Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Sunday Sails & Skies

It was fine to be on a boat all day, watching the shifting skies -

They ran the gamut.

Another beautiful day on the Rosemary Ruth. Hope I have time to write more later this week. Tugster's having fun with it...

me, too many numbers to crunch so far this week. Tomorrow night is go teach for the YPRC - but Thursday looks good for a nice quiet evening at home. Ahhh.

Monday, January 29, 2007

1/21/07 - Norwalk Islands

Been so busy working on weekdays and playing on weekends, seems I'm falling a bit behind on my trip reports!

Had a lovely excursion taking the cutest schooner in New York Harbor to the Tottenville Marina (south end of Staten Island & for Staten Islanders and people who like working boatyards, worth a visit in and of itself) yesterday, a good paddle with Stevie and Kayak Boy on Saturday, following a club meeting that's got me pretty psyched about some upcoming events...including an attempt to break the world's record for circumnavigating Long Island!

But I'm going to take the liberty of skipping around a little, just to play catch-up. One thing I like about this winter is that TQ gets the occasional Sunday off. The 21st was his January Sunday.

Take a wild guess what we did with it...

Yes, some people think that this is what you do with boats in the wintertime...

Not me!

And lucky me, not him, either. Nope.

As you can see, winter's finally decided to get all wintery, finally. Haven't seen ice around the dock at Sebago yet, but up here in South Norwalk, the water is getting all CRUNCHY! You drop your boat in the water - CRUNCH. OR if you are TQ and paddle an ultralight Sparrowhawk, you drop your boat and it just sits on top of the ice until you get in (the heavier Slipstream he fixes me up with when I paddle up there broke the ice).

For anyone who's stopping by from, oh, Malaysia or Hawaii, here's what it's like:

First paddlestroke - CRUNCH. Then krshlkrshlkrshl as you pull your boat forward. then you stop, and CRUNCH, and krshlkrshlkrshl again. TQ's overdramatizing the "CRUNCH" moment in the above picture! As the ice gets thinner and you pick up speed the krshlkrshlkrshl gets longer until it's one long continuous KRSSSSSHHHH while your strokes go CRUNCH CRUNCH CRUNCH CRUNCH CRUNCH...and then all the sudden you're clear and everything gets quiet.

It was a really odd day weatherwise. It was cold; it was pretty clear in the morning (to the point that we were both concerned about our lack of sunscreen), but by the time we'd finished stoking ourselves for the day (which we did at the incredible champagne brunch at the Silvermine Tavern - not going to go into too much detail because gosh darn it, This Is Not A Relationship Blog, nor do I plan to turn it into a Charming Inns of Fairfield County blog, but my goodness that place is LOVELY - TQ was looking out the window in the morning when it was still all blue & sparkling outside & said "I've driven for hours to stay at remote places in the mountains that felt less secluded...") it had turned overcast - but it was a HIGH overcast. The air at sea level was incredibly clear. There's actually a line of 4 smokestacks directly across Long Island Sound from the Norwalk Islands - TQ uses those as a clarity meter. When you see what looks like one smokestack as you're paddling out, that, he says, is clear. When you see 4 smokestacks, it's really clear. I don't think I've seen 4 before!

There was also an interesting mirage going on - all the islands appeared to be suspended in air a few feet above the water - and also reflected upside down in the very air in which they floated. That was particularly noticeable when you looked across the Sound to Long Island. The land you see behind the lighthouse here is actually Long Island. Yes, Long Island, as in one Long continuous Island - but all the lowlying parts are hidden behind that layer of mirage. This went away later on in the day, but the air stayed clear; at one point we could see the towers on Manhattan.

It made for at least one funny moment during out paddle - we'd set out in a roughly northeasterly direction, heading for the north end of the island chain (our plan was pretty much "Let's go paddle around some islands" and we sort of set out northwest because it we'd gone east to Shea & Sheffield our last couple of trips - just fun to mix things up a bit. Eventually, I was confidently heading for an are that appeared to be open water; TQ told me we'd need to veer off to port because that might LOOK like open water, but he expected to start seeing a low sandbar pretty soon. I'm glad I didn't argue because sure enough, as we approached Cockenoe (pronounced Koo-kee-nee - don't ask me, I just visit there) it, the sand gradually rose up over the shimmer.

We had the place to ourselves. There are usually oyster boats out working all winter, but they stay home on Sundays, so it was just us and many, many longtailed ducks. Funny, again a difference just a few miles north of Jamaica Bay. I'd just seen my first pair of these during my paddle to Brighton Beach - here in the Norwalk Islands, they were everywhere. And skittish - for good reason, as we found out later.

Besides the the ducks, and the usual seagulls & a few crows, we saw a hawk perched in a tree overlooking the little cove that's the center of Cockenoe. The sandbar arms shelter the cove, and at high water, there's a salt marsh that you can paddle through. Something to look forward to next time.

We didn't stop anywhere, just paddled. On around Cockenoe, then along the eastern edge of the island chain. Again, like the week before, I'd gotten into a good, strong-feeling rhythm, and I felt like I could have paddled the rest of the way on around - but it was cold enough that our decks had a coating of ice & as we approached the next islands in the chain, the sun was beginning to sink low in the sky. When TQ suggested that we cut between Grassy and Chimon Islands (the islands shown in this picture), I didn't argue!

Although in a funny reversal of the earlier situation, where he swore that land would be appearing where there didn't appear to be any, this time, the water was low enough that I almost thought we'd be doing a portage - and in fact TQ was on the verge of wondering if we'd be able to get through when we spotted the "channel". Wouldn't have worked for anything but a kayak, but we got through without having to walk at all. I think that's part of the fun paddling with somebody who really knows their territory - learning the funny little shortcuts that they know you can do at point A in the tide cycle, but not point B. Easily amused? Yes, perhaps!

We headed back to South Norwalk with the light beginning to fade - randomly talking of random stuff, or just enjoying the quiet. As we neared Calf Pasture Beach, we noticed that we appeared to be paddling up on a longtailed duck - a bizarrely tame one, compared to all the ones that took to the air almost before we knew they were there. At first, I thought it was sick, or hurt - but as we approached, we realized that it was not an actual duck at all.

"So that's why they were so skittish" was TQ's comment once we finished laughing about this poor abandoned iced-up decoy. I asked him about hunting in such a heavily populated area & he said that it's permitted, although heavily regulated.

By this time it was getting cool enough that stopping moving to take pictures was enough to cool down - so we raced each other back to the marina to warm up. TQ was slightly ahead as we turned into the kayak launch, and he was moving, and when he hit the ice there was the loudest crunchiest KRSHLKRSHLKRSHL!!!! of the whole day!

And of course I couldn't just follow him in, I had to do my own icebreaking!

Fun finish to a lovely day.

Now, if you're still here, don't need to get back to work just now, and want to read a little bit about that lovely little schooner trip I did yesterday - head on over to Tugster!

Boatbuilder John Petersen beats the living daylights out of a perfectly nice kayak!

