Friday, August 30, 2013

Time for the Tugs!

Here we are again, Aloha Friday before Labor Day weekend, and here in NYC, Labor Day Weekend means IT'S TIME FOR THE TUGS! That's right, once again this Sunday a whole thundering herd of the harbor's heavy horses come out to play, going head to head in the 21st Annual Great North River Tugboat Race and Competition. Tons of fun and admission is free (although for $25 you ride the spectator boat, that's a very reasonably-priced ticket for a great way to see the race, although you miss out a bit on the on-shore stuff). The trouble er excitement kicks off with the Post Parade at 10 a.m. and as usual, the event is centered around Pier 84, North River, at the Hudson River end of 44th Street. For full information, visit

Sadly, so sadly, I don't think I'm going to be able to make it this year (in fact if I don't get my rear in gear today I'm going to be working on Sunday, bah...) but here are some of my favorite shots from last year.
Oh, and that winning line toss above? They made it look easy but with the bollard that close to the fence, that took a whole lot of skill - as I recall about 80% of the throws missed!  

For more from last year, click on the "Great North River Tugboat Race" tag below - I'm not sure whether I had more fun at the race itself, or writing things up (especially the Post Parade post where I went completely bonkers - in a good way though, I think - looking up the vital stats of every single boat in the race)!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Osprey, Canarsie Pol, 8/24/2013

 As usual, click on the picture for a better view. 
I've been wanting to go out and try taking some bird pictures on Canarsie Pol, using the Lumix  TQ gave me for Christmas a couple of years ago with the zoom lens I got after the
Space Shuttle flew into town, for quite some time. I just wanted to go out to the island, find myself someplace to sit quietly for a while and see what wandered by. On Saturday, I finally had a good opportunity - a day with good weather and no particular plans. 

I would rethink my timing for another time, I think - this time I set out a little while before low water, but at that point the beaches and mudflats of the pol are so extensive that the birds were really a little too far away - they were mostly foraging along the waterline. Also got myself into the hour when the midges were attacking in clouds - had some bugspray in my boat and considered trying that 'cause the light was just getting into that lovely golden hour thing - but there's usually an egret fishing near the Sebago dock and I decided to flee the little biters and go see if he would pose for me (he did). I did get some OK shots, though, including this nice shot of one of the Pol's pair of ospreys.

More shots from the day here.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Nearly Blue Moon Paddle, 8/20/2013

Or, Summer: It Isn't Over Yet Part 2.
Twilight & Rising Moon in Jamaica Bay, Tuesday, 8/20

I haven't replaced my Optio WP yet, but fortunately my friend Joan got a couple of lovely shots while she was out on the bay on Tuesday night, which was an absolutely perfect summer night. August in NY had started out with some oddly autumnal-feeling weather, the sort that makes the back-to-school ads start feeling a little more reasonable (it's funny how much I still hate seeing back-to-school ads too early in the summer even though it's been years since the days when summer vacation was part of my life), but after a short run of cooler days, August remembered that it was August and warmed back up again. I may be speaking too soon but it's been a nice summer so far, only one heat wave that I recall and as heat waves go it wasn't a bad one, I had to put the chocolate in the 'fridge but I was reasonably comfortable as long as I kept the fans on and had cool drinks (I haven't got A.C.).

I've been wanting to get post-work paddles back into my routine. I don't remember exactly when they fell out. It was definitely easier to get to Pier 63 from my office than it is to get to the Paerdegat, and I have over the years taken on more responsibilities at work -- actually come to think of it, the year that I let my post-work paddles slip may have been during an interim period when I was handling the processing of a certain set of incoming payments. 

That work was slated to eventually be handed off to our Accounts Receivable division, and before that even happened we brought in a very competent temporary employee who took the processing off of my hands, but for a period of a few months I had that on top of my usual duties, it was very cut-and-dry, the money simply had to be entered into the system on a timely basis, that was my job, and I did what I had to to get it done - and that may have been when I lost the paddles. That was several years ago though, the work has long since been transferred to the AR division and although I still have plenty of work and occasional deadlines, it's never been back at that incessant level of grind.

