Sunday, June 29, 2008

Garden Update

Why a garden update when I'm just back from a faaaaabulous weekend at the Hudson River Greenland Festival?

Simple. I'm too tired for anything more complex than a few pictures. Plus the garden's just going so crazy I couldn't resist. Check it out.

It's really amazing how little tending it requires right now - I should do something in the staking-up-the-tomatoes line soon but as far as water, we're having plenty of rain, and as far as weeds, everything I planted is doing so well the weeds just aren't really getting much headway.

Tonight's post-HRGF pickin's -

Beets, sugar snap peas & lambs' quarter.

Tomatoes & cucumbers coming soon!

And oh, one fun (if fuzzy) shot from the Hudson River Greenland Festival -

Anyone care to guess what was going on here? No fair if you already know.

It was one fun weekend.

Frying Pan update...


I may not do any more posts about the Frying Pan reopening until I have actually gone & had a beer & a bargeburger (medium rare, with a side order of sunset, please).

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Frying Pan Reopens!

Just another ho-hum night at Pier 63 sunset after a thunderstorm - Photo Hosted at Buzznet

Another WOOHOO!


Closed September 11th, 2006. Incredible...

Thanks for the news, Jack!

Cool Friends Doing Cool Things This Weekend (last weekend in June)

I'm about to become scarce for the next few days as I'm off to participate in a little MENTORMANIA yay! woohoo! at the Hudson River Greenland Festival, helping my favorite Greenland instructors get people doing things they can't believe they're doing, but they are. Should be great!

Only bummer is that I'm missing 2 very neat events friends of mine are doing.

My friend Felice's band Faith will be one of a number rocking the BAM Cafe during the URB ALT festival - she'll be there Friday, June 27th (8pm), festival continues on Saturday evening.

Friday, Saturday & Sunday, June 27 - 29th - Downtown Boathouse regular & "fiend" Harry Spitz (he started his email "Dear Fiends" - I like it!) is hitting the BIG time making some BIG art on Governor's Island. It looks really cool - that is one of his preliminary planning sketches at the top of this post, check out more on his Graven Images blog. Looks like he's channeling those people who drew those giant hummingbirds & spiders & stuff way back when, maybe a little Celtic influence too, whatever it is, it looks very very cool. All part of the Figment NYC festival.

Think that's it for the next few days. Back next week!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Graveyard of Ships Photo Trip Report!

ok, actually this one is from 2005 - but I didn't take any pictures of the first group of ghost ships you run into heading north from Tottenville, the oldest ones, so here's one of those.

And here's a photo trip report from my Sunday return to the Staten Island Graveyard of Ships. Great day, great group, couldn't have had a much more enjoyable day & the thunderstorms were merciful & stayed on the other side of the Kill.

BTW - remember this one from day before yesterday? Naturally, I went looking to see if I could find a picture of the boat when it was still working, searching under Astoria ferry NYC and a few other searches.

Don't think this is the same boat, but it sure looks like the same period, don't you think?

image swiped from World of Stereo Views - lots more neat old stereoscopic views of NY harbor & the boroughs over there.

cross-posted at the Sebago Canoe Club blog - don't miss Shari with the Blue Hat's Saturday report, we were a busy busy club last weekend!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Why the BCU obsession?

Well, that was funny. I'd been thinking about writing a post explaining why I've been so sort of obsessed with the BCU of late (I've made a few references in the past couple of months, most recently Friday's poll-on-a-whim, but beyond that oh, gosh, the emails, the emails...). I guess I'd practically written it in my mind, but thought it was a little too long for a lunch break post.

But then Joe Rouse asked me the perfect leading question & next thing I knew, there was ALMOST the entire post in a comment in response - in far less time than I'd thought it would take. There was one more very salient detail involving allowing tails to wag dogs (or perhaps putting carts before horses, seeing as the question was straight from The Horse's Mouth). Caught myself thinking some not-particularly-rational thoughts in respect to what I was going to do & why - I'll probably write about that tonight.

But for now - since I wrote as much as I did, I might as well post it.

Oh - in case it's not clear - BCU = British Canoe Union, ACA = American Canoe Association.

Joe's question:
BCU? You must be an instructor. ;)
I belong to US Sailing only because I teach.

sidenote: Why do the Brits have the best programs? The RYA's Yachtmaster program crunches the competition.

My answer (with a few tiny edits)...
I was actually one of the partners at Manhattan Kayak Company from 1999 - very early 2002. During that time, I got certified as an ACA open-water coastal kayaking instructor& when I dropped out of the company, I let my certification lapse. It was expensive & a bit of a hassle to maintain & when I was teaching professionally, it paid for itself - when I stopped, it didn't. I've kept teaching on & off since then; the reason I'm so obsessed with this new BCU scheme is because our club is pretty much sans certified instructor - there are members who are or have been certified as either BCU or ACA instructors, but one lives in CA, one's moved to Queens & has a busy job & a baby, and one's wife just joined him in retirement & they basically plan to spend a lot of time travelling.

The last guy was the one who had largely been responsible for helping the club make the decision to adopt the BCU system as the club's preferred training & served as head instructor for most of the formal training sessions we run at Lake Sebago. He had given plenty of warning that last year was really the last year he would be able to do that. Now, uncertified does NOT equal incompetent - there are still several very able instructors in the club. Nevertheless, we're now in a position where we have to bring someone in to run anything but the most basic training - there's nothing wrong with that, but it's just nice for a club to be able to run at least beginner-level programs with people who are active members & will be around & available for continuing help during those early phases - the learning curve when a person begins to get serious about really acquiring some skills is pretty steep & it goes a lot better if they've got some people to turn to. That takes a little confidence in both directions, and a formal training session is a great place for that confidence to be established.

