Friday, March 31, 2006

Of Paddles & Planes, Part II

Yes, one last semi-real post before I vanish into Budget Hell. I should start with a reiteration - a small geek advisory is in effect from now until the end of this post. Scott Chicken was very impressed with the intensity with which I've geeked out on both land and water...well, here we go again!

And as Yellow-Eye said in a comment on the same post - yes, it all comes back to kayaks - and more specifically, to the Sweetwater Kayaks BCU/Greenland Week. This time, my subject will be a really excellent afternoon class on Greenland fundamentals (of the rightside-up air-breathing variety, no less!) taught by Turner Wilson.

I finished my last Paddles & Planes post with pictures of some kayak paddles. Let's go back & look again - this time with a little more explanation. First one note - don't look too hard for direct parallels to the different jobs those 3 different planes specialize in doing, I realize it would be easy to say "Oh, she means paddle A is like plane A, paddle B is like plane B..." and I just want to steer everybody away from that path right now. The only comparison I'm after is that again, we have 3 different designs that all perform a similar task (for the planes, flying, for the paddles, moving kayaks), but in different ways.

Paddle (relevant definition only)
NOUN: 1. A usually wooden implement having a blade at one end or sometimes at both ends, used without an oarlock to propel a canoe or small boat.

First paddle for today is the wing paddle:

This is a highly specialized, very modern design that evolved in response to one very specific desire - the desire to move a boat through the water as fast as possible. I don't think I've ever seen one that wasn't made from carbon fiber. I've done a quick Google search and can't find anything more about the history of these things than a reference to the "winginess" of their shape becoming "more pronounced over the last two decades" in a Wikipedia article on canoe racing - however I think we can at least take that to mean that the idea is still pretty new. Did you by any chance read Greg Barton's article? That explains in depth. Quick explanation - you put a wing paddle in the water and that curved blade just grabs on it feels like you've planted your blade in quick-setting cement (this is actually why I don't use my wing with my Romany - a Romany is a pretty solid chunk of glass to be dragging around like that & I want my shoulder joints to stay intact for a good long time to come - but with a surfski, whee!)

Second paddle is what is known in kayaking circles (where there's awareness of Greenland style, particularly) as a Euroblade:

This design - the one that most people would picture if you said "Kayak paddle" - has been around for much longer than the more specialized wing paddle. In fact, I think it might even be a little Eurocentric to call it a Euroblade -
This image is from Chapter III of R.M. Ballantyne's 1863 book, Man on the Ocean, e-book version copyright Athelstane E-Books
Take this design without the double blade feature, and you've got something you'd see all over the world - and something that looks (be warned, I am venturing into pure off-the-top-of-my-head conjecture here) like what somebody might come up with if they'd never seen a paddle before in their life but had a need to make something to propel themself on the water. After all, the prototype is attached to the end of most healthy human arms. You can paddle a boat with your hands; occasionally on a white-water river you'll see a particularly skilled paddler doing so for fun (you can buy gloves that give you neoprene webbing between your fingers for just that purpose); if you want to paddle it faster, doesn't it just make sense to make yourself a bigger "hand" out of wood, making a blade that's broader & longer than your hand & attaching it to a handle so that you can wield it effectively?

Are you with me on this?

OK...if you are, then how the heck did this happen?

This is a West Greenland style kayak paddle (frequently abbreviated to "GP" - you'll also sometime hear these affectionately referred to as "skinny sticks"). There are definitely other varieties of traditional kayak paddles, both single and double bladed (for that matter, if you go to a kayak shop, you'll see a lot of variations on the basic Euro plan, too, that could be a whole future post in and of itself), but this is the one that most people in the US who know a little bit about Greenland style kayaking would picture if you said "Greenland paddle". So why the departure from the basic lollipop layout you see on so many paddles all over the world? Well, the impression I've gotten from listening to Greenland-style paddlers "talk story" is like this: the one catch (ha ha, that's a paddle pun...a pretty bad one though...sorry, it's late & did I mention I'm rewriting this entire post?) to a group's ability to consistently produce paddles with broad, flat blades is that you need a consistent supply of broad, flat pieces of wood. Where the kayak evolved, they didn't have much wood. Plenty of skin, bone, and stone, but the wood supply was mostly limited to whatever the tides & winds brought them - that meant mostly smaller pieces. The response to this challenge was the creation of the long narrow paddle you see above. It may look too skinny to be of much use, but if you'll notice how much of the length of the paddle is comprised of blade, you'll have the answer - the surface area of that blade (known as the "face")may be similar that of the Euro design, it's just stretched out over more length (I just took a quick measurement on the paddle Jack Gilman made for me & the blades on that are each 77cm long; for comparison, a basic Werner Skagit touring paddle has a blade length of 49 cm).

That scarcity of wood is also the reason for another design feature on the paddle shown above - traditional Greenland paddles frequently have bone tips and edges; this is to protect that valuable wood. You'll sometimes see Greenland paddles with simulated bone tips here, but that's generally more among the more serious Greenland replica builders - it looks cool & it's more authentic, but here in a land of wildly abundant 2x4's it's a very optional detail. Similarly, harpoons were designed with detachable heads; shafts were too valuable - and the skin-on-frame design itself allowed boats to be built using a minimum of wood in the first place.

Think that's enough for one night, but here's where I'm going with this:

As I mentioned in my last post, I currently have at least one of each of the aforementioned paddle designs - one wing, two Euros, and three Greenland paddles (a storm paddle & two full-sized, I bought the second as a spare to have in Florida). My first Euro was acquired in 1998, my first year of paddling. I believe I got the wing my second year (first year as a partner at MKC, Eric had gone off to Hawaii in the winter of 1998-99 & Bob Twogood had converted him to a surfski addict & we were all into racing that first year - unfortunately that was also the first year that my racing curse popped up...). I learned to use both of those paddles from very good instructors (the Euro initially from Eric, with significant tuning & refinement from Richard later; the wing from Bob Twogood (I went to visit my folks during the fall of '99, signed up for a private lesson with Bob, he's great). The wing is so specialized you almost really need instruction to get much out of it; the Euro somewhat less so but there are some very counterintuitive details that you would probably never guess left to your own devices.

I bought my first Greenland paddles early in the Spring of 2003. I carry my storm paddle as a spare, and I love to practice rolling with it after a good paddle - but for paddling with my speedy friends (all of whom favor the Euroblade) I always use the Euro. The paddle that gets the 2nd most use as far as covering distance is the wing - I use that with my surfski in the summertime. The GP - well, I've just never found it to be fast enough! I love rolling with it, I'll use it sometimes if I'm just puttering around on my own & don't really care about getting anywhere in particular, and I'll use it if I'm out with people in the "skinny stick" set.

But as far as getting from Point A to Point B - gimme the Euro, in the Romany, or the wing & the ski. Somehow I just didn't seem to be able to get the same kind of speed out of the Greenland paddle, with it's sliding-through-the-water feeling, as I could with the more positive bite of the Euro, or the planted-in-concrete catch of the wing.

Never blamed the paddle, though. You see, I knew exactly what I'd gotten out of lessons with both of the other kinds of paddle - those funny little un-obvious things that when done right let me use both much more efficiently than I ever would have otherwise.

I had a feeling that the same thing was probably true of the Greenland paddle - I'd had hours and hours of wonderful coaching, but that was all on the rolling end of things. The plain old forward stroke? That, I was figuring out for myself.

My experiences with the other two types of paddles told me that when you go at something that way, there's a pretty good chance you're going to be missing some really crucial thing - might even just be something simple, but even a simple thing can sometimes make a big difference. When I signed up for the BCU/Greenland week, one of the things I was really excited about was to finally fill in that gap in my learning, and see if there was something I was just plain missing.

My first afternoon at Sweetwater, therefore, was that long overdue Greenland basics class, taught by Turner Wilson.

Basics might sound boring, but it wasn't. Not a bit. And my just-plain-missing-something theory was just plain right.


Auuuuugh! A POX UPON YOU, Landmark Learning!!! DRAT YOU ALL TO HECK!

