plently to share!

These are wonderful, especially on a cold winter day. In fact although we always call this Edgewater trip a "sushi paddle", I don't think anybody actually ate sushi this time - too cold, we all walked in dying for soba and udon and ramen and what have you. No picture of that, I was too hungry after our chilly chilly paddle up - can tell you though, it tasted wonderful. The one funny thing was that they've renovated the food court completely since I was last there - it's all spiffy-looking now, with big screens over the seating area showing (while we were there) sumo wrestling, kite flying, and the Hi Hi Puffy Ami Yumi Show. Cool, but we did feel a little more self-conscious than usual,

especially when two cleaning people came over and started mopping up around us - you know the picture of the ice coating my kayak had by the time we got to Edgewater? There was a fair amount on the paddlers, too, and when that thawed out it ended up all over the floor...sheesh. Paddlers, can't take us anywhere without things getting all soggy, yeah? Like big retrievers that insist on jumping in the water then shaking themselves off all over you or something. However, this was a first - I'm sure we've gotten a little water on the floor before but to have not one but 2 cleaning people come racing with mops - that was a surprise! Next time I expect we'll be a little more careful about leaving as much water outside as we can - this is one of New York paddling's more unique destinations (as opposed to that run-of-the-mill old Statue of Liberty, ho hum...HA HA HA! I'm kidding, I have been to the Statue about a zillion times on various boats, not bored yet!) and it would be terrible if we wore out our welcome! The only problem with the renovations are that they've moved things around, and the ramen stand menu has changed, it is still VERY good but there was this one kind that totally used to give me Shiro's Saimin Haven flashbacks, (Shiro's being an absolute institution in Hawaii, wonderful saimin there) which they don't seem to have now - maybe I just got the wrong kind though. Have to go back and try again!

We left just as the edges of the mudflat were beginning to show & had a beautiful paddle home - it had warmed up enough by this time that the ice had melted from our kayaks (although I took yesterday's ice shots on the way home).

Heading for home. Notice who we are sharing the river with? Nobody. That's right. That's one of the joys of winter paddling around here - there's still commercial traffic in the channel, but they all move in predictable patterns & as long as you see 'em coming, you can stay out of their way - but the edges of the river, the pierhead line and just beyond - we had those all to ourselves. Beautiful.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Sushi Paddle, 1/16, MLK day - Part 1 - Ice!

Well, sorry to start on a down note, but just out of respect -

I got to go paddling today because it was Martin Luther King much better if we had no holiday because he was still around. He would have been 77 this weekend, I think. Couldn't just let it go, had to say something.

That being said - we had a fine paddle today. I woke up in the morning & turned on the weather channel on the VHF - hearing "19 degrees with a wind chill of 7" at 7:30 am was discouraging, it would have been tempting to turn off the alarm & crawl back under the blankets but I was all packed, I've got the new drysuit, I've been paddle-deprived for too long, it was a good crew that was going, and it looked beautiful outside. The forecast was calling for the temperature to climb fairly quickly; our launch time was at 10:30 & by that time we were supposed to be up to 29 degrees (oh, for the non-US set - I'm talking in Fahrenheit of course - 19 celsius and I would not be whining, but I'm using the scale where water freezes at 32).

Did I say "water freezes"? Well, yes it does:


Icy PFD! I had to break it loose from the bottom of my boat. That was after thawing out the lock by holding it in my hands. I started our paddle with a neoprene hood - switched to my balaclava very quickly as my face started to sting! That's why they call it frostbiting, right? Balaclava worked GREAT, though - except that my fellow paddlers didn't see a ninja...they saw Kenny from South Park.
Ice on my kayak (this just builds up from paddle drips & the occasional splash from a wake
Icicles on a Circle Line sightseeing boat
Icicles on the derelict piershed at Pier 64 (when I started paddling these beams were up straight forming a sort of porch or apron at the end of the pier, surfaced in concrete - this is the one I wish I had taken a series of photos of because the time-lapse effect would have been fascinating)!