Because of that, the club covered BCU coach training for those of us who had the proper prerequisites to do so last year, with the idea that the recipients of that training would do whatever we had to finish off whatever we had to do to get certified on our own.

Only hitch is that we all got trained under the "old scheme", and now we have to get certified under the "new scheme", and that's not turning out to be so simple. Problem is that there aren't a lot of people in the US who are certified to do that yet. I'd started getting all stressed out about it & then decided that it was a stupid thing to give myself ulcers over & was going to drop it until somebody in the BCU hierarchy could give me a straight answer.

Recent development is that I DID get a straight answer. It requires dropping quite a few bucks & taking a week of vacation, but the guy who's teaching it is by all accounts an excellent instructor, his wife is an old friend from my MKC days (we taught a few Chelsea Piers kids' camps together, that was fun, she was great with kids' instruction), and it's on Lake Champlain, so I'm inclined to go.

But from the looks of the poll at this point, I'm not the only one who's found the transition confusing. And the thing was, the "old scheme" really did work pretty well. The "new scheme" was developed to fit in with a general coaching scheme that the UK has adapted for all sports.

The fact that the UK actually cares enough about people DOING sports -- not just sitting on their duffs eating cheese doodles & watching other people doing sports on tv -- to institute a nationwide coaching scheme MIGHT have something to do with why UK programs DO tend to be highly effective. Maybe it's just more ingrained in the culture.

Anyways, the problem is that the new scheme is HIGHLY relevant to what's happening in sports in the UK - the BCU coaching scheme is becoming one piece in a much larger picture. Here in the States, though, without that larger picture to give context to the changes, it's generating some confusion. With the old scheme being extremely popular & well accepted, that's a little rough. Be interesting to see if the ACA (who's gone to an interestingly BCU-esque 5-tiered system) starts making some inroads in the areas of the US where the BCU standards had gained the most ground.

Graveyard of Ships, 6/22/08

more pix tonight!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Frogma Poll #2 - The New BCU

OK, can't little poll...eet's vaffer theen...

ps if you have no clue what I'm talking about, or (like myself) don't really have an opinion yet, no need to vote. oops, Vizu doesn't work that way. Updated to allow "I don't know" vote. I have a feeling that might end up be the winner!

See The Harbor, Without a Kayak!

Do you live in the Tri-State area, or are you planning a visit? Want to see some of the waterways I'm always blithering on about, but not sure you've got the skills or inclination join the "speed bump" crowd out there?

Well, there's always the Circle Line & the Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island ferries - but if you want to get beyond the usual tourist fare, here are a couple of excellent ways to do that. Sorry, I don't think you'll be able to get a green foam Statue of Liberty tiara. I think I can safely promise that you WILL get a trove of local knowledge.

First off - Working Harbor Committee's popular Hidden Harbor Tours

began in early June & will continue throughout the summer. I really want to get out on one of these this year.

In addition (and the impetus for this post, just in from Sebago's very well-networked commodore) - here's one I hadn't hear of before but they sound great. First one's this weekend!

NY/NJ Baykeeper is happy to announce a new series of Eco-Cruises for 2008. Join us on the Captain John for 3 summer cruises, with NY/NJ Baykeeper Debbie Mans as your guide

June 22 - Round Staten Island Tour See Staten Island, the Arthur Kill, Kill Van Kull, The Ship Graveyard, New York City Bridges, and the changing landscape of New Jersey's urban waterfront as it can only be enjoyed from the water.

July 27 - Navesink River Tour New this year! Take a high tide tour upstream on the Shrewsbury to the scenic Navesink River, one of the prettiest rivers on the East Coast. Scenic Jersey Shore towns, pristine salt marshes and sedge islands, forest covered bluffs, and a wide variety of boats.

August 24 - Lighthouse Tour Return of a favorite! Get an close up look at the historic lighthouses of the lower New York Harbor. Most of these lighthouses can only be seen by boat. Enjoy a sail on the Raritan Bay, learn the history of our Harbor Lighthouses, and do some birding.

All trips are aboard the Caption John, a clean and comfortable hundred passenger charter. Feel free to bring light refreshments and beverages. All trips will board in Keyport, NJ at 3:30pm.

Tickets are $40

For tickets and reservations call 732-888-9870, ext 6 Or order online at: Space is limited. Order your tickets now! Thank you for supporting NY/NJ Baykeeper.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

City of Water screening Thursday, June 19th in Red Hook

Well, rats, I can't make it 'cause of the Corporate Challenge, which owing to special circumstances (another co-worker leaving), I really don't want to bail on this year, even though it's going to be my slowest time ever owing to the cubicle-manacles having been so hard to escape over the last couple of months. However, this sounds like a terrific event & I had to at LEAST post it!

The Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance and the Municipal Art Society of New York are proud to announce the screening of our documentary film about the future of New York's waterfront, City of Water, at the Waterfront Museum in Red Hook. The screening is free and open to the public.

Two years in the making, City of Water explores the aspirations of public officials, environmentalists, academics, community activists, recreational boaters and everyday New Yorkers for a diverse, vibrant waterfront at a time when the shoreline is changing faster than at any other time in New York's history. The documentary features interviews with Deputy Mayor Daniel Doctoroff, US Representative Nydia Velazquez, MacArthur Prize-winner Majora Carter, author Phillip Lopate, Sandy Hook Pilots Captain Andrew McGovern and many others, and includes footage from Jamaica Bay, the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and many other places on the waterfront.