I was almost done with Part II of "Of Paddles and Planes" (which is now looking like a 3-parter - Part II being a comparison of the three types of paddles). I was almost done. I mean seriously, 10 minutes & I would've been posting. I looked for a little info about whitewater people who do hand-paddling - I found some link on their website - it turned out to be a #&@*in' PDF and somehow the Adobe #@*&in' upgrade thing kicked in, froze me & in the process of trying to escape I LOST THE ENTIRE @#*%in' POST!!!!


and btw if anyone from Landmark Learning happens to visit, your programs look really cool but if you're not related to another certain creepy group that also goes by Landmark, may I recommend saying so very clearly on your home page? Seriously, if I were looking for somewhere to go do some leave-no-trace camping or wilderness medical training or anything like that - I would actually need some serious reassurance that this wasn't going to turn into some outdoor Large Group Awareness Training weirdness before signing up.

rats rats rats. I'm SO upset. I was having a lot of fun with this one the first time around. Replicating it isn't going to be nearly as entertaining.

While I go cry over my lost post (and aren't the ones you lose always the ones you think people were going to like the most?) for a little while, here's something fun - Canadian CKayaker, who I had the pleasure of meeting at dinner on my last night in Florida, left BCU/Greenland week with so much inspiration that he's completely remaking the hull of an old skin-on-frame kayak of his to make it into a serious Greenland rolling machine. Good luck, Michael!

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Going going gone.

1. Pier 64 - Word came in via the "Rustbucket" (aka Pier 63) paddling group grapevine that Pier 64 is indeed no more. Goofyman drove past twice today - in the morning, it sounds like it still looked pretty much like it did on Sunday. He drove past later and it was gone.

A little more than a year ago, I was already saying this:

"Rounding the corner of the condemned old piershed at Pier 64 on Saturday, I found myself thinking of how familiar that building has become to me, and how strange it's going to be when the Hudson River Park Trust starts to work in our section and starts tearing the old stuff down. I'll miss the old ghost. From the water, there was something about it."

There was, too. It sheltered our embayment from the winds, it caught the light at sunset, when it's muted, weathered greens and blues and rusts would slowly go all shining orangey-gold along with the sun and the sky in the west, it brooded magnificently on dark & rainy days. It's going to take some getting used to having it be gone. Sadly, now, the end of a journey coming in from the north will now be marked by the glaringly garish video screen that advertises Chelsea Piers, instead of the dark & quiet bulk of the old pier.

Even sadder - I read that the coral in the Caribbean is...well, you can go read about it here.

Maybe I'm lucky I went when I did (I took the shot above last November).

Sorry a little gloomy today after yesterday's silliness (I didn't mention the last names of the kayakwomen in question - basically in writing a hasty email to Wenley and Derrick, I swapped the name "Wendy KILLORAN" for "Ginni CALLAHAN" for the woman who's circumnavigating NEWFOUNDLAND...not so silly after all, I guess). We're coming into what's always one of the worst weeks for the finance folks at the Really Big Children's Publishing House, where we simultaneously have to close the books on March & also produce the final budget for next year. We've already been warned not to make any plans for the 7th or 8th...not sure that we'll have to work both but we might.

I had the weirdest nightmare a few nights back, probably from the stress - dreamed that somebody I used to know put me in a situation that was so intolerable that I somehow tore myself in two trying to get then there were two of me, and one of me was free, but the guy still had the other me, and I knew I couldn't leave without rescuing me first. Of course with the usual illogic of dreams, the scene shifted from somewhere at the barge to a very fancy restaurant, and as is usual in my infrequent dreams (actually I don't remember my dreams much but when I do it was usually a doozy), I wasn't able to ask anyone to help me save, uh, me...weirdest moment of the whole dream was when a waitress passed me and the bad guy, and then she passed me again because I was...yup, tailing me (and the bad guy), and I could see the complete confusion on her face that she realized something really weird was going on, but of course I couldn't tell her what was going on.

Will I be glad when budget hell is done & I can resume having a life? Oh my yes! And daylight savings time starts this weekend, yay, and that means after-work paddles get a little more interesting (somehow I don't mind finishing at twilight or even night, but starting & finishing in the dark just doesn't appeal to me much). Man, my pier 63 paddling friends (dose rat-bastards...) are all doing a "hooky paddle" tomorrow - 4 to 6...guess where I'll be? That's right, chained to my cubicle, slaving over a hot Excel workbook. No wonder I'm dreaming I have to rescue me from an unpleasant arrangement. Is that not a bizarre thing to dream, though?

Well, for all that, it is at least feeling like it's coming together better this year than last year. Last year we were one staff member down & our business manager had given notice that she was leaving immediately after budget season & that was kind of scary, lots of handing-off to do. Being at full staff this year, it feels a bit better. And the worst is over after our budget-due-to-corp date - deadlines may be stressful but I'm pretty good at working long hours as long as I know where the "finish line" is.

Hmm. I suppose what the ventilation session is leading up to is that things might get a little sparse around here over the next 2 weeks or so. I've got the next installment of the paddles & planes thing half done, will probably polish that off on Sunday (which I'm clinging to as a day when I don't have to be anywhere at anytime, what luxury!)...after that, eh, we shall see.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

How To Create an Internet Rumour.

1. Decide to take a quick blog break between part 1 & part 2 of a certain tedious but highly necessary month-end procedure. Pick Favorite Kayak Blog A (sole prop. Blogger A), who's got the "New Stuff" notice in your blogroll.

2. Click over to find that the new post is about a very cool upcoming expedition planned by Famous Kayakwoman A, who's being joined for part of the expedition by Famous Kayakwoman B,

3. Realize that this is the same expedition that you heard about weeks ago in an email exchange with Blogger B, sole prop., Favorite Kayak Blog B.

4. Get curious about whether Blogger A's vague references to sources could also be Blogger B.

5. Compose email Blogger A to ask. Add Blogger B at last minute because you think it would be funny. Inadvertently substitute Famous Kayakwoman C's name for Famous Kayakwoman A.

6. Ignoring fact that month-end procedure is beginning to clear it's metaphorical throat, decide to also include information you stumbled over a couple of days earlier (after duplicating a Google search that Sitemeter says brought someone to your blog) about a non-aquatic passion of everyone's favorite Greenland-style mystery man (ok truth be known, you just couldn't pass up the chance to use the words "quiet intensity" to describe him even if it's in relation to an issue about which you don't know enough to even have an opinion).

7. Finally heeding continuing metaphorical throat-clearing of month-end task, hurriedly hit "send" without bothering to check names in the first half of email, which goes winging off to recipients on 2 continents with error intact.

Fortunately I checked back into email before Blogger B (who was kind of excited - of course anything involving Famous Kayakwoman B has that effect on him!) started trying to coordinate anything between Famous Kayakwomen A through C. And even if I hadn't, well, as Internet rumours go this one was pretty harmless & probably would've been laid to rest quite rapidly even if I hadn't intervened.

Pity they're not all that easy to squelch.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Lunch Break Post - Salty Types, Sea Life & Sea Level!

Busy day, thought I'd take a quick break here over lunch & post a couple of "what I did with my weekend" pictures - obviously, I paddled on Sunday - ended up taking a few pictures in addition to Pier 64 - here's one I kind of liked - I call it -

Empire State Building with Seagull (Unimpressed)

Saturday was interesting too -

I found out that Richard & his friend Ignace were going to be remounting the engine in the Rosemary Ruth & then attempting to align it - well, I'd never seen that done, and it's not just every day I hear about a boat needing that done, so I figured I'd go watch. I helped out a little - it's really a two-person job, mostly - but it was interesting seeing how it was done. The thing is, you've got this 500 pound engine, and it has to line up with the propeller shaft perfectly for it to work - but all the adjusting has to happen on the thing that weighs 500 pounds (the picture above was right at the start of the process & the engine is actually suspended with that whole block & tackle/comealong setup you see there)because the propeller shaft comes into the boat through a hole through the hull. This is of course under the waterline, which presents an interesting problem. The solution to that problem is usually a stuffing box - the idea is that the shaft passes through a number of rings that are in close enough contact with the shaft to form a watertight seal. The shaft, though, absolutely positively has to pass through those in a certain way - so you can't move that at all. Instead, the engine sits on these little (but strong) adjustible feet -

The nuts allow the engine to be raised or lowered, while the hole in the base that's shaped like a very short arc allows it to slide back and forth. Not a whole lot - but Richard said that the alignment had to be precise to within 3/1000s of an inch (there's a little device called a "feeler gauge" that lets you judge that, I wish I could have gotten a shot of Ignace using it but that would've involved getting to the other side of the engine - I had this vision of falling over it & putting things back to square 1. As it was, we didn't get there - y'know that 3/1000s of an inch business? Well, a layer of fresh paint, such as Richard had given the bases of the engine mounts (the proper name for the "feet") is enough to screw things up when you're talking measurements like that. But I enjoyed observing.

