Thursday, March 29, 2018

Gowanus Tour Snippet - the Carroll Street Bridge

I've been meaning to post about the excellent and informative tour of the Gowanus neighborhood, led by urban planner and Gowanus Dredgers co-founder Owen Foote, that I joined earlier in March, but haven't had much time. I thought I would get a little bit of a start tonight with a few photos of the Carroll Street Bridge. I found this to be really interesting, I'm always kind of intrigued by machinery where you can actually see things working (I got such a kick out of the locking-through process on both my solo trip down the Hudson and the Erie Canal trip TQ and I took a couple of years back, and friends who've been reading this for a long time may remember me geeking out over actually getting to see a tugboat's rudder quadrant in action in Rudder Post).

The bridges on the Gowanus are all built to open so that boats can pass through. This one is not your usual drawbridge, though - this one, the entire bridge is mounted on rails. A stout cable is attached to the bridge, passing around a set of pulleys and into the structure that houses the machinery. When activated, the cables drag the entire bridge down the tracks into this clear space on the shore, then back into place once the boat's gone through. I'd never seen a bridge like this before, and it turns out that this one's one of only four left in the country (that detail courtesy of Forgotten NY, which also shares a funny movie clip featuring the bridge in action). It would be fun to see it happen, and it seems that schoolkids in the area sometimes actually get to go for a ride!

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Happy Spring 3

That's more like it!
"Just plain silly" label ends here.
New Yorky/real politics. Splendid day for a March for our Lives. Central Park and 81st Street. For more photos from the marchon Flickr - click here. 

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Happy Spring 2

Same daffodil, 12 hours later:

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Happy Spring

Technically, at least. 

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Gowanus Graffiti and Street Art Flickr Album

Poor TQ came down with a bug, so our plans for tomorrow are off, but I ended up going to the walking tour of the Gowanus Canal anyways, and it was great!

I was very interested in going on the tour because Owen Foote, the co-founder of the Gowanus Dredgers who was our guide today, is an architect and urban planner who's been involved in water use and ecological awareness in the Gowanus area for years. He's incredibly knowledgeable and as I expected, he gave an amazingly informative talk about the history and present time of the area as he led us on a walk that wound through the neighborhood, starting at the Smith and 9th street subway station and finishing at the northern end of the canal, where the water swirls and foams as the pumping station pours in water from the East River.

It was such a good tour, and I took so many pictures that I'm not even sure where to start, so I decided to start with the same thing Owen started us off with - street art! There's an amazing variety in the area, and our first stop on the tour was at the GOWANUS street mural. I've put together a flickr album of the art that particularly caught my eye today -- click here to visit. I hope you enjoy it! BTW, if you liked this post and you live in the area, keep an eye on the Dredgers website, they're going to start offering monthly art walks led by a local artist as one of their things to do once the weather warms up a bit. I will definitely be joining in on one of those!  

Friday, March 09, 2018

Choices Choices -

What a decision to make on Saturday! The Gowanus Dredgers are hosting a guided shorewalk along the Gowanus Canal, which is an area I've really never explored but find interesting. I shared that on Facebook, and moments later one of my Coney Island swimming friends said, "But wouldn't you rather come join us planting beach grass on Coney Island?"

Tough call! At this point I'm leaning towards the shorewalk just because it's shorter, I have some other things to do this weekend, and TQ and I are going to CT for a small family gathering on Sunday, so it's Saturday or bust. I can't remember the last time I've wished as hard that I could be in two places at the same time (or that one event was sure to happen again). Ah well! 

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Annual Admission That Mom Was Right

Kids hate to admit that their parents are right, but almost every winter since I moved to New York City, I have to admit that my mom was right about the snow.

My sister and I were lucky little Navy brats who got to grow up in Hawaii. Hawaii is an absolutely spectacular place to be a kid, and I loved it, but every year when Christmas rolled around and we'd put up the ersatz icicles and snowflakes and decorate the plastic tree (you could buy a real one but they were shipped over on a Matson container ship, cost a zillion dollars, and were well into dropping their needles by the time they made it to the supermarket parking lot), my sister and I would start to get wistful about white Christmases. We'd watch the Christmas movies, and the TV specials, and we'd see the beautiful snow scenes on the Christmas cards we'd get. Wouldn't it be neat, we would think, if it could just magically snow, just for the holiday? Snowball fights! Snow angels! Snow forts and igloos! Snowmen! Sledding! So many wonderful things!

My mom grew up in New Jersey (not Joisey, please, New Jersey, properly enunciated, she's from the areas that gave the Garden State its name). She grew up with snow, lots of it, every winter.

And when she would catch us mooning about the white stuff, she would try to explain the different between Hallmark-card snow and real snow. Real snow, she said, isn't all that neat. She would grant that it was pretty when it first fell - but then, she would continue, it doesn't go away. It hangs out, getting plowed and walked on and driven on, and it goes from beautiful white to dirty gray, and you're oh so ready for it to all be over.

My sister and I were skeptical back then - but now?

Yep, Mom was right. And this storm didn't even manage the new-fallen-snow prettiness part. Straight to frozen muck.

Come on, Spring! 

Monday, March 05, 2018


No, not the weird marshmallow candy. "Peeps" is the blanket term that birders use to describe the smaller members of the sandpiper family. Saw some on Saturday!

It was too windy for kayaking this weekend, but Saturday morning was beautiful and it looked like a good day for a shorewalk. I decided to repeat a walk I'd done in March 2016. That had been started out as my "annual winter duck walk", when I go to Sheepshead Bay and see if I can get any nice shots of the winter ducks that like to hang out there, but then I found my way down to the beach and even though it was snowing a bit, I decided to keep going, and did until I ran into water over by Gerritson Creek.

It was snowing a bit that day; it was actually warmer yesterday, although I puttered around at home too long and as I did that, clouds rolled in. By the time I got underway, there was one last streak of blue sky - but it was still a pleasant and reasonably warm day, so I went ahead with it.

No oystercatchers yet (these are really the bird that says spring to me, and in 2016 I actually saw my first ones of the season at the Gerritson Creek end of the walk) but plenty of other birds, including a couple of flocks of what I think are sanderlings. Love watching these little birds running around at the water's edge, and this time I spent some time trying to get some good photos. Someday I might need to splurge on a zoomier zoom lens but I got some OK shots this time! Click on any photo for a better view. 

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Saturday's Paddle

It wasn't a day when a lot of people would've looked out the window (let alone at the forecast three days out) and said "Ah, the perfect paddling day!"

Two things mainly - it was February, and it was going to rain.

But the wind was going to be light, and it was going to be relatively warm, but not too warm.

Too warm? That can happen as we head into Spring. Already happened last week, in fact - last Tuesday, it was sunny and gorgeous and got up pretty close to 80 degrees; I would've loved to play hooky from work to go for a hike, but even when it's that hot, you still need to dress for immersion, and this time of year that's a drysuit, so you're out there sweltering. It was great for lunch-hour errands, but mid-50's and gray is actually better for a winter paddle. And a little rain (and it was just a little) is no trouble when you're dressed for immersion.

I was not the only one who thought Saturday was a good paddling day - I got to the club and there were four or five others there with the same idea. It's so easy to get to chatting at the club and suddenly realize that you'd planned to launch half an hour ago; this time TQ was actually going to be picking me up at 6 on his way home from work (
we both have Sunday off and usually have dinner on Saturday and then hang out on Sunday; Sunday wasn't going to be as nice a paddling day, though) and I was planning to launch at 3 and be out for