Monday, August 30, 2010

Packrat Payoff = Swimming Solution! Plus - Why You Should Always Read the Labels On Your Gear.

Tonight's post is a Gear Review, brought to you at the request of my friend Elizabeth at Sex in the Public Square. OK, she only wanted a picture but I'm so excited that I finally figured out a really good use of a piece of gear I've had for ages that I'm gonna write about it too!

Without further ado, I am pleased to prevent - (drumroll) -

The Swim-Purse!

Oops, wait, that's a mermaid's-purse. Easy mistake, right?

ok - HERE is the Swim-Purse.

The item in question is an early version of the SealLine Seal-Pak that was given to me as a birthday gift many years ago by one of the other partners in the kayak company I was involved in at the time.

That must have been...yikes...1999? Because that was the first year of the kayak company at the barge, and she left at the end of it, and I ended up playing a rather uncomfortable role in her departure (I handled a lot of the legal communications, and it wasn't a particularly smooth parting-of-the-ways) & was no longer on her gift-giving list after that (to put it mildly).

I wouldn't even mention that if there wasn't a story of a very near case of karmic payback involved in my keeping & eventually using this. I'll tell that at the end.

Anyways, she gave me this early in the first year. I was still collecting gear at that point (as opposed to replacing it, which is what I do now) and I thought it was very, very neat.

But I was purely kayak-focused at that point, and I assumed that this was supposed to be kayak gear, and guess what - I never, ever ran across a kayaking situation where I thought that an aquatic fanny-pack would be a handy thing to have along! So much storage already - between the pockets on the PFD, deck bungees, and storage hatches, I never found myself looking at a piece of gear & thinking "Why, a little pouch on a belt around my waist would be the PERFECT place for that!"

But although it remained unused, year after year, for some reason I always found it just a little too nifty to give away. It made it past the time in 2002, when I thought I was going to leave NYC after I worked myself out of the temp job I was wrapping up (in the end that temp job led to the one I still have today, so that didn't happen, but I was making a concentrated effort at getting rid of stuff before the editorial director I was working for referred me to the folks who brought me on as full-time staff). It made it through 2003, when I finally got to feeling secure enough in the new job to actually buy the place I have now & moved there (getting rid of MORE stuff in the process). It ended up in the linen closet & there it sat until June of this year.

What happened in June?

I went to the Mermaid Parade!

And we all went SWIMMING afterwards!!

And even though there were six ZILLION other people there, which is one of the things that's always made me tend to stay away from Coney Island in the summertime, IT WAS AWESOME. You know what I hadn't realized? 99.8% of those 6Z people DON'T GO PAST WHERE THEY CAN STAND!

So all you have to do is swim out a little bit deeper -

and there you go! Plenty of space for a person to

"hold their breath and kick their feet
And move their arms around, moved their arms around"

And that reignited the itch to get swimming back into my life (hm, swimmer's itch?) - because I've actually been doing less of it since I moved to Sebago than I ever have. Before I started kayaking, I did a lot of lap-swimming in pools. Once I started kayaking & keeping boats at the barge, I'd jump off the dock for a swim all the time. Even got inspired to do a couple of 1-mile open water swims as a swimmer during a time when I was doing a lot of swim race kayak support, and found that I really enjoyed those!

Unfortunately, one of the few drawbacks I've found in comparing Sebago to Pier 63 is that at Sebago, jumping off the dock for a swim would be kind of gross. The Paerdegat is polluted. It won't kill you to fall in but you really don't want to. Things improve out in the bay, and I'll sometimes splash around in the water a bit during lunch breaks out there -- and my fellow paddlers sometimes laugh at my tendency to go float around in my drysuit & lifejacket like a big old magenta-and-yellow sea otter in the wintertime. Real swimming, though? Hardly any. A little at the lake but I didn't make it up there at all last year & this year's going the same way.

