Thursday, November 30, 2006


Tomorrow's December?

How'd that happen?

Oh right, the earth turns on it's axis, orbits around the sun, and there ya go.

Well, came down with that terribly Romany flu today, sniff sniff, cough cough, oh dear, can't go to work today...

no, actually, TQ & I had planned this for a while, and it was a legitimately arranged vacation day, but oh my, it was just such a beautiful day that paddling, instead of going to work, felt gloriously like playing hooky.

See, TQ works weekends, and gets Wednesdays & Thursdays off. A few weeks ago, the Working Harbor Committee sent out an invitation to a benefit concert by blues pianist David Maxwell. Well, as I mentioned the other day, blues are good in our books, and the cause was one I liked (programs to teach kids about the harbor, how can you not like that?), so I asked TQ if he'd like to be my guest, and the concert was great, and then today we went out for one of my favorite destinationless paddles-for-the-sake-of-paddling. Between that, and the marvelous paddle on Sunday, and the hike-off-the-turkey that replaced my usual ritual of day after Thanksgiving paddle-off-the-turkey-paddles, and that concert - all with my favorite paddling companion - this has just been the best 7 days. The key has been absolutely glorious weather. 50's, maybe even 60's...hardly seems like the last week before December.

I've just been in heaven.

Here are some pictures of heaven, er, I mean Sleeping Giant State Park in Connecticut, day after Thanksgiving. We hiked the Gorge Cascade trail, top to bottom - every corner we turned, it just got more beautiful.

From the top of this tower, you could see Long Island Sound, and Long Island beyond.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Another Reason I'm Liking the Sebago Canoe Club...

Because yesterday, I found out that I still have a combat roll.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Sorry about the train wreck.

Sorry about the train wreck. I've excised most of last week's rant. Can't begin to explain why not being told about a stupid meeting bothers me so much, shouldn't have blogged about it, I was just so frustrated common sense went out the window. What is that Serenity Prayer thing you see done up on plaques & samplers & what have you - God grant me the courage to change the things I can, the serenity to accept the things I can't, and the wisdom to know the difference? Well, God hasn't been granting me any of the above, lately.

Maybe I forgot to ask. Have had a couple of days out of town, a beautiful hike, good food & good company - still feeling like I've made an absolute mess of my ability to be involved, but I'm starting to accept that there's a pretty good chance that whatever I try to say to the "working group", it's just going to screw things up more. Wouldn't exactly call it serenity, but maybe something that could turn into serenity if I can just let it. Nine times out of ten, when I've had the opportunity to leave well enough alone, I didn't. Maybe this will be the exceptional tenth.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

This was supposed to be a happy post.

Wednesday addendum: Well, I'm still upset about this business of a little groups of paddlers deciding that it's OK to not share information about a meeting that clearly might have been of interest to the rest of the Pier 63 folks, but Nancy, our local HRWA Metropolitan Coordinator, just posted a much more in-depth update that cheered me up considerably. May not be as done writing about this as I thought I was last night - those "Hey, folks, we did so great at this meeting that we decided the rest of you didn't need to attend because we've got everything under control" emails just drive me nuts. I don't always see eye-to-eye with Nancy, either, but it helps that she's actually been chosen to play the role she does in an open process - it's clear who she speaks for, and why, and that's something I can get behind. So - read on, with grain of salt, don't miss the fun rust people pictures, and if you're a U.S. citizen, have a happy Thanksgiving!

Here were the rusty ones, building the first MKC hold, the fleet hold, back in early Spring of 1999. This is how kayaking took hold in the Hudson River Park - people wanted to do it, so they'd make it happen.
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Here's the hold - looking out from inside. Lots of rust. Naturally we couldn't get rid of all of it, but we all chipped away as much of the loose stuff as we could, then painted with an anti-rust product. See that bucket? We filled many, many, many of those.
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Here's another view, looking towards the back, with an actual kayak. We wrapped carpeting around all those posts; we built racks, and slings for nicer boats - the majority of the MKC fleet had to be plastic, though, because even once the racks were built, there was a lot of sliding and rough treatment.
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You do as much work as we did, and you just have to hit yourself in the head and go paddling, already! Here, Eric Stiller demonstrates proper post-derusting head-hitting technique. BTW - that's the Starett-Lehigh Building in the background. That's where I was saying New York Kayak used to be. As a matter of fact, there's a reasonably good chance that some of those windows are Randy's shop!
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And here's some of that the crazy first-year crew, getting ready to go do the thing we were all there to do. There was so much good energy that year. Wish it could've lasted.
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I put so much into that place.

But it really may just be time to let it go, just like I had to let go of Manhattan Kayak Company itself.