The catch was that once I'd allowed myself to drop habit of packing up my paddling clothes (a matter of a small backpack this time of year) and getting myself out to the club once or twice a week after work, I never got back into it. I'm always thinking I should do that & last Tuesday was a great reminder of how good that would be.

I didn't actually pick Tuesday night because of the moon. I was going because of the garden. It hadn't rained for a while. I'd thought I would go to the club on Sunday but after 2 long weekends away and a fun day in Manhattan on Saturday, I just ended up taking a lazy day at home. The forecast had had a chance of rain showing for Sunday night/Monday but there was never more than a spritzing, not enough for the garden, so by Tuesday I knew the garden was going to be pretty thirsty.

I usually go do my watering before work but this time I remembered that Steve the Paddling Chef has been leading Tuesday night paddles and I decided that the garden could probably wait until the evening.

It was a great call. I hadn't even been thinking about the moon, just that I was going to the club anyways and might as well get in some time on the water -- but oh, the moon.

I almost gave up, too. I'd decided to try a different way of getting to the club from work. There are a few different ways to do that and none of them are good, and every now and then I'll try something different, just to see if I can magically get there faster. This time, I tried the 5 train to Brooklyn College, then switched to the B103. I thought the 5 would be express in Brooklyn but it turned out it wasn't, and there end up being a LOT of stops on the local track. I left work at 5:45. The Tuesday night paddling crew was meeting at 6:30 and at that point I was still riding a lumbering train in the proverbial hole in the ground. 6:45 or so I got to Brooklyn College and still had a bus to catch and ride. Bus didn't come and didn't come and didn't come. TQ had watered the garden for me (he's at one of the city pools for the summer and his "weekends" are Mondays and Tuesday, and with Tuesday being a lovely day he took the dog for a canoe ride, lucky dog), so getting to the club wasn't a requirement. Home was a 15 minute walk from where I was waiting and it was tempting - but in the end I said to myself "You've missed the crew, but you have a bag of paddling gear and it's a beautiful night. Just go paddle."

I was glad I listened to that voice, not the "awww crap, let's just throw in the towel and go home" voice. I got out there to find a happy garden full of veggies ready for picking. I picked them. There was a note in the clubhouse from Steve the Paddling Chef telling me where they were going so I could try to find them. I left my own note with a cuke and a couple of tomatoes in case I missed them, my garden had produced more than I thought I could finish and I hoped somebody would take them. I hit the water as the sky was going royal blue, and as I paddled down the Paerdegat the moon was rising, looking like a glorious Jersey peach in the sky. Hanging low over this crazy new light-show that marks the channel under the Paerdegat (I was wondering how many motorboats were going to run aground with the pilings that used to mark the channel gone, that is the only spot that a boat with any kind of draft could make it into the basin), it was almost surreal. Here's Joan's picture of the new set-up: 

Passing under the bridge, I made a beeline for Floyd Bennett. I passed one paddler heading back for the club, and saw another single kayak light in closer to the shore - nearly went to see if it was Steve and company but decided they would be better lit than that, so I kept going. That turned out to be Joan and she said she'd hollered but I was a little too far out to hear - I'd hit a good paddling stride and there was actually a constant little swish from my bow as it cut through the smooth water, that and the hum of traffic from the belt may have made it hard to hear a "Halloooo!". Nice to know she was out there though and I'm delighted to have her pictures to share!

A skimmer circled me at one point - was that my first skimmer of the summer? May have been, they're evening and night birds and I've only been out by day.

The sky got darker and the moonlight sparkled on the bay as it does. Beautiful! 

I kept looking for my friend's lights; as I passed the hangar and the police building at Floyd Bennett and saw no more lights I started thinking maybe I'd somehow missed them. But the stress of the workday and the long commute to the club were melting away and I was just happy to be out & moving. I thought about doing my usual old post-work run, to the Marine Park bridge & back, then decided to just go to the seaplane ramp, I hadn't checked the tides for the evening but the water had been VERY high when I launched and I thought I might be heading into the start of the ebb on the trip back - the bus trip home gets longer and longer the later it gets so I didn't want to be out all night.