The idea of really starting to use Coney Island as a swimming venue had always had 2 major obstacles, in my mind. "Too many people" was one. With that more or less out of the way, I started really thinking about the other one - which was how to keep my stuff from being stolen while I swam if I went on my own (and asking friends to go when you know perfectly well you just want them to go to watch your bag while you go off & play Flipper for an hour is just not right). Besides Coney Island swimming seeming like it would make a nicer addition to my exercise than I'd ever thought, this was also going to be an issue during my trip to Hawaii - and with that added impetus, suddenly I realized that I'd had the perfect solution sitting in the linen closet the whole time! Actually I wasn't even positive that I still had it, but after a little digging (it had migrated to the very back of the shelf, of course) I found it. Perfect! Of all the items in her purse, what does a woman need for a trip to the beach that would matter if they disappeared while she was swimming? Not a whole lot! Keys. A little cash. A piece of ID (just in case, y'know), and here in NY, a MetroCard (subway fare card). Maybe a bank card, for the cheerier just-in-case scenarios like "Just in case I'm suddenly overwhelmed with a craving for blini & borscht on the Brighton Beach Boardwalk" - oh yeah, and for me, the camera!

All that, of course, fits in the Aqua-pak just fine. So I was half right all those years - it IS a nifty piece of gear. I had just been wrong in mistaking it for kayak gear, when it really shines as a Swim Purse!

Shines? Well...mostly! Time to wrap up with the story of my close brush with a karmic boomerang coming back to bonk me on the bean. I find there's something guilt-inducing about keeping a gift that was given to me by someone with whom I ended up not being on good terms down the road. So what almost happened with the bag in some way felt like a strangely appropriate payback for keeping the bag instead of doing something guilt-relieving with it, like donating it bag to a silent auction at a kayak event or something.

Especially since it was totally avoidable if I'd just used my head (and my eyes)!

There's that thing they say about ASSUME, right? Makes an ASS of U & ME both? Well, in this case I was the only ass, but it was still a good lesson to keep in mind & follows a good basic rule of kayaking (or any gear-reliant sport).

When you have a new piece of gear, and you are assuming that it's going to do something, and it's going to be really bad if it doesn't do what you want it to do - you should test it out in a non-crucial situation first.

Or at least read the stupid label, stupid.

I didn't read it. I didn't test it. I just made an assumption. Looks like a drybag. Closes like a drybag. Manufactured by a a drybag manufacturer. Must be a drybag, right?

So what was my first planned use EVER for the bag which I assumed to be dry?

I was going to drive the Mustang to Pupukea. I was going to lock almost everything in the Mustang. And then I was going to put the key for the Mustang in the bag. And then I was going to go snorkeling.

Did you know that Mustangs don't come with key holes anymore?

They open electronically.

With the electronic key fob.

heh heh heh.

And in Hawaii, the Hertz cars don't yet feature that nifty thing where they can open them by remote control signals from a Satellite. Nope. They have to send you the spare key which they have at the airport location. They send it to you by cab. You pay the cabbie for the drive.

Shark's Cove is about as far as you can get from the airport as you can get without leaving the island.

The good thing about that was that at least I still got in a nice relaxed hour of snorkeling while I waited for the cab.

Yup, by a positively magical stroke of sheer dumb luck, I managed to completely forestall the end-of-the-snorkelling-day disaster by locking the key in the trunk before I'd even set foot in the water.

Way to dodge THAT karmic boomerang, huh?

And of course, I'm happy to report that the first test of the Swim Purse as a means of leaving nothing worth stealing on the beach while going off for a good long swim at Coney Island worked out just GREAT! I just made sure I didn't take anything that can't take a good soaking & it was all good!

Who knows...maybe if I start doing that a little more, maybe by next year I could join my friends at CIBBOWS for a race - as a swimmer!

Coney Island Beach, Brooklyn, 8/29/10

Me & a few zillion other people enjoying a beautiful 2nd to last weekend of summer.

It was one of the nicest summer weekends we've had this year, I think. Warm & sunny but without the humidity. If I'd been feeling better I probably would've either gone sailing or out on my surfski but I was still feeling pretty fatigued from that stupid summer cold I've had. Going to the beach, basking in the sun & eventually swimming a couple of laps between the jetties was just the right level of activity.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

For Baydog.

Virtual CaraMacs for Baydog, for completely cracking me up YET AGAIN with a comment on the Fish & Flipflops post. Not enough room in the carry-on for real ones, but plenty of space on the 4-gig SD card!