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Next Couple of Years

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A whole lot of NYC folks - including me - had their first kayak lessons here! That's the Surfside III Marina where we'd launch, where the red & white striped awnings are. The netting on the left is a golf driving range, and the piershed on the right houses the Chelsea Piers Sports Center.

Speaking of NYC folks - I should mention, as I sometimes do, that the 2 major challenge for paddling in NYC come down to "Where do I keep my boat?", and "How do I get to the water?"

To paddle anything but a folding kayak in NYC requires waterfront storage with launching within kayak-toting distance. Would be lovely not to be so dependent on that, but most of us live in apartments, we have no basements or backyards where we can store our kayaks & no cars to tote 'em around with. On the one hand, the average NYC paddler can pat him or herself on the back for being eco-friendly to da max - seems pretty darned green to ride the subway to your non-motorized hand-launched craft. On the other hand - it can end up being a total pain in the okole when the keepers of the storage get recalcitrant! If you've read this blog before, you've probably got that picture - but I just wanted to give the setup for anyone who's stumbled across this recently & is going "Why all the hoo-ha?"

Back to my first year. I got in just under the wire that spring. I got an urge to try this kayaking thing, called Chelsea Piers, & got put through to Fred, who was handling the reservations for the kayaking program there. I made noises about having paddled canoes, and being comfortable in water, and so on, but Fred very quickly convinced me that I did need to start with a lesson. I was able to sign up for a class that very weekend. It was mid-June. Shortly thereafter, the New York media, as I mentioned yesterday, all simultaneously got bitten by the kayak bug, and within a couple of weeks after I'd taken my first class, classes were booked up 2 months in advance.

That didn't end up working out as well as you'd think for MKC, though! Fred, who'd been such an effective gatekeeper when I called, started getting more calls than he could handle; inexperienced people started talking their way into tours they shouldn't have been on; tours were overbooked - and in the midst of all the season's frenzy, the management asked Eric for his 1999 budget. Richard, who was helping Eric out at the time, ended up putting something together for the management - who took a look over Richard's figures and decided - at least according to Eric - that they wanted to maximize the kayak program profit by cutting a lot of the longer tours & focusing on the beginner stuff - hour-long "pony rides" at forty-five bucks a pop, and the like. It all came to a head in October - I'd bought a package of hours & had been going out regularly, I'd bought my first wetsuit (a Henderson paddling suit that served me well for many seasons, but has now been sacrificed to the pool gods - chlorine does a number on trilaminate), I was thoroughly enjoying my first Fall on the Hudson, when I got a call from Chelsea Piers. No more kayaking. Eric was gone, they'd be offering kayaking next season, but not through MKC.

Now you can't cut off an addict from their drug without them doing something about it. Naturally, I got in touch with Eric to find out what the heck was going on. Got an earful for an hour, the gist of which was that MKC was going to move to the barge at Pier 63. I told the whole story of how MKC happened to end up moving in a fairly recent post - you can read that all here which reminds me, I have got to scan some of the rust-people pictures - pulled some of those out the other day & it's just the essence of how things get done on the barge when they really need to - people just pull together & do 'em. Not always cheerfully...but that would be a major sidetrack.

Chelsea Piers brought in a big company from Maine. Moon & stars were apparently promised by both sides; delivery failed to occur to either side & H20utfitters packed up their Perceptions & left at the end of 1999. MKC ended up handling the Chelsea Piers kayaking program again, but they gave up on offering storage. Not enough money in it, and I don't know precisely what happened in the intervening year, but the rumour was that the Maine folks had mistaken launching at Surfside III - a private marina - for a right, when it was a privilege, and one that the marina operator could & did revoke after one too many run-ins. Plus our local waterways require a lot of local knowledge - as do the Manhattan clientele (I've heard that "212" is adventure-sport guide jargon for particularly demanding, high-maintenance clients). Anyways, off they went, MKC got the CP kayak program back, but at that point private boat storage, other than that at the DTBH, became very scarce.

Within the next year, that changed for the better - realizing that we had a certain set of clients who were getting to be good enough paddlers that we just couldn't keep them entertained anymore, we rented a hold on the barge that a boatbuilder was vacating, cleaned it out, installed some racks & let those folks get their own boats & become truly independent paddlers. That was primarily spearheaded by Ubergirl & her ninja-lawyer fiance (he was a good guy), who'd become partners in the company the 2nd year. Sometime in the same time frame, New York Kayak Company left the dot-com castle for digs on Pier 40, where he started offering storage & classes, while continuing to operate a retail shop.

That setup held for a couple of years. MKC at the barge, NYKC at Pier 40, or the DTBH (for those with more time than money) at Pier 26. When the first hold filled up, MKC put in a second one. Randy added a new container. Not dramatic growth, but there were definitely more & more trained paddlers being able to have their own boat & do their own thing in the Hudson River Park.