Join us this Thursday, June 19th at 7:30 pm at the Waterfront Museum at Pier 44, off 290 Conover Street, Brooklyn. The Museum is very close to the 61 bus and is right around the corner from Fairway.

The Waterfront Museum, a member of the Waterfront Alliance, is a floating barge museum in Red Hook. Their permanent collection includes a 94-year-old wooden covered barge, the bells and gongs for tugboat communicating, rope cannon, showboat captain's attire and the ever-popular ball machine by George Rhoades. The Museum is open Thursdays 4-8pm and Saturdays 1-5pm. Donations are requested for admission but this Thursday's screening is free. Also, check out "CIRCUSundays in June" with shows at 1 and 4pm. For more information:

(718) 624-4719,

Hope to see you Thursday!

Jennifer Stark-Hernandez
Waterfront Organizer
Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance
457 Madison Avenue, 5th floor
New York, NY 10022
tel 212-935-9831x 279
fax 212-935-3193

Monday, June 16, 2008

First Sail (Sunday Before Last)

So having done right by the Chickenblogger, I can now return to my usual Boats, Boats & More Boats!

Quick, a writeup before I forget EVERYTHING about my first dinghy sail of 2008! That was week before yesterday - yesterday was somewhere around 14 - 15 miles of paddling in the Norwalk Islands, only notable thing was that I told TQ before I launched that this would be the day I finally spotted the maddeningly elusive Transatlantic Rowboat that's been lurking about the Norwalk area. And I did, too. How did I know I was going to spot the darned thing? Because I didn't have my camera. Ha ha. Oh well. Nice day otherwise.

Sunday, June 8th, though - that was the first Sebago Sailing Committee Sunday Cruise - that being the day where the sailors all officially go out & sail around - not a race, just a nice sail. Been itching to get out in a dinghy for a couple of months now, so nothing, not even the powerful force of guilt, was going to deter me.

Guilt? Yeah. There was a Trip Leader's Workshop that day, for everybody who's going to be leading kayak trips at the Sebago Canoe Club. Good thing to attend - all the club's tour protocols get reviewed, then there's on-water rescue practice & stuff. I seriously would have enjoyed attending if I just wasn't totally & completely fixated on going sailing. But I was so I did even though I had to slink past my sea kayak committee friends as they were settling into the serious Trip Leader Workshopping while I prepared to go lark about in a Sunfish - grief was duly & deservedly given, but I was not to be deterred from scratching that dinghy itch!

They fed me trip leader potluck later when they didn't have to so they can't have been too upset with me.

seriously, I do hope that nobody thought I was skipping the workshop because I thought I was too good to need it. That kind of review is always good.

But no, sailing sailing sailing, and if there was a website where you could order the appropriate weather system for the activity du jour, I don't think that the forecast could've been nicer. West wind, very light in the AM picking up to 10 - 15 in the afternoon, if I'm remembering correctly.

Trickiest thing was what to wear. The water was still cool but we were in the middle of that heat wave (heat wave, schmeat wave, never broke 100 but being in the middle of a nice cool spring, it felt brutal). Shorts? Farmer Jane wetsuit? I solved my dilemma by packing everything & consulting with the more experienced & upon their advice ended up in the wetsuit.

Rigging went fine although I almost went down to the dock without a mast after the first mental checkoff. Think I started envisioning the rigging steps & realized oh, yeah. Beyond that, though, no problems (Sunfish is pretty self-explanatorily simple anyways).

We had 3 Sunfish & 2 Lasers on the trip that day.

Sailing off the dock was the only thing I truly, deeply botched during the day. I was all rigged & I was in such a screaming hurry to not be the last person off the dock with everybody else waiting that I didn't really stop to think "OK, how does this need to work today?" Shoved off, sheeted in, promptly got blown back onto the dock, got flustered, didn't release the sheet, sailed sliding along the dock until I almost ran into one of the Lasers & somebody just shoved me off hard. Ugh. Crappy start.

Nice easy beam reach down the basin - plenty of time to recombobulate, reorient myself, start thinking about wind indicator, sail trim, where I should be sitting, all that good stuff. Out under the bridge with no trouble (that's where the wind direction was particularly merciful - tacking out through the restricted passageways under the bridge would have been quite a demand on my winter-rusty skills.

The plan was to do a counterclockwise loop around the bay, stopping at Ruffle Bar for lunch. Once we were clear of the bridge, I did a few gybes & tacks just to make sure I remembered how it all worked, then headed west.

That downwind leg was HOT. I was dying in my wetsuit. Holly jumped off her Laser and back on so fast I was the only person who saw. I wanted to try the same thing but instead I just stuck one leg, then the other in the water. Somebody else was sailing in fully-recumbent mode. Somebody else stood up for a while. Holly reminded me about that heeling to windward thing you can do with a Sunfish to raise up the sail in light air & move a little better - she'd taught me that last year but I'd forgotten. She also showed me how to hang on the raised centerboard to improve the control over the heel. My boat actually started moving a little better. Gurgle gurgle. Cool. Plus now at least I was able to get one portion of my anatomy into the water. Ahhhh.

Around Elder's Point Marsh, swinging to the south to head towards Broad Channel. I was told later I could've been pointing more so I'll work on that next time, I'd been trying not to pinch & was apparently erring too far in the other direction. There was also some really heavy seaweed in that end of the bay - I tried to find somewhere to avoid it but it was like the Squeegee Hunt camp song - can't go over it, can't go under it, can't go around gotta go through it sqrrssh shhmmssshkkksssh h sqrrsh shhmmssshkkksssh. Gave me flashbacks to the Delaware & Raritan Canal race where my surfski's rudder picked up every fallen leaf until I felt like I had a sea anchor - Swamp Fox just slowed waaaay down like I'd sailed into glue. That was the only time I was getting into irons on the whole sail (and remembering how much of my first class I spent sitting in irons practicing my sailorly cursing, that makes me feel pretty good). Finally had to just stop & lift the centerboard to clear things. Shortly after that was the last real bufoonery of the day - I sailed into a little shallow patch of eelgrass & ran aground, fortunately with centerboard down; pulled up the centerboard & was trying to find my way back to deeper water when Bob came sailing over to see what was up with me - I started waving him away & yelling "Don't come here!" but he couldn't quite here what I was saying. He figured it out a minute later, though!