Nice post on 829 South Drive today, btw - looks like maybe Tilleman might want to think about going to Jersey.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Fish and flipflops on Friday

Just a few pictures from snorkeling at Shark's Cove (sadly curtailed because I locked the keys in the trunk, yet another of a hundred reasons I'll have to do this again one of these years!) and Hanauma Bay (sadly a bit on the murky side that day, ditto!). Plus flipflops! ahhh! Funny, I've never been tempted to get them in NY, but in Hawaii, I was back in these (or barefoot) by Day 2. NY streets are just grittier, I guess.
Parrotfish (uhu) with Christmas wrasse - two of my favorites

Convictfish (manini)

Orangespine Surgeonfish

Achille's tang


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Fall Dinghy Sailing Race Series at Sebago

Jim announces the course for the 3rd race of this spring's Laser Regatta - From Sebaga Laser Regatta 5 22 2010

I'm happy to share the news recently emailed by Jim & Holly, Co-chairs of the Sailing Committee of the Sebago Canoe Club - we'll be having a Fall Racing Series this year! Come join us for some fun days on Jamaica Bay. Notice of Race, Sailing Instructions and a full schedule can all be found on the Sailing Committee page at

Hope to see you there!

cross-posted at the Sebago Canoe Club blog.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Recollections of a soberer kind

Left work early today - I've had a cold since Thursday, ignored it while TQ was here over the weekend (although I did cut down my Saturday Sebago trip from the potentially-ambitious Search for the Yellow Submarine of Coney Island Creek - ambitious due to relatively open water in the lower harbor plus zero non-trip-ending takeouts along most of the southern shore of Coney Island - to a more forgiving trip, a great lunch paddle to the Wharf Bar & Grill which ended up drawing a nice crew) and thought it was going away, but today it kicked up again & I came home with a low fever.

Alternated sleeping & finishing a book a co-worker had lent me, then this evening I got caught up with my friend Will's latest blog project, in which he is recounting the time he spent, twenty years ago, as an American hostage in Iraq.

Many of you enjoy Will's wide-ranging reflections on the comings and goings of the denizens of NYC's waterways, which he has so aptly dubbed "The Sixth Borough".

I think you will find my babylonian captivity to be equally fascinating.

Don't forget, to read the full narrative, begin with the oldest post & work forward.

ps - and on a much lighter note, I also got a big kick out of O-docker's own floral reflections on one of the blooms I featured in one of my recent posts about plants I loved as a kid in Hawaii, The Big O. Thanks, O-Docker!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Playing With Plants - Hawaii Nostalgia Trip Continued!

Tonight - more plants I loved as a kid growing up in Hawaii.

Less words, more pictures, and MUCH more silly!


First up - the mighty Banyan tree. Best in the world (at least the parts of the world I've seen) for climbing!

The real name of the plant below (which I just found out myself) is Bryophyllum, but most of the people I knew called these "air plants", because it takes nothing but air to start new ones. If you pick a leaf & pin it to a curtain, before too long each notched point on the leaf starts sprouting tiny leaves & roots! Nice picture here of a leaf with new sprouts coming along. Eventually they will want their roots in soil (which is what set me a-googling for a name other than "air plant" - you get a lot of plants in an "air plant" search but this is not one of 'em) but it's such an interesting thing to watch these starting off with no sustenance other than the air & the leaf from which they spring.

Sleeping grass. Why is sleeping grass fun?

Because it does this!

BTW, the time I was shooting this was one of those moments I was glad I was on my own this time - I think I would've been too embarrassed to explain to somebody why I needed to spend as much time as I did taking pictures of trailside weeds. But I was just fascinated with this stuff when I was a kid, couldn't walk past a patch without stopping to play with it.

Strawberry guava - not so much a plaything as a hiker's trailside treat.

Unfortunately, they are also one of the worst invasives around & have a pretty dramatic effect -
but I still enjoyed the one I found.


I think I would love these trees even if they didn't have a "toy component" (as we say in the children's publishing industry) simply because they remind me of every camp I ever went to as a kid in Hawaii & because I love the sound they make when the wind sets those long needles whispering among themselves.

But I was also VERY fond of playing with these tiny cones & slender twigs they drop.

Here's what you do with them - you collect a few twigs & cones. You break the twigs into various lengths --

and then you have --

Tinkertoys! I always made little goatlike critters out of them, like this one, but I bet a cleverer kid could get a LOT more complicated with them.

And in closing, here is some pure silliness with the lovely Hibiscus, as promised (or threatened) in my Pua O Ka Honua post.
I'd mentioned that our hibiscus hedge was so big I'd carved a little secret playhouse into it. I'd also mentioned that there was something very silly that we did with the flowers - well, here you are!