In the meantime -

The Hudson River Park Act was passed. The Conservancy became the Trust. Plans were made, opinions on boathouse designs & operations requested & gladly offered, renditions drawn. Boathouses were slated for Pier 26, the Gansevoort Peninsula, The future of the 3 main kayaking groups in the park were not guaranteed (how many times have I said here that the Pier 63 situation was always supposed to be interim?)- but the general future of kayaking seemed reasonably secure. When it was decided that the barge would be allowed to remain in the park, moving to 66A, it seemed like at that point us Pier 63 paddlers could finally let go of our worst worries.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Hudson River Park Paddling - Back when I Began.

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Pier 26, the way it was.

It seems that owing to the haste with which I've slapped up the last few posts about the status of the Rustbucket, and now the boathouse originally slated for Pier 26, the paddling in the Hudson River Park situation is getting a little unclear for anyone who reads this blog but isn't a local with a prior understanding of the overall picture of paddling in the Hudson River Park - where it's been, where it was supposed to go (good places) and where it seems to be going now (groan, please pass the Advil).

I've been wanting to clear that up & get down something of a wrapup of what's going on.

I'm going to start with the background, starting from my first year of paddling the Hudson.

The evolution of the paddling & storage situation has been going on for a while, mostly through small organizations, "mom & pop" type companies or grassroots campaigns. For all people look at commercial lesson, kayak & gear prices & think the manufacturers & retailers must be raking it in, there just isn't a lot of money in kayaking - especially in places like New York City, where kayaking really is a seasonal business. Doesn't matter how the place is structured - nobody's getting rich, and there's a good bit of shoestring involved. But shoestring or no, people want to get out on the river, and market forces being what they are, a healthy range of paddling has sprung up in the Hudson River, without the Trust having to do anything

When I started paddling back in the spring of 1998 (I'd had a trifecta of a winter where I got dumped by a boyfriend of 2 years, laid off from a job I really liked, and was living with a roomate whose paranoid delusions were beginning to affect her interactions with our neighbor, and I needed a change!), there were 2 ways to paddle in the future Hudson River Park (the Hudson River Park act was enacted in September of that year).

If you had some money, wanted to paddle decked kayaks, get some good instruction, go on some tours, you could go to Manhattan Kayak Company. At the time, MKC was owned & operated by Eric Stiller; as any paddler who's read his book, Keep Australia On Your Left, knows, his dad, Dieter, was the operator of a Klepper shop which was a Union Square fixture until the Klepper company came under new management, who decided that an NYC flagship shop was too much of an expense to be worth it. Eric had gone to work for his dad straight out of college, doing marketing, and the closing of the shop left him somewhat at loose ends. As he used to tell it, he had pretty much decided to move to California (where some of his new -agier eccentricities might actually have worked pretty well) - the only thing that was going to stop him was if somehow magically some mega-sports complex invited him to come open a kayak company. Lo & behold, a friend of his ended up involved with Chelsea Piers, and that's exactly what happened. First year, they gave him a broom closet to store a couple of his dad's old Kleppers; by the time I started paddling a couple of years later, he'd been given an actual room near the Surfside III Marina. MKC had a small fleet of kayaks for their programs, and also offered storage for private kayaks. If I remember correctly, the room held 40 or 50 kayaks. Launching was through the good graces of Barbara, the Surfside III manager; kayaks were carried down to the docks there, and when there were SeaRay events, the kayaks would be put on carts & wheeled to another dock a couple of piers north (as I understand, that was one of the factors behind H20utfitter's failure to make a go of it when Chelsea Piers offered them the paddling concession after Eric's ouster - but that's skipping ahead).

I was feeling pretty flush - I would've rather kept the job I liked, but the severance package was very generous, and I got a new job fast, so I had the money to go the MKC route.

I did supplement my paid paddling with some free paddling. A friend of mine from Irish music was also interested in paddling, but not so interested in spending money for classes. She found out about the Downtown Boathouse, where you could paddle for free. We duly appeared at Pier 26 one Sunday morning at 8 A.M., won seats (a double) on the morning Statue of Liberty trip. A white-haired gentleman by the name of Charlie supervised the trip, which featured a break at Liberty Marina for breakfast on the way back (blueberry pancakes, delicious in the way things eaten around salt water always are).

The DTBH's thing was, and still is, providing free kayaking. Free for the walk-ups that is - it actually happens because the efforts of their volunteers, and I've never quite been able to write off volunteer hours as not having monetary value. At any rate, private kayak storage was available there; the rate was something like $200 a year - lots cheaper than MKC, on the surface - but that was reserved for dedicated volunteers, people who worked 50-70 hours a year. At Pier 26, they had a big old barn of a boathouse - basically an old warehouse that stood on the pier that Jim Wetheroff, the founder, had undertaken to refurbish, eventually with the help of more & more volunteers. It was all pretty basic - racks, a few lockers, a couple of porta-potties, a hose, and a dock, that's all a boathouse really needs to have. The free kayaking was all on sit-on-top kayaks, and you could do either 20-minute sessions in their embayment (great for parents with kids, parent & junior in a double was a very frequent sight), or you could get there, as Y. and I did, at 8 am and hope that your name got drawn in the lottery to go out on the river for a couple of hours. Still works the same way today, btw, although not at Pier 26 - the public programs are seasonal, but when people ask me where they can try kayaking, I always tell them about the DTBH.

