Thursday, December 31, 2009

Last 2 Paddles of 2009

From December '09 Paddling & Hiking

"Staycations" were apparently all the rage this year, so being the trendy person I am, naturally I just had to make my Christmas/New Year break a non-travelling one!

No, actually I just felt like I could use some time at home - and it's worked out really well. Of course TQ made it better than I ever expected by coming to Brooklyn - I knew he was planning to visit his parents so figured I'd meet him up there, but then he decided to add a Brooklyn stop to his travels & that was great.

This week was free for catching up on the household stuff - Tuesday was the high point of the staycation, as I had a handyman stop by in the morning & fix the bathtub faucet that's been leaking for a couple of months now (boy is it nice to not have to go under the sink to turn the hot water on), and then in the afternoon I I took the subway to Yesterday's News, a very nice little secondhand shop, and they had EXACTLY the kind of little bookcase I'd hoped they might have, fits perfectly in a certain corner where I'd wanted to put a little bookcase - I'd started to have little piles of books all over the place because I had completely run out of bookshelf space & this took care of a few of those. Also finally gave me a good place to put TQ's '08 Christmas gift, a digital picture frame, so last night I spent a very enjoyable evening sorting through my digital pictures files & loading my favorite pictures onto a chip, which is now plugged into the digital picture frame sitting on the inexpensive but attractive (real wood, not Ikea particleboard!) secondhand bookshelf that's filled with books that were formerly living in little random piles on the floor. These are ALL the sorts of things that I've been wanting to do for ages, just never seem to have the time or energy to do. I am missing TQ tonight, wish we could be together for New Year's, but it does make me very happy that I've actually managed to do a lot of the stuff I'd hoped to get done with this "Staycaytion".

Of course, I'd also hoped to do a little PADDLING!!! And I did! :D

The weather's been pretty wild here in the last two weeks of 2009 - we've really run the gamut! My vacation started with a blizzard, of course, and then this week started with gale-force winds (way over my personal limits for winter paddling, no matter how itchy I am for a paddle, checking NOAA & seeing GALE WARNING always makes me decide to skip it)- but there's been some fantastically beautiful days in there too and counting tomorrow's Frostbite Regatta (even though that tends to be a relatively short paddle), I will have gotten in at least 4 paddles over the 2 weeks. Not bad for winter!

The first of the staycation paddles was, of course, that tour of Mill Basin I wrote up earlier this week.

The second was at the instigation of Steve H, the Paddling Chef, who looked at the forecast on Sunday, saw conditions like you see in the picture on top (the dredger Padre Island, moored just outside the Paerdegat, possibly deepening the channel in preparation for bringing in the equipment for replacing our bridge) & called for a paddle. Great call. Milton & I took him up on that. I had the radio on on Sunday morning as I was collecting my kit & did an aural double-take when I heard the announcer say it was 46 degrees - but I heard him right!

Steve picked me up at 9:30; naturally we stopped for tamales again (yay). Martin was waiting for us at the club & we were out on the water as soon after that as we could manage.

The guys were both paddling their beautiful hand-made Greenland-style skin-on-frames. I wish I'd taken a picture of the three of 'em side by side, I would've captioned it "How to make a Romany feel fat".

The water was just mirror-smooth as we set out.

It was a little bit breezy out on the bay - here we are approaching Ruffle Bar. We stopped on this side for a tea break.

Steve suggested lunch here. I was a bit chilly in the breeze & asked if we could nip around to the other side of the island. We did, and Steve found a lovely camel (neither dromedary nor bactrian, but the wooden variety* that serves as a sort of permanent fender around some docks) in the lee of some brush. We had our picnic there, the tamales were as delicious as they were on Tamale Paddle I, and I think we were all half-tempted to lie down & take a little post-tamale nap. It's a rare Northeast winter day when you want to take a nap in the sun on an island in the middle of Jamaica Bay, even with full winter paddling gear on - it felt positively luxurious!

Instead of napping, we did a little beachcombing (although the water was getting pretty high by that point - if we had dozed off, we would've first needed to make sure we had our boats pulled up far enough to keep the rising tide from floating them away) and then set off.

As we rounded the end of Ruffle Bar and the towers of Manhattan came into view, I was blown away by the clarity of the air. I don't think I've ever seen the city quite so clearly defined - there's almost always at least a little haze.