That was another good call. I came around the last corner and there were a whole flock of little white lights dancing on the water in front of me! Steve and the gang hadn't somehow slipped past me on their way back - it was a pretty solid group of paddlers and they'd gone all the way to the bridge. They'd stopped at the seaplane ramp to do a few moonlight rolls. I joined them and then paddled back to the club with them.

There was a light breeze from the west and I found myself a bit of space tried the closed-eyes paddling exercise I used to like to do on my solo night paddles - when you're nearing the basin following the shore, you get into an area that's too shallow for motorboats, and in that area, when there's a nice non-shifty breeze, I like to close my eyes and see if I can hold my course using the breeze. I had a couple of stints where I got up to a hundred strokes this time - it's actually sort of startling to do that & then open my eyes and still be pointed straight at the Paerdegat lights! Of course I also had a couple where I got to 35 strokes and the feel of the wind was different and I couldn't quite seem to get it back to where it was and then I'd chicken out and open my eyes and of course I'd have wandered sixty degrees off-course - that's why it's so much fun when I get it right, though.

We got back to the club and gobbled up my spare veggies on the spot (I was still trying to give them away and Margaret sensibly suggested that we should just cut them up and eat them, what a good idea).

Gorgeous night. I should try to do this again at least one more time - it's still summer for a little while - the blue moon says so!

Now, about that blue moon -- did anyone else go look at a moon-phase calendar for August and get confused? 

moon phase calendar from

I had always thought that a Blue Moon was always the 2nd full moon in a month. So what was so blue about August's Blue Moon? Well, it turns out that there's another kind of Blue Moon that most people don't know about, and that's the kind that we had this week (actually on Wednesday night). Click here for an excellent explanation.  

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Summer - it isn't over yet!

Lioni mozzarella from Whole Foods, which is actually open when a person finds herself thinking thoughts of caprese salad when wrapping up at work a little before 9 pm (trying to wrap up a few things before I take another long weekend), and not too far from my office. Everything else from my garden, picked on Tuesday night, and lots more where that came from. And oh are the tomatoes sweet.

And guess what else I did at the club on Tuesday night? Woohoo!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Tourist In My Own Town

What a fun day I had on Saturday. Friends from college were in town, and although I'd originally thought that Saturday was going to be my long-planned quiet day of seeing what sort of bird pictures I could get if I went to Canarsie Pol with the good camera and the zoom lens, when  they asked me to come play tourist with them I went with it. It's good to get that call every now and then -- I live in NYC, one of the world's most popular tourist destinations, but I get so caught up in my day-to-day routines here (work, boyfriend, garden, paddling club) that I just forget that it's fun to go see those things that bring all those people here every now and then - and also to catch up with college friends (and their very cool kids). The birds will be there next week. 

First stop - Empire State Building.

 Tourists and tour salespeople size each other up on 5th Avenue. 
We had agreed to meet at 11, but my friends stopped to ogle Grand Central (their words), which I was glad to hear because since the place has been utterly ogleworthy since the renovations. I admit that I did sort of like the way that before the cleaning, the celestial roof of the main hall was almost unnoticeable unless you looked very closely, it was like a special secret reward for stopping in your hurry to get where you're going, but after the deep cleaning of the late 90's, the station truly retook its rightful place as one NYC's most spectacular indoor public spaces - I would've suggested stopping there if I'd thought of it, so I was genuinely glad to hear that they had. While I waited, I enjoyed some excellent peoplewatching with the dance of the sharks and the marks out in front of the Empire State Building. My friends turned up around 11:15 and we went on in.

Who says it's lonely at the top?