Between MKC & the DTBH, a really wide range of paddlers was being served. I think it would be safe to say that in New York City, in general, average people with money tend not to have time, and average people with time tend not to have money. The people with time could go volunteer at the DTBH, get access to boats & eventually storage that way; the people with money could go the MKC route. I fell somewhere in the middle & did both to satisfy the standard first-year paddler's insatiable appetite for water time.

So those were the 2 kayaking-related organizations with facilities with water access in the soon-to-be Hudson River Park. New York Kayak existed at the time, but more as a pure retail shop. No classes, no tours, no storage. In 1998, Randy's shop was in the Starett-Lehigh Building, a huge old warehouse building between 11th & 12th Avenues in Chelsea. Back then the building was still very much the industrial space it had been built as originally; within a couple of years the place had been utterly transformed into a dot-com palace, home to Martha Stewart Media and so on (interesting story in itself, you can read about it on, but this was before any of that. Randy had no water access, but he had a nice semi-symbiotic relationship with the DTBH, he'd donate gear, and they let him use their dock when he had somebody who wanted to try out a boat - and almost all the paddlers bought stuff from him, his shop was small but he had all the basics, pogies to paddles to shiny new kayaks.

It was a good balance - something for everyone - but then, suddenly, there was a spate of media attention, and kayaking was the New York City Sport du Jour.

(to be continued)

(or at least I would like to, whether it actually does continue depends upon workload...this sort of post actually requires both time & energy!)

Friday, November 17, 2006

Enough mushy girl stuff. Here's a good laugh.

WAY too funny, with definite "oooh, that's gotta hurt" component...

found via Craig Russell's H2uhO.

First time trying one of these YouTube thingummies.

Definitely paddling Sunday! Yippee yippee yippee!

"TQ", me, and the blues.

This is not and never will be a relationship blog, there's just stuff I prefer to keep private. But I wrote an email to a friend today & realized that just sort of liked this snippet. Kinda says how it is without getting all whatever.

We like the blues.

We got stuck in the worst traffic jam ever coming home from Pennsylvania (they shut down a section of the interstate & the detour was pretty much along a rural route) and it was actually not so bad because I put in a "Chicago blues" cd he had & it turned out that all but one of the songs was men singing about womens what done them wrong. The one exception was about a woman wearing a very skimpy dress to a party.

We were cracking ourselves up over this for something like an hour, which was a good thing 'cause we only went about 20 miles in that hour when we'd been expecting to go, oh, 70 or so. Better to spend the hour laughing over good music than stressing.

Our road trip mantra is becoming "It's not an adventure 'til something goes wrong".

Thursday, November 16, 2006

It Never Hurts To Ask.

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The Rustbucket, in happier days.

This just in on the Rustbucket trip list, from my friend Lyn, who's gotten quite involved with the politics of the barge since the place got shut down back on September 11th (still can't get over the fact that they shut it down on the 5th anniversary of the day when everybody at the barge, at least those of us who were there or made it there, turned out to help in whatever we could, mostly by running a ferry service all day - no room for sentiment in legal matters, though, right?). I've been wanting to do an update, I have been participating in some interesting discussions - or at least I thought they were interesting - but blogging is one of the first recreational activities to get dropped when I'm pressed for time. At any rate, after a lot of talk talk talk, the owner of Pier 63 Maritime, soon to be Pier 66A maritime, nom de blog "The Rustbucket", is now asking for letters of support from those of us who stand to lose our Hudson River access if the DEC permit is allowed to stand as written:
The kayaking, waterpolo, and outrigger community that is centered in the Hudson River Park is faced with a serious loss of water access as a result of existing DEC permit restrictions . John Krevey, the owner of the barge formerly known as pier 3, soon to be relocated to pier 66a, is asking support from the kayaking community in the form of a letter in support of his application for reasonable and necessary permit amendments.