First, you need to find a nice red or pink hibiscus.
Pull off a single petal.
Carefully split the petal at the base. Peel the two sides apart for an inch or so. Now stick the petal on the bridge of your nose, and viiiii-ola --

you're a rooster! Cockadoodledoo!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and...hey, how about some Pac Cup awards ceremony pictures?

Oahu 2010 056
Me, David from Never Sea Land, and yes, that's really Miss Hawaii!

Fully intended to carry on with my botanical rhapsody tonight, but I should have known better than to promise "tomorrow" yesterday - that just plain cursed today, the work day totally got away from me, I had a few post-work errands to do for an event at work tomorrow & managed to do them in precisely the wrong order, and it's too late to start on tonight's planned post.

So instead, how about I finally put up a link to the pictures I took out at the Kaneohe Yacht Club when I went to meet David from Never Sea Land on Friday the 23rd (my first full day on the island, David's last) & ended up staying for the awards ceremony?

I was glad I did, ended up having a fantastic time. The Pac Cup is called "The Fun Race" - I can't vouch for the rest of the race but those sailors clearly know how to have a good time on dry land (as evidenced by the photos showing the best possible use of a giant crystal vase trophy or the fantastic air-guitar performance by the proud winner of the "Clean Sweep Award"!)

And thanks again to Captain Paul of the VALIS for the VALIS Pacific Cup aloha shirt! Best souvenir ever.

Can't think of anything that would've made for a better start to my visit.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Na Pua O Ka Honua - The Flowers of the Earth

Bird of Paradise flower

That was a line from a mele that was being taught at the Bishop Museum the day I was there, along with a seated hula to the song. I wish I could remember just one hula from beginning to end - I learned a few when I was a kid, but for some reason my peculiar mind selected single lines from a number of mele (mele being the song, hula being the dance) as the bits to hang onto so that's what I have - fragments. Seems that "Na pua o ka honua" just got added to the clutter, in there with "Ia o'e e ka la, e aloha mele", "lilo a e lalo e, hele ai", "i ka pa he olo, eh he a ha!" and a lot of other bits & pieces. Sigh. Anyways, the hula that was being taught at the Bishop Museum was a simple one in praise of the some of the beautiful things in Hawai'i - the birds of the air, the fish of the sea, and the flowers of the land - na pua o ka honua - and since today's post is just beautiful Hawaiian flowers (because I wanted to get back into the Hawaii posts but I had pesto to make & cleaning to do so needed to keep it simple) I thought that would be a good title.

With a couple of exceptions, most of these were just growing here & there in my hometown of Aiea during the very full and happy day I spent there and I thought that they'd make a pretty, pretty post.

Beach Naupaka

This was one of the exceptions - this grows on the shore, and Aiea is inland. If you went through my turtle gallery, you've already been introduced both to the flower & to the legend, which I think I first heard a basic version of from my dad on a hike to Kaena Point. There's a closely related species, the mountain naupaka, which looks a good bit different from the beach naupaka except for identical cut-in-half looking blossoms. There are a different versions of the legends - some involve the unbreakable divisions between the classes, some bring in Pele in a role very similar to the one she plays in the story of Ohia & Lehua (which appears a few pictures down), but the main theme is that of the eternal star-crossed lovers - who in Hawaii are both turned into half-flowers, eternally apart, one in the mountains & one by the shore.


These ones are magenta but they come in every color of the sunset. We had a big one with white flowers in the lower terrace of the backyard when I was a kid, and when we were were making lei for visitors, we would sometimes make especially beautiful ones when the bougainvillea had enough flowers - you would string them through the side & sort of squish 'em down the thread as you went along & you ended up with this round & fluffy-looking lei. You would need a WHOLE lot of flowers for one lei, though, so I think we kept this to extra-special visitors like grandparents!


These are EVERYWHERE in Hawai'i - that's why you see 'em on all the aloha shirts! We and the neighbors up the hill had a hedge of great big pink ones - the hedge was so thick that when I was little, I used pruning shears to make myself a little playhouse inside the hedge, where my friends and I would pretend to be squirrels or sparrows or some such cute little animals. There was something very silly we'd do with the flowers, too - I'll tell you about that tomorrow! ;D


Another common hedge plant - this one you didn't play with though, it's pretty but it's deadly, deadly poison. Hawai'i doesn't have the poison ivy, oak, or sumac that's such a itchy hassle for East Coast hikers & gardeners, but it's sure got all kinds of plants that'll kill you "maka-die-dead" (Hawaiian pidgin for really, truly dead) if you accidentally eat them. My mom had an article that she'd clipped from the Star-Bulletin about the worst of them & I think it was there that I read a terrible story about a family who went camping, decided to have a weenie roast one night & had the literally grave misfortune to cut their weenie sticks from an oleander bush. They may have been tourists, most locals would know better. Adding a note much, much later: Wow, according to Snopes, this death-by-oleander story is an urban legend.  