John Petersen is a highly regarded builder of traditional-style skin-on-frame kayaks. He did this heinous thing to prove a point.

In his own words, from the Qajaq USA Traditional Skills ForuM:

It's been a long time coming but I always wanted to demonstrate some of the abuse a SOF could go through, recorded on video to dispel some of the myths and perceptions about them. I can't begin to tell you how many times the subject of strength and durability of a SOF comes up when approached by someone new to kayaking or even by those quite familiar with it or "sold" by plastic or glass.

The kayak demonstrated was almost 2 years old at that point and used intensely about 3 - 4 times per week in the Pacific. It was built with only a 2" wide red cedar gunnel to save weight which gave it more flex than I personally would care to have. I ended up building a more robust SOF for it's previous owner, replaced a few ribs that I cracked during the demo, re-skinned it, and sold it to the owner of Monterey Bay Kayaks in CA during TAKS this past October. I assure you the kayak was perfectly sea worthy even before I reconditioned it.

There could have been other ways to dramatically show the limits of these kayaks-it's a start though and one that I hope will add a little more validation to traditional methods...


Here's the video:

Shaman Kayaks Durability Video

You can see some intact samples of this boatbuilder's craft (in both senses of the word) at his Shaman Kayaks website.

Thanks for the link, Stevie!

Friday, January 26, 2007

More News from Yonkers, and the Bronx.

Aaaah. Pretty, isn't it? A cool green forest, Dogwood blossoms - must be somewhere far from the city, right? The Catskills, perhaps, or the Adirondacks...

WRONG! Welcome to da BRONX, baaaaaaaybeee!

Seriously! This was taken last year during the Amazing Bronx River Flotilla, an annual Spring event celebrating the amazingly beautiful Bronx River, run by the Bronx River Alliance. Surprised? This river definitely hasn't always been this way, and there is still plenty that looks like the picture that you would probably pop up in your brain if somebody said "Bronx River" - but a whole lot of people cared enough to do a whole lot of cleaning-up and it's rather lovely now!

And what does this have to do with Yonkers?

Well, every now & then, it's fun to follow a referring link from my sitemeter to see what other choices someone had besides reading this. Today, someone came in through under the topic of "yonkers ny". My post about Cheri & Turner popped up with a nice little thumbnail of Cheri!

And just a couple of articles down was a that began with the sentence:

The City of Yonkers has agreed to end its four-year opposition to a state plan to clean up the city’s discharge of sewage into the Bronx River. Link is here, and I don't think you'll need to be registered.

That's pleasant news to read.

Although the gas spill story wasn't. Ugh.

Two steps forward, one step back. These urban waterways - so valuable, and so vulnerable.

If you happen to have 7 minutes to spare, and you'd like to learn a little more about the reclamation of the Bronx River - this absolutely choked me up (especially thinking about the gas spill). I was actually looking on the Alliance's calendar to see if I could tell you when the Amazing Bronx River Flotilla 2007 will be, and they had a link - it's posted on the website for American Museum of Natural History. There is one funny little thing, when you hit play on this, a little sign-in screen may pop up. Just hit cancel & it will go away.

Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Cheri & Turner's Greenland experience Slideshow in Yonkers!!

And so another season of Yonkers Paddling & Rowing Club pool sessions "rolls" around. Nyuck nyuck nyuck.

Going to a pool session is such a great thing to do when your mind just doesn't want to let go of something you don't like but can't do anything about. There just isn't room for anything non-boat-related once you're upside down in a boat in nice warm clear water. Even less so once you finish your pre-class fun & settle down & start teaching. I almost didn't go, but I was in just the kind of blue mood where all you want to do is go home and brood, and I know perfectly well that that's just when I need to roust myself out of that & go do something. I did. It worked. Sweet.

Cheri & F., July 2006 workshop in Sea Cliff, Long Island (thanks again to Sea Cliff Kayakers for helping to coordinate - this was FANTASTIC!)

And Speaking Of Teaching! With everything else going on, I've FAILED to post about a rare chance for tri-state area paddlers to meet two of my favorite Greenland instructors, Cheri Perry and Turner Wilson of Kayakways without getting wet!
rats...there is supposed to be a PICTURE here but Blogger is doing that thing tonight where it says it's uploading, then it says it's done, but then nothing happens
OK, maybe it seems weird that yours truly is actually talking about not getting wet as being a good thing - but it's really a great chance for anyone who's in the LEAST bit curious about what's up with all them skinny-stick paddlers to see what it's all about. The event is a slide show of their Greenland competition (I mean the one IN Greenland!) experiences & it should be a lot of fun to hear them "talk story" about the trip. The presentation is being sponsored by my good friends at the YPRC (home of the one and only Jack Gilman, who's introduced SO many of us in the area to Greenland style paddling). I don't know if I'll be able to make it because that's, ugh, right smack in the middle of our January close, but I wanted to spread the word here because it should be great.

Turner, same workshop -

Here's the announcement from J.B. at Yonkers:

I am glad to announce YPRC's first 2007 presentation, scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 8 at 8PM at the Beczak Center, on the Hudson in Yonkers, NY. There will be a slide presentation and talk given by Turner Wilson and Cheri Perry about their trip to Greenland to compete in Greenland's traditional kayak competition. I met them both for the first time this fall and it promises to be a great event. This is open to the public so invite your friends and family or anyone who would be interested in adventure travel. We will ask a $15, deductable and voluntary contribution, but nothing is required- whatever you can afford is great. Hope to see you then. Jerry Borenstein, for info:

And here are instructions to get to the Beczak Center, from former Yonkers resident F.T., who's part of the Greenland gang at Sebago (thanks, F!)

Here are some very simple directions with very few turns.
(I use to live in Yonkers a lifetime ago)

Beczak Center directions.

35 Alexander St
Yonkers, NY 10701
(914) 377-1900

South on the Saw Mill Parkway Exit at Yonkers Avenue. You will be turning right at the end of the ramp (ditto if you are going north)

In a matter of feet turn right onto Ashburton Avenue

Stay on Ashburton it will snake around.

You will go downhill and then uphill

When you go down hill again you are getting close.

Just so you know you are getting close, you will pass
Rout9A North Broadway and then Walburton Ave and then Woodworth Ave.

At the bottom of the hill, you will pass over train tracks then Ashburton will end at Alexander Street (a "T" intersection)

You will be making a left turn onto Alexander Street

The Beczak Environmental Education Center is just a short distance down Alexander Street - 35 Alexander St, Yonkers, NY

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Public Notice and the Hudson River Park Trust

Ah, meant to put up some pretty pictures tonight but I just remembered that there was something I'd wanted to post about a while back, but never gotten past bothering the poor people who are on various lists that I'm on. Going onto the Community Board 1 website & having such an easy time finding information about their upcoming meetings reminded me.