Letters should be addressed to:

Mr. Louis Oliva, Acting Director, Region 2
NYS Department of Environmental Conservation
1 Hunter's Point Plaza
47-40 21st Street
Long Island City, NY 11101-5407

It is important to refer to Permit 2-6205-01687: Proposed Amendment to Allow Human Powered Boating and Floating Docks

The issues as put forth by DEC and Hudson River Park Trust (HRPT) are as follows:

Storage: The existing permit does not allow storage of private kayaks on the barge (pier 66a). HRPT has built a boathouse at pier 66, for which a RFP will soon be released. It is their stated belief that this will provide sufficient storage for the kayaks that were previously housed at the barge. They are wrong, and they probably know it. Depending on who wins the RFP for the boathouse, as many as 70 kayakers will have their access to the river threatened. Storage INSIDE the barge benefits all park users by keeping private storage off public park land, leaving the public boathouse to the public. The HRPT has stated in public meetings that they support STORAGE of kayaks on the barge. But they do not support launching kayaks from the barge, which would require a floating dock.

Launching and floating docks: Without a floating dock, paddlers will have to carry their kayaks up a flight of stairs, across the barge (which houses a popular and crowded restaurant), onto the park's pedestrian esplanade, to reach the existing dock of pier 66. The transport of 16-18 foot kayaks will undoubtedly cause traffic flow problems on the esplanade when combined with pedestrians, rollerbladers, dog walkers, and baby carriages.

Motorized vs Human Powered Water Areas:
The area around pier 66a is designated a "motorized boat" area on the HRPT water use map. However, this arbitrary designation should not preclude launching kayaks in the area. A careful reading of the Trust's applicable rules reveals no prohibition of human powered boats in motorized areas (though motorized boats may not operate in human powered areas).

These are the main issues. John will be submitting his permit amendment within 2 weeks. Please help by writing a letter before that time. If possible, send copies to:

Ms. Connie Fishman, President

Hudson River Park Trust

Pier 40, Second Floor

West Street at W. Houston Street

New York, NY 10014

Mr. John Krevey

Apartment 6S

375 South End Avenue

New York, NY 10028

Thank you all!

Lyn (speaking for an independent group of kayakers working for river access in general but focusing on this issue at present)

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

AAAAH! What new version? AAAAAH! plus best 80th birthday party ever

Well there you go - I go trotting off and get insanely busy and don't blog for a week, and I come back and Blogger's saying "Woohoo, welcome to the new version!"

Bleah! I was fine with the old version! Oh well. Ooh, on second thought maybe they got the picture problems under control.

Anyways. Cripes. What've I been so busy with?

Mostly work. Work work work. Have to pay for that lovely relaxing week in PA. Actually I had a couple of big projects I had to wipe out & I chose to sacrifice Saturday to having an uninterrupted block of time. When I say sacrifice, it was one, too - Saturday was a stunningly beautiful day. We've been having some awfully nice days. It was a work day out at the Sebago Canoe Club, and a perfect one for it, too, but the day job comes first. The big project at hand is sort of an orphan I got when our old business manager left, goes to an outside organization, so none of the 3 higher-ups in my department (me being the only lower-down these days) really look for it to get done, so it's up to me to carve out a chunk of time, and with forecast requests raining down, an inbox full of invoices, and October books to be closed, I finally just decided that this was one of those rare occasions when giving up a few hours on a weekend day, even a nice one, would be worth the peace of mind I'd be afforded by getting this thing out the door. Well, got to work and the shared drive where I store ALL the information I needed to finish this report was DOWN. Augh.

Got a lot of other stuff done instead, and was able to collect the raw data for the report, which let me tie it up in not much time on Monday - but it was frustrating to have passed up a beautiful outside work day and then find out that I couldn't do the work I wanted to do. Worked late last night instead, and as of today I'm feeling momentarily caught up. We'll see how long that lasts.

Besides that, it's been a mix of good stuff & bad stuff keeping me busy. Bad stuff included 2 pairs of office trousers suddenly becoming unwearable simultaneously, lowering the number of slacks wearable to the office to 2 - one presentable, one barely so. This rather forced the issue I'd addressed back in my pants rant a while back - no time to wait for delivery - I did eventually discover that Talbot's makes slacks that are suitable for a person who's not into navel display, but that took a couple of nights of running around. Got a few tops too so now hopefully I won't have to go shopping again for a looooong time.

Think the high point of the good stuff (aside from another nice Saturday evening date with TQ - always good to have time with him) was attending an 80th birthday party for the fabulous gentleman who was the drama department chair at my college - he's looking just great, same as he did when I was in college a frighteningly long time ago. The party was absolutely marvelous - it was upstairs at a 100-year-old Italian restaurant, Barbetta on Restaurant Row; beautiful old rooms in a classic, late 1800's townhouse. Lots of actors, including a few who were classmates of mine (such fun to catch up & reminisce - and a couple of them are actually making it as actors, and not just doing cereal commercials either). The cake was decorated to look like a Stagebill with a photo of Jack on the cover, and unless you sing with a professional choir, you've never heard such a beautiful rendition of "Happy Birthday To You". Full harmony, you betcha, and followed by a full-on operatic rendition by the head waiter (who'd been busy all night accosting people with pasta, in some cases before they could even get their coats off).