Now, links, quick, then I must get back to work -

1. SeaLevel's back at least for a day! Please go say "Hello", he & Hinemoa have been having a long winter.

2. The seals are back! They've been turning up down at Swinburne & Hoffman Islands for the last few of years, with occasional sightings up as far as the North River area (North River is the old-timey name for the Hudson along Manhattan, so called 'cause that's the river you take if you want to go north...) - the New York Times had an excellent article yesterday, registration is required but it's a good read - you can find that here.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Pier 64 - Sunday, March 26

One more week into demolitions & going fast. The second floor is all gone now & it looks as though this week they've just been breaking through the second-story floor - week before last they were running heavy machinery up there, so it must have been pretty solid.

ps - yes, I originally posted this on Sunday, but then I put Harry B's comment up as a post, but I decided to float this up to the top as it's probably of more general interest as it stands. The thing that all you non-NYC residents might find interesting is that post I made out of Harry's comment is absolutely standard stuff for New York City paddlers, and the waterfront-appreciating public in general - there's always this tension between commercial uses & not losing parkland to the private sector. What that means in practical terms is that anyone who's been paddling in the NYC area on anything like a regular basis for any length of time basically becomes something of a waterfront activist.

Wrong Harry.

OK, I did do a quick look-up on Google & I think the Harry that left that comment was not my friend Harry of Hudson Kayaker but waterfront activist Harry J. Bubbins.

You can read an article by him with a bit more description than his comment gave, plus a couple more comments & articles on the same thing on There are also live links there for the various emails & government sites.

Preserve Randall's Island - NYC resident interest mostly

OK. I'm sad to see the end of Pier 64 - but in the end it was very old & dilapidated & there are people in Chelsea who really want a WATERFRONT park and so I will keep my level of comments to taking mournful pictures of the demolition process. But my friend Harry (he's got some fun pictures from our Edgewater paddle) left the following as a comment about taking some public parkland & putting up a theme park & this seemed worth bringing up from there & making a post. Haven't had a chance to look into this myself but just on a quick read I don't like the way it sounds (people USE the Ward's & Randall's Island parks - I've taken a lot of lunch breaks there and on a nice day in the summer there are always people out there having fun).

please share widely for paddlers...
Preserve Randall’s Island

Please sign onto the platform to Preserve Randall's Island!

A proposed theme park would occupy 26 acres of our waterfront.

Why we oppose this proposal:

Transparency: Originally proposed in 1999 as 12-acres, this theme park project has metastasized into a $168 million, 26-acre enterprise with a 35-year lease, without a Request for Proposals

Alienation: Would require 10 of the island’s already overcrowded baseball and soccer fields to be bulldozed.

Access: Price of admission to this private enterprise will be more than $60.

Scandal: Financial backers have contributed more than $100,000 to various political committees, in addition to entities controlled by former elected official

Ignores waterfront: The project would be inaccessible to residents of nearby neighborhoods that are underserved by parks, such as East Harlem & the South Bronx, which has no official waterfront or shore access.

Environment: Water theme sites are horrible for the environment, discharge millions of gallons of chlorinated water, and a 130,000 sq ft indoor facility with entrance fee is inappropriate for our ball fields and shore line

Next steps:

Sign on your organization to this platform...

Governance: The project must win five votes from the city’s Franchise and Concessions Review Committee (FCRC), which consists of mayoral appointees, the Comptroller’s office and the affected borough president, in this case Manhattan’s Scott Stringer, whose opposition to the plan is on record.

EMAIL ACTION: Comptroller Thompson and Council Member Viverito and The Mayor:,
Dear Elected Officials,
I am aware of the proposal to privatize 26 acres of Randall's Island to a commercial enterprise with a horrendous track record and connections to the former Mayor. Please stop the Randall's Island Theme Park. Instead, the government could build the bridge from South Bronx and open the bridge to East Harlem.
The waterfront is the wrong place for this kind of non-park use. I look forward to your written response.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Of Paddles and Planes.

Well, I think it's about time to get back to those planes I showed you the other day!

Airplane -
NOUN: Any of various winged vehicles capable of flight, generally heavier than air and driven by jet engines or propellers. of various winged vehicles capable of flight, generally heavier than air and driven by jet engines or propellers

Various indeed!

Here are my planes, once again - this time with a bit more of an introduction. Look at the wings! The thing I wanted to point out here was the designs of the wings - the different way that air behaves as it moves over the various wing shapes gives each plane some very specific flight characteristics.

My first plane is an F-16. This plane has relatively short little wings which are swept & they have what airplane people call a "low aspect ratio" (at the risk of oversimplifying to the point that makes the airplane people hate me because it's not quite right, think relatively short leading edge of the wing compared with the overall area of the wing). The way air moves over a wing shaped like this allows this plane to be extremely fast & manueverable, although at the cost of efficiency (gas mileage? ha!).

My third plane (I'm taking them out of order to go from one extreme to the other) is the Virgin Atlantic Global Flyer - I had actually meant to find a picture of Voyager, the plane in which Dick Rutan and Jeana Yaeger completed the first ever non-stop no-refuel flight around the globe, but I got the names mixed up. The Global Flyer is fine as an example of the opposite extreme from Plane #1 - long, straight , slender wings, rather like a glider. This plane will never break the sound barrier, and in an aerobatic competition the F-16 is literally going to be able to fly rings around this one - but what those high-aspect-ratio wings do is generate an enormous amount of lift, with the least possible drag - incredibly efficient (think about how long a glider can stay aloft with no fuel at all, once the towplane lets it go). The F-16 is going to run out of gas when the Global Flyer has barely begun to fly. You see those same kind of wings in nature on albatrosses - they may look goony on takeoffs & landing but once they're up there they just float.

My middle plane, then, is the 747 jumbo jet - balancing speed, manueverability and range by a wing design midway between the two high-performance extremes, resulting in a reliable workhorse of a jet.

The whole point of all of this, though, is pretty straightforward - what I wanted to show in these three types of aircraft, each well designed for the task it's designers meant it to do, was an example of human ability to take a certain piece of technology & adapt it in ways that maximize one performance characteristic or another, based on the job to be done. I picked airplanes - I could have picked skis, or saddles, or anchors, or houses, but I guess that somehow I see a lot of connections between the various ways that we move boats through water and the various ways that aircraft move through the air (after all, it's no coincidence that airplanes use the same port & starboard lights as boats) -- particularly after a couple of days with Nigel Foster got my head all stuffed with words like turbulence, laminar flow, and pressure differentials...hydrodynamics, aerodynamics...they seem to flow together (pun entirely intentional & I do apologize).

at any rate, now it's time to bring this post home to paddling --

or more specifically, paddles!

A much older technology than planes, but just like airplane wings, a technology that's been adapted in many, many ways to provide different performance characteristics tailored to different desired results - whether those results involve hunting seals, or hunting gold medals.

So here we go again:

Paddle (relevant definition only)
NOUN: 1. A usually wooden implement having a blade at one end or sometimes at both ends, used without an oarlock to propel a canoe or small boat.

This is a paddle:

This is also a paddle:

This is also a paddle:

And although I do mean to continue following this meandering train of thought, I think this is enough for one night & one post!

I'll close with a few links (careful, I could have read these for HOURS...)

If you want to read more about airplane wing aspect ratios, Wikipedia's got a great article - whoever their contributers were, they manage to describe the physics in terms that a person who's never taken a physics class in her life (i.e., me) could understand - that's the one where I really think I could've followed the links all day, from swept wings to the v-formation of migratory birds (they're drafting...) and so on and so forth - anyways, the article's here, don't say I didn't warn you. I do recommend the swept-wing link, that and the aspect ratio page actually let me write this post with a little more confidence - I had the general idea but reading those I was actually picturing airflow & for about 2 seconds I actually got it.