Another exception to the Aiea rule - these were growing on the Iolani campus, my old school, where I went & walked around for an enjoyable hour or so. My folks planted six or seven of these in the backyard of the house I grew up in on Kaonohi St. & these were the main flowers we used for leimaking - they work wonderfully for a straight stringing, having these inch-long tubular bases that you can string onto your needle & thread like beads. The bougainvillea lei were maybe more visually exciting (although we had plumerias in pink, white, and one tree that bore deep, deep red flowers - there were never enough of the red to make a whole lei but we'd make some very pretty ones alternating pinks & whites with reds as accents), and also a little more long lasting than the more tender plumeria flowers, but oh, the plumerias smelled like heaven. I picked up one that had fallen on the ground at Iolani & walked back to the car (parked a couple of blocks away) with my nose buried in it. Sweet sweet sweet.


Taken on the 4-mile Aiea Loop Trail, this is the tree that I'd mentioned had a well-known story of Pele attached. Ohia & Lehua were young lovers, but it was their misfortune that one day Pele saw the handsome young Ohia & fell in love with him. He was true to beautiful Lehua, though, and turned Pele down. In her fury at being spurned, she turned him into a gray & gnarled tree on the mountain - but after she calmed down again & realized what a terrible thing she had done to the young couple, she regretted what she'd done. She couldn't turn Ohia back into a man - but she turned Lehua into the beautiful red flower that blooms on the Ohia tree to this day - the tree is the Ohia, the flower the Lehua, and together they are Ohia-Lehua. This one must have been near the end of the blooming season, but even seeing one of the lovely flowers reminded me of the story, so I took the picture so I could share it here. They say that if you pick the Lehua, it will rain - tears of the parted lovers - but people still pick them to make lei that are far more lovely than anything we ever made from the flowers in our backyard.

In some tellings, it was the other gods who turned poor Lehua into a flower, but I think I like the version where Pele has remorse & does what she can when she can't undo what she's done.

The Ohia-Lehua is involved in at least one other very well-known legend, the story of Pele, Pele's little sister Hi'iaka and Lohi'au, another mortal love of Pele's - but this post has already gotten longer than I planned so if you are curious, go Google it (but I will add, hoping that it's not disrepectful to say so, that Hi'iaka is the coolest goddess-variety little sister ever).

Another non-Aiea photo - there were plenty in Aiea, they thrive in Hawaii, and this one happened to be growing somewhere along the hike that runs along the Old Pali Road. Word to the wise - if you ever find yourself at the Pali Lookout - walk down the old road that leads off along the cliff to the right. Read the sign that warns you about the falling rocks & says not to go any further. Acknowledge in your mind that rocks may indeed fall - and then, if you're not feeling particularly unlucky, keep going. It's a beautiful hike, and an easy one.

Last but not least - Na Pua O Ka La!

Ok, ok...really, it's a sunflower. I just made up a Hawaiian name for it, Na Pua O Ka La, the Flower of the Sun. Don't go there & call it that though, "sunflower" doesn't appear in either the online dictionaries or even the Judd-Pukui-Stokes Introduction to the Hawaiian Language I have here at home!

But it was growing in the splendid Ala Wai Community Gardens near my high school & I just couldn't resist closing this flower post with this skyscraper-topping beauty & that funny little water-jug skeleton scarecrow!

And That's It! All Pau with Na Pua!

I have to say, today's post got into MUCH more of a kid's-eye view of things than I started out. Also lots longer. If you enjoyed this at all, I think you'll love tomorrow's - An Even MORE Kid's-Eye View Of Assorted Hawaiian Flora, or, Plants to Play With.

If you hated it - come back in a couple of days, I'm back on the total small-kid time Hawaii nostalgia kick, but I should get back to my normal NYC waterfront fun soon - certainly next week Monday when (knock wood, God willin' and the Coney Island Creek don't rise) I hope hope HOPE to have a Yellow Submarine trip report!