There were also a number of people there due to a new hobby of Jack's. One of my classmates & I found this out in a very entertaining way. Jack's been important to a lot of people in different circles, and one of the fun things about this party was talking to people & figuring out how all those circles fit together. I was talking to one of my friends from college, when a woman walked up to us & asked us the question that must've been repeated a hundred times that night.

"Where do you know Jack from?"
"We were students of his in college. How about you?"
"Oh, I met him through gay square dancing!"
L & I, in stereo:
"Gay square dancing?!"

The surprise was twofold -
We had no idea Jack was a square dancer, and we've known Jack for a fairly long time. And -
We had no idea that square dancing was at all popular among the gay community! Well, that was quite an icebreaker. Only in New York...well, and San Francisco...and Denver, and Copenhagen, and Tokyo, and Madison, and Portland, and Pittsburgh, and a whole bunch of other places, too.

The NYC gay square dance club is called the Times Squares.

That I think that's one of the reasons Jack seems so much like he did back when I was in college - stays active, tries new things. I hope I've still got it in me to pick up a new hobby when I'm his age. Not gay square dancing specifically, although the dancer we got to talking to said that straightness wasn't a disqualifier, their club is non-exclusionary & they've got straight members who enjoy it because they're fun, relaxed, and don't make anybody wear those silly petticoats (unless they really want to photo courtesy of Eric Wagner at, thanks Eric!), on second thought maybe that would be a fun thing to take up at 75... but something active.

Actually that's one of the good points about my particular hobby - sea kayaking is something you can keep doing for a long, long time.

Actually I've got a lot of good role models. Can't resist telling this one - my mom & dad like to ski, and one year my maternal aunt & uncle were joining them for the year's skiing adventure. Now, my uncle turned 80 not too long ago, and I guess my aunt has to be in her late 70's (there's a big age gap between my mom & her sister - I have the best old picture of my grandmother holding little baby mom, and looking so happy) - but they have a nice little tree farm, with horses and dogs and cats, they volunteer for their local Humane Society, regular churchgoers, uncle hunts & fishes, etc., etc., and the result of all of this outdoorsiness & activity, I guess, is that although they are definitely of the AARP demographic, I just don't think of them as "old". They don't act old, they act like themselves. For that matter, so do my folks, and all the paternal aunts & uncles - I picked a good family to be part of. Anyways, there was this one time when they were all getting ready to go skiing. I was on the phone with my mom and she made some comment about hoping that my aunt would be able to ski.

I immediately got concerned. I hadn't heard anything about my aunt being unwell, but maybe she'd slipped & fell, or had some sort of ailment I hadn't heard about yet. I asked.

Turned out the only thing wrong with her was that she'd gotten bucked off her horse one afternoon while they were working on a little jumping and he got a little exuberant.

To which I can only grin & say "You go, auntie!"

Oh, yes, and she did ski.

Anyways, been busy, will continue to be busy, but hope to have more to say about paddling Jamaica Bay this weekend. Fun having someplace new to learn about. I've been feeling underexercised & antsy (they closed our company gym - argh!), walked across the Manhattan Bridge tonight (fortuitously running into Mr. SeaLevel, who's alive & well although SeaLevel is on hiatus & being reworked - nice to see him), did a lot of situps & weights & stuff last night, and am seriously hoping to get out in my boat for a good solid couple of hours this weekend. That way I will burn off all the dim sum I eat at the Chinatown dim sum feast I'm trying to cajole a few friends into joining me for. Got to say, I love my schooner - but at the end of the schooner season, this business of having 2 whole days in the weekend feels like such a incredible luxury!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Cell phone news re "*CG"

This just in on NYCKayaker from Chuck Sutherland (want to learn anything and everything about sailing canoes? Check out the site Chuck maintains" - thanks, Chuck! I don't have a cell phone myself, but this seems important enough to share.

Due to ongoing confusion, the Coast Guard is asking all cell phone providers nationwide, including those in New Jersey, to remove the specialized keying sequence "*CG", which is normally used to alert maritime emergency assistance, officials announced Wednesday.

The removal, which will be implemented in every state but Alaska, was decided on because of some cellular companies not changing the keying sequence after moving to digital systems, the Coast Guard said in a statement. That failure to change created a confusing patchwork of service that can add significant delays in the Coast Guard response.

Officials said the Coast Guard has requested that cell phone service providers reroute all "*CG" calls to the 911 operator and is advising all boaters to use VHF-FM radio as their primary means of making distress calls on the water.

Cell phone calls to 911 should be used only as a secondary option, the statement reads.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Best spam topic I think I've ever seen.

OK, just a quick one here 'cause I can't resist.

Y'know those random text generators the spammers use to try to fool the spam filters?