Better icicles under the same dock
Ice on sailboats at Pier 63, end of the day (the wakes come in here & spray up between the bigger & smaller boats)

Now I had originally meant to do a post with all the pix from the day, but Blogger is playing funny games with me, spending long amounts of time uploading pictures without actually putting them in this post (if I paid anything for this I'd be howling, but it's free and I'm just glad they made it so easy to post photos - one at a time almost always works), so I think it has to be a 2-parter 'cause it's almost 11 & I need to turn in! However I will post one more just 'cause I said I would - Lyn took this on our Paddle-Off-the-Turkey Paddle and I think I didn't notice the camera because I don't have that sort of tense smile-for-the-camera smile I usually have -

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Greenland implements

As I expected, YellowEye thoroughly enjoyed my "ninja paddler" look. He was curious about the implements I was holding in my hands - well, here's the answer (I actually wrote this in a comment but then thought "Hey, that wouldn't make a bad post")

I've pulled up another shot here from last night's self-photography session - I took a few & tried to pick the least, please quit laughing...anyways, here's a shot where you can see the smaller implement in my right hand better. That is a norsaq, which is the Greenland word for atlatl, a spear thrower known to hunting communities worldwide. The spear (No, I do NOT have one of those but hope to maybe try a little spear throwing in Sweetwater during Greenland Sports - used to enjoy archery when I worked at a summer camp & was a lot more enthusiastic than one might think about my success in blasting a plastic flowerpot into the air in my first and only experience with an actual firearm, so spearchucking might be fun!) lays in a groove & essentially the throwing stick serves as an extension of the arm, increasing the leverage and allowing the hunter to strike an animal at a greater distance. It is also used as a rolling aid, which is the purpose to which it's most commonly put in the USA (probably Greenland too, I think they mostly use rifles now). Most US Greenland-style paddlers have at least one but few, if any, of us would ever use it for the purpose for which it was originally intended, even if that weren't ENTIRELY against the Marine Mammals Protection Act. In fact many norsaqs are made without the groove for the spear; I have 3, and of those, only one has that feature.

The longer item in my right hand is a Greenland storm paddle. It is used in high-wind conditions, using a special "sliding stroke" in which the paddle slides down through the paddler's hands so that at any given time, the least amount of blade possible is up being grabbed by the wind. Essentially it answers the same need that led to the development of the feathered Euroblade - cutting down on wind resistance. I also call this my "subway paddle" as this one, which is just a hair shorter than my own height of 5'7", is considerably easier to take on New York City public transit than my six-foot-plus standard Greenland paddle (either way, talk about keeping strangers from messing with me - although it does elicit a delightful number of questions which I'm always happy to answer!)

Virgin Islands gallery is done!

The sky has cleared up now, but this weekend started out windy & gray - good time to go through Virgin Islands pictures, so I've finally finished my Virgin Islands gallery!

Got doubts about tomorrow's paddle now - we've got a gale warning on today, and although the marine forecast looks better tomorrow, that's a very qualified "better" - winds 15kts, gusting to 30. well, we'll see. Later update - the marine forecast has been downgraded a bit, it's now winds 10-15 kts, gusting to 25, so Voyageur, who's the organizer du jour, is willing to give it a go. It's a solid crew, and he's hoping that if we zip straight over to Jersey, we can get out of the worst of it by staying tucked in under the shelter of the Jersey side (that's a pretty standard approach to windy conditions, unless the wind is going either straight up or straight down the river, if you get over on the side it's coming from it's usually a little quieter, because the shore can block the wind, and offers calmer water, because the distance wind travels over open water is called the "fetch" and the longer the fetch, the higher the waves). Just finished packing up my stuff; VHF and camera are a-charging,I wonder if I will be able to get any good pictures of the beautiful wagashi (Japanese sweets) they sell there...some of them are just lovely; I tend to buy the less-fancy kind for myself. This means I'm sticking with the drysuit as is - don't have the patience to do otherwise!

If it doesn't happen, well, that at least gives me more time to think about contacting Kokatat & see if I can swap this medium unisex they sent for a women's medium - I feel like I'm swimming in this one. They've got something they call "Competition Cut", which translates into cut more loosely for freer motion. Really undecided on this though. Seeing as in my old one I always felt like I was fighting it, especially early in the season during the time of readjusting to winter gear, maybe a looser cut is a good thing; also when I imitated the set-up position for a c-to-c roll, I did actually use all of the extra fabric in the sleeve. This is exactly why I usually don't like to order stuff on line - fit is so important to gear working well & being comfortable, and I so much prefer to be able to try a few different ones on. In this case I may just end up keeping it 'cause I just don't want the hassle, and it's not too bad. But once I've worn it paddling, I'm committed. Now, as requested, here's me modelling the suit (lucky you live Malaysia...). I thought YellowEye might enjoy seeing my cold-weather balaclava, too, so I threw that on!