Writer's note, 4/3/2013 - Comments closed due to spam. I love spam in onolicious musubi or slivered into saimin, but it's a total drag in the comments box! Update 2 - Blogger got on top of the spate of spam so comments are now open again. :-)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sunday Sailing

It felt a bit Septemberish, gray skies & cool weather, but the wind was great (more in the low teens than the 5-10 kts the forecast had called for) and Holly & Jim set a good course with the windward leg being the sail to our favorite lunch beach on Ruffle bar, where all the work getting there made my empanada lunch taste extra extra good, and then the trip home again being a big looping S around Ruffle Bar & Canarsie Pol. The trip home was awesome, all reaching & running, and with the wind & the waves, we flew! I felt like I was getting more speed out of Swampfox & maintaining it for longer periods of time than I've managed before in a Sunfish - usually I have a few fantastic moments then do something to foul up whatever I was doing right, but today there were long stretches where things were going great.

I did learn one really good lesson today - I have a light wetsuit top that just needs to always be part of my sailing kit. The weather wasn't quite as warm or sunny as the last forecast I'd seen had been talking about & I was lucky Holly had a spare top because the day (and especially the windward leg) would've been a chilly one if she hadn't had that for me.

I didn't take a lot of pictures because conditions were just enough that the sailing really required two hands & full attention, but here were the few I did.

I can't show you pictures of one of the "end" results but I can tell you that I will be needing a cushion for the next few days! :D

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Harbor Cruise Review in the New York Times

Thanks to Bowsprite's friend Ivy for sending along the link to this nice little review. I was particularly delighted to find that one of the featured cruises is on the motor vessel Manhattan, one of the boats I used to crew on back when I worked for Classic Harbor Lines - I loved my 5 summers working for them (primarily on the schooners Adirondack, which you see in the still before you start the video, with occasional work on the motor yacht - I liked working the schooner better 'cause there the crew actually sailed, but I do have to say that when the Scaranos set out to build a motor vessel to add to the fleet, they did a nice job on it) & I'm always happy to see them get media attention.


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Ultimate Brooklyn Kayak, And Other Highlights from Orient Point

With apologies to my good friends at Brooklyn Kayak and Kayak Brooklyn, behold clubmate Eugene and his remarkable craft-

The Ultimate Brooklyn Kayak! Bottom tagged with a proud proclamation of Eugene's place of abode, Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, and sides featuring a lively cityscape -

with the Brooklyn Bridge & everything:

A couple more interesting facts about the boat & the builder -

1. Eugene had never paddled a kayak before he built this boat. He just enjoys woodworking, saw a plan online & decided to make himself a beautiful boat.
2. The story behind the graphics (which I love!) is that when he was finished, he had a boat that was, indeed, beautiful - on top. The underside had a few cosmetic flaws - and he suddenly started looking at it as a canvas.
3. The boat was designed to be 18 feet. Eugene cut it down to 16 because that's how much room his Bay Ridge Brooklyn basement has.
4. Once he had this awesome kayak, he had to learn to paddle, and that's how he & his girlfriend Jen came to join the Sebago Canoe Club. They've both gotten to be quite good. This was my first time meeting them & I'm looking forward to paddling with them again.

So I promised a trip report, but guess what - you're not exactly going to get one!

Why? Because it was a long, full weekend of fun & I just don't think I can squeeze it all in here if I try to do the traditional first we a, then we b, then we c. I've already sort of done that on the gallery I'd put up, I've added captions & it now gives a pretty nice chronogical account of the paddling, from the pre-trip huddle over charts -

to the day-end boat-toting, and then on to the next day. I also got silly with a Google map (featuring locations like "Ferries! Eek!", "Ice Cream Here, Yay!" and "Here An Osprey", "There An Osprey", "Everywhere an Osprey-Osprey"). So with 2 differents linear explanations of the weekend's adventures - I thought I'd just ramble about a few highlights, like Eugene's Ultimate Brooklyn Kayak (which I've just been dying to post about since the minute I first saw it at their campsite on Friday night). So here we go!

