Saturday, December 31, 2011

Last Sail of 2011 - Friday, Dec. 30th

Happy Nearly New Year to All!

Heading down the Paerdegat

Quint & I will be welcoming the New Year in our usual way - a good dinner (steak, the rest of my chard & whatever TQ comes up with for another side, yum!) and a movie at home, avoiding the masses and letting us get up early enough in the morning to go join the annual Sebago Canoe Club New Year's Day Frostbite Paddle and Rolling Session. I'm actually posting while making my contribution to the post-paddle potluck. I'd considered spam musubi but that would've taken a little more ambition than I was able to come up with, plus a musubi mold - maybe I'll do that for the season opener, but for tomorrow, it's My Mom's Sugared Pecans.

So I'll be starting out the year in a kayak as usual - but my goodness, Holly and Jim the Sailing Co-Chairs (plus my frostbiting friend Chris) must actually be turning me into a little bit more of a sailor than I used to be, 'cause my last boating excursion of 2011 was NOT in my trusty Romany, but in the Sunfish known as Baby Blue.

This was pretty much weather driven. I've been on vacation for the last 2 weeks, and TQ and I got in some nice paddles over that time, the last one on Tuesday when we simply paddled straight out into a 20-kt headwind for an hour and a half or so on a gray and rainy day & then turned around & surfed home in half the time - but Chris and I had had a great sail during my late-October "staycation" & he'd mentioned that if I had time over the holidays and the weather cooperated, he would be interested in another.

Well, boy, did the weather ever cooperate on Friday. Unfortunately that was on a day when Chris had an unbreakable engagement, but fortunately (because I won't sail alone in the wintertime), Holly the Sailing Co-Chair was available & up for a sail.

Weather came out even better than forecast - up until Thursday night it had been showing winds around 9 kts, with a pretty good chance of drizzle. The drizzle abruptly vanished from the forecast Thursday evening and was replaced with "partly sunny" -- and in the end, there wasn't even any "partly" about it. Sunny, high was around 51, and just enough breeze to keep the boats moving. We did a counterclockwise circle around Canarsie Pol. We agreed afterwards that there was nothing aerobic about it (although I did get to huffing and puffing a little bit when I saw Holly do a roll-tack and asked her about it & she tried to teach me - in the end I decided I would probably do better to come back to those in the summertime when falling backwards off of your boat is fun but I did work up a sweat trying it a few times) but what a lovely leisurely end to my 2011 boating year!

Here are a few more pictures from the sail. What a day.

Looking up the Paerdegat.

Holly, just outside the bridge

Heading out into the bay

Holly said there should be a picture of me, so I took one!

Lazy downwind leg behind Canarsie Pol. Holly gave me some pointers on sailing by the lee, great conditions for playing with stuff like that.

A million brants flew by us, hrrrnk! hrrrnk! hrrnk! There was a loon out there too, we didn't see it but we heard the unmistakable laugh a couple of times.

Bye bye brants, and bye bye Holly - I'd lost track of my steering scrambling to get a picture of Holly with the brants it the background! BTW, just click on any of the pictures to get a bigger version - this one you can't see the brants too well in the smaller one but they ARE there.

Sparkles & wake. We're not sure the wind even got up to the 8kts that had been called for, but there was always enough to keep the boats moving - launching to landing, our circumnavigation of Canarsie Pol was completed in an hour and a half.

Back up the Basin -

Dock, sweet dock.

And that's it for 2011 here on Frogma - Hau'oli Makahiki Hou to all, see you in 2012!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

NYC Holiday Windows 2011

34th St. - Empire State Building and the entrance to Macy's. From here, I got one of the Chanukah faces of the Empire State Building (East and West were blue & white, North & South red and green).

It was a little bit late, but how could I skip my annual post about my annual trip to see the holiday windows with my friend Mandy? We started doing this in '09, and it's really starting to feel like a holiday tradition. I'd been doing a holiday walk through the Rockefeller Center area for a long time, but it's more fun to go with a friend. I'm posting a few pictures here - if you enjoy my "New Yorky" posts, you can go see more on Flickr.