As I've mentioned before, I've been active in Hudson River Park stuff since I joined Manhattan Kayak Company in early 1999. Being a partner in a company that needed the Park to accomodate kayaks to even exist was a great motivator for going to all the various meetings where the Park was discussed. Once I left MKC in early 2002, I eased up on my activities of that sort - once I spoke only for Me Myself & I, LLC, I was inclined to leave the bulk of that stuff to the Officially Involved. Still, since access was still important to me, I tried to keep abreast of developments, follow the various changes, and when it seemed like it would help the Trust to hear what paddlers wanted if a whole lot of us were all shouting at the same time, I was always ready to join in on email or letter-writing campaigns & try to rally others to do the same.

I was cleaning out some extremely old emails late last year, and I ran across one that I'd sent to NYCKayaker back during my time as an independent-though-involved paddler at Pier 63. It was dated July 2003. It was entitled "Having a Voice in the Hudson River Park", and it was basically one of my usual over-wordy diatribes about how good it would be for people to take an active role in Park stuff by attending meetings, listening to what was going on, and speaking up if they didn't approve.

Most of it was just generic rah rah, blah blah, if we all speak together the Trust will have to listen stuff - but the first sentence was pretty interesting & sort of sad, considering all of the really unhappy exchanges I ended up having with a lot of people I really didn't want to fight with from late September on (as the closing of the barge played itself out). If you were for some bizarre reason actually paying attention to the various plot twists, you might recall my December 1st Tale of Two Emails post - for those who missed that, there'd been a meeting of the Advisory Council to the Hudson River Park Trust that I would have really liked to attend, except that word never spread beyond a very small group who'd taken the lead (the rationale I was given later was that the meeting room was too small for wider attendance). I was frustrated with both the Trust (for not having anywhere on their website where a person who wasn't in the "in crowd" could find out about Park-related meeting) and the (then) newly announced Hudson River Paddler's Guild", whose stated goals are sounded admirable enough in their introductory email, but who I nevertheless felt were taking advantage of the lack of freely available information on park-related matters by presenting themselves as an intermediary between the Trust and the independent paddler (for which service the "independent paddler" need only pay a $35 membership fee). I would rather have seen the Guild immediately go to work on getting the Trust to re-open a process that used to be very open, but has evidently closed down some over the last relatively uneventful year or two. Interactions between the Trust and the paddlers have often felt like a two-steps-forward, one-step-back process - somehow this time, though, it's felt more like no steps forward, three steps back.

That was really driven home by the first sentence of this email I'd written back in 2003 -

Hudson River Park Trust meetings are open to the public. Public notice is available

So apparently back in July 2003, the Trust ACTUALLY HAD A PUBLIC NOTICE PAGE.

Did you try the link? Not exactly helpful now, eh?

I'm pretty sure that back in 2003, that link would have taken you to something a lot more informative than in does here in early 2007, as in the email I went on to describe that now-lost page as being the way to see what meetings were coming up & whether they'd be of interest to the general paddling public or not.

So when I was pestering Noreen about getting public notice on their website, and she was offering having people email her directly to be put on the list instead (still meaning that you had to be enough of an insider to know that emailing her was the key to getting notice - better than nothing but still not really public, somehow)- all I was asking for was for the Trust to reinstate a service that they used to provide as a matter of course.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Good meeting!

That was actually a good meeting - I felt a little out of place there & didn't say much, but I enjoyed listening to people sitting around a table saying reasonable things about boathouses.

If you were able to sort through the tangle of waterfront political idiocy I was writing about back in September & October & maybe a little in November, you might remember that I linked to an article in the Downtown Express, which was the first place I'd read that all of the sudden, the Hudson River Park Trust was saying that they didn't have enough money to build the boathouse that was supposed to go up on Tribeca's Pier 26 in place of the boathouse the Trust tore down a couple of years ago.

This would have been irritating on it's own. Coming, as it did, on the heels of the great barge debacle, with the attendant simultaneous "It's THEIR fault!" coming from both the Trust and the DEC, it was even more annoying - as I think I said when I first linked, adding insult to injury (like they didn't notice, or think anyone would notice, that the overall projected future kayak storage in the park had, in the course of something like a month, been halved, or worse).

But I think the most annoying factor was that the 2 boathouses that the Trust has had designed & built so far have been super-fancy, but not in ways that actually improve their ability to function AS BOATHOUSES. It would be simple enough to design something far more spartan that works perfectly well, if not better - but the option of looking at cost cuts for the boathouse design wasn't even mentioned. It was like "Gee, we don't have enough money for the Taj Mahal, so you get bupkes. OK?".

Only I don't know if there was an "OK?".

And as it turns out, Community Board One is NOT ok with this at all.

This meeting turned out to be the 2nd in a series of working groups discussing the fate of of Pier 26. At the last one, a list of things that people liked about the way the old Pier 26 worked was collected - things like the grassroots nature of both the Downtown Boathouse and the neighboring River Project, the way they brought people to the river, etc. etc.

I guess Jim Wetheroff, the founder of the DTBH, may have taken the opportunity to mention the over-designed nature of the boathouse.

Julie Nadel, the chair of CB1's Waterfront Committee, left that meeting determined to get the Trust to look and see if, by avoiding the needlessly expensive approach they've taken with the other 2 boathouses, it might be possible to save the lost boathouse..

The interesting beginning to this meeting was that maybe the boathouse wasn't so doomed after all! During the discussions, Julie and Marc Amaruso, another committee member who went to work on finding things out, were told by the Trust that, oh yes, the designs were finished, and if the budget request was granted, they'd be putting the boathouse construction out to bid in early April.

That was an interesting change to the no-funds story!

The committee members asked if they could see the plans (they had a floor plan, but that was about it). They were told "No, the plans are finished, but we don't have them". Now tonight, hearing that story, a couple of other attendees said that they'd seen much more advanced plans. Where? Why, at the Trust's offices.


So Julie's going to go back to the Trust, GET the plans, request that the Trust hold off on rushing anything out to bid until CB1 and some of the potential actual end users of the boathouse have a chance to review the designs closely for unnecessary frills - like the infamous dock -

or heating in your cavernous, uninsulated storage area, when a small changing room that can be warmed up quickly with a space heater will do -

and no, leaving the heat off wouldn't work - the water pipes for the hot showers would freeze. Another frill that could be cut - hot showers at a boathouse is a lovely theory, but if the word is that the boathouse is too expensive - well, most paddlers are OK with waiting to get home to shower (although when MKC moved from the glitzy health-club environs of Chelsea Piers to the rusty old Rustbucket, we did have worry about how many clients we'd lose to the Peach Shampoo Factor - turned out not too many, but we definitely lost a few).

Anyways, long story short, at the first meeting, a list of things people liked about the old Pier 26 was collected; last night, a list of things that were unnecessary (or flat out didn't work) about the newer Trust boathouses was offered by Jim Wetheroff of the Downtown Boathouse (they've now operated out of one of the new boathouses for enough time for him to speak with authority) and confirmed by Eric Stiller of Manhattan Kayak Company (the company I was a partner in once & continued to store boats until Sept. 11th of last year) - MKC had been given temporary space for a few boats at the DTBH-Uptown so Eric also had firsthand experience of the shortcomings. They'll continue working on it once they get a little more than a floor plan. It's nice to hear that maybe the Pier 26 boathouse isn't as doomed as that article made it out to be - wouldn't it be even nicer if CB 1 can get the Trust to revise their plans to produce a simpler, cheaper, easier-to-maintain boathouse that WORKS better, too?