Friday, January 13, 2006

linkfest -

I have a couple of "real" posts in mind but time's been a bit short this week. Looking forward to this 3-day weekend - on Martin Luther King day we're paddling to the George Washington Bridge on Monday & stopping at the Mitsuwa Marketplace, the big Japanese shopping mall in Edgewater, for lunch on the way back down - I am pleased to report that my new drysuit arrived yesterday so that's a definite! I do plan to actually try to write a couple of posts that aren't just throwaways.

For today, though, just a few links -

1. Sad frog news. Everybody knows about the bird flu but did you know that the frogs are dying? Scientists have been studying the die-off and they think they've linked it to a fungus, which may be becoming more lethal due to global warming. Here's the NPR piece I heard, and there was also a story in the New York Times (registration required, will expire in a few days)(oops, that was also a duplicate of the NPR link, fixed now).

2. Much happier - more aquatic New Year's Day fun here in New York City - SeaLevel continues to post wonderful shots of the Coney Island Polar Bear Swim; also, Richard, owner of the pinky schooner Rosemary Ruth, has updated his Winter Sailing Page with shots of his New Year's Day Sail (that would have been fun too, even without wind, it looks like a pleasant group with which to drift).

3. Random weird cool thing - my friend Larry (whose 2006 appears to be shaping up nicely, knocking wood of course) found a site that lists a whole lot of New York City blogs by subway station. I'm undecided as to whether I really want the world at large to have that good a fix on where I live (not that somebody couldn't figure it out if they really wanted to, and not that I consider myself particularly stalkable or anything like that) but it is tempting - fun to see who's blogging in the 'hood!

That's all I have time for right now - just wanted to share those though.

oh, the only other thing right now is that I'm wondering if I gushed too soon re Sweetwater - haven't heard back from them yet - boy, I hope the classes I wanted to take haven't booked up, that would be so depressing...ah well, I emailed 'em again this morning, hopefully will hear back. (3:30 update - heard back - my classes still had space; I'm now just waiting for them to call 'cause I need to figure out what kind of boat I'll be renting before I can write them a check - I started in on a response to their response, then decided it would be a lot faster to work out over the phone).

Wednesday, January 11, 2006


yippee yahoo hee hee ha ha woo hoo -

just sent the following email to Sweetwater Kayaks...

Hi - OK there was a possible issue with having some reports covered but that's taken care of, so I do want to sign up for the classes we discussed (if space still available,Greenland Rolling Tuesday, Disc. Learning Wednesday, Greenland Sports thursday, Fun with Foster on Friday). Looking at the form, I do have a couple of questions before I can calculate my total -

1. I do need to rent a boat; on the form you have per-day costs & then a 3-day
discount rate for the symposium; is there a 4-day discount rate for the 4-day BCU/Greenland event? As long as I'm asking about gear - I do have all my own stuff but it would definitely cut down on the bulk of my gear if I used your pfd & sprayskirt instead of bringing mine. Would you recommend bringing my own (I've done a wide range of the Greenland rolls in mine & know it allows me the full range of motion those require) or would you say that yours would probably be OK?

2. What are the food arrangements for BCU/Greenland week - are there box lunches
available for that, or is that just the symposium?

other than that, can't wait.

There's a piece of my brain that is reacting very much like a dog who's just been asked if it wants to go for a w - a - l - k...

can't wait can't wait! Two days with Cheri, Turner, and Dubside, two days with Nigel Foster - can't think of a much more promising lineup than that.

I'm feeling positively carbonated. YAY!

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Polar bear pix!

Oof, crazy week here (that post yesterday about calling Kokatat? I did that just before I left the office, amazing how it gets to be 7:00 before you realize it). Well, I seem to have a moment to breathe here, have handed off the things I needed to hand off & can now get back to making sure the bills get paid. But I thought I'd just do a quick post here as part of my lunch break - going along with the "amphibious fun on New Year's Day" theme I started with my Sunday trip report.