The lines were long but they were moving well. Looking at the velvet-rope mazes that we ducked through, I imagine that this random pleasant summer morning had only produced a fraction of the visitors they sometimes get. Must be absolutely awful on days when holiday "doin's" like the 4th of July fireworks or the Macy's Thanksgiving day parade bring throngs. Not too bad for us although we were amazed at how long the layout of the lines was - P. compared them to the lines for a popular ride at Disney World.  They've arranged them so that they wind through 2 floors. The 1st winds through a display about the retrofitting that's been done to the building to save energy; the 2nd is up on the 80th where they have some interesting stuff about the original construction. There are big windows up there which they have frosted up to about 10 feet up so that nobody sees the view before they're supposed to. We were a bit baffled by that, we thought that being able to see out for a preview would have been nice, but I guess they're trying to give the first-timers a good ta-daa moment when they step off of the elevators on the 87th floor and see the view, which is, of course, a fine one. 

 Here, looking south. 

Looking down at 34th St. Note Macy's, marked by the red banner and the large painted "Macy's".

 Northeast view, with (L to R) MetLife building, Chrysler building,East River, Roosevelt Island, and the UN (just barely cut off by the right margin). Queens in the distance.

 My friends getting silly for a picture (they do that a lot :D ).

Lobby of the Empire State Building

Next stop (after a pizza stop for lunch) - Mood Fabric. I didn't know the dog was famous, but he was definitely cute. Turns out that his name is Swatch and he's been on TV lots, as this shop has been made famous by the television show "Project Runway".

 I've never watched it but P. and her daughter are big fans. Here's M. being overwhelmed by being here. 

It's an overwhelming store even for a non-watcher, though. I found myself "shopping" for fabrics for my theoretical mermaid parade costume. I think that if I ever do go in the Mermaid Parade I'll do better hitting Goodwill for a couple of old sparkly prom gowns to slice up. I apparently have very expensive tastes in fabric, no $10 a yard polyester for me, it was always the $50 iridescent silks and the $147 a yard hand-beaded stuff that caught my eye.

P. admires a roll, M. gets silly again, brother L. is amused by his silly sister.
 The excitement of visitng this shop was actually heightened by the fact that when we first got to 225 West 37th Street, we thought the place was closed, because we were looking at closed metal gates - but then Paige pointed upstairs, where it looked like lights were on. We walked into the building and the elevator operator must have seen that looking-for-Mood look on our faces, waved us right into his car and took us on up.

Next point of interest - Times Square. We just sort of walked/bulldozed our way through. Here are costume characters outside of the big Toys 'R' Us store.

Next stop - a good rest for tired feetses in Central Park. We sat here for ages. Lovely afternoon in the park. 

Next, we took the 57th street crosstown bus to Dylan's Candy Bar. What a dangerous store.

Nostalgic candy section:

At Dylan's, even the stairs are made of candy. The logo is done in Jelly Belly jelly beans.

Closer view of the steps. That's real candy embedded in them.

We had ice cream for dinner. Eight bucks for a single scoop was a bit of a shocker but it did make for a good break, and after that we found we had a little bit of energy left, and I'd mentioned that there are always some interesting public art installations in Madison Square Park, and the subway station outside of Dylan's was the exact right one to get there, so we went.

Reproduction of Edward Hopper's Nighthawks in the Flatiron Building Prow art space.

New York Life Insurance Building, on a reel.

In the park proper, we found this strange ropework wall. Baydog thought this for the hamburger supply for the Shake Shack when I posted it on Facebook, but it's more a monument to macrame (and maybe OCD). 

Actually reminded me of the Storm King Wall sculpture at the Storm King Art Center - only reproduced in miles and miles of knotted red plastic rope. Can't imagine how it was made. 

And that was it for the day -- I headed back on out to Brooklyn, while my friends went over to scout out getting back to Newark via Penn Station. All in all, a fun day, with an excellent sampling of the sights of Manhattan. 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Cocktails with Mark Covell?