I just got a spam in the possible-spam filter with a subject I just had to share:

"Elsewhere backup Haggis Hurling Children playground sport"

The mental images that conjured up are going to have me giggling through the remainder of the day.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Intrepid to tugs: "Hell no, I won't go!"

New York Times story on failed attempt to move the aircraft carrier Intrepid

Sorry, this requires registration - but the gist of the story is that the Intrepid was scheduled to be towed away this weekend for renovations of various sorts. The ship hasn't moved in 24 years, and gravity & Hudson River mud overcame the combined efforts of 5 harbor tugs.

As any Hudson River kayaker who's tried to launch across the Edgewater mud flat after a badly timed sushi paddle can vouch, Hudson River mud is of a stickiness to be reckoned with. I remember talking with one of my friends from the DTBH about the possibility of marketing it as an adhesive.

Sounds like they aren't giving up, though.

You can read more about the Intrepid Sea Air & Space Museum here, at their website.

I'm feeling very disconnected from the Hudson these days - had the barge not shut down, I probably would've heard about this happening, and tried to go. Well, I will have another chance.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Broad Channel & Little Egg Marsh

Great day for paddling today. Jamaica Bay had hardly a riffle. The brants are around, it must really be fall. These geese, who look a bit like miniature Canada geese, only darker & maybe a bit stockier, always seem like the most specifically seasonal of our local waterfowl - all through the summer, all through the winter, you won't see so much as a brant's pinfeather, but then in the spring and the fall, there they are. The rule of thumb for paddling around wild birds is if you make them fly, you've gone too close - that's tricky when you're talking about flocks the size of the ones the brants live in.

I'd originally thought I'd go out solo today, and if I had, my plan was to go out of the Paerdegat Basin, hang a right & head along the shoreline until I felt like turning around. Heck with navigation. As it turned out, the couple who took me up to the lake for those 2 great rolling sessions were going out again today. Yesterday I gardened with her, she's one of the co-chairs of the gardening committee, and today it turned out that he thought a longer paddle sounded like a good idea, so we went together. This was great - he knows his way around the Bay & knows a number of different routes of different lengths. For today, he suggested an 8-mile trip to Broad Channel. He had a waterproof chart along & I borrowed that - that was great because it let me start to get a little better sense of where we were. I've always gone out as a guest before in Jamaica Bay before, not really paying the closest attention to landmarks; now that there's a good chance I'll be doing some solo paddling out there, I need to learn my way around a little better!

Jamaica Bay actually seems like it might afford a little more navigation practice than Manhattan did, especially at low water, and ESPECIALLY on a full moon! There's a channel that goes more or less around the perimeter of the bay (although it's blocked by a JFK runway. The center of the bay is filled with islands, marshes, bars, hassocks, and marshes, with narrow, sometimes unmarked, channels snaking between them. A paddler in Jamaica Bay may not have much to worry about in the way of currents, but if a person were to set out as the water is ebbing from the bay, and cuts through the middle of the bay, they may find that the route they took out might not be available for the trip back. The distances involved aren't terrible, but if the tides aren't taken into consideration, a trip could be quite a bit longer than expected! Knowing where the channels are would make life more convenient. Today, with the water extra low, even areas that my experienced paddling companion said were fine almost always had plenty of water in them for a kayak barely had enough water in them for us to paddle. Funny thing was that I'd picked my Euroblade as my "weapon of choice" today - well, the Euro turns out to be a better paddle for extremely shallow conditions - the Greenland stroke, starting as it does with a canted entry that sends the blade diving deeply, doesn't seem to work as well when diving's impossible. S. ended up doing quite a bit of seal-walking - pulling his boat along with his hands. His GPS said he was doing 2 knots that way, which was a bit faster than he was managing with the GP.

Personally I came THAT close to just getting out of my boat & walking, pulling it behind me. I'm not kidding!

Knowledge of the bay is also important because it IS possible for fogbanks to roll in. Fog doesn't seem to make it up to Manhattan that often, and even on days when I did go out for a paddle, you're seldom far enough from shore that you'd lose track of where you are. Jamaica Bay is a different story - I could see the bridge across the Paerdegat Basin from a long way away, once S. pointed it out, but if I'm out there when a good fog rolls in, I'll want to have a compass and a chart along, and know for sure exactly where I was on that chart when the fog rolled in. Now it's not like you're going to paddle out to sea & never be heard from again, but there are stories about trips being much longer than planned when fog resulted in some turned-aound wandering in circles.

Anyways, with these unmarked channels, I think this could make for some fun low-water practice of "flying by instrument" - trying to work out speeds & headings in advance, and then seeing if following that course keeps me in the channel or lands me in the shallows. Beginner level stuff, yeah, but something I didn't do much in the Hudson, where I was more using dead reckoning & known landmarks (and NY harbor has such great landmarks).