If you want to read more about these long-distance record making & breaking airplanes, the Virgin Atlantic Global Flyer site is here, and you can read about Voyager and the original first non-stop non-refueled flight 'round the world at

and if this whole aeronautical side trip is weirding you out, don't worry, my next post will be (er, at least if I don't get distracted) about my first lesson (taught by Turner Wilson) on how to actually PADDLE with a Greenland paddle!

Paddle images shamelessly lifted from, Rutabaga, and - plus a really good intro to the wing paddle, with excellent diagrams, by Olympic gold medalist Greg Barton, can be found here - found it while looking for images (truth is, this has been sitting in drafts for a couple of days waiting for paddle pictures - I'd hoped to go to the barge after work & just take pictures of my own, I have at least one of each variety, but it's budget season & there ended up being a ton of work to do tonight, didn't escape 'til after nine, by which time I just wanted to come home...)

Definitions from

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Is it just me...

Or does's Product of the Week strike anyone else as being maybe NOT the brightest thing to suggest for use while kayaking?

Just curious.

Definitely not too smart for the particular bit of navigable waterway I frequent - you might not think it, but a barge can be an awfully stealthy beast.

How would it be where you paddle?

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Happy Norouz

One of my Buzznet friends is a young Iranian gentleman by the name of Amin. Rather amazing, the internet.

He doesn't post pictures every day, but I always look forward to it when he does because when he does post, it's usually something pretty stunning (anytime I take a picture with the sun partially obscured behind something so that you see rays around the flower or building or whatever - I got that idea from a flower picture he posted once). And I really enjoy seeing the way he looks at his country.

A couple of days ago, he posted a lovely Persian new year greeting with a history of Norouz, which is the Persian new year festival, celebrated on March 20, 21 or 22.

I really enjoyed it, and wanted to share. Good to learn about each other, isn't it?

Enough philosophizing - over to you, Amin!

Monday, March 20, 2006

Better than expected weekend -

I just had a sort of perfect weekend - here's a very quick recap!

Started out with a sushi paddle on Saturday, which was more rousing than usual. Actually we were the most indecisive bunch of paddlers you've ever seen. First of all, I got to Pier 63 at about 10:25 am when our (me, Kayak Boy & the Voyageur being the "us" du jour) scheduled launch time was 10:30. I got to the pier to see the Hudson covered in whitecaps & a pretty solid wind blowing - the forecast had been for winds 15-20 kts, gusting to 25 - this looked like it was sitting at 25. Plus it was cold. I was ambivalent about the whole thing - I'm really tired of winter by now - so I attempted to weasel out. First indirectly - "You know, do you guys really want to wait for me? You don't have to if you'd rather not". No go, they were happy to wait for me. I then confessed that it seemed a bit on the cold & windy side to which Voyageur responded "I have one word for you. Quitcherbitchen. Now get your gear on." The amazing thing about Voyageur is that he's one of these people who are so completely even-tempered & good-natured that he can say something like that & come across as perfectly nece. Kids, don't try this at home (especially to, say, your parents, you will NOT pull it off, OK?). Might have something to do with his actually having grown up in New York. Dunno. It's quite a talent, though. Anyways, that ended this lady's protests & I got my rear in gear on the task of getting my rear into my gear. In the meantime, phone tag was going on between Kayak Boy and Nancy & Harry up at the Midtown Downtown Boathouse - with strong winds from the west to northwest, he was thinking maybe we should meet on the Jersey side (the Jersey side has bluffs that offer a bit of shelter when the wind's from that direction); Nancy called back to say that she'd seen a forecast involving gusts to 35 kts, and she and Harry were considering bailing; finally it was agreed that we'd paddle up, meet them at their boathouse & give them a report. That being done, and us finding the conditions brisk but manageable, we all agreed that we'd still paddle, but not go all the way to Edgewater, but that we would start by crossing the river to see if it was quieter on the Jersey side. Well, it was, and as we were crossing, we found that the current was still quite powerful and we were being whisked north quite nicely (full moon makes things go faster in both directions), so we quite literally made a snap decision to go with the flow. Literally! We had a good lunch, Kayak Boy got to test the Pokky Stick capacity of his new touring kayak's hatches, and we left to find ourselves being whisked just as nicely south. Estuarine paddling, what's not to like? It was quite breezy but we don't think it really broke 30 kts before we got home. The picture of our poor old going-going-gone Pier 64 was an interesting one to get - the Optio is designed for one-handed operation, so I had one had for that & one for the paddle, but lining it up meant not keeping an eye out for the gusts that were getting stronger, so it was a good exercise in just letting the lower half of the body take care of balance & compensating for gusts & chop while I concentrated on steadying the camera, getting the shot lined up, and not letting my paddle blow away (I think that's the very first time in my entire paddling career that I actually thought "Hm, a paddle park might be a good idea" - usually I'm of the "just don't let it go in the first place" school of thought. That's also where cropping comes in handy, but I gotta say I did not do one thing to that picture to make it nice!

And speaking of pictures - the next day I got a ride to & a spare boat for a rolling session in CT courtesy of Greenland mentor Jack G. I ended up playing musical boats, which was kind of fun; failed to do anything wonderful but it was a good solid practice of the sort I've been missing this winter, and it was fun feeling how different boat fits & shapes affected my rolling. I am pleasantly sore today, between Saturday's small-craft advisory fun & Sunday morning rolling various sizes of boat I had a good workout. Afterwards was the really neat part, though - Jack & another friend from Yonkers, Pat, are working on boats in a studio she's got - it's a nice deal for both of 'em as it works out, he gets workspace to work on a boat (the Yonkers Paddling & Rowing Club used to have a workshop space but that was a temporary arrangement, nice while it lasted but they haven't got space right now, and their old boathouse is unheated so working there in the winter doesn't work too well), she gets mentoring, they both get new boats & everyone's happy. They invited me over to hang out & help out. I took some pictures, I lashed some joints (that was one thing Jack was able to teach me to do quite easily, plus it's eminently fixable had I screwed it up, I didn't but it was nice to know that if I had, it was no big deal), it was an awfully pleasant way to while away a chilly Sunday afternoon.

Finally headed for home about 6:30, and posted some pictures from the building session, one I liked of the interior of the Yonkers boathouse (that's it up top), and one from the pool session over on Buzznet (the last one is of the pool full of kayaks - that was one popular session!). Enjoy!

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Pier 64 today

The wrecking crew has gone to work in earnest now.

Friday, March 17, 2006

This is great! Richard's blogging!

Oh, man, this is great - Richard is blogging!

Or rather Manhattan Kayak Company is. Richard's the one whose posts I'll really be looking forward to seeing, though.

This is the guy who I can unreservedly say...oh, I don't even know where to start, how about just my story about how I got that (seemingly) plain vanilla but OH so crucial efficient forward stroke? I came out of my first 3-hour class (taught by Eric, the MKC founder & sole proprietor at that time) with the mental concept that the torso was supposed to be heavily involved in moving the boat, but somehow that concept wasn't making it south of my neck. Richard saw what was going on & one day, as I was gamely plodding along at the back of the pack, he dropped back & paddled along next to me. At first he just watched me. Then he began to give me suggestions of how to clean up the stroke, engage the torso, and get those pesky arms out of it (I think the hardest thing in learning the forward stroke is convincing your arms that they aren't actually supposed to pull the paddle back, but just connect the paddle with the torso, which moves the paddle back by rotating).

After each suggestion, he'd watch again.

The first suggestion didn't work. The second one was worded differently - that didn't work either. Third one, ditto.

I can't remember how long this went on, and I can't remember any of the suggestions, except for this one:

"Think about paddling with your two bottom ribs."

That one, unlike the others, I remember perfectly - and that's because that was the one that worked. Plus later that ended up also being an incredible mini-lesson for me about how to teach, (subcategory "teaching & learning styles) (you see, he knew all the learning styles - there are several basic types of learners & he & a good instructor can adapt his or her teaching style to fit any of those - the trick is identifying the student's learning style & that's what Richard was doing with me - patiently working through different teaching styles until he found the right one for me - emphasis on "patient", too!)