First off, forgot to mention it but Mr. Sea Level is back after a blog-rethinking-retooling break (these things are supposed to be fun & his was starting to feel like work)! Yeah! He went out to Coney Island on New Year's Day & is starting to post some fun pictures taken during his field studies of Ursus maritimus brooklynensis. Now he just went as an observer, but Harry and Tim and a few other folks from the Downtown Boathouse pulled together a trip and participated. Yup, you thought I was weird to think it was fun to roll my kayak in the Hudson on New Year's Day...well at least I was wearing clothes! Tim started it last year when he was paddling about shirtless in a show of solidarity - well, that wasn't enough for one big drunk polar bear, and Tim ended up rolling. This year...they meant to do it! Harry joined Tim in the topless rollers club, and Tim said that Harry, although reluctant at first, turned out in the end to be the Kayak King of the Polar Bears, while he, Tim, had had plenty within about ten minutes. It's all in the body type - Harry's a big bearlike guy, Tim's the lean & wiry type (we're talking like .001% body fat) & that lets that cold cold water suck out the heat from his core a lot faster (there's a good lesson there about cold-water paddling, how different body types will handle cold, and how important it is to be aware of how your own body is going to respond & make allowances for that - sorry, can't resist the minilecture...). Anyways, it sounds like they had a blast, and Harry has now posted some pictures on Harry's Hudson Photo-Blog with a kayak-bear's-eye perspective!

Monday, January 09, 2006

new drysuit en route

Just got off the phone with Kokatat - at first I was going to wait until tomorrow but I'm glad I didn't because this time, I got transferred to the repair manager, who happened to be walking past the guy who answered my call just as he was talking to me. She had access to notes the customer service folks didn't - namely the ones saying that the pressure test folks had said that my old suit wasn't worth fixing & instead I should be offered a good deal on a new one. Evidently the part about calling me back to let me know was left in limbo, but that happens over the holidays, and the deal was good enough (in fact just a bit more I paid for the old one six years back, VERY nice!) to smooth any ruffled feathers before I could even think about getting shirty with her (and she was very nice anyways, and I couldn't figure out any way that getting cranky about the delay, if there actually was one, was going to improve the situation, so why bother?). I went for nothing fancy, just the basic Swift Entry coated-nylon model (it's not the non-breathability of my old drysuit I disliked as the gaskets - oh, yeah, I did forego the gore-tex socks in the interest of getting back in my boat - & putting it on and taking it off) and they're sending it by Fed-Ex, to my office, which means a pretty good shot of being on the water this coming weekend. Yeah!

Sunday, January 08, 2006

New Year's Day Paddle

Sigh. Beautiful day out there today. Did I get out on the water? No. My drysuit still hasn't reappeared. I think maybe this coming week I may get a little 212 on Kokatat. I have a feeling I missed out on a really nice paddle today and I didn't want to start pestering them too soon but they've had it a month and counting now (although that month did include two weeks of holiday stuff & I imagine that probably slowed things down) and I'm just getting a little crazy with not being able to go. Once again, thank goodness that G-man saved my New Year's Day paddle.

That, btw, was a lovely one & I figured I'd do a trip report with pictures tonight. Virtual paddling is a pathetically pale shadow of actually getting out there, but I started this blog partly to allay cabin fever (yikes, last January, I'm coming up on a year here, hard to believe!).

I'd called for a 2:00 launch. Before I checked the tide tables for the 1st, I'd been hoping for that long-delayed sushi paddle (maybe next week, although I think all my friends just did one a couple of weeks ago during this drysuit-related paddling hiatus of mine so they may not be ready for that just yet) but the way the tides worked out, that was going to need a launch around 10:00 to avoid the dreaded Edgewater Mudflats (which are quite spectacularly nasty - I swear that an eon or so down the pike some futuristic paleontologist is going to find a fossilized kayaker that tried to launch too late in the tide cycle, got sucked down into the oily slimy reeksome ooze there at Edgewater's edge and was never heard from again...) , and on New Year's Day when you know for a fact that people will be out late the night before, that didn't seem realistic. So instead I just called for an afternoon jaunt, no particular destination, just on the water at 2:00, heading north for a couple of hours against the rising ebb, then turning around & getting whirled back home again around sunset.