Nice to hear such sensible ideas being discussed at a Hudson River Park related meeting. Now if the Community Board can only get the Trust to listen...

I'll be keeping my fingers crossed.

CB1 Waterfront Committee Meeting Tonight

Oops. More important than I have disengaged from Hudson River politics, I've disengaged from my self-appointed town crier role too. Almost forgot to say that there's a Community Board 1 Waterfront Committee tonight where the Downtown Boathouse is on the agenda. I don't know specifics but I'm wondering if this is concerning the business with there now NOT being money for a boathouse on Pier 26, as was the plan when the old Downtown Boathouse was torn down.

I'm going to try to go, just to hear what's said - I'm trying to disengage from active participation but I'm still interested in following the access story. Sorry I'm mentioning it so late in the day. Here is the announcement proper from CB1's public notice page:

Waterfront Committee
DATE: Monday, January 22, 2007
TIME: 6:00 PM
PLACE: Community Board #1 Office
49-51 Chambers Street, Room 709

1) East River Waterfront – Preview on upcoming ULURP action – Presentation by EDC
2) Strategic planning needs assessment discussion lead by Michael Levine, Director of Planning and Land Use of CB #1

Pier 26 – Boat House –7:30 PM
1) Subgroup working session

Sorry again about the late notice.

2nd Froggiblogiversary

Good thing about digital birthday cupcakes is they don't get stale. Yep, this blog hit the 2-year mark this weekend. Here was my first post ever!

Comments are open (as they always are - down there where it says Slack water, or rising tide, or high water at the battery) for congratulations, condolences, condemnations or anything in between.

Thanks to everyone for reading (especially the regulars!) - that's what makes this fun!

Friday, January 19, 2007

Urban Gardening

Check it out - welcome to Bonnie's Garden!

Well, ok - more like Bonnie's Windowsill.

Don't know what hit me. Never had much of a green thumb, but one afternoon I was making a big pot of my favorite clean-out-the-fridge soup & instead of just chucking the seeds from the acorn squash & cutting up the garlic that had wandered to the back of the produce drawer and started to sprout as I usually would, I pulled out the pots (I failed geraniums 101 - some friends gave me a half-dozen, and simply couldn't bring myself to not water them, which I'm told you have to do rather assiduously with geraniums, they like it dry), stuck some of the squash seeds in the dirt, and put the garlic in a wine glass with some water.

Now, as you can see, my wine glass runneth over. And I think EVERY single squash seed I planted sprouted. Couldn't believe it when they started coming up - it was like, nothing happened for a week and then some, then all the sudden, pop pop pop pop pop, up they all started to come! If I'd known that was going to happen, I wouldn't have planted so many.

Tonight I did some thinning (boy, that felt brutal - but I had something like 2 dozzen seedlings split among 3 pots, I put a few in other pots but I don't think a private, non-farmer type individual needs 2 dozen squash plants, plus I only had so many pots & so much windowsill so some had to go) & transplanting. Now the garlic is in pots. Doing a little internet reading I see I'm doing it all bass-ackwards with the garlic, you're supposed to plant them early in the winter, outside, so they sit dormant all winter, and it's the cold that triggers the individual cloves to start splitting once the ground warms up & they start to grow. Tomorrow I need to get little stakes for them because the little squashlets ARE starting to flop over just as Claire said they would.

Jeeze. Would you listen to me? Like I NEEDED another hobby! I don't understand how people have time for those TV thingamajigs.

I guess that between too much reading of Claire's Garden - fun reading about her planning for Spring, how thoroughly I enjoyed that nice day of gardening at Sebago last fall, and the fact that I'm dating a guy who actually considered being a forestry major at one point in his life & really likes gardening (although he hasn't really got one right now) the idea has been planted (ha ha) that growing things might be fun.

Other than that - hey, look, it snowed for real!

Ah, just kidding - that was from last February's blizzard. Here was todays:

Today we just had a light powdering - but it is reassuring to get some little taste of winter. I'm a big fan of warm weather, but I do like to get one or two good snows. So far this winter, I think we'd only had 2 snowfalls. One was so short that if you blinked at the wrong moment, you missed it entirely, and I don't know if it even got recorded. The other one was a little longer but didn't stick.

Today's was just enough to make it at least feel like now we're having a proper winter.

I found myself thinking during my long solo paddle this weekend - I wonder if the Hudson will even get into the business it usually gets into in the spring where the tides get overwhelmed by the snowmelt & the currents feel like one long, long ebb? One that speeds up & slows down on the tidal cycle, but never quite flows north.

Always made for sweet circumnavigation timing - the usual timing required starting out by paddling south to the Battery with the flood rising against you, but in the spring, that runoff effect ended up helping you out a lot on that leg. At 26 miles, it still wasn't a float trip, but if you were used to doing it the regular way, it FELT kinda floaty!

Won't see that this year.

Jamaica Bay will have a new set of spring rhythms for me to learn, though. I'm looking forward to that - the spring migration, the return of the seasonal paddlers and sailors (I'm particularly looking forward to the last, bringing, as it will when the water warms up in June, the chance to learn to sail a little boat) - and oh yes, gardening...and I better make nice with the gardening committee...maybe that way I can actually have somewhere to move at least a couple of these squash plants if I can actually keep 'em going until the spring!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Long Island Dolphins - Stranded, not just visiting.

This is actually a couple of days old now, think I heard it on the radio on Tuesday or Wednesday but I wanted to do that trip report -

Sadly, it turns out that bizarre, possibly unseasonable-warmth related business with all the dolphins in the Hamptons has not ended well.Here's the story.

I do wonder if maybe the story didn't even begin well, and it just took time to figure that out. Is it possible that the first reports were just filed without anyone realizing that the dolphins were actually stuck? Most of the reports did have at least some element of "This is very odd" mixed in with that spontaneous initial reaction of "Wow! Dolphins! Cool!" (who doesn't get that when they see a dolphin?).

Sorry about the melancholy update. Today's planned post was actually a bit on the silly side, but I'm stuck at work, decided to take 5 before I launch into the next step of big ugly project (which just landed on my desk at 5:30, but this is actually one of those ones where it's not really annoying, nobody's fault, just needs to get done), and I remembered that I'd wanted to mention the unfortunate developments, since I'd posted a link to the original story just the other day.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

1/15/07 - Paerdegat Basin to Brighton Beach

I took that floating feather picture during yesterday's 15 nautical mile paddle. That's how calm it was.

I also felt like that was one of the more peaceful pictures I've ever taken - and somehow it just felt like just quietly showing something peaceful was more in the spirit of the day than anything I could have written.

It was also a perfect reflection of how I felt after what ended up being a much longer paddle than I'd set out planning to do - except that I had no particular plans beyond paddling, and sticking near the shore so as not to become lost in the fog.