We usually start with dinner at an Italian restaurant up in the east 60's; it's a favorite of Mandy's but being that far north, it's outside of the area we'd usually consider when choosing a dinner spot -- but with our favorite windows (Bergdorf's and Tiffany's) starting near 57th street, it works pretty well. This year, since I was on vacation & she's looking for work, we decided to experiment with reversing the order of the day - we started at Macy's and went north, finishing with dinner. That was nice in that it put those 2 favorites at the end of the route, but we'll be going back to the old routine next year because hooo, the crowds were insane! Macy's did have some special windows - magic marionettes on a magic star making ornaments out of wishes and rhinestones, but mostly rhinestones. I think we would've liked them but there were masses of people & no crowd control & we left pretty quickly because it just wasn't fun, you couldn't get to the windows without indulging in behavior more suited to the gridiron. We've seen crowds but never that bad.

The mobs may have had something to do with the very pleasant weather (windy for boating, but perfect for touristication), but we also think that maybe starting with dinner around 6 helped to put our sightseeing time back to an hour when at least parents of the smallest children would have already headed for home.

Fleeing Macy's, we headed on over to 5th Avenue. Our next stop was Lord & Taylors - we always like this one, they always do classic NYC holiday scenes with animated figures, like this park scene:

Winter wonderland -

They had a fun twist this year in that they'd found a piece of advertising artwork, circa 1941, in their archives - it was entitled "What Is Christmas Made Of?" and showed a St. Nick with all sorts of holiday scenes incorporated in his suit:
Next stop - Lord & Taylor's

They posed that same question to a number of children's organizations and asked the kids to do their own illustrations, and they took those pictures and framed them and used those to frame the windows - and in some cases even blew up some of the images and incorporated them.
Christmas Tree Ride -

I still remember how cool I thought it was when I won a prize (a gift certificate, and I still have the little beanbag elephant I got with it!) in a coloring contest when I was in 4th grade and had my picture go up the wall in the Mare Island Navy Exchange for a little while - I can't imagine how much these kids must have enjoyed seeing their artwork being admired by millions of people.

Rock Center Angel
Next stop was Rockefeller Center.

Rockefeller Center
Once again, hordes of people.

Sak's Light Show
We paused to watch the Sak's Fifth Avenue Light Show. They used the entire front of the building for a projection screen showing a dance of bubbles & snowflakes. We noticed quite a bit of clockwork imagery in various displays this year - wonder if it was the Hugo Cabret effect? Later on we crossed the street to go look at the windows. Sak's used to be another favorite; they'd pick one of the season's crop of holiday picture books and they'd build animated scenes from it in their windows, but then last year they threw that concept out the window and just went kind of weird:

Sort of the same general idea as the Bergdorf's windows that I always like so much, but without as much commitment to taking whatever the theme is to the absolute nth degree of crazed, lavish opulence (hey, let's take this polar bear taxidermy form and completely cover it it with six hundred miles of upholstery fringe!). Meh. This year's were a little better, in fact they were tied in with the bubble-machine theme of the light show, the idea was that the bubbles were being produced by elaborately dressed mannequins operating machinery...interesting, but still didn't grab us. We moseyed, sidled, and elbowed our way on.

But before that...we had a mission to complete in Rockefeller Center.

Angel chocolate box

On past the tree and the rink again - glad I stopped to take pictures and watch the skaters the day before I went to Michigan because there was no way that was happening this time. I did get one nice shot - the little fold-out viewfinder screen on the back of the Lumix is wonderful for this sort of periscopic photography!

The rink & the tree

After that & the quick look at the Sak's windows, we had 2 more stops before dinner - both favorites, but Tiffany's totally blew us away this year. Their display windows are designed to showcase jewelry, and their holiday window designers always create beautiful little sets within that limited space. This year, though, they outdid themselves with a carousel theme - with the little jewel-case windows framed with carousel-art facings, complete with lights!


They'd framed out the windows even further with beveled & etched mirrors, and inside of those...well, I know it's the wrong season, but it was like looking into the most wonderful sugar egg ever made. Look - that's a little teeny Tiffany's in there -

Looking up the street -

You can't see it in that shot, but if you move over a little bit - look, just around the corner at the end of the street - there's a tiny carousel -

A tiny carousel comes into view

And in the rest of the windows, the carousel animals break loose and canter through a miniature New York (that is a scale model of the Gothic Bridge in Central Park.