And that's just what happened.

Here we are heading around the corner of Pier 64, the derelict piershed just to the north of where most of us keep our kayaks (we are getting a growing contingent of Pier 40 people though, which is nice!). I wonder now how much longer that old piershed will be there - there's a barge with a crane just north of there; it's condemned & slated for demolition at some point. Think I've said before - I'll miss it. It's ghostly looking - but it's also a sheltering presence, calming the waters beside Pier 63.

Hmmm, we seem to have a bit of a traffic jam here. Once they got themselves sorted out (amidst a lot of laughter) we started north, paddling hard. I was worried that I was going to be back into my fighting-with-the-drysuit mode, but I did get some good paddling in before I shipped the thing off, and I have actually been hitting the gym reluctantly but regularly, and I found I was moving a lot better than I'd expected to. Dang that was a nice surprise.

It had rained quite a lot the week leading up to New Year's Eve, snowing a bit on New Year's Eve day - this always leads to a lot of crap in the water. I think that this qualifies as the single largest piece of flotsam I've ever seen wandering around loose in the river. It's actually a camel - this is not quite a dock, but large timbers fastened together to make a float which is then generally left in place beside a pier where it serves as sort of a big fender between a large ship & the pier. All jokes about runaway camels aside, this is actually a really nasty thing to have running around loose in the harbor, particularly after dark when it would be pretty difficult to spot from, say, a fast-moving water taxi (wince).

Here's a pier that I've been watching slowly collapse, right before the garbage barge pier (ok I know that's an unnattractive name, used to bum the MKC founder out no end that I'd call it that but that's what it is, so that's what I call it). Back when the Hudson was dead from pollution, the pilings that supported all the piers lasted an unnaturally long time because there were none of the little critters that like to eat pilings (shipworms, teredos and gribbles, oh my!). Now they're back with a hearty appetite & between them & the odd runaway camel, a pier left to itself will gradually start collapsing. It's a very slow process. I wish I'd thought to take a series of pictures of the area at the end of Pier 64, which is the one I've watched the most closely as it slowly crumbles. The new piers in the Hudson River Park all stand on concrete pilings but many of the piling fields that remain from former piers are being left as they provide habitat for a lot of creatures.

Here's Tom at the Melted Piers. This is an old pier that was abandoned, then burned, leaving nothing but a twisted iron skeleton. There used to be two of these, and the other one was even more surreal-looking - this one just looks like it went down on its' knees on one side - the other one, the heat must have been even more intense because the girders actually went soft and bent, leaving a blackened tangle of iron spaghetti. The New York Times, I think it was, once did a story on those piers, talking about how fascinating-looking they were, but still slated for demolition; in one of those funny-sad moments, Adrien Benape, the NYC parks commissioner, wrote to say that he actually thought they were wonderful & that he had no intention of having them torn down - he was still relatively new at the time, I guess, because it turned out that things had already been set in motion & it was too late to stop the demolition of the more melted of the two. One day a couple of years ago I paddled up there & there was a barge there; within days they'd dismantled the fascinating wreckage and left. I wonder if Mr. Benape managed to get a stay of execution for this one - I hope so.

Still heading north at the 79th St. Boat Basin. This barge made life very interesting there - it was getting pretty close to low water here (which in our peculiar piece of water means max ebb, not slack as common sense would want it to be), so we were already paddling pretty quickly to make headway (the Hudson at max ebb runs about 3 knots - nautical miles per hour - when it's going at it's fastest; 3 knots also being the accepted "average touring speed of a trained paddler", you get the picture, right?), and when you throw a big, bulky obstruction in the middle of that, the water goes even faster getting around it. Took a lot of focus; this was one of those situations you sometimes find on the Hudson where you have just GOT to concentrate & not slack off for a second 'cause if you do, in that second you'll lose ground that took minutes to gain (Lyn actually found herself being pushed backwards for a moment, which hasn't happened to here in ages - and I was last of course because I must have lost twenty yards just taking this picture! Particularly dicey coming around the end - this was not a manuever I would have tried with beginners period (of course then I wouldn't have beginners out on forty degree water in the first place). I may expand on this in a post later this week, it'll be kind of esoteric for non-paddlers but I think it's kind of interesting how it all works.