Anyhow, still busy, but I'm psyched to see that MKC has a blog, and I hope Richard does have time to post occasionally (although the guy is painfully busy so I won't be surprised if he doesn't - but even if it's infrequent, I think whatever he does have time to write will be good stuff) - he knows an awful lot about kayaking, guiding, and teaching; one of my real regrets about not being at MKC anymore is that I learned so much from him while I was there, both directly & just by watching him work with other people - leaving MKC ended that - if he does have time to write, I might get to start picking up ideas from him again.

The really funny thing is that I found Manhattan Kayak's blog via Spain. Go figure.

OK I've got work to do, I'm just psyched.

I hate to carp but...

Phooey! I finally had a chance to READ the Intel press release & they totally left out the carp! I actually saw the Shannon Babb story in the NY Times on the way to work in the morning & I just loved it, knew that was going to be the lunchtime post. Posting quickly, I made a snap decision decided to link to the Intel press release instead of the Times version - the Times requires registration plus after a week their articles vanish into the archives & you have to pay for them. Only I didn't actually do more than skim the Intel version.

Finally caught on to that this morning, figured I'd add this since the specific thing that got Shannon interested in the project was the thing that really caught my attention in the first place, and was also the whole point of the virtual run to Japan to steal a talking carp (meant to be a visual punchline, keep reading & you'll see why)!

So here's an excerpt from the Times story giving the part of the story that the Intel left out!

Teenager Has Prize, and Utah's Carp Are Breathing Easier
Published in the New York Times March 15, 2006

Shannon Babb knew that the carp living in the Spanish Fork River in Utah were in trouble when she saw them thrashing wildly in the water one morning.

"They were trying to breathe," she said. "It was not good living conditions."

Shannon, 18, from Highland, Utah, found out that pollution was causing the carp's problems, and is now working with local officials to help the fish and the river. And what was good for the river and the carp, it turns out, was also good for Shannon, who won top honors for her work in the Intel Science Talent Search last night in Washington. Her prize is $100,000 in scholarship money.

PS - Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

American Idol? or: The Kids Are Alright

Here. I wrote a poem. Do you like it?

This Melissa McPhee,
who is she, who is she?
No, quite seriously!
See, I've got no TV!*

Personally the young lady I would like to vote for for elevation to idol status is Shannon Babb.

"Me too! Hey, can I borrow your phone?"

p.s. - sorry, the way the week is looking Frogma's gonna be a lot of links to other people's interesting things this week - quarter end close plus starting into budget season means lots of work & long days for finance team - I do want to keep going with that plane thing though! honest! maybe Sunday, sigh...

p.p.s. - Koi photo courtesy of Setsunai at On Dai Higashi Doro...of course Setsunai doesn't know yet that Setsunai has provided this picture because it's 3:45 AM in Japan & I'd be really surprised if S. has seen my comment saying "Hi, used your picture, hope it's OK!" - anyways, On Dai Higashi Doro: Life from the Raglan Road of Tokyo looks pretty interesting, from the ever-so-quick look I took before absconding with the desired fish!

*Do you have any idea how much time you automatically save by not having one of those things?

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Wednesday, March 15, 2006


OK, I can't quite resist what has to be the fastest lunch post ever (busy day, didn't get a moment to hit the cafeteria until a little while ago) -

As some of you may remember, my friend, Scott Chicken is training for a marathon. Naturally that means the acquisition of a certain amount of running gear.

Now, there was something I found particularly iiiinteresting, veeeerry iiiinteresting about the ad he linked to - just read the comment I left if you don't see the same thing when you look at the shoe ad...

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Birdbrain - the lost episode.

Here's the picture that I couldn't post earlier today, taken by my friend Lyn earlier this year, along with the email she sent about what happened. She'd said I could post it & I'd been meaning to for a while, seemed to be a good fit with my first Pale Male & Lola spring update.

Early this morning the neighborhood handy-man rang my buzzer and told me to be quiet but to look out my right bedroom window. On my windowsill was a huge hawk, chowing down on a pigeon that it had just caught. I got one picture of it on my sill, but then it flew off to a neighbor's fire escape. As feathers were flying, it wasn't long before many of the neighbors were out, looking up and chatting.

Amazing, huh?


OK, it's Spring & it's time for a Pale Male & Lola update!

Our local celebrity redtails Pale Male & Lola began mating flights back in February - last year they were evicted (by an idiotic co-op board) from their posh digs on 5th Avenue, they had to rebuild their entire nest once the housing court of public opinion forced the co-op board to relent on their no-redtails-allowed policy, and although they had a clutch the eggs didn't hatch, probably just as good for the pair after all the stress & effort, but still sad - I'm hoping they have better luck this year! One of my blogroll links is to their home page - I keep an eye on it even when it's not nesting season for the hawks, 'cause Lincoln takes beautiful pictures year round (although I'm not sure what I think of this suing Paula Zahn for wrongful imprisonment thing, that's kind of a strange story when he started out saying yes, he took his protesting too far when he frightened her young son), so I've known - hadn't gotten around to an update though. Last week they made the front page of the NYTimes, and today, although I don't see a specific March update on the update page, the captions under today's picture indicate that Lincoln thinks they've got some eggs in there. I hope they hatch this year! Here's something I wrote after making a pilgrimage to go see 'em in person instead of just being a virtual hawkwatcher - that was cool, I'll have to try to work that in again this year & take some pictures of the scene!

I had another cool - amazingly cool - redtail story & picture from one of the Rustbucket paddling posse that I was going to post today but Blogger's picture thing is hiccupy & I got tired of wasting lunch hour fighting with it. Maybe tonight.

One more bird link & then back to work - Barbara, one of the other attendees at the Florida week, lives in Maine & is involved in the Biodiversity Research Institute - her husband's winter project was setting up an eagle cam! It really is fascinating, the range of things that sea kayakers do when they're not sea kayaking - we've got a pretty amazing assortment at the barge, but I'm really reminded of that when I go do a class where I meet a bunch of people - Barbara was not the only person who was involved in preserving wildlife at this symposium and I actually can't remember whether she was the one who at one point in her career had been caring for an eagle in her bathtub, or whether that was someone else & she'd only had a loon - just too many interesting people leading interesting lives to keep track of...anyways, neat website.

Great weekend, I've thrown up a few (a very few) pictures from a short hike around Lake Minnewaska (which is SO gorgeous you could take pretty shots with your eyes closed) over on Buzznet - you'll see they've changed their look completely but the navigation still works the same - the button that's the arrow key to move to the next picture is now white with 3 little black dots instead of blue w/three little white dots (oh, yeah & I think they're still working out the bugs on their revamp - pictures going away & coming back, things loading slowly & what have you, so if it's not working, just try back later. Really nice weekend, great company, much laughter & storytelling, and we had a gorgeous day for our hike -we did manage a little end-of-season snowball target practice, but some of us were in shirtsleeves while we did it!

End of lunch break post; I did finish the other thing I had to finish before I could post anymore, so I'll be getting back to the thing with the airplanes soon - that was just going to be a little more involved than I could get on my lunch hour. Plus I need something from the barge.

Oh yeah, two last quick items -

1. Kayakboy saw a harbor porpoise!

2. Kayakboy thought that was pretty darned cool & hopes his porpoise stays clear of Chevron's mess in the Arthur Kill. Hope they clean that up. Ugh.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Spring in the air, winter in the water - yep, it's hypothermia lecture time again...

Heading off for what should be a nice weekend with my adventure-travel-agent friend & her husband - we're northbound up the Hudson (ok, by car this time) for a visit with Donna & Ralph Diaz (egads, there I go name-dropping again). I think I've figured out where I want to go on this other thing I'm writing (why is it that I can blither blithely by the hour here, but when I tell somebody I'll write something I freeze up & decide every single thing I'm thinking of saying isn't worth saying & is either going to be boring or patronizing or both? ok, angst moment over, guess that's why I don't really think of myself as a writer, just somebody who likes writing) & I gotta go jump on that now. One thing here first though - it's quick.

