Saturday, August 27, 2016

Coney Island Fireworks Paddle

Last night, a friend and I pulled off a paddle I've been wanting to do for ages, paddling from Sebago to Coney Island for the fireworks which are set off every Friday night from the first weekend in June through the Friday before Labor Day at the Coney Island Cyclones stadium. I realized earlier in the week that there were only 2 left this year, checked the tides, and discovered that last night's timing was just about perfect. The weather cooperated too, this is a highly weather-sensitive trip since you are heading out of the shelter of Jamaica Bay and into the more open water of the Lower Harbor, and kayaks aren't allowed to land along the swimming beaches of Coney Island and Brighton Beach. Winds of 8 kts, 1 foot waves was fine. I posted it on the club's google group early in the week.

We launched at about 6:50; I would've liked to be on the water sooner but I left work a little late and public transportation wasn't quite cooperative enough, but it all worked out fine; my timing had included time for a stop on the beach just beyond the Marine Park Bridge, because of the landing issues beyond there, and as it worked out, the friend who joined me and I were both OK with staying in our boats for the duration. We got to Coney Island by 9:20 and then there was a bit of a wait -- the fireworks schedule I'd seen said 9:30 to 10:15, and this turned out to be the time range for the start of the show, not the overall duration (I should've guessed that, a 45 minute fireworks show is like Macy's 4th of July level, not weekly minor league baseball fun level), but it was lovely sitting just off the beach, and we entertained ourselves for quite a while with making the bioluminescent critters light up. I'd been splashing in the water with my hands when I hit something round and slimy; I guessed it was a comb jelly and I stirred my paddle through the water, remembering seeing them light up when disturbed by a paddle stroke in Rhode Island a few years ago. First try nothing happened but a little later I got a couple to light up, and when Margrethe saw that she tried it too, and I think we sat there stirring the water with our paddles for a good ten minutes! There were comb jellies, as I'd guessed, and then some smaller creatures that just flashed in little pinpoints of light. Far from the amazing bioluminescent bay TQ and I and the friends we went sailing with in January 2014 got to visit in Vieques, but fun to see right there in our own local water. 

Fireworks finally started I think around 9:50 - I was a little worried about the lateness, but it turns out they wait for the end of the game, and any concerns I had were mostly allayed by the presence of a few dozen motorboats that were waiting a little farther offshore. There'd been a few when we arrived and then at some point I turned around and realized that an entire fleet had turned up!

The fireworks were great, we were almost directly underneath them. In fact, I backed up at one point when a firework that featured glittering sparks that fell towards the water - some of them were still glittering when they hit the water, and in fact, as Margrethe and I were leaving after the show, we found a floating ember that took a surprisingly long time to die!

I called this one an "exploratory" since I hadn't tried it before; it went off pretty much exactly as I'd planned it. It does make for a very late night, we returned to the club at 12:30 (I'd just estimated "after midnight"), and it's a long paddle (nearly 19 miles), so I'm thinking I should look at shorter distances to make it more appealing to more clubmates - it was awesome having them going off right over our heads like that, and having the background of the Wonder Wheel and the Cyclone and the rest of the amusement park rides was really neat, but I think the view from anywhere from the Marine Park Bridge out to Kingsborough College (eastern end of Coney) would still be pretty enjoyable while being much less intensive. But I will do this version again for myself and anybody who's feeling ambitious - this was FUN.

As for myself, I was delighted to find that although I did feel this paddle, it was well within my ability; this is the longest paddle I've done since I finished with cancer treatments and surgery in spring, and I've clearly improved since my 11-mile paddle to visit the Hokule'a in Dead Horse Bay - trip report here, I mentioned that I was going to be sore the next day (and I was) but what I didn't mention was that I totally ran out of gas about 3 miles out from the club and absolutely CRAWLED back (I made fun of myself for going solo but in a way, that may have been for the best, as I was able to just focus on getting back to Sebago without worrying about making people wait for me). This one, I was definitely feeling like I'd had a good workout by the end, but there was nothing like that. I've been feeling like I've been getting it back together, nice to have confirmation like that!

And that's enough trip report writing - on with the pix! Click for slideshow view. 


Unknown said...

I was about to ask what "making the bioluminescent critters light up" meant, but then you explained it. That is amazing that there are things like that floating around near a beach. I always picture the ones like that as being very deep down in the water.

19 miles seem like an incredibly long way. Your arms must be incredible. I know it's a different sort of exercise entriely, but when I run 6 miles, I feel as though I am going to drop.

bonnie said...

I was tickled to see them! I actually haven't seen bioluminescence here in NYC, although I have seen comb jellies, which I saw light up on a paddle in Rhode Island a few years back. I've only seen them in the daytime but I was pretty sure that that was what I'd touched, it was just the right shape and size.

19 miles was a good workout! You mostly use your core muscles for paddling, first thing an instructor will work on teaching a beginner paddler is to use the whole body, not just the arms - if you just use your arms they get to feeling like they are going to fall off after a couple of miles. Once you get an efficient forward stroke, the distances you can travel open up like magic - especially if you've got tidal currents you can use to your advantage, as we do here in NYC.