I've been feeling like getting in some longer paddles, now that the holidays are over. This weekend was fairly grey - but Saturday was a wonderful walking day, and after a quiet Sunday at home doing a bit of housekeeping, a little cooking, and a lot of reading. The reading was the result another pleasantly unplanned weekend activity, a stop at the Strand Bookstore, which I walked into with no idea of what I felt like reading and walked out of with (of all the odd random choices) Darwin's The Voyage of the Beagle - that kept me curled up on the couch most of the day on Sunday. Got off to a rather slow start on Monday morning, but I'd been considering paddling, and by early afternoon, looking out the window at some perfectly still branches, I decided it was time to eat a hearty lunch, heat up a thermos of cocoa, pack up my stuff (in a backpack this time, which made the half mile walk to the club a LOT less onerous than it was with the stuff in a lopsided duffle bag - plus I saw a downy woodpecker in the brush along Paerdegat Avenue, that was fun) & get myself out on the Bay.

Got to the club to receive a rousing woof-woof-woof welcome from S. The Dog, who belongs to one of the racing paddlers there, who trains religiously. She's a good little guard dog, fortunately we've been introduced & I know she's one of those mostly bark, no bite if you leave her be sort of dogs (I had a dog a lot like that when I was a kid - I love those dogs that are friends with the whole world, but I respect the ones who are a little more discriminating). Once she'd done her barking-at-newcomer job, she went back to her true duty, which is waiting for her guy to get back (as you can see, she does that very well).

Aside from S. the Dog, it was just me & the seagulls. I went ahead & got my boat down to the dock, then went into the clubhouse to sort out the gear I wanted to take. I signed in with an intended destination of Gerritsen Creek - that's past the Gil Hodges Bridge, at the mouth of the bay, and I figured that would be the farthest I'd go. Staying along the shoreline seemed the wisest move, since I'm still learning the Bay and the fog was pretty thick - and the last two weekends I'd gone out & hung a left, so it seemed like time to take a right. And there's something about paddling out of the bay, and into the Lower Harbor, that I like. Another club member arrived to do a little tidying up - suddenly I noticed all the lifejackets lying in a heap under the rack & felt bad, but he didn't seem put out at all. Sebago seems good that way - people come in & work but they don't try to use it to make other people feel bad. And I'll definitely get my hours in - but I also want to get better at opening my eyes, looking around the clubhouse & taking the little things that haven't been done.

D. wished me a safe paddle & I headed on out to the dock. Glicker (the racer) was just coming up the basin) - we exchanged greetings & he mentioned that it was very foggy out & to be careful as it was getting darker - that solidified my plan to stick by the shoreline & I told him that was what I meant to do. I joked about how I had been tempted to take my surfski - he said it was incredibly calm out on the bay, he'd seen feathers curled up floating on the surface, barely getting wet.

Three o'clockish, I launched & headed on down the basin - out under the bridge into a bay where horizons were blurred with the water, which I think was the smoothest I've ever seen it. After a quick pause to pull out my compass & get a sense of my direction, I headed along the shoreline. I had the water to myself, except for the usual winter waterfowl - brants, buffleheads, mallards, passing gulls. Two horseback riders passed on the beach - another wonderful way to spend such a peaceful afternoon.

The buoys led off into the distance, fading into the fog. Although the shoreline I was following was clear to see, the far shore of the bay was lost, and I found my eyes played funny tricks with ducks and perspective for a little while - at one point, I saw a small flock out of the corner of my eye and for some reason, for a split second, my mind read that flock as a boat - weird. Didn't take too long for my eyes to adjust, though. As it was, I saw exactly one boat, looked like a fishing boat heading home to Dead Horse Bay sometime in the late afternoon.

As I headed on towards Floyd Bennett Field, I started hearing the noise of a helicopter coming from one of the helipads. And it just kept going and going, louder & louder as I approached. It turned out to be a police helicopter - I was actually wondering why they didn't just shut the noisy thing down if they weren't going to fly somewhere - then the noise increased and I saw the helicopter rise up & then settle back to the ground. I decided maybe it was engine testing, or a little practice. As I continued, a building blocked my view - again, the engine got louder, and as the helicopter came back into view, I could see it settling to the ground again. I paddled on until the volume increased to a roar again - this time, I looked back, watched the helicopter lift into the air - and then a police officer jumped out & rappelled to the ground!

So THAT'S what they were doing. I was tempted to pull over & watch for a while - but I was really starting to get into a good, gliding, easy paddling rhythm & decided to head on.

On to the Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge. Thought for a split second about crossing there & continuing along the shoreline of the Bay, but decided against it - I wanted to paddle on out to Gerritsen Creek.

So I did. It was getting on towards later afternoon - but it was still calm, and the air was still warm. I knew there was a cold front coming through the next day, so there might not be a whole lot of opportunity for outdoor exercise during the week, and I was strongly inclined to keep going.

I checked my gear for the requirements for a longer than planned, after-dark paddle. Lights, VHF, flares, hot drink, energy bars, extra warm hat, etc. - leaving as late as I did, I was pretty sure that I had everything I would need, but I wanted to make absolutely certain that I hadn't been a doofus & left anything on the ping-pong table at the clubhouse. At the bridge, I could still be home before dark if I had to. Much past & getting home in daylight would be out of the picture.

Having confirmed that I was set, I paddled on. Past Dead Horse Bay . Past Gerritsen Creek. On along Plum Beach, where I've launched with the Sebago Greenland gang for some lovely paddles to Breezy Point. Saw a very handsome pair of black & white ducks in that area, which I think were the kind called "oldsquaws" (according to my circa 1959 Collins Complete Field Guide to North American Wildlife) or the more politically correct "long-tailed duck" - the briefest of Google searches will reveal that the common name of the Clangula hyemelis raises as much passion & wrath on birding lists as discussions of paddling safety do on kayak lists (btw I won't be surprised if somebody somewhere scolds me for admitting to paddling alone, after dark, in the winter - believe me, this is SO outside of anything I'd usually do, but the conditions were so perfect, and my shoreline route actually meant that I could have gotten out at any time, easily, and it was just too pretty to go home...)'

Somewhere in there I put my lights on - there are marinas in Gerritsen, Sheepshead Bay and Dead Horse Bay, and although the fog seemed to be thinning, the visibility was decreasing as the invisible sun lowered towards the invisible horizon.

Amazingly, though, there was only that one fishing boat coming home at day's end, and they were far away. I guess the charter fleet this time of year mostly just goes out at 8 am, and get back earlier in the day (fits in with what I saw on New Year's Day).

I considered paddling into Sheepshead Bay - decided against, sort of didn't want to have something that would say "This is how far you paddle, now turn around". I'm sure I'll be back there for lunch one of these days, that'll be fun to do in a group. I wanted to keep going.

It was fully dark by the time I passed the buildings of Kingsborough College. On I went down Manhattan Beach. As I came out of the lee of Breezy Point, a gentle swell had picked up. With the landmark structures of Coney Island dark for the winter, it was a little hard to tell where exactly I was, but when I saw the waterfront change from a seawall of boulders to a broad, sandy beach broken by long stone jetties, I knew I'd gotten to Brighton Beach. I paddled a little further - sure enough, there were the Russian cafes that face the boardwalk there, and the dark pavilion.