So heading on over towards Ruffle Bar, the two Lasers were out in front, Chris in a Sunfish behind them & me & Bob in the other 2 Sunfish bringing up the rear. Then things got strange. The wind had been picking up a little bit, and there were some puffs, but it wasn't at all unmanageable. I looked away for a second & looked back one of the Lasers was down. Huh. That's weird.

The three Sunfish sailed on towards the Lasers. I was expecting to see it pop back up again as dinghys do - but it looked weird, the mast was flat on the water but so was the boat. And then I saw that Tracy had Holly's sail.

Turned out that the deck of Holly's Laser had simply given way. She's been doing some sailing in pretty heavy air, and her boat's pretty old, and I guess the cumulative stresses finally caught up with the boat.

Bummer. Very sad. I couldn't even take pictures - it just didn't seem right!

Holly got her rigging squared away & tied down on her boat & there was some discussion of how to handle the situation. First things first - Chris, who was in a Sunfish, hitched a towline to Holly's boat & towed her on over to Ruffle Bar, where we stopped for lunch, sunscreen reapplication & some very welcome cooling-off in the water (which still has great instant cooling power - not quite gasp-inducing but REFRESHING!!!).

The original thoughts had been along the lines of somebody sail on back to Sebago to get the club's safety boat but the towing worked well enough that they decided to go with that. The safety boat is an old tin rowboat with a little outboard - little enough that the outboard gets taken off & locked up when the boat's not in use. The sailing back, motoring back out & motoring back again was going to take a lot of time. As we were eating, the wind was picking up.

I actually found the whole problem & solution to be pretty interesting to watch - in the sea kayaking, we're ALWAYS planning for somebody to have some sort of problem, drilling against the eventuality. The sailors don't seem to drill the same way - but there they were faced with an abruptly non-working boat, and without much fuss, they figured out how to get it home.

Last leg home, as I mentioned, the wind had picked up quite a bit. I'd been one of the last off the beach (note to self - if ever sailing alone, do not stop on a beach for lunch during the ebb & allow the tide to recede too far from boat!) , but since Holly & Chris weren't going to be moving too fast I decided to just mess around a little more with sailing around in a circle trying to spend a couple of beats on each point of sail before moving on to the next one - just a made-up drill to make myself think. Then I set off towards the Paerdegat. I was concentrating on trim, staying forward in the boat (I've still got a beginner tendency to sidle back), trying to keep the boat sailing smooth & flat when the puffs came, and just keeping everything sort of small & quiet as the boat picked up speed. Well, I must have been doing it just right 'cause all the sudden the boat just sort of picked up & ZOOOOOMED. Woohoo! Settled into a good solid hike, went screaming past Holly & Chris grinning madly(I predict that you will not see particular sentence in this blog again anytime soon, btw, although they are trying to get me out to race on Fridays & if I can manage to escape the cubicle manacles earlier than I've been managing too, I'd like to), and then just as quickly as it had started, the boat decelerated...

Chris explained to me later what had happened - I'd gotten Swamp Fox up on plane, and as you accelerate, your apparent wind moves forward and that as that happens, you need to sheet in. Made perfect sense once he explained it so I can get it to happen again sometime soon and see if I can manage to keep it going - it was pretty awesome while it lasted!

Sailing back into the Paerdegat under the bridge was the last big challenge of the day - the wind was very shifty at the bridge, and the tide was ebbing, so if you lost headway, you got flushed back out. We all sort of got there in a group. I dropped back & let others go first; Tracy went first in the working Laser, then Chris with Holly under tow. Then it was me & Bob in the other Sunfish - we both had to make a couple of runs at it, wind indicators were practically going in circles as you got to the mouth of the basin, but finally, just as Bob & I had gone under the bridge at about the same time & I was trying to figure out if I should drop back & let him go, I got a really nice little lift & though "No, this is gonna take me through and I'm going with it".

Sailed back onto the dock with much more style that the sailing-off had had.

Of course then I promptly reverted to newbie behavior & got distracted by a sea kayaking friend who was there following a sailing canoe rescue that had been an unplanned part of the trip leader workshop - left my Sunfish tied to the dock with the rig still up & flapping around & hitting people until I was reminded to attend to that first. Did so, and got off the dock just as the rest of the sea kayak folks returned.

Overall verdict for the first sail of the season - good. Did really well sometimes, not so well others, but overall, except for the botched sailing off the dock, mostly things were under control.

Main thing I did really wrong, in fact?

Failed to pack up my Tilly knockoff at all, that was a day for that if ever there was one. I did put on sunscreen but I think I just sweated it off. I was drinking water during the sail (except the last leg when you really needed both hands on the tiller & sheet). I didn't feel too bad after the sail - in fact I joined the kayakers to see if there was anymore discussion (and er maybe mooch some potluck food, which they kindly shared with me).

But I should have known that something was wrong when somebody offered me a beer and it just didn't sound good at all. What did sound good was water, water, more water and some watermelon please.