So, sailor and otherwise salty friends - my friend Robert Haynes-Peterson, who has made himself an enviable career by writing about good food and drink, is going to an event hosted by Olympic medalist (Star class, Sydney 2000), AC sailor, and traditional boatbuilder Mark Covell next week. Robert isn't a sailor but he wants to have some good questions to ask and since I guess I'm the closest thing to a sailor he knows, he asked me to help him out. I threw this out on Facebook and I thought it might make a fun blog post, too. So - if you were going to a cocktail party with Mr. Covell, what would you ask him?

I already gave a few obvious answers - how did he get into sailing as a kid, what's his take on making sailing accessible and interesting to ordinary folks (yes, the old Saving Sailing debate, who doesn't have an opinion?), and maybe what's his take on where the AC designs have gone (this could be particularly interesting as Mark is a traditional boatbuilder, although after last May's loss of Andrew Simpson that could also be rather heavy for cocktail chat). 

I also told Rob to check out The Boat Project, that seems like something Mark might really enjoy talking about: 
Photo above swiped from that site, I'm hoping they won't mind!

PS - Happy National Rum Day!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Beach Cat Blog Break

No time to really blog but I just dug up this nice photo of the "elusive variegated beach cat" for Greg and Kris, who are moving to Kaneohe Bay and might find that a saily toy like this would be a nice addition to the surfboards. "Sail out, claim a sandbar, don't forget the sunscreen", I said in a comment on Greg's Facebook announcement of their imminent move to the windward side.

Originally posted here in May 2007 along with a few other Hawaiian critters, and I thought it would be nice to post again. Taken in Kailua. Or should we say Kailuaaaaah?

Note a little bit later in the day - Well, what a funny coincidence - maybe an hour after I'd posted this photo, which I took out at Kailua Bay's Mokulua Islands (aka "the Mokes") after TQ & I had paddled there on a couple of sit-atops rented from Bob Twogood, I stumbled across a GrindTV article about paddling to the Mokes on sit-atops rented from Bob Twogood. Always good to see Twogood Kayaks get a nice plug! 

Monday, August 12, 2013

Scenes Which Might Be Vaguely Familiar To My Dad

I've secretly replaced my usual aquatic content with photographs that my father might just recognize. Let's see if he notices! Update next day: He noticed that evening. He enjoyed seeing them. Interesting notes - the sundial wasn't there yet; the engineering quad wasn't as built up yet; Carpenter Hall opened while he was there, and the brew pub actually wasn't a brew pub yet when he was there. Actually now it's not a brew pub anymore anyhow, they brewed their own for years but not any more. They do have an impressive beer list - I checked them out online because when I saw "Brew Pub" on Google Maps I immediately thought that that might be a potential lunch spot. I'm glad I checked, the only food they have is popcorn. I went to the Short Stop Deli for a toasted sub instead, and then on my way out of town I stopped at Purity Ice Cream, which I'd spotted on my way into town and thought looked interesting. Good ice cream, well worth a visit!

Both businesses had been around since my dad's time but there's an area called Collegetown that's right outside the university, he said he didn't get much further out into town than that. 

picture from 

Warmest thanks to my wonderful hosts for the weekend, who didn't just give me a place to sleep, but totally played tour guide for this first-time visitor to their lovely area (and even let me borrow an iphone to take pictures since I found myself cameraless after unfortunately failing to properly secure the Optio prior to rolling in Cayuga Lake). What a nice part of the world, what nice people, and what a great event Women Swimmin' is. So glad my friend Louise, who was in charge of the event's Kayak Safety Team, invited me, and that I was able to go. I had a blast.

Friday, August 09, 2013

Orient Point - let's go surfin' now!

Just a few more pictures from our Friday evening rough-water play session at Orient Point. Boy, was it beautiful out there - we really lucked out on the weather, it was a little sticky as it always seems to be, but the summer's main heat wave had broken and the rain that fell on Saturday morning was light and didn't slow us down at all. I'll let the computer upload these while I scramble around getting ready for this weekend's fun in Ithaca!

As usual, click on the pictures for bigger, prettier versions.