Plenty of people out that night, though. All along the shoreline, all enjoying the warm evening.

I looked down the waterfront towards Coney Island proper. It was tempting. On to the Parachute Jump? Sea Gate, at the end of Coney Island?

I looked at my watch. Quarter of, better not to push much farther. Time to go home. I turned my boat & paddled for the bridge - now lit and clearly visible, although the foghorn at Rockaway Point kept up it's steady warning to ships.

Strange thing to me was seeing the Atlantic, all dark out there. I'm so used to the Hudson, where during a night paddle there are still lights on all sides. Unsettling & probably for good reason - if the cold front had been predicted to come in any earlier than it was, I wouldn't have wanted to be where I was!

As it was - it was just beautiful. Although how strange, to be able to do a solo paddle, out to the Lower Harbor, finishing well after dark, in January. Even broke a bit of a sweat as I was heading for home - the currents out there are nothing like the ones on the Hudson, but there was a little teeny current & with the wind at my back & a couple of layers of fleece under my drysuit, I was actually too warm. For once, though, I wasn't even tempted to roll - that would've been pushing things a bit too far!

The smooth swells of the Lower Harbor vanished as I went back into the shelter of Rockaway Point. Under the bridge, into the bay, where the lights on the buoys traced the road home in the dark. Around the corner at Floyd Bennett Field - the helicopter exercises were long done, but after getting out into more open water, I found myself surprised at the noise of the highway that runs along the shore.

As the red lights marking the Paerdegat bridge came into view, and I headed for them, paddling along in the shallows outside of the channel, I began playing a bit of a game - closing my eyes for a number of strokes & seeing where I was headed when I opened them again. Interesting - I'd feel like I was veering off course, and when I'd give into that & correct, I'd open my eyes to find I'd corrected myself 20, 40, 60 degrees off course. When I could relax & disregard that, I did a lot better - unless there was the lightest puff(let) of a breeze(let), in which case again I'd open my eyes to find I was headed for someplace entirely different.

Now there's another thing I don't think I ever would have done on the Hudson!

Sleepy ducks & geese along the shoreline discussed me as I passed, but I was glad to see that I didn't make them fly.

I got back to the dock & checked my watch. How odd to find it was only 8:00! It felt so much later - I guess that's because most of my night paddling is done in the summertime - in the wintertime, I generally like to be off the water by dark.

What a strange & lovely exception to that rule last night was. Got home feeling as peaceful as that feather - just floating.

Tonight, the wind is rattling the branches & pushing against the windows, and there's a small craft advisory - what a different scene it must be out there tonight.

Glad I'm here at home!

Monday, January 15, 2007

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday to My Mom!

(I did actually think of sending a card but as happens all too frequently I just didn't follow through - but then I thought, why not do it by blog?)

Thanks for teaching me to read (accidentally-on-purpose, and with a little help from the good people of PBS, as mentioned in day-before-yesterday's Cookie Monster post) & lots of other things too!

Hope your day is lovely!

Friday, January 12, 2007

Oh, yeah, DOLPHINS! plus a little more on Cookie Monster -

OK, I loved that proto-Cookie Monster clip so much I completely forgot that I'd meant to link to the area's big marine mammal story du jour. Know how I was talking about how much warmer than usual the water felt on New Year's Day? And how I found out through a little net surfing that it was indeed about 10 degrees above our usual average water temperature?

Well, it seems there's a pod of dolphins who are liking that warm water & are paying an extended visit to the Hamptons, the famous resort area on Long Island's South Fork (usually news stories from the Hamptons are more along the lines of what party Paris went to - personally I'd rather read about dolphins any day).

Now the interesting thing is that I haven't heard any seal stories yet this year - for the last few years, a group of harbor seals has been wintering in New York Harbor. Perhaps they just aren't news anymore, but usually by this time of year there are reports of seal spottings on the local kayak listserve. I wonder if they haven't made it down this far because of the mild winter?

All very strange. I was rolling without a hood last weekend. Yes, in January, in New York City. That's just plain weird.

About the Cookie Monster video yesterday - although it looked like the Cookie Monster, the skit struck me as being not quite Sesame-ish, closer to the Muppet Show, but clearly predating the Muppet Show by a long time. I knew that the Muppets had appeared in some famous show before Sesame Street, so when I got home last night I looked up Jim Henson on Wikipedia.

The famous show was The Ed Sullivan Show!

It also turns out that Wikipedia has some really excellent bios not JUST on Jim Henson and Frank Oz, but on the individual Muppets themselves. Here's the article about the Cookie Monster.


Thursday, January 11, 2007

Early Cookie Monster!

If I ever got around to doing one of those "little known facts about me" memes, one might be that I'm told that I learned to read without anyone specifically teaching me. I say "specifically teaching" because my parents read me a bedtime story or poem every night when I was little, which I'm sure had a whooooole lot to do with it - but my mom has also told me that she thinks I may have picked up quite a bit from watching Sesame Street & The Electric Company.

Years later, The Muppet Show became one of my favorite TV shows.

I love the fact that this whole YouTube, video sharing thing has suddenly made it easy to go back & watch some of those classic Muppet skits again.

This one is hysterical!

Thanks, Thinkery for posting, and thanks, Claire, for linking to Thinkery!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Life Ain't Fair!

First the kayak storage at Pier 63 gets threatened because some non-boaters decided that motorized & non motorized vessels can't operate in the same waters.

Now the Irish music session I occasionally attend is evidently threatened because the owners of our host pub have apparently decided that we don't drink enough.

So much for THAT stereotype, eh?

Fortunately there are a few more Irish pubs in NYC than there are kayak storage facilities - hopefully it will be easier to re-house a displaced session than it would be to re-house a displaced paddling community.

Dunno, though - last night's session rocked, it was literally standing room only. Our fearless session leader JN has hit on a great concept of having guest artists in once a month or so. Last night we had Patrick Mangan, who's an extremely talented young fiddler & he led a really excellent session. I ended up staying out quite a bit past my bedtime - the session just didn't start winding down at the usual hour.

Did my bit for the cause, too, had a couple of pints. Quite a sacrifice, yes, but one I made with a good spirit!

Sunday, January 07, 2007

1/7/2007 - 1/6, minus lunch, plus barge

Paddled again today, as it was too perfect to not paddle. Temperature wasn't as ludicrously unseasonal as yesterday, but still extremely pleasant - mid 50's, I'd say. Very little wind - mirror-calm when we set out (we ended up rolling to cool off), picking up very slightly in the afternoon, but never getting up to anything that made me think "Boy, this would be great sailing".