The next day my face was as puffy as a Pekinese & if it hadn't been the last day of close I never would've gone to work. I was lucky enough to get a seat on the subway, but even so I thought I was going to be sick. The work day was pure misery but I got everything done that I needed to.

I'd clearly done a number on myself - just surprised that it took overnight to really set in. Yes, it was worth it, but what an idiot I was to not pack that hat.

Ah well, I've still got lots to learn about sailing. What I need to wear to be confortable in what conditions is definitely part of that.

One other thing I learned -

I think I can actually add "Post-sail beer sounds completely unappealing" to my list of personal hyperthermia signs.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

By Request - A Visit to the Telectroscope!

A couple of weeks ago, I got an email from my old friend Mr. Scott Chicken (note for the squeamish - don't scroll much past the puppet sex post, Mr. S.C. had a little biking accident & has been sharing his eye socket reconstruction surgery - all's well, hooray, but the pictures aren't good lunch break viewing!).

"Enough with the gardening & work pictures", he said -

"We (and by "we" I naturally mean "I") want pictures of this this thing!"

Well, "this thing" turned out to be the Telectroscope, and it sounded pretty cool so I decided to try to go some morning before work. It was built for the 125th anniversary celebrations of the Brooklyn Bridge. Sunday's the last day, so Friday morning I left for work a couple hours early, and here, as requested, are Pictures!

The Telectroscope is set up at the Old Fulton Ferry Landing.

First view - it's to the left of the old fireboat house (now an ice-cream parlor)

One thing a lot of people in NY & London have been doing is arranging to meet their friends across the pond. If I hadn't been as pressed for time & tired as I've been of late, for example, I might have been able to meet Captain JP there. My friend Adele (Adele the Gardening Chair) met someone there with whom she'd exchanged emails - they both carried flowers so they'd recognize each other. In this case, cell phones were being used to facilitate the meet-up.
And here's a closeup of the guy's friends in London!
For those of us who couldn't coordinate meetings, there were still friendly strangers to see, wave at. In this picture, the gentleman in London with his arms in the air has just done some magic tricks for us!

Scott, thanks for alerting me to this!

p.s. If you happen to be reading this in London or NY, and want to check it out - it's only up until June 15th, 2008.

Friday, June 13, 2008

A Moment of Envy.

Want to take a moment to join me in friendly envy of my friend Richard (of the Tom Colvin Yin-Yang Pinky Schooner Rosemary Ruth - still for sale, according to his site)?

He's bringing his new centerboard schooner home.

From France.

It's actually quite funny - I had just yesterday been thinking "Boy, haven't heard from Richard in ages - wonder how he's doing". And this morning, I stumbled across a link to his blog on the American Schooner Association.

Almost wish I could be on that boat. I mean, ok, not really - I don't have the open-water cruising experience I'd think a person would want to have before doing something like that - but a little bit. The whole idea of ocean crossings is the sort of thing that when I think about it, it's half fear & half excitement. Think about the right people being on the crew & in charge, and maybe the excitement starts to tip the scales.

Oh - one thought to take any edge of your envy. Richard is now the proud owner of two small schooners. That may sound spiffy at first glance, but I strongly suspect the optimal number of schooners for a non-filthy-rich private individual to own is, at most, one. For me, of course, I'm afraid it's a big ol' zero - otherwise I would've relieved Richard of his spare months ago.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

First Firefly!

YAY! Xris the Flatbush Gardener spotted fireflies last night!

I'm excited. 2 things I still get an incredible kick out of because we didn't have them in Hawaii, where I grew up - fireflies & snow.

My mother used to always tell us that snow wasn't that neat, it was pretty when it first fell but then it got all grey and yucky. Well, she was right, but the pretty part is SO pretty.

Fireflies, though - they're just the best.

Catching fireflies in jars was such a highlight of those Mainland visits.

I still can't resist catching them - but now my fireflying is purely catch-and-release!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A Beautiful Bowl of Greens from my Garden (Or, Yet Another Night On Which I Fail to Write About Sailing)

It had a couple more days of heat wave to contend with after this, but the garden sure looked happy on Sunday. Lots of rain & warm weather & all I'm doing is...

enjoying the fruits (or leaves) of my less-than-laborious hobby!

Lambs' quarters (When does a weed cease to be a weed? When you figure out you rather like the taste) & beets (as in "Time to thin the beets"!) tonight. Barely steamed, no butter. Yum.

Might still write about sailing tonightJust-shy-of-midnight update - nope, too late, bedtime but yikes, I'm planning a pretty cool trip for my club on the weekend after next, and I gotta sort through my email, figure out who I forgot was coming (I'm not worried about the people I remember, I'm worried that with the frantic pace of work of late, somebody's slipped my mind), and more importantly, there was an email lurking about from an earlier attempt to plan the trip to include some friends from Staten Island, and that one had some clues about timing the trip to the tides. Plus there was a phone number I needed to call about a possible clear route of pursuit for at least a basic level of BCU coach certification.

A little work now & I think the payoff could be more than worth it.

Horseshoe Crabs

Awww, I meant to write about my first dinghy sail of the season tonight, but although the year-end close is through, I'd underestimated the volume of the post-close clean-up & tying up of loose ends. Another long day & it's too late to start tonight.

Instead, how about another NY Times link? It's sort of related -

I took this picture of a horseshoe crab during our lunch break on Sunday (they were EVERYWHERE! - wish I'd taken a couple more but at least I get to use my own picture). By coincidence, there was an interesting article about horseshoe crabs in the Science section of the Tuesday Times.

This probably didn't come anywhere close to the list of the author's Top 10 intents in writing the article, but I happen to think it does a pretty good job of explaining why these strange little beasties respond to a hard-shelled kayak like it's the last of the red-hot mamas!