Lyn & Dan charging on past Grant's Tomb (OK, I better not have to tell anybody who's buried there - at least if you aren't from Sweden or Malaysia or something...of course my friend from Spain -- Wenley at OnKayaks -- on the other hand probably knows more about Ulysses S. Grant than 95% of US citizens) - we had a little water break to catch our collective breath, now we're moving well again, but we're pretty close to our turnaround here.

And here are Dan, Tom & Lyn at said turnaround. I think we all still felt pretty good but the plan was to get back before we had to break out the deck lights -

and as you can see here in this shot of Carl (slightly to my south), we're getting a little bit of a sunset tint in that line of clear air between the clouds and the horizon! So, it's time to head for home...

But first I decide that I want to wish the fish a Happy New Year! Ordinarily, I strongly prefer doing my winter rolling right at the end of a paddle, when I'm feet away from the dock and yards away from a warm room with dry clothing - but this time I make an exception, I've been quite comfortable temperature-wise during this paddle, I'm with a very competent crew of people, I put my thick neoprene immersion hood on, and frankly the water up here is a LOT nicer than the water down at Pier 63, which didn't look rollable at all...of course the thing is that what's gonna getcha on these post-rain days isn't the stuff you can see, it's the stuff you can't see. Nevertheless, it looked enough better up here that as I mentioned, I indulged in 3 rolls on both sides. Most satisfying! As I mentioned, the water temperature really prompted me to concentrate on form; I started by sculling down to get used to the water & make sure the hood was properly adjusted, then went for (and got) nice, clean, slow sweep rolls. Ahhhh. A fine way to start the year!

We set off for home again & just as planned, the strong ebb simply whips us home - we're pulling in back at the barge before twilight.

Post-paddle sushi tasted simply splendid - all in all, a great start to 2006!

Friday, January 06, 2006

Friday Frivolity

Tons to do today, probably won't be posting, but I was cleaning out my Outlook last night, and ran across this, which cracked me up, and is also in keeping with the Irish theme I began with my currach post on Wednesday (and GC if you're reading - that was interesting, your comment - seems there's a whole Irish boating scene out there that I had no idea about before this!).

Anyhow, close docs are calling but here's the Gaelic curse generator.

Use it wisely...

Thursday, January 05, 2006

I might be being a "212"...

One of the many interesting factoids (or possibly mythoids) I picked up during my 3 years at Manhattan Kayak Company was that in the world of adventure-sport guiding and outfitting, there's a certain type of client noted for being...oh, let's just say difficult. Demanding, neurotic, with expectations of nothing short of an Outdoor Magazine-writeup-worthy experience with 5 star cuisine and a masseuse and a manicurist waiting at the end of the day (ok, I MAY be exaggerating slightly) and in some cases a totally Disneyfied view of nature (or at least a tendency to think that as long as you have your cell phone, somebody is always going to be able to come bail you out if you get in over your head). Now I don't know HOW widespread the use of this particular jargon is, but I have heard that the adventure-sport industry code word for this type of person is:


Scenario: After 20 minutes of intense telephonic interrogation, adventure-sport outfitter employee #1 says into phone "If you can just hold on one moment, I'll check that out...", puts client on hold, rolls eyes, and groans to employee #2 - "Oh my god, what a 212...". Employee #2 shakes head sympathetically (and thanks his or her lucky stars that #1 was closer to the phone when the fateful ring did rend the peaceful air).

"212" is, of course, the primary area code for Manhattan.

Get it?

Ever read Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air? In that book, Sandy Pittman ended up coming across as the quintessential 212.

Now, obviously living in Brooklyn I can't be a real "212" but last night I was guilty of sending of a possibly 212-ish email to Sweetwater Kayaks - I'm leaning more and more towards going to their BCU and Greenland week - I know exactly what I want to do for the first 3 days, but the last day nothing's really jumping out at me. Problem is that on Friday it's a lot of Part II's of 2-part classes, plus one thing I will have taken on Wednesday (which would probably not be terrible to take again - 2 days working with Nigel Foster couldn't hurt), plus one other thing that might or might not be good (Trip & Group Management - could be a good brush-up since I haven't guided in so long, but since I'm also not likely to be guiding much in the future - unless I leave New York - I do have to ask myself "Why brush up skills you won't use?"