Another club member & I launched around 12:30. It was semi-coordinated, although I'd told him not to wait for me as I was taking public transport & had no idea how long it was going to take. It ended up taking a full hour, including waiting for the train, waiting for the bus, and the final hike (next time I have to remember to use either a backpack or a luggage cart, that half-mile walk with the winter gear in an unbalanced dufflebag was boring). Doable, but I really do have to consider springing for a bike, as I think that would be faster. He was on the dock all ready to go when I got there, but he was kind enough to wait for me (I tend to wear fleece under my drysuit, and I've taken to putting that on so that all I have to do when I get to the club is throw on the drysuit).

We paddled straight out past Canarsie Pol, hung a left at the Pumpkin Patch Channel & headed east. We spotted a barge we hadn't seen before over by the spit of land where they have the visitor center for the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge - curious, we decided to paddle over & take a look, thinking it was part of the marsh reclamation project in the bay.

Well, it wasn't - it was a big piece of equipment of some sort - L. was guessing possibly a section of a bridge. But it was in a very weird location, and check out the parking job...

I have a feeling that wasn't done on purpose, either. For starters, look how shallow the water is. The barge clearly ended up where it is at high water, and was left beached as the water ebbed out from beneath it - but even at maximum high water, it seriously doesn't look like there's enough water ANYWHERE around here for a tug to operate - unless it's a special Jamaica Bay shallow-draft tug -

And secondly - as I looked at this barge, it seemed to me that I had, after all, seen it before. I had noticed the "Skip" marking & wondering if that was the barge's name, or if that was the type of barge it was. And that was yesterday, and it was moored with a couple of other barges at the old landfill...waaaaaaaaay over there (see the little orange smudge? That's a big construction crane on a barge and I think this one was right in the same vicinity.

It got awfully windy last night - as I'd mentioned, Stevie & I fought a serious headwind coming back from Howard Beach in the afternoon, and from the thrashing of the tree branches outside last night, it sounded like it got even stronger.

I wonder if it's going to be a rough Monday morning for the guys at that construction site...

The rest of the paddle was lovely & uneventful - we went to Howard Beach (didn't get out that time, L. just hadn't been there by water & I was interested in going the rest of the way up the basin), then back to the club. We were treated to a nice light show in the clouds - there was a pair of very bright sundogs (little rainbow patches that show on either side of the sun when it shines through clouds containing ice crystals that refract the light just so), and there were also some pretty pink & green colors in some of the other clouds - my sunglasses aren't polarized, but the colors were stronger when I had them on, don't know if I would've noticed the more subtle refraction effects if I hadn't.

Great weekend. Think I'm ready for the week now.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

1/6/2007 Paerdegat Bay to Howard Beach

Picures follow the following post - I have to warn folks right up front that I got a little kayak-geeky in this one. Those who don't really care how a kayak behaves in a following sea miiiiiight want to scroll on down to those!

With the hurry of the holidays behind us, I've been finding myself wanting to get out for some longer paddles. Earlier this week, inspired by my New Year's Eve Day walk in Sheepshead Bay (which ended up, to my surprise, on Plum Beach, where we've launched for a couple of great paddles to Breezy Point), and hearing an unbelievable weather forecast (high 60's? did they say high 60's?) I tried to instigate a lunch paddle from the Paerdegat Basin to Sheepshead Bay for lunch.

Didn't really fly. Stevie, who helped me out with some crucial info (like the distance - I need to get a J-bay chart - and assurance that we'd be able to find somewhere to land once we got there - local knowledge is a REALLY good thing, I hadn't noticed any public docks there, but then I wasn't looking when I was going by the docks) was interested; I. was interested but coming down with a cold, and beyond that, there was nothing. The forecast did call for a 50% chance of precipitation - if it was going to be in the high 60's, that was fine with me - this time of year we're all wearing drysuits anyways - but not everybody feels that way.

As the weekend approached, wind speed forecast starting looking not as good as it had at first. It had started with "sw at 10 kts, gusting to 15". It ended up calling for 15 gusting to 20. A look out the window this morning at the tall, sometimes leafy telltales (aka "trees") outside my apartment showed fairly agitated branches. Stevie picked me up at about 8:45 and if I recall correctly, by the time we got to the club, we'd scrapped the Sheepshead Bay plan (15 miles, and leaving the shelter of the bay for the less protected water of Lower NY Harbor)for a more restrained paddle to an Italian restaurant in Howard Beach (9 mile paddle, staying entirely within the bay).

Ended up working out well. We were on the water around 10. The wind was west, and at our backs, and was already fairly peppy. It was just past high water, so the current was beginning to ebb - fortunately, the currents in Jamaica Bay are just not as strong as those of the Hudson, so that only slowed us a bit - and even that may have been cancelled out by the small waves that were coming up behind us, driven by the wind. Romanys just do really well with following seas.

I used my Greenland paddle all the way there, as a bit of a challenge to myself - I tend to put the skinny stick away & pull out the Euro pretty quickly when the boat starts wandering a bit, but the first night of the pre-Christmas camping trip, Quint & I had paddled around Sheffield Island, and I was using the GP, and on the Long Island Sound side there were fairly good swells, and although my immediate reaction was "Oh, this is a little tough, I want my Euro", I decided to stick with the GP. It was a good exercise - the Greenland blade doesn't give you as assertive a hold on the water as the Euro, so my thought was to intentionally use that to focus my attention on using the boat itself for control. I do that anyways, but my being less confident with the Greenland blade really made me pay closer attention to doing everything else just right. There's never enough fine-tuning of technique. Anyways, I did that again today & had worked up a good appetite by the time we turned into the Howard Beach basin!

Our lunch destination was an Italian restaurant called Gino's, where Stevie had had a fabulous risotto the last time a crew had gone. We found it, although after a little walking around (I was of course dressed in my drysuit - Stevie left his tuiliq in his kayak but even so we were getting some funny looks!). We actually walked right past it at first - Stevie had remembered it as a proper sit-down restaurant, but from the street it looks like just a pizzeria. It wasn't until we found that the Ristorante on the next block wasn't open until 5 that we went back to investigate Gino's, figuring pizza would be fine - turned out that behind the pizza counter, there was, indeed, a quite good, moderately-priced, full-service Italian restaurant. They bring you bruschetta the minute you sit down, then bring you a menu that's far beyond pizzeria. We started with buttery baked clams, then Stevie had his risotto and I had linguine matriciana - that's with prosciutto, onions & tomato. Simple but delicious. Generous servings, too - I only made it halfway through mine - had the waiter pack it up for me, even though putting a doggy bag of pasta in the day hatch precluded any thoughts of rolling!

We earned our lunches on the way back - by the time we left, the wind had picked up noticeably, the bay was covered with whitecaps, and we had one of those fun paddles back where every now & then half the front of your boat goes flying out of an oncoming wave into the air above the following trough and then goes SPLASH! I did at one point let loose with a few measures of the "Ride of the Valkyries", timed with the accented notes to hit right when Stevie's bow hit the water. We passed on the rolling today (I did think about it but there was the pasta), but I think we were just as salty as we would've been if we had, just from the splashing!

I did switch back to my Werner paddle for the upwind leg. I'm just plain faster when I use that one, so when it comes to getting home against a headwind, I'll let myself be lazy!