Monday, June 09, 2008

Got my 10 miles in!

13 & change, actually.

Never said the 10 miles had to be in a kayak!

Friday, June 06, 2008

6 Unremarkable Quirks

Well, I have been tagged a number of times & been too busy or, when not busy, had topics that I wanted to post about, but I haven't forgotten & I will hopefully gradually get to them (although I don't think I'm going to tag - just pick this up if it sounds like fun!

First up is actually the most recent -

6 Unremarkable Quirks, with which I was tagged by The Ancient One, Blessed Be He.

Here's how it works:

Link the person who tagged you. (See above)

Tag six bloggers by linking them.*

Leave a comment on each of the tagged blogger's blogs letting them know they've been tagged.

My 6 Quirks:

1. I like Twix bars. For non-US readers, this is a candy bar with a shortbread cookie with a layer of caramel, all covered with chocolate. That's not the quirk. The quirk is that I like to nibble the caramel off the top first, then eat the cookie.

2. I too have dimples. I didn't particularly like being told they were cute when I was a kid. I wasn't exactly a tomboy but I also wasn't a girly girl & cute was never an effect I was after (my grandmother's long-ago attempts to get me to not pull the crusts off sandwiches by telling me that they'd give me curly hair failed for that reason). Oh, one more note (unfortunately from experience) - in the highly unlikely event that you ever find me fighting with you, and you want me to stop, asking to see those dimples again won't work. On the rare occasion that I do get into an argument with someone, at the very minimum, I'd like to at least feel like I am being listened to taken seriously. Being asked for dimples does not give me that feeling.

3. I grew up in Hawaii but the worst sunburn I ever got was on an overcast day in Staten Island.

4. I can't give blood because I am at risk for mad cow disease (hey, nobody said the 6 quirks had to be things I'd never mentioned here).

5. I really like subway musicians. Well, except for maybe drummers, especially of the bongo variety, in confined areas. Oh, or when 2 buskers set up within earshot of each other & I can't get out of earshot of one or the other - that actually puts me physically on edge. I think the happiest I've ever been to see a train appearing on a normal service day involved a day where a pair of bongo drummers and a plastic-bucket drummer had set up on the 4,5 & 6 platform at Union Square & were madly ignoring each other. Oddly enough one of my favorite busker moments also involved a drummer at 14th street. He was jamming with a passing piper. It was one of those bizarrely fun things I was glad to have seen. My favorite individual busker has to be her.

6. I'm a compulsive doodler. I don't even really think about it, but I've never owned a notebook that didn't end up with a complete menagerie in the margins.

*as mentioned, I'm skipping the tagging part.

Lesson from a Forum

No time for a proper post today - but this might interest some -

Last night, on the QajaqUSA Greenland Forum, I posted an email I'd sent to a friend, asking for comments.

The funny thing, it was about a description I'd written on the Greenland forward stroke & so I was hoping to learn how it might be described better, make sure I hadn't possibly confused things by describing anything the wrong way, and, oh, maybe pick up some pointers on practicing, myself (I'm still working on the Greenland forward stroke myself).

Well, there was a little of that, but I was surprised to pick up a far more general idea - that being that when you start talking to someone whose done a fair amount of BCU & wing paddle stroke training about Greenland stuff, one of the first things you should mention is that the Greenland-style teaching & learning philosophy is WAY different from BCU or ACA. As usual, it's not a matter of right or wrong - it can just be a little surprising. That thought didn't even cross my mind, but I won't forget it now!

Plus I got reminded that of all the ways there are to teach a skill, email just isn't the best...but I knew that!

Anyways, if this sounds even vaguely interesting, you can read it here.

If it doesn't -

Well, then, how about a Victorian Flatbush House Tour? That's Sunday, 6/8, run by the Flatbush Development Corporation (a really nice bunch, I went & participated in a neighborhood cleanup day last weekend, gotta get a picture before the taggers tag again, and I'd like to do a bit more of that sort of thing with them - you know, in my massive amounts of free time ;D...). I'd go except it's the Sebago SailComm's first Sunday Cruise, finally get to scratch that dinghy-sailing itch (I've decided that it still counts if the ten miles is done in a Sunfish)!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

An Interstate Exchange of a Far More Pleasant Sort!

Enough attention to the Non-Reverend Dr. Dobson & his attempt to give the good state of Arizona a bad name for the harboring of interfering interstate busybodies.

Now for today's post, here's DaveO's briefing from the recent top-secret super-confidential kayak-eyes-only SKOAC/SCC Summit, thoroughly enjoyable story-swapping er Diplomatic Outreach Endeavour!

Clearly when dealing with such sensitive material, it is prudent to store it in the last place anyone would look for state secrets.



Pardon me while I run wildly astray from my usual topics - but -

Who told this buncha buttinskies from freakin' ARIZONA that they have ANY business tell New York what to do?

Oh, wait, sorry, I forgot, that would God, right?

Yeah, RIGHT.

Not surprising of course. Just scariness as usual. Ugh.

Hm, I haven't recommended Karen Armstrong's The Battle for God lately. Very interesting book about fundamentalists.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Little Goals

A Proper Course Group Writing Project.

So very curious to think that sometime this month has to be the ten-year anniversary of the beginning of my "career" as an NYC-based boater. Yep, sometime in June 1998 I'm figuring I must've had my first kayak lesson at Manhattan Kayak Company.