I walked out the office door into a night that felt like pure Spring tonight. That was wonderful, I'm thrilled, Winter could still put in a last appearance but warmer, longer days are around the corner. The only problem with Spring is that this has to be the worst time of year for boating accidents of the incredibly preventable variety, where a simple lack of simple knowledge kills somebody. Every year, it seems like a couple of news stories do the rounds of the kayak listserves, and they're all the same, just with different names & locations. The elements: a warm day; a lightly-clad boater; a pfd in the canoe, under the decklines, anywhere but being worn; an overturned or empty boat found; a frantic search; a tragic ending. Feeling that warm air, it's all too easy to forget that the water temperature is still very much winter cold. I was happy to have my new drysuit (gore-tex-sockless though it be) in Florida; here in New York City, the current water temperature is 40.1 fahrenheit (4.5 celsius). According to the average survival time chart on's hypothermia page, when the water temperature is 40 - 50 degrees the time until unconciousness is 30 - 60 minutes. The problem is, in the time leading up to that state, your ability to actually help yourself undergoes a steady, predictable deterioration, with the first things to go being manual dexterity & mental acuity. Strenuous activity, like swimming to shore or repeated attempts to get back into a small boat without having practiced enough in controlled circumstances to be able to do it smoothly under pressure, move that process along even faster.

So please - if you're stumbling across this blog, and you're a temperate-zone paddler who's thinking it might be nice to get out on the water to enjoy some lovely Spring weather, and you aren't familiar with the risks of cold-water paddling, please do everyone (starting with yourself & anyone you care about or who cares about you) a favor & take the time to learn about those risks.

I recommend the site linked above; I'm also very fond of Chuck Sutherland's hypothermia pages (which include a number of other good references). Here's the Coast Guard's short & sweet version, which actually includes a graph that I think shows the risks at different temperatures better than the boatsafe one. If you're not sure how the water in your area is & what precautions you might need to take, I'd say just call a local outfitter or kayak & canoe shop - any paddlesport professional worth their salt should be able to (and happy to) tell you what how the water conditions are & what you need to know (and wear, starting with your PFD of course) to have a safe Spring boating experience.

For the drysuit-ownin' frostbitin' boat-fiends that I think make up 60 percent of my 20 regular readers - I apologize for the worrywartitude of this post - but I think you folks will understand why I'm doing this more than anyone. For the tropic-dwelling set that comprise 20% more...well, what can I say but - lucky you live Hawaii, or Malaysia, or Singapore, or wherevahs, yeah?

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Thursday, March 09, 2006

Plugs! Plus - Machu Picchu, Galapagos On Sale!

There's another piece of writing that I said I'd do that I am halfway done with & want to finish before I do anymore writing here (hope to finish tonight or tomorrow) - but I did want to just give a couple of plugs to friends who are up for Koufax Awards (I'm much more into this than the Oscars although I'm so glad Ang Lee got Best Director 'cause...well, 'cause he rocks, that's all, his movies just hypnotize me, they're so beautiful & so sad), plus put up something my adventure travel agent friend Camilla emailed me about which sounds pretty fabulous (aside from that pesky matter of the salaries in children's publishing) -

Award people!
Courting Destiny is up for Best Writing and also Best Blog (Nonprofessional) - btw I absolutely loved a post which she just put up this week, so it's not far down, but I did want to point it out as she was clearly completely inspired by the Hasidic reggae singer she'd just seen. Bring It On, a primarily liberal (although they've got at least one conservative posting there too, which is pretty cool) political team blog, of which Pia was one of the founders, is up for best community blog. Would be flat-out rude not to mention them when they've even been nice enough to let me rant now & then - they're very open to guest bloggers, which is another reason I like it. Finally, my friend Larry's Crazy Fingers was nominated for Best New Blog (I'm giving the link 'cause he's apparently too darned modest to say anything about it, but I'm not!).

So there's the nominees. And now -

Lindblad Expeditions to MACCHU PICHU and the GALAPAGOS, on SALE!

here's what Camilla had to say today:

P.S. FYI: I just got this deal in - happens only in an extremely blue moon - and I am just letting everybody know. If you know of anyones (pairs of twos are best) who have always wanted to do Galapagos and Macchu Pichu or who has always wanted to go on Lindblad Expeditions (who is almost always sold out), but could never afford to, they are doing the April1-13 (both dates inclusive) at 40 % off!! This does not make it cheap, but it does make it affordable for some. They would be looking at $3580/person for two weeks with Lindblad. Internal Air w/in South America is $645. Add international air to that (or try miles). For those who don't know, this is true expedition travel with kayaks, zodiacs, glass-bottom boat, snorkeling, several excellent naturalists (or 'ologists, as we refer to them), and, then of course, the 5 days in Cusco/Machu Picchu. All-inclusive. Age core is 45-70 on Lindblad, but that is because they are too expensive for the younger set (bonnie's note - aha, there you go, I'm still the younger set, that's why I can't afford this! woo hoo!). There is nothing geezer about this voyage!

Camilla Mork, Owner, CTA
The Adventure Travel Company
P.O. Box 20094, Columbus Circle Station
New York, NY 10023

Phone: 212-397-9792

Everybody's heard of Lindblad Expeditions, but I did want to give Camilla a particular plug too - this deal is through Lindblad, but she can arrange all sorts of adventure travel, too. Your eyes weren't deceiving you on that contact info - no website, at least as of yet. Right now, she still does things the old-fashioned way - she talks to you, she listens to what you want to do, and then she makes it happen if it is at all possible without breaking the laws of either Man or Nature. I can't quite afford the sort of trips she pulls together, but I've met a lot of people at Steve & Camilla's place who have either just gotten back from some spectacular place she sent them, or are just getting ready to go - either way, they always seem giddy & they all go back to her again & again...sounds pretty good!

(there, hopefully I just ensured my spot at their 2006 Christmas party (see #9 on that list!)
;D / >
(frogma kayak smiley, patent pending)<

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Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Plane to see...

This is a plane:

This is also a plane:

This is also a plane:

Any questions?

Don't worry, I'm actually going to go somewhere with this in the next couple of days - somewhere kayak-related, even. Can't say exactly when as I'm in another one of those long-work-day-causing close weeks (February is just too darned short) and got to go see Richard dance again tonight courtesy of my friend Larry's aunt - she usually takes Larry to watch the PTDC, but this year she had knee surgery & while the recovery is going fine, she's not comfortable sitting right now, so she was kind enough to give Larry the extra tickets & Larry brought his boyfriend Brian (who's a really nice guy) and me! Had the best time, but I am going to pay for losing tonight as a work-late night. Totally worth it, though, loved tonight's program.

At any rate, thought I'd just post this to give you a little something to wonder (even if it's just "OK, has she gone completely nuts now, not that she had too far to go?"). Gotta get some sleep now & between work & a couple of things I've promised to do (fun things, though!), things may get sparse for the rest of the week - but I will come back to this.

might throw in a Dubside story or two for Wenley first, though...

Monday, March 06, 2006

We interrupt this kayak reverie to bring you a liberal rant.

I haven't ranted lately, and I don't have time to right now, but in honor of a certain decision in South Dakota I just thought I'd link back to something I wrote last year.

You can bet that there will still be women who live in South Dakota who will still be able to have abortions. Only thing is, it'll only be the ones with the money to fly to a state where it's still legal.

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Sunday, March 05, 2006

One more set from the rope gymnastics...

One more set showing another participant...

(thanks to A. from P63 for playing photographer - oh yeah, and congrats again on your 3 star!)

meanwhile, back in Brooklyn, good things are happening...

Saturday, March 04, 2006


Note later in the day - speaking of namedropping, I realize that I should explain for the benefit of non-kayakers and/or non-U.S. people - I was actually indulging in some mild namedropping in my last post - when I say "Shawna Franklin" and "Steve Maynard", most US sea kayakers who've spent any time doing British Canoe Union stuff are going to know exactly who I'm talking about. Shawna & Steve are said to a couple of the best instructors in the US - I have not personally taken classes from either of them but I've heard lots of good stuff about them. They're both 5-star kayakers - that's the British Canoe Union's highest individual award, don't know how it is in Wales but US kayakers tend to look at a person who's won their 5-star as a kayak deity.

Shawna was actually the first US woman to win her five-star - she and Leon Somme, who was also teaching for BCU week, own Body Boat Blade, which is a very well-known kayak school in Washington State.

Steve Maynard is a Coach 5, which means that not only is he a god, but can also coach others who are interested in trying to attain a spot in the pantheon for themselves. Can't give you the spot, that takes a 5-star assessor (hen's teeth), but if you've got the ability he can teach you the skills. He works for Maine Island Kayak but if you do a Google search under "steve maynard kayak" you'll see he gets around a bit!