We were back by 2, and I have enough energy left that I think I may go out again tomorrow. No particular plan, just felt really good being out there & moving.

Here's a few pictures from the day!

Howard Beach. I love these little Jamaica Bay waterfront communities - they integrate water use in the communities SO much better than happens in Manhattan. We actually couldn't find anyone to ask if we could leave our kayaks on their docks today (it's nice to ask, and we would've if we could, but for such a glorious day, there were surprisingly few people out messing about on boats) - but we found a place where we were able to land, walk up a ramp, open a gate & head off in search of Stevie's risotto without any problem. You just can't count on that most places in Manhattan.

OK, usually I'm on the other side of the camera but thanks, Stevie, for taking a picture of me (oh, btw, the Frostbite Regatta pictures - anything I'm in was taken by TQ, who's enjoying his waterproof Christmas present from me, although I may be enjoying mine from him more - that sharp & comfy new drysuit)! I'm in a boat, I'm on the water, I'm full of good pasta & there's more in the day hatch. Life, as they say, is good.

Santa must be enjoying the weather too much to go home!

I did not know that they made seagull discouragers from stained glass - but I guess when your dock is an extension of your home (which is really the sense I get along here - some of the setups people whose properties back up on the water I can just picture them using as an amazing outside room in the summertime), why not something a little classier than ho-hum sheet metal?

These folks just clearly love their dock. OK, clearly there's a section that could use a little more flotation, but isn't the folk art on the piling cool?

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Frostbite Regatta

Yes, we had a soggy, soggy New Year's Day here in New York City!

TQ and I spent New Year's Eve just as I'd talked about wanting to the other day - having a good homemade meal at my apartment. Christmas had been fun but hectic. It was a nice night, and after dinner there was desultory talk of going out to Coney Island for a walk on the boardwalk, but in the end, we just couldn't get motivated to go (I'd already gone for a long wander around Sheepshead Bay during the day anyways - pictures? you bet! not tonight though!) - and I have to admit that we dozed off well before midnight! Ah, romance among the pushing-40 set. Guess the holidays have worn both of us out - he's in the outdoor sports retail business, so the holidays are a time that bring him a lot of work - or at least that's what he hopes!

We did wake up long enough to wish each other a Happy New Year when the church bells starting ringing (Brooklyn is nicknamed the "City of Churches") but the Moet in the fridge remained unmolested until after the next day's paddle.

I woke up again sometime in the wee small hours to hear the car tires on the street outside hissing in the rain. No surprises there...

7:30 a.m. - BZZZT! BZZZT! BZZZT! Boy, do I need a kinder alarm clock. Turned it off, looked out the window at the rain, stumbled over to the computer, headed for the forecast. Rain, rain, rain. 100% chance of precipitation, all day. Marine forecast had winds gusting to 25 kts - or was it 30? Saving grace of the day was the temperatures - up in the 50's. As it was, it was looking like an awfully good morning for sleeping in. Signed on to email, half expecting the whole thing to be called off. Half hoping, too...although a look at the trees outside didn't quite seem to bear out the marine forecast.

Well, the - then another who was worried about the wind. But that still left enough confirmed attendees unnaccounted for that it seemed possible...

TQ & I started getting ready. We dressed so that we'd just need to put on the outermost layer at the club, had some breakfast, and finished getting ready to go. One last check of the email revealed one CONFIRMATION.

So off we went, and sure enough, we weren't the only ones there! We had Stevie & Steve, the two in the tuiliit, Tom (in one of the 2 dark-red Romanys - that was so striking seeing him & Stevie paddling along up the Paerdegat, where the water was the smoothest), and me & TQ.

And as TQ & I had expected, it ended up being an excellent paddle and a great way to start 2007. Definitely one of those days where it looks so dreary outside, it's hard to drag yourself out there, but we knew we'd be glad if we did do (heck, you're waterproof). And it really was beautiful. Well, except for the way the Paerdegat Basin smelled. There's a sewage treatment plant right at the end of the basin and let me tell you, it was not holiday spices that the water smelled of. Ugh. Pretty disgusting. The salt breeze from the bay never smelled better.

The wind just didn't really happen (apparently the Canadians were kind enough to take it off our hands), and we were left paddling on a mist-covered mirror that showed the rings of every raindrop. A layer of thick fog hung around Canarsie Pol, the island nearest to the Paerdegat, so that the island looked as though it were hovering a yard above the surface. All so quiet - if you'd been magically dropped there on the water with us, and we didn't tell you, you'd never guess you were in the middle of New York City. I don't even remember hearing any jets passing overhead on their way to JFK.

We stopped for a quick break at Ruffle Bar (our destination for the day). I asked about paddling around, but the paddle was really just the preliminary to the main event of the day, which is an all-club potluck, during which the first meeting of the season is held. People wanted to get back for that, so we stuck with the original plan - rolling rolling rolling, git them kayaks rolling! Noseclips on & over we went. It's interesting - I think that last year, by the time I went to do my New Year's Day rolls, I put on the thick neoprene immersion hood that really keeps the water out of my ears completely - this year, I've been rolling fairly regularly, and just used my lighter-weight hoods, and I don't think that those New Year's Day rolls I did (3 onside, 3 offside & a butterfly for good luck) marked the end of the winter rolling season for me the way they did in the past. There just wasn't that feeling of "OK, that's plenty cold enough now" that I've had in the past.

However, I don't know if this is because I'm getting more acclimatized to cold-water rolling, or whether this is more about the water just not being as cold as it usually is by this time of year - I see here that the average water temperature for our area for January is high 30's; right now, according to the NOAA, we're in the mid-40's.

If this keeps up, this may be the year I don't end up restricting my rolling to pool sessions from January until April or so.

The rest of the day? Well - the potluck was great, the meeting was interesting, somebody brought a laptop & was playing sea kayak videos; there was dock news, and archive project news (something I REALLY want to get involved with, sounds pretty interesting), and the sailing committee got me all psyched up about learning to sail a little boat (as opposed to a schooner), and there was this very interesting pre-meeting meeting about getting Bill at Atlantic Kayak Tours to come down & do some coach training for qualified, interested people.

2007 is looking like it could be fun...

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Sebago Frostbite Regatta - New Year's Day 2007

100% chance of rain. Small craft advisory. So?

No time to write, now, but here are a few pictures from Monday's fun!

And, yes, it was fun!

Kayaking IS a water sport!

Oh, and btw - I have to admit that this wasn't the frostiest frostbite paddle ever. The water was cold but the air was a balmy 50 degrees or so. Properly dressed, it was perfectly fine paddling weather.

And that small craft advisory? Well, the Frostbite crew's official story when we got back was that although it was deceptively calm in the Paerdegat Basin, once you got out past the bridge it was blowing 35 knots, with gusts to 50, and we rescued a motorboat. Only problem is that I haven't quite figured out how to square that story with the story that that glassy calm water is telling. Um - If I claimed that the synchronized balance brace was actually the TERRIFYING AFTERMATH of one of those 50 kt gusts, would anyone buy that?