I took to it fast - maybe too fast. I had some good mentors, and I picked up the skills fast. By my 2nd year I was a partner in the company where I'd had my first lesson & was assistant guiding & teaching. 3rd year, no longer so much assistant. Got my ACA open-water coastal kayaking instructor certification in there somewhere. Started into British Canoe Union training & got the 3-star, then the 4-star. Went to a lot of meetings & stood up & said what I thought about the paddler's place in the Hudson when I thought I had something worth saying. When in the end increasing interpersonal difficulties followed by the loss & shock of September 11th drove me out of the kayak company, I found a new part-time home working on on the schooner Adirondack...

So what the heck is going on now with my goals? You know, the ones I stated or alluded to in the last post?

10 miles a week?

Ecstatic about the promise of going out and kicking around in a Sunfish on Sunday?

Well...I think there's an underlying goal that I didn't mention, but maybe you can pick it up if you read that sad little haiku last week, and my homesick moment. I was pretty low - still am a bit - but then I was laughing in the next post over the collective Hobie silliness, and I think I quite failed to capture the enchantment of my Sunday surfski spin, and the satisfaction of getting Poor Old Ski (who after my little "p.o.s." insult will receive a proper blogpology in the next day or two) back in working order and getting in, yes, my precious ridiculous silly 10 miles (with race-the-sun finish).

Such a silly little goal.

I'm pretty good - why aren't I setting myself some bigger goal, like a big expedition-type trip of the sort that are so popular among sea kayakers? Or training for a big race, or trying harder to get more time on whitewater, or in surf - or, swinging over to my sailing side, starting to work towards bareboat certification (that last would be the big sailing pipe-dream I've had since an incredible bare-boat charter in the BVI's a few years back, happy sigh, but these are all things I'd absolutely positvely LOVE to do sometime)?

Because the bigger goal is to keep the boating fun. Because that's the primary role it plays in my NYC life, which is already - well, I'd hardly describe myself as an overachiever but these days I sure am overworked and overscheduled. Going after any of those big-ticket dreams with my life being the life it is right now would stretch my resources (personal & financial) beyond the definition of "fun"!

Getting out in a boat has to be an escape. Can't become another source of stress.

Me being me, and this city being this city, sometimes it's not that easy to keep to that. Recently, I'd been getting very focused on finishing my British Canoe Union Level 2 Coach certification. Sebago had paid for a number of us to be trained to the "L2 Trainee" level & I'd been judged nearly ready for certification (just a bit rusty after the 3 year schooner-driven hiatus from frequent teaching) - but I couldn't quite wrap things up last year.

Well, this year the BCU has adopted a new system, it's far from universally understood or accepted over here yet, and when I started trying to find out how I could get certified, I was running into some real vagueness & seeming contradictions as to how I should proceed. I was pushing to get accepted as an paying observer for a symposium in Vermont where one of the top BCU guys was going to be teaching. It sounds fantastic, actually but then I started considering the logistics & expense.

That's when my head began to hurt.

I was going to rent a car. Buy gas (eeek). Load up the Romany & all my stuff. Drive to Vermont. Skip helping out with a club training weekend I was really looking forward to. Vacation days were going to be taken, and in the end I honestly couldn't figure out if that was going to be a useful step towards certification or not...

And then I realized I was completely stressing out about the time, the expense, maybe the pressure of being in a strange paid-observer role & not really knowing how I was supposed to fit in, and the complete uncertainty of whether or not all of that was going to get me any closer to certification or not.

And who was pushing me into all of this?

Me. Nobody else. Nobody at the club, nobody at the BCU, just me being an obsessive overachieving duty-driven me.

So I said to myself - "Self, knock it off".

And then I said to all the people I'd been chasing after, "I think I should just chill a bit, I'm stressing out over this a lot and first and foremost boating is something I do for the enjoyment. I'm not an early adopter by nature (I still listen to cassettes) and I think that instead of getting crazy about this, I should help teach at the lake, and wait, and let the new system settle in some."

And nobody got mad at me, and I felt so relieved. And by pure happy coincidence, now it's suddenly looking like there may be a simpler way I might be able to achieve at least one level of certification - it'd still be a couple vacation days & a rental car to go to Lake Champlain, but not quite as far, and with far clearer potential for results.


And in the meantime - 10 miles a week. That's a realistic goal, and with the work stresses being what they are, it's also the minimum amount of watertime I need in a given week to leave those behind me. To relax. To kick my heart & lungs & muscles into drive & my brain out of hamster-wheel overdrive what-was-I-about-to-forget-to-do mode, and into simple presence on the water.

More is great, and I hope that as the summer moves on the work situation settles and I can start exceeding that on a regular basis.

But right now - 10 miles a week is what I need, and also about what I can reliably manage.

So for now, it is a perfect goal.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Surfski Lives!

Or more to the point, surfski now turns left again, thanks to judicious application of duct tape & wire. And it was the perfect weekend to get Poor Old Ski (p.o.s.? er, wait, that stands for something else, too, doesn't it) back in working order, 'cause dang, it was SUMMER!

I'd gone up to CT the night before, and I had a lot of odds & ends to do around the house that I'd been putting off for weeks, so I got got to the club sometime after 4, did a miniscule bit of gardening in my miniscule garden (I was thrilled to find that my tiniest seedlings, the two-inch-tall started-too-late heirloom tomatoes from the Paddling Chef, stood up to the incredible downpour we had on Saturday when I thought they'd be flattened - what a bunch of little green troopers!), schmoozed with the dinghy sailors who'd been out (NEXT WEEKEND, weather permitting, I'll FINALLY get that first dinghy sail of the summer in YAY!), then got on with the business at hand. My repairs, being totally substandard, didn't take all that long, and pretty soon the ski was about as ready as it's ever gonna be. After a short spin on a Futura (nice ski, thanks P), which was a nice boat although this one was too small for me - always fun to try a new boat, though, I was finally launching around 6, I guess it was.