End of the Day Boat Toting:

Why is that a highlight? Because I learned something obvious but amazing from organizer Walter this weekend. Look!

did you know that if, in addition to the person at the bow & the person at the stern, you add one or two at the cockpit, it's easier to carry the boat? Seems obvious, but who ever does it? People on serious kayak camping expeditions, that's who (load up a kayak with enough gear and 2 people CAN'T carry it any more) - and also people who have just had the Wind God kick their okole for them in the last two miles of an almost-15-mile paddle. Worked great - I love my Romany but it's a heavy heavy beast of a thing & if just 2 of us had tried to carry it the 30 yards or so from the beach to the loading area, the arms would've been burning. Add 2 more carriers & whisk whisk whisk, where's the next boat? I know, I know, this should have been a no-brainer, but sometimes it's funny the things I would just never think of on my own.

The Eastern Long Island Kampground Is Growing On Me:

The Eastern Long Island Kampground is growing on me. First time I saw it I sort of looked down my nose at all the RV's - but the folks that run it are really a nice bunch (even found one of our folks who'd forgotten to make a reservation a spot in their full-up campground), the Sunday morning pancakes are really pretty good, and you know, it's just fun seeing a place where packs of kids go hurrahing about on their bikes or splashing in the pool or just generally running around outside instead of being glued to their little beepy things or driven from one scheduled thing to another. Also fun the way almost everybody in the camp hangs out around their campfires talking in the evenings. A few too-cool-for-camp teenyboppers were the exception - for some reason they preferred hanging out in the bathroom simultaneously complaining verbally to their physically-present friends & by text message to their cell-phone friends, sort of a 21st-century Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah! There are boob tubes in the RV's but the campfires & conversations do win out.

Blackberries Are Good And Liz Is The Queen:

I love that Walter took us blackberry-picking during our lunch break. This seems like a very North-Fork thing to do, you really do feel like you're out in the country there. Liz was the Blackberry Queen - the rest of us had no restraint (and swimsuits also aren't the best blackberry-picking attire) but she picked enough that there were even some left at breakfast the next morning.

Food, Part 1:
Speaking of food - Tony & Walter (aka Pinky & the Brain) had quite a challenge on their hands organizing meals, especially dinners. The way Sebago trips work, usually everybody handles their own breakfast & lunch food, and then dinners end up being a coordinated thing. With 18 people, this got tricky! The amazing thing was that somehow, even without a real plan (and with some unexpected timing issues on Saturday after a totally abortive attempt at celebratory drinks in Greenport, we were chased from the town by barking, snarling parking-lot attendents), everything worked out great. Jen & Eugene were the linchpins of a fantastic feast on Friday night - the original plan had been more to go out, but they showed up with all of this Russian-style marinated pork & chicken & something like a bushel of fresh sweet corn - I think they could've sent us all to bed full & happy but it got better, sort of kicked off the Stone Soup effect. I remembered I'd grabbed a big cucumber out of my garden right before Mary Ann & I left, put that & some good cheese out, somebody else mixed up some great yogurt-mint dip, more cheese appeared, sausage, wine, caprese salad, artichoke dip...what a feast.

Why Is Kayak Distance Is Not Like Every Other Distance?:
We need a paddler Einstein to appear and give us the equations that explain how it is that in any given 15 mile paddle, it can it happen that the last 2 miles of the day end up being longer than the entire preceding 13. This is a fact. Anyone who paddled the last 2 miles will tell you so.

Food, Part 2:
Friday night was Camp Food Magic Night. Saturday night, not so much. Actually had a bit of tension to it - everybody was tired from the aforementioned last 2 miles & I'm only half-joking about the snarling parking lot attendants - they only chased us out of their parking lot, but in the process completely split up our group, despite pleas to let us stay together. Eventually we all regrouped at camp, where we'd all originally planned to eat, but by that point Braun's, the excellent seafood takeout place where a number of us had planned to pick up food to bring back, had closed. There was a lot of confusion over what was available at camp - shrimp, no, no shrimp, not enough food, might be enough food - and everybody was tired & a bit cranky & that was sort of another low point. But by then, everybody just wanted food & nobody was married to the Group Dining Experience & so thank goodness, we just sort of split off into smaller groups & went our own ways. Mary Ann, Elizabeth & I ended up going to this little local favorite (warmly recommended by one of the Kampground managers as he & his wife's favorite place for dinner), where some really great seafood & a nice bottle of local chardonnay proved extraordinarily soothing. Think everybody else found something good too because at the end of the evening, we all regrouped around the campfire & the day finished on a good note with a few more minutes of talking (now cheerful) and marshmallow roasting.