Another cool thing today that was also a good lesson to keep in mind was something we observed when we stopped for a quick bite at Little Egg Marsh - the tide was coming in, and it was coming in so fast - and the slope of the beach was so gradual - that you could see the water moving up the beach. It was going at least a foot a minute. Moral of this story for a person who may want to do some solo paddling - careful where you leave your boat, and for how long, especially if your going to be out of eyeshot. I was just getting my gear back on & my boat sort of got up and started wandering away - not fast, though, and heading up the beach with the water, so I finished what I was doing & then retrieved it - it really was interesting watching how fast the beach was shrinking, though.

Good good weekend out on the bay.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Tired of stupid stuff. Gardening's nice.

I've had enough politics (of all levels) for a few days. Had a lovely day digging in REAL dirt instead of the metaphorical kind. Couldn't have picked a nicer way to knock out part of my (very reasonable) work obligation at my new club. Tomorrow, I'm getting out on J-bay for my first time as a member.

Oh, and one side benefit of staying on land today - a batch of the sailing folks turned up to do some end-of-season maintenance. The little sailboats I suddenly noticed when I joined are Sunfish, Lasers and one Zuma, and they have a teaching day in June (which is fine, I expect I'll do some swimming & the water's a touch on the chilly side for that right now), and I've been told how to get on their email list, and I'm going to do that. Oh boy, a new way to make a complete idiot of myself...

actually I'm kind of psyched.

Here's the garden I got to help out on today. Dug beds, hauled stones for borders, raked, planted, watered, mulched...all right here in New York City.

Good stuff.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Good news for a change.


Just to keep things in perspective - all the stress here on the Hudson over our possibly-lost storage space wouldn't be happening if the Hudson was still the dead river it was, well within the memory of some of the more veteran paddlers in the area. The bad news all springs directly from the good news, which is that the Hudson has made a remarkable comeback since the Clean Water Act was enacted.

There's still a lot of PCB's left down in the muck from the GE plant, though, but back in 2002 the EPA decided that General Electric had to clean up their mess.

This is not a fast project, but somebody broke into the raging access debate on NYCKayaker with a great little good-news announcement. Nice break & I think everybody was ready for that - the debate's starting to feel circular.

This is just another little mile marker, long way to go but at least it's in the right direction - and if it wasn't for all of this, the Hudson might not be worth fighting to get to.

Alan J. Steinberg
EPA Regional Administrator
Court Approval of Hudson River Settlement
November 2, 2006

The United States is pleased to announce that today, the landmark settlement between the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the General Electric Company (GE) for the Hudson River PCBs site was approved by Federal District Court Judge David N. Hurd. This allows the cleanup of the Hudson River to proceed. Under the approved Consent Decree, GE will construct a sediment transfer/processing facility in Fort Edward, NY and perform the first phase of the dredging of the PCB-contaminated river sediments, and may perform the second phase of the dredging as well.

Now that the court has approved the Consent Decree, we can all look forward to seeing the benefits of cleaning up the Hudson River. EPA will continue to work with the affected communities and other stakeholders as the implementation of the remedy proceeds.

You can read more about the PCB problems in the Hudson River on the EPA's Hudson River Superfund website.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Honesty in NYC

The obscured word is "lie".

Guess it worked.

con quel furore...

Wow. NYCKayaker woke up this week after somebody posted a link to that article I'd posted a link to.

The crazy thing about all of this is here's this organization, the Hudson River Park Trust, that's supposed to be building a park to bring people to the Hudson.

A lot of us came to the Hudson to go paddling.

Between the barge situation & now the lost boathouse, the projected number of human-powered boats that will eventually be stored in a completed Hudson River Park has been cut by somewhere around 200. Remember, that's in a city where most of us don't have cars & don't have basements. Take away the storage & you've just made it a whole lot harder to be an NYC paddler.

Amazing. Depressing.


Kicked off quite the debate on the NYCKayaker list. All the words that would usually go here went out over there instead. Anybody wants to see a sample of the kind of hoo hah that gets going when you get a bunch of intense NYC & environ-type people who really really really love a sport, have been able to do it for a long time, and suddenly find that some basic requirement for that sport is being rapidly whittled down because of beureaucratic stupid stuff, check out the November archives.

Also check out the River Project. That was the other pretty cool grassroots organization that was running something really neat, created from nothing, at Pier 26. It sounds like they are just being shut out of the process entirely & that just doesn't seem fair when they ran a version of an estuarium there at the pier for so long.

Now of course the Beacon Institute looks like they would run a good program - but - but - but...

I dunno, I guess I'm down with a bad bad bad case of community-garden-itis.

I'll explain what that is one of these days. But I bet anyone who lives in NYC has got at least an inkling of what that disease might be.