Did one lap up & down the basin just to make sure everything was going to hold - it was HOT in there. Things felt pretty solid so I let the ski inhale (probably the kindest thing I could do for the old boat would be to get a vented drainplug - the amount the hull sucks in as the air inside the sealed boat cools in the water is really something & I bet that's led to the crazing of the outer coat, I saw a vented plug somewhere & realized that that would take a lot of stress off that elderly hull), grabbed my water off the dock & went off after my 10 miles.

You've probably seen a couple of boat blogs where the bloggers have challenged themselves to get in 100 days of boating? I know Tillerman's doing it (he's got a nifty little number thing and all), I think Michael the Ckayaker did it last year (particularly impressive since that water up north gets a lot harder to put your boat into for a lot more of the year than us temperate-zone folks have to deal with!) -

Well, that's just not happening for me. Not with my job.

However - I'm starting to find that trying to get in at least 10 miles a week seems to be an achievable goal, even during the worst times at work. That's only about 3 hours of good solid exercise-level paddling in my Romany, less on a ski, if I can't manage to squeeze in that much, Houston, we have a problem.

I wasn't sure if I'd left myself enough time, launching when I did. I had not brought lights, thinking I wouldn't possibly want to be out after dark, but I had to wait a whole half-hour for a bus, and then of course I always underestimate the amount of schmoozing & puttering that simply setting foot on the grounds of the club means in the summertime (I love it, of course!).

Turned out to be the perfect time to head out, though.

It had been hot in the basin & it felt so nice to get out into breezes on the bay. They'd been pretty feisty earlier, those breezes - our Laser sailors were telling stories about capsizing, but it being low water, they were finding themselves standing in waist-deep water - that's Jamaica Bay for you! - but by the evening, they were lightening up & it was perfect first-real-surfski-spin weather. I paddled out about 3 miles, then turned around, kicking myself for not having brought lights, therefore committing myself to being back at the club before dark. It just all felt so summery out there - the water was still a little cool, but the air was warm and humid - just the time to be on the water. I felt like I just wanted to keep going - around the corner, under the bridge - but without lights, that was a no-go. Rules & regs aside, crossing the Mill Basin channel unlit, in the dark & alone on a day like that (when everybody who's got a boat in the water wants to be out in it) would be pretty close to suicidal. So, 3 miles out I turned around & headed back - I'd already gotten 2 doing laps to make sure my repair would hold, and I figured that I'd head back & get in the last 2 in the basin if I had time.

Worked perfectly. Even with a quick stop to chat with a young couple who were out in a little aluminum skiff with an outboard motor (they'd just been out enjoying the relative cool of the late afternoon, saw me & thought I was a friend of theirs, but of course we had to do a little marveling at the evening's marvelousness) - was heading back into the basin well before dark & did the planned 2 more trips up the basin & back down. The sunset was beautiful, and I raced the sun for the last half-a-mile, it was sinking towards the trees & buildings at the end of the Paerdegat, and I decided I had to be back at the dock before it touched down. Didn't quite make it - it was about a 3rd of the way obscured when I hit the dock. But the horizon's HIGHER on the club's side! Honest!

One more slow partial circuit of the basin & back to cool down & that was it - 10 miles.

I think we're really getting on into the summer birds on the bay -

Didn't see a single brant, I think they've all headed north -

The terns are back, the herons too, and last night as I headed back to the basin, I think I caught a glimpse of the long black wings of the last birds I know well enough to have been looking for, the black skimmers. Love those guys.

And to truly mark the change of season - the return of a creature nobody really misses at all - yep, the little biting bugs are back!

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Mirage-Drive Fun!

Got surfski repair plans I want to attend to out at the club today, but while I pack up, I'm just going to post a few more pictures from the Sebago Open House.

It was a gorgeous day with tons of attendees, and over the course of the day all sorts of boats were being tried out - possibly one of the most entertaining ones was a Hobie Mirage-Drive which Tom, the owner, was kind enough to let a bunch of us fancy-schmancy sea-kayak paddlers try out.

The verdict?

I don't think any of us are looking to trade in our sea kayaks, but dang, that thing's FUN!

Minh on Mirage Drive -

Me on Mirage Drive -

Phil on Mirage Drive

Tom, owner of Mirage Drive, on Mirage Drive. He can make that thing move! He did admit that when you had to paddle it (if, for instance, you want to go backwards - there's no reverse gear), it paddled about like a refrigerator - what surprised me was how fast my legs got tired. Gotta be a good workout. Cyclists must love it. Hobie does make sleeker ones, this one's really aimed at fisherfolk.

Completely staged race between me on surfski & Phil on Mirage-Drive

BTW that was also the first surfski run of the season for me & now I remember what was wrong with it, so that's why I can fix it now. I ran it into a sandbar in the dark on my last post-work surfski paddle last Fall - the temperatures were dropping fast enough that I didn't bother fixing it then, just put it away for the season. By this year, I just had this vague recollection it wasn't quite right, but couldn't remember what was wrong - this paddle was a good reminder that yes, things were left completely off kilter. Basically as long as you don't want to turn left, you're groovy. So I'm off to do another one of my sorry repair jobs - when I say that the poor thing's held together with duct tape & baling wire, I wish I was kidding -

They work, though, that's the main thing.

Off now while I still have daylight to go for a post-repair spin!

Oh, I took a batch more pictures that I haven't had time to sort through & post yet, but another one of the camera-owning club members has posted a batch of good pictures on a Picasa gallery, I enjoyed 'em and he said I could link. Thanks!