Maybe the moral of the story is if there are 18 of you, and it's Saturday night, skip the celebratory drink in Greenport & just go drink the wine you have in camp!

Even more though - when you're up to 18 people, just be ready to be flexible. In the end, everything worked out great, and some of us even made it to Braun's the next day. Made the perfect pre-drive lunch stop.

Funny that the dinner drama loomed so large!
Losing Stuff, Part 1, or,
I'd Lose My Head If It Wasn't Attached To My Neck, And, It's So Nice to Find Out That People Are Waiting For You:

Also looming large was my gear, or more precisely my inability to hang onto my gear! I don't know what was up with me but I tried my hardest to make this into a Very Expensive Weekend. Tried to lose my camera, my lifejacket, my sprayskirt, my better swimsuit, a pair of shorts & my NYC Watertrail Cap! First loss was the camera. We'd left the lunch break at the point & paddled past the ferries, then reached into my lifejacket pocket to grab the camera & take a picture of the rest of the crew passing the ferry. Oh camera! Checked the cockpit. Checked the dayhatch. Gone. Asked Walter to check the dayhatch. Confirmed, no camera. I'd known I'd had it right before we launched. I decided to go back after it. Thank goodness I keep a bright orange float on it - as I approached the spot where we'd launched - aaah! there was a little blob of orange bouncing around just off the beach! I paddled up to it, grabbed it, turned around & began the long catch-up sprint, broken only by a short pause for the ferry. I was glad I had my VHF along because I took advantage of that stop to let the group know I was chasing them. Next voice I heard on the VHF was Dotty, amazingly clear - well, it turned out that she & Susan had stopped to wait for me! Very, very, nice of them - it is tough chasing a distant group, you may be moving faster than them but there's always this long time when you're just seeing dots in the distance & not feeling like you're gaining at all. Nice to find people waited for you - and boy did the ice-cream at the next stop, where the 3 of us caught the rest of the gang, taste good!

I Feel Good:
I was pretty happy with how I did on Saturday - particularly with the longish catch-up sprint after retrieving my camera & also during those sloggy last 2 miles. Last year wasn't a great one for exercise, I was feeling so overworked & then of course we had such a cold & nasty winter; I came into the summer feeling pretty puny. Being back at mostly-full staff at work has made a huge difference - I haven't been consciously sticking to an exercise program or anything but I have been paddling or sailing most weekends since March, and I think those 10 days in Hawaii did a lot too - I was hiking, paddling, swimming or some combination thereof almost every day I was there. I just felt SOLID this weekend. And here -

I don't LOOK too puny, do I?

Losing Stuff, Part 2, or
The Incredible Niceness of the Orient Beach State Park Manager:

The lifejacket & sprayskirt, I didn't realize I'd lost until we were back at Sebago. I'd left them hanging up in the sun in the shower room. I think I decided to leave them there until the last minute to let them dry as much as possible before I put them in the car - but then out of sight, out of mind & the last minute came & went without my remembering that that's what I've done. Fortunately there's a really amazing manager there - I called on Monday morning; she confirmed that she had them (HOORAY - my lifejacket is a Lotus L'ocean, fits me better than any other lifejacket I've ever worn & has been basically irreplaceable since Patagonia bought Lotus & proceeded to drive the company into the ground - it's now defunct, although I've heard a rumour about the founder starting a new one - one quick message to him if by some fluke he reads this - L'OCEAN CLONE, PRETTY PLEASE?) & then, as I was trying to figure out how I was supposed to get 'em back, she completely blew me away by volunteering to go to the post office & mail them back to me. And then the post office blew me away too - she mailed them on Tuesday, the box was less than $10 and it arrived at my office right around lunchtime today. Isn't that fantastic? I was SURE I'd be borrowing club gear for at least a weekend! Now, it did help that she's friends with one of our members & knows about the club - but even so, I still can't get over how nice of her this was. I'm SO glad we'd patronized her park!

And that's pretty much it for the highlights, and lowlights that turned into highlights too. Overall, as I think I'd already said - another fantastic weekend by Tony and Walter. Thanks Guys!

I will just close with -

What A Nice Bunch Of People I Have To Paddle With At The Sebago Canoe Club.

I'll be looking forward to the next Cruising Committee event I can join, which I think is...hmmm...something to do with our friends at the LIC Boathouse, if I'm remembering correctly?

Now that should be fun!