I actually first heard about him after he married a friend I'd met through Manhattan Kayak Company - she had her own company in Long Island, Sea Cliff Kayakers. It's funny, I hadn't heard from her in ages & had assumed she'd shut up shop & moved to Maine, until sometime in January when a couple of people from Pier 63 did a trip to South Carolina that featured the very oooh-aaah-wonderful service of the outfitter coming to Pier 63 to pick up their boats with a trailer! Now for a carless NYC resident that just rocks. Anyways, I asked the bearded gentleman who was loading the boat where he was from & was quite pleasantly surprised to hear Sea Cliff Kayakers - and it was even more of a pleasant surprise to figure out that Steve in St. Petersburg was Steve Maynard (I didn't do the BCU stuff aside from Nigel Foster as I can get excellent instruction closer to home from Atlantic Kayak Tours, I was there for the Greenland folks who are harder to get to, so I didn't know the exact BCU list) & even better to get to see Melissa again for the first time in a very long time. Small world, the US "serious" sea kayaking scene. I put serious in quotes 'cause it's not really serious, we're all in 'cause we think it's fun, but my gosh we take our fun seriously!

Now I am playing timidly with the idea of trying to set up a little Greenland workshop at Sea Cliff, sometime when the water's warmed up. Cheri & Turner have now set themselves up in a way where they can load up a trailer full of their Greenland slivers, and with Sea Cliff Kayakers still in business there's somebody to help out on that end... I'm missing so many details right now I probably shouldn't even risk cursing it by talking about it, thhbbtt. I'm not looking to make any money off of it myself, just would love to do it 'cause it would be so nice to have my next fabulous Greenland session sometime a little sooner than the year or so that seems to be the usual amount of time it's taken me to manage it before & getting together a few friends for a day with Cheri & Turner on a nice beach in Long Island seems like a good way to make that happen. Daydreams are good, right?

Cheri working with me on some front-deck rolls - I'd like to continue this lesson sometime sooner than 2007!

BCU/Greenland Week - Learning the Ropes

I got kind of busy this week, it actually ended up being a great only-in-NY kind of week - taught kayaking on Wednesday, Thursday night I did make it to the historic harbor films at Pier 63, and then on Friday I ended up rather spontaneously going to see the Paul Taylor Dance Company (I usually talk about Richard, who was the guy telling me to stay in the boat in that surf capsize I wrote about earlier this week, in the context of being my first real kayaking mentor, but he's also a dancer with the PTDC - I feel like I'm name dropping when I talk about that so I don't very much). Long story short, I'll be continuing posting about the BCU/Greenland week but I have some cleaning & errands & stuff to do - writing will be my reward for restoring my apartment to something closer to order. But in the meantime here's a few pictures of instructors playing on ropes!

Shawna Franklin trying & not quite getting one where you sit on the ropes, flip yourself over, then right yourself again - Dubside makes this one look particularly simple, but it's tricky to keep the ropes from slipping up to your knees. I think Shawna did get this one eventually. That's Steve Maynard watching her.

And then Steve had to try. Steve turned out to have a lot of aptitude for it -

here he is getting ready -

over he goes!

and then back up again - showing the leg extension that brings you right-side up again

I tried this one myself later when there wasn't as much of an audience - I couldn't even get myself upside down, I still can't figure out how but somehow I'd go over, hit 90 degrees and come to a complete halt like that!

Shawna's turn again, Dubside is helping her get set up for one where you start out looking like you are in the world's most uncomfortable hammock - then you roll over so you are hanging from underneath, then you turn yourself over again - I think she got this one once Dubside got her set up correctly. Lots of core strength & coordination demanded here as you can probably imagine.

The historic harbor films btw were terrific, I was SO glad the weather was so awful because otherwise they probably wouldn't have been able to take walk-ups - as it was, they had it in a tent on the barge instead of on the Frying Pan, so we all froze our butts off, but as I said to John Doswell, who's one of the Working Harbor folks, it was worth a couple hours of being cold. In addition to the ones listed, the film historian brought a few bonuses - he started out with a Betty Boop cartoon just to get the projector set up, then he showed Little Toot, and finished with a short film called King of Coney Island, great 50's film of Coney Island in the summertime, narrated by Deno's Wonder Wheel (the self-declared King!). Fun stuff, John said they might do it again & if they do I'll talk it up a lot more a lot sooner (but not 'til I've got my ticket).

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Other People's Writing

Mornin'! Chance of me really posting much today is iffy as I'd really like to go catch the harbor films on the Frying Pan I posted about yesterday - but thought I'd just put up a couple of links.

Link 1: If you found my musings on rolling to be interesting, Derrick has a nice riff on similar stuff today. I must warn you though, if you end up with an AC/DC song stuck in your head all day, you need to take it up with him.

Link 2: I met a lot of really nice people down in Florida & as it turns out one of 'em knows my first Greenland mentor, Jack Gilman, and has participated in the Great Hudson River Paddle - she's posted a lovely concise (I admire people who can write concisely, having absolutely no ability to do so myself) writeup and a bunch more pictures (click on the thumbnails to get into the full-size slideshow). Enjoy!

Coney Island, Sunday 2/26

I took this after I got back from Florida - dragged myself out into the cold for a walk on the boardwalk on Sunday, mostly 'cause I was feeling a strong urge to hibernate until spring. Beautiful evening but you know it's cold when even the Russians aren't out fishing. I don't think I've ever seen the fishing pier empty before!

Just about to turn in but thought I'd see if I could get a photo to post while I was getting ready for bed.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Historic Hidden Harbor Films

Oh, heck, I'd meant to post this a while back, somebody just posted a reminder to the group I paddle with out of Pier 63. Don't know if I can make it but figured I'd put it up here.

Historic Hidden Harbor Films 7:00 PM - 10:00 PM
Thursday 2 March 2006 at 7 PM Onboard the lightship Frying Pan, Pier 63, Hudson River at W23rd Street.

(Take M23 bus to last stop, walk to pier on north side of "Basketball City". Lightship is the last boat on the north side of Pier 63.)

Four 16mm films about New York Harbor, 1938 to 1964. From the collection of film historian Mitchell Dakelman

These rare programs have not been seen by the public for decades.

MANHATTAN WATERFRONT 10 minutes BW; Sound - 1938 The NY waterfront in 1938 - featuring piers, ships, tugs, lighters, The Battery with the old aquarium, Fulton Fish market, boat graveyards on the Harlem, and more!

THE BIG PORT 10 minutes BW; Sound - 1954 Functions of New York Harbor. Ships, tugs, and jobs on the waterfront such as immigration, customs, health officers and boat pilots.

LION IN THE HARBOR 20 minutes Color; Silent - 1940s and 1950s Unfinished documentary by Roy Creveling. Ferry boats, a Circle Line tour and more!

PORT OF NEW YORK 15 minutes Color; Sound - 1964 Encyclopedia Britannica Film Changes in NY Harbor during the early 1960's, including burning of Hudson River piers, upgrading facilities at Port Newark and Brooklyn, and plans for the new World Trade Center.

Free for members of the Working Harbor Committee.

$10.00 for non-members (Non-members will be given a Working Harbor Committee membership for attending)

Soft drinks, cider, & snacks available for a nominal donation

Brought to you by The Working Harbor Committee

Reservations essential! - to reserve and get directions Call 212 757 1600 *

BCU/Greenland Day 1 - Morning: "Getting to Knooow Yoooou...:

That would have been the perfect song to sing to Turner Wilson’s handmade skin-on-frame kayak as I ooched my way down off the back deck & into the not-an-inch-to-spare cockpit, then pulled up the lap foam to snug myself in. Pandabonium (who writes Pacific Islander, a blog that tends to leave me a little homesick for the tropics a lot, plus offers a fascinating look at life in Japan & occasional appearances from the too-darned-cute Momo the Wonder Dog...what's not to like?) left a comment on yesterday’s post that makes a perfect lead-in to today’s:

Having done all my kayaking in the tropics mostly with sit on top kayaks, I have to say that even reading about rolling (let alone with legs wedged in) scares the bejeezus out of me.