The runaway carousel creatures dance across Central Park's Gothic Bridge

I loved that one, but possibly the coolest from a miniature-scenic-design perspective was this lovely exercise in forced perspective - a close call between a tiny sleigh and a flyaway carousel horse high above Central Park. Again, you can't really see it, but there's a tiny carousel that comes into view - and as you move towards the edge of the frame, the Hudson River and the far shore come into view. Amazing!

High above Central Park -

Turning away from the last window (and I did leave a couple unshown), there's the snowflake that hangs at the intersection of 5th Avenue and 57th street...

and, one last shot from Tiffany's.

which I learned, literally moments before adding that picture, is actually the Unicef Snowflake. I never knew that before, but when I went to post the picture I thought "What is the story on that snowflake, anyways - I know it's famous, but why?", and now I know!

We finished off the sightseeing part of the evening with a visit to the strange but beautiful worlds of the Bergdorf Goodman windows. This year's theme was "The Carnival of the Animals". For looking at, my favorite was the "Testing the Waves" windows, crowded with mosaic fish (insert terrible pun about tilefish here ______)

Carnival of the Animals - Testing the Waves

And for oohing and aaahing over the sheer painstaking labor of creation, this one:
Carnival of the Animals -
with the animal figures crafted of cut paper.

Porcupaper? Paperpine? Whatever, isn't he lovely?

Hope you enjoyed this little slice of "New Yorky"! And again, if you want to see the other half of the pictures, they're all right here.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

How Does My Garden Grow?

Bonnie Frogma, all a-gog-ma,
How does your garden grow?

With onions, sage, rosemary and thyme
and loads of chard, whaddayaknow!

Just picked YESTERDAY from my garden at Sebago, after a fun paddle with TQ (winds gusting to 20 kts, we just paddled straight into the wind for a couple of miles & then turned around & surfed home, woo hoo!). I've just added a generous amount d to a big pot of lamb stew that's simmering on the stove all afternoon. TQ took some for the delicious chicken soup he made us for dinner last night, a friend's chickens got some less-prime leaves for a treat this morning, the stuff in the bowl went back in the fridge, and there's still more to pick in the garden. I'd planned to pick everything yesterday & freeze today if I had more than I thought I could use, but NOAA said the rain wouldn't start until 4 and NOAA lied, it was absolutely dumping by the time we got off the water around 3:30. I went out to my garden and picked before I took my drysuit off but it was just too yucky to keep going too long, so there's still quite a bit more to pick.

Did I mention it's December 28th?

Not sure whether this says more about the mildness of the winter so far, or the toughness of chard. Either way, I love it!

PS - ha! I was going to ask if anyone wanted to take credit for "all a-gog-ma" - I remembered that from a very silly 2009 post that was based on a lot of very funny comments people had left on another post. Forgot I'd thrown in a few of my own, though - "all a-gog-ma" was actually one of 'em!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Va Va Voom!

Off for the annual trip to look at the holiday windows...but gee, I'm looking a little zaftig here in this picture that TQ took on Christmas Eve Day. Maybe I should stay away from that infamous candy store window!

Naaaah...seriously, TQ took this photo after my 2nd try at inflating my new life jacket during our Christmas Eve Day paddle. Surprise, surprise, it works a lot better when you read the manual & set it up right! And man, when this thing inflates off the canister, it REALLY inflates - I think I'd stopped at halfway when I'd manually inflated for the pictures. I did a self-rescue with the vest inflated - it definitely makes things trickier having to work around this suddenly great big enormous chest, but it's totally doable and on the plus side, it's a lot easier to drain your boat well to begin with. I did paddle with it blown up for a while, and that's fine, the airbag is all in front of your chest or on your back so it's not it the way at all (I was even able to roll with it blown up) but I did have to loosen the straps to breathe comfortably!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve 2011, Jamaica Bay

Why You Need to Test Your Gear, Part 2: How It's Supposed To Work, And How I Probably Screwed It Up.

Relatively Shiny New Lifejacket - Kokatat Sea02. Purchased because it was the absolute best fit of all the lifejackets Randy had at New York Kayak Company when the poor old Lotus L'Ocean I'd bought from him back when I started gave up the ghost after over a decade of faithful service.