So last night, going on the assumption "It can't hurt to ask" but also feeling a little bit like I've got to be being a pain by doing so (I mean, it's pretty straightforward - there's no surfing scheduled for the BCU week, for that you go to their symposium) I emailed 'em and asked if there was any way to maybe go do some surfing on Friday. That would be awesome but it just isn't on the schedule...if I don't ask and there is some way that could happen then I'd be missing out on something that I'd really like to do for no reason.

But I do hope they aren't looking at my email & going "Oh, no, not a 212". I really don't want to be a pain. I would just really really really love to surf something better than a ferryboat wake, that's all...

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Currach Rowing in New York

Well, I have seen all sorts of interesting things out on the harbor but not one of least not yet. I've been thinking about doing a series of posts linking to other interesting denizens of New York Harbor & seeing as I'm not feeling too hot tonight I thought this might be a good time to start!

Now this is a curious crossing of two sort of separate circles in my life. I've heard New York described as a commingling of "villages". It's very difficult to take this city as a whole, it is SO huge, SO full of everything, SO overwhelming - bigger than the human brain really seems to be wired to deal with (as described in this wonderful piece of writing called The Monkeysphere which I first found through Some Amusing Blog Pun, which also features some not too shabby writing) - seems like the way most people cope with the enormity of this place is...well, to not cope with it. You come here, and gradually you find your circles based on the things you like to do the most & you sort of stick with them. Everything else is out there, which gives the place a wonderful sense of possibilities - but I, at least, am almost completely engrossed in 2 circles: my waterfront friends, and my Irish music friends. The balance shifts seasonally - in the summer it's all about the river; in the winter me & my tin whistle start attending a nice low-key Irish music session with more frequency.

Now Lorcan Otway, proprietor of the blog shown above, is a gentleman who plays at the same session (or seisiun if you want to get Gaelic). I'm acquainted with him first & foremost as a darned good uillean piper (uillean pipe being a smaller version of the more familiar Piob Mor, "great pipe", which is the instrument you would picture if I said "bagpipe" - bet you're seeing one now! Now imagine that on a smaller scale, more suitable for indoors, and with a bellows driven by the piper's elbow rather than the piper's lungs) secondly as the only Quaker I actually know. Over the last few weeks a couple of people at the session have been mentioning that he's got another hobby I might find interesting - well, I do! And today, I finally remembered to pester one of 'em for the link!

When people started telling me that he was also a boatbuilder, my first assumption was that he was involved in Floating the Apple (remember them from my Paddle-Off-The-Turkey-Paddle post?) which is a very well-established local not-for-profit who build and row Whitehall dories. Before I started kayaking, I had been sniffing around that group quite a bit as a possible way to get out on the water - I think I like the independence of kayaking better but they're still pretty cool in my book. But my friend who was first telling me about it said "No, something like that, but that's not the right name, it's an Irish boat". "Maybe a curragh?" I asked. That was it. Now the funny part is that to me the name "curragh" brings to mind a round boat woven of wicker - like this -- also called a coracle (probably the Anglicized version of "curragh", like Dublin vs. Dubh Linn) on Salmon Boats, a rather nifty collection of UK boats -- but as you can see both on the Salmon Boats site and on the Curraghs in New York site, that name also applies to a much more seaworthy craft that makes a LOT more sense for the Hudson River.

I'm just sorry I missed the event he had posted for the 19th, that sounded pretty interesting.

Monday, January 02, 2006

No Trip Report...Life Happens.

Yep, I really thought I was going to write a trip report tonight but there were friends & family to phone (good) and oh, yes, there seem to be a small stack of bills on the table going "ahem" (necessary evil). In lieu of tonight's planned post, I hereby offer my personal favorite shot from our New Year's Day Paddle for your enjoyment.

Humorous captions, anyone?

New Year's Day Roll

New Year's Day rolls - yes I did! 6 of them, 3 on-side, 3 off-side - I was quite awake afterwards! Cold water has a wonderfully focusing effect. Just one moment in a really good New Year's Day paddle. More tonight, much work to do today!

So this is 2006!