When we got back near the dredger, we stopped to do a few rolls. Warming up (so to speak) for the Frostbite Regatta!

We got back to the clubhouse to find that Stevie, who had been a little under the weather for paddling, had come to hang out for a bit. More luxury, he already had the fire going! Dennis was puttering around the grounds & he came in & joined us too & I think we just all hung out shooting the breeze for at least another hour.

My third paddle of the vacation - and last of 2009 - was yesterday. At one point, conditions yesterday (the 30th) and today (the 31st) were looking pretty OK. Wednesday was supposed to be right around freezing & still a bit on the breezy side, although nothing like Tuesday's icy blast, but pretty and sunny; today, the winds were supposed to die down & there was supposed to be snow turning to rain. I checked to see if anybody else wanted to go. No answers except from Stevie with an outside possibility of joining me if I went on Thursday. Wednesday morning, I checked the forecast against. Wind in the afternoon had settled down to 5-10 kts. Sunny. Thursday? "Ice pellets".

That settled it. I took my last paddle of 2009 yesterday & it was truly stunning. I'd initially thought I'd just do another shortish one over to Mill Basin & back, but it was so beautiful that I ended up putting in around 10 miles, out around the islands & through the marshes. Never got out of my boat, only stopped to take pictures & eventually put on lights. The last leg of my roughly triangular course, returning to the Paerdegat, was amazing - to my left, mother-of-pearl sunset in the sky and on the water - to my right, the nearly full moon rising & reflecting in a silver trail - in front of me, the city, with the lights just beginning to go this is incredibly corny but I found a song I know running through my head, and it goes -

Now I walk in beauty
Beauty lies before me
Beauty is behind me
Above and below me

So. A good finish to my paddling year. Enough talking about it,

Heading down the Paerdegat.

Buoy 12, well rimed from the gales of the preceding days.

Rainbow around the sun (at Elder's Point Marsh).

J-Bay goes golden

Frosted marsh

In the shallow, quiet marsh areas I was paddling through heading for Ruffle Bar, ice was beginning to form in the water, too, from the slush that salt water becomes when it first begins to freeze up to very soft plates on the surface. I stayed right-side up for this trip!

Approaching sunset near Ruffle Bar. Just me and the birds out there.

Moon rising over Ruffle Bar

And that is the last of my 2009 paddling photos.

Next post, Sebago's Frostbite Regatta 2010!

Hauoli Makahiki Hou to all!

*About that camel? That's just one of a number of the interesting animal names you'll find attached to things in a harbor. Earlier this month, the marvelous Bowsprite charmed & delighted all of her readers with a post entitled A Nautical Bestiary - you'll find camels there, and all sorts of other sea-beasties from bees to zinc fish. Oh, and if you happen to be dabbler in traditional music, like me, or even an actual musician, I think you'll get a giggle out of the post about sea chanteys that's the prior post linked to at the end of the Bestiary post.


Carol Anne said...

Great pictures, great stories. The Navajo chant at the end is perfect.

Ol Philosophizer said...

Inspirational pictures, Bonnie. It's good to know that not all the paddlers in the Northeast have been frozen out of their sport of choice. We're in a temporary state of kaybernation up here until a thaw appears, and opens the water to us once more. Of course, that gives us plenty of time to dream of ways that paddling in the new year will be better in the in all the years that have gone before. I hope that also happens for you.

PeconicPuffin said...

Beautiful photos, Bonnie (fine narrative too.) Out east it was big time overcast while we did some stand up paddling...must be on the water. Speaking of which, here's to more paddling (sailing, doing whatever you darn well please) time on the water this year!

JP said...

Rolling in literally icy waters - wow!

Well you certainly deserve any glasses of mulled wine you find yourself drinking over the holidays.

Happy New Year!

DummyDiva said...

Your blog is one that was inspiration for me to begin my own blog and challenge myself to kayak through the winter. Thanks.

bonnie said...

You're welcome, and thank you! What a compliment! I'll definitely add you to my blogroll once I reconstitute that. The old one fell victim to the evil JS-Kit "upgrade", but it really needed updating anyways, and with a gale warning from Saturday morning through Sunday afternoon, I think I just might have time to do that!

bonnie said...

And Happy New Year to everyone!