Well, goodness, it's been a while since my Failed (Yet Somehow Still Successful) Gear Test - holiday stuff, a wedding to attend in Michigan (yes, there WILL be a post about what Canoe-Buildin' Uncle is working on these days, he's got a couple of very nice projects in the workshop), and then just trying to wrap up work for the year. I'm on vacation until January now, and I'm hoping to need to do some good end of year trip reports...but first, yoicks, I really need to finish off with this unfinished gear test - because until I do, I'm, er, kindasorta paddling with a non-CG-compliant lifejacket. I need to do my second attempt at a test as soon as I get a nice day to do it and a couple of friends to keep an eye on me and hopefully film my hopefully successful second attempt. After that, I can re-arm the doohickey that makes it all work and then, yay, I'm legal again!

So tonight, I wanted to share how the device is supposed to work, and the stupid mistake I made that made it NOT work.

I'll just start off with an excerpt from the test, which I did in early December because we're getting to the point where a person with a hybrid inflatable lifejacket really wants to know that she can actually make it inflate. This was pretty much the outcome:

After I climbed back into my boat, I took a good close look at the device that was supposed to trigger the inflation and...d'oh! discovered I'd made a completely idiotic mistake. I must have been in a rush setting it up because I clearly neither read the instructions or even looked at the simple trigger device closely. Hindsight 20/20, and I'm glad I had the foresight to make sure that the first time I tried the thing WAS under very controlled circumstances.

Here, with a whole lot of pictures, is how it's supposed to work.

The jacket is constructed with PVC foam, same as most normal lifejackets - just a lot less. It has some inherent flotation - seven and a half pounds, when new. My old one, by comparison, had 15.5. The potential limitations of this reduced flatation are VERY clearly spelled out in the warning label inside the vest:

Might not be the right vest for somebody who's not really comfortable in the water. I did swim in it right away, it definitely floats me, but a lot lower.

What covers for the missing flotation? An extra layer built into the lifejacket.

Looks like a paddlefloat, works like a paddlefloat. The air bladder covers the entire front panel -

goes over one shoulder -

and covers the padded area of the back.

When something goes seriously wrong, you pull the tab

and if it's set up right, go from that svelte, low-profile 7.5 pounds of flotation

to a Stay-Puft-esque 22 pounds.

What makes this work, if you've actually read the instructions and been reasonably careful in setting it up, is a very simple little doohicky - a valve with a lever attached to it. In armed mode, the lever nestles neatly into a little slot on the side of the valve. When you jerk the deployment tab, the arm swings down.

Now, nothing happens here because I haven't got it set up - this was just to show the mechanism. Readying it for use requires a couple of other pieces that come with vest:

A cartridge of pressurized C02, and a tiny green plastic pin. You get 2 of each because (as I've shown) you really do need to test the thing once - the spare is for the test run.

The cartridge screws into the top of the valve.

Remember the little hole in the swing arm?

When the arm is properly slotted home ready for use, that hole and the hole in the plastic housing of the valve line up. The green pin is designed to slide in and LOCK there.

Now we're ready:

Once the green pin is in there, the only way it's coming out again is by being broken out - it essentially serves as a seal, and if it's gone, that means the lever's been pulled.

And speaking of's the last bit in how it works. The C02 cartridge is sealed.

Inside the gray plastic housing, there's a little metal spike. As the lever swings open when you jerk the tag, the spike pushes up into the seal of the C02 cylinder.

I couldn't get a good picture of the spike, but here's what it did to a little plug of tinfoil -



And that's all there is to it.

So how did I manage to screw up something so simple?

The green pin was the giveaway. I don't remember the circumstances under which I "armed" my new lifejacket - but I was clearly in some sort of big rush & just didn't look at the instructions or the device to see how it worked.

Instead, I must've just pulled it partway out from the pocket where it's hidden -

Said, "Oh, yeah, cylinder goes here, pin goes here, yay, let's paddle" -

and here's what I didn't see - until I discovered that the green pin was unbroken after a whole lot of yanking & looked a little closer.

I actually broke the pin trying to get it back out to reset for another try - shows that it's seriously designed to go in and stay in, and I'm told by one who knows that the Coast Guard knows to look for that bit of green plastic - without that seal saying the the jacket is properly set up, it won't pass inspection.

Looking forward to doing a hopefully more successful test - then setting up the 2nd set right!

Thus endeth the geek-out. Geeky enough for you?