Well...yeah! What he’s saying is a good place to start 'cause it is so completely sensible. Rolling is one of the more totally counterintuitive things you can learn to do in a kayak, and the very first natural intuitive response that has to be quelled is the one that tells you that being upside-down underwater with the entire lower half of your body stuck inside a boat which you are attached to at the waist is a very bad thing. One of the usual first lessons in any beginning paddling course is going to be the “wet exit”, which is all about learning to get out of the boat calmly in case such a situation should accidentally arise – you tuck forward, you flip, you smack the boat a couple of times, you run your hands forward along the coaming of the cockpit, you find the grab loop that lets you pop the sprayskirt, you run your hands back along the coaming to make sure the skirt is loose, then you push yourself out and come up – the whole sequence can be done quite calmly in about 10 seconds, and I’ve seen a lot of people improve instantaneously after completing one of these successfully – one slightly perverse thing about kayaks is the tenser you are, the more likely you are to capsize, and when people are afraid to capsize, they automatically tense up – a couple of good wet exits eases the fear as the mind accepts that it’s not really that bad. That’s a fine first step, and there are plenty of paddlers who never get to rolling – as long as they’ve learned & practiced self & assisted rescues & know the limits at which they would have a hard time pulling that off, it’s not really a problem.

To learn to roll, though, you have to go past the point of just knowing that you can get out fine and on to the mindset that STAYING in your boat is actually DESIRABLE. That’s not always easy! Personally I only remember one time that I ever really freaked out after a capsize – this was maybe my first or second year of paddling; I was surfing in a little whitewater boat for the first time, I was being taught by Richard Chen See of Manhattan Kayak Company, who is a person in whom I have utter confidence, but I think it may have been my first ever unintentional wipeout & I landed leaning back instead of in the forward tuck I’d practiced. My instant reaction was to pop my sprayskirt by pushing it up with my knees. The thing was, at the same time as my knees were popping the sprayskirt, my brain was registering the fact that Richard was saying “Stay in the boat!”. Too late though. Boy did I feel sheepish.

Aside from that, I can’t remember any specific occasions when I’ve felt scared of being upside down (I did have to work through fears of dislocating my shoulder but that was a different matter, that was ‘cause I almost did once & it was really yucky – but being upside down I’m generally fine with). But I do have to admit that the combination of being wedged so tightly into this little Greenland cockpit, and knowing from my surprising 2nd experience in the Stealth that my usual rolling technique was just not going to work right brought on an unaccustomed visit of the heebie-jeebies!

Only thing to do was work through them gradually, the same as I’d done with the Stealth in Connecticut – start with a balance brace, and from that static float, work on edging the boat further and further over until I’d convinced that sorta spooked side of my brain that this really WAS ok & that the absolute worst thing that was going to happen was that my roll wasn’t going to be at its’ prettiest & Cheri was going to have to pick on me to do it better (which in fact not only isn’t bad, but is exactly what I expect when I pay good money for classes – if I took a class & the instructor didn’t have any constructive criticism for me, I’d feel gypped).

Two things made this second try at getting reconciled with the Greenland fit work MUCH better than my first one in the Stealth in the pool. The first was that this time I was expecting it – and the second was that this time I literally had all day. I’ve already mentioned how tension makes you more likely to capsize – it also makes you less likely to roll, and I think that part of why I remembered the Connecticut session as having a very high frustration quotient was because I only had so long in the Stealth and when I discovered that I was starting from square 1 instead of whatever square where you get to do elbow rolls and go “WOW!!!!” – well, I knew that tensing up was just going to screw things up even more, but I suddenly got very aware aware of the minutes trickling away & I know that that made me just tense enough to complicate matters even more.

This time, though – this time, I had all day. So I didn’t rush. I let the other students go first and I gave myself the time to get to know this boat & gradually introduce the muscles of my legs & hips to this new approach to a familiar task.

Got the onside roll working, the side on which I’m more comfortable – not perfect, still a bit clumsy, but serviceable. On to the offside. That worked too – also clumsy, though. Mushy. Not good. Repeated it a few more times trying to figure out what was wrong – and would you believe that what gradually began to dawn on me was that I was not in the boat tightly enough? Each time I tried an offside roll, I was righting the boat – but I was also ever so slightly slipping loose from the seat that I’d started out feeling like I was squeezed into like an absolute cork in a bottle!

Cheri’s explanation for the Greenland fit, both last winter and as I was kvetching a bit as pulled up the lap foam at the beginning of this class, was that it actually negated the need to consciously hold yourself in your boat. I’d listened, but suddenly I actually GOT IT. I don’t know how many times I’ve given novice paddlers a spiel about how you don’t so much sit in a kayak as wear a kayak – well, the Greenland fit is just taking that to the ultimate extreme – and suddenly, just like I once had embraced the concept that staying in the boat and rolling was WAY better than coming out, I was now ready to commit to truly melding myself with this boat the way Cheri said I was supposed to.

I paddled back to the beach.

I got out.

I took off my booties and left ‘em on the shore. Wasn’t going to be able to do what I wanted to do with them on – had to be barefoot.

There was a crossbrace in Turner’s boat right where my feet wound up when I got in the boat. Cheri had said when I got into the boat that I could work with that in 2 ways – I could either rest my feet against it, or if my ankles were flexible enough I could point my toes & slide my feet on past it & hook onto it from the other side. At first, that seemed scary. Now that was EXACTLY what I wanted to do – and it worked. I was IN there, I was NOT coming out, and that was GOOD, that was MUCH better! YEAH!

I don’t know if Cheri had been watching this whole getting-acquainted dance I was doing with her boyfriend’s boat, but right about then, she released the student she’d been working with, turned to me & said “OK, let’s see a sweep roll”. The rest of the morning was just her fine-tuning some points that helped that and the rest of the layback rolls. Keeping the paddle on the breast bone – “hold the blade close to your heart” – that one I should have known, but again, that’s why I pay good money for classes, because when I go too long without someone watching me, I feel like I start getting sloppy. Keeping the torso flat to the water – another thing I know but evidently wasn’t doing. The third point, though, was a new one – really using the frontal abdominal muscles to raise myself to the back deck. Imagine doing a crunch, only with your upper spine & neck totally loose – that’s the general idea! That way my head really was the last thing out of the water – without that, I wasn’t raising it, but it was coming up a bit sooner in the process, and if you’ve ever done any rolling work at all you’ll know that you want that 20-pound weight on the end of your neck to stay down in the water until the last possible second (that probably the most counterintuitive piece of the whole counterintuitive process – your natural desire is to get your head up to breathe – overcoming that impulse is a make-or-break step for the novice roller). Before she gave me that point, I was using more back muscles – she likened it to the difference between sitting up from a prone position and PUSHING myself up. I think this may be particularly demanded by the narrower & lower-volume Greenland boats than a boat like my Romany, but I think this is going to be a really good general point for me to keep in mind – my basic roll is pretty good, but every now & then I’ll do one that just doesn’t feel too strong, feels like I’m pulling down on the paddle & that’s another no-no. People don’t always see what I’m talking about when I finish a not-so-hot roll ‘cause it’s a pretty subtle thing, not bad enough to make me blow the roll except for the very occasional really fluky offside (usually after a really tough run of stressful days at the office when I’m tense anyways & haven’t been getting enough exercise – that always messes with my paddling!) but I know exactly when I do it ‘cause it just feels weak. Concentrating on the lower abdominal muscles really lets the upper spine & neck relax in a way that takes ALL the pressure off the blade at the finish. Fantastic.

Finally, right before lunch, layback rolls tuned up & working to Cheri’s satisfaction (and mine too, yep!), she passed me on to Turner to start working on some forward finish stuff. Just the barest start – my layback rolls are solid, with just the odd occasional mushiness which I hope these pointers will help solve – front-deck finishes are much more elusive – I’ve done them, but they come & go with an emphasis on the “go”. So for the last 10 minutes or so before we broke for lunch, Turner just started working me into this less-familiar area with some basic assisted forward-recovering drills. Good way to finish the morning.

And speaking of finishing, that’s MORE than enough for one post and I must turn in – last session at Sarah Lawrence tomorrow, need to get to work a bit early to ensure leaving right at 5 – really want to get there early enough to have a little time to practice what I got before it all goes away again! No post tomorrow – well, don’t you need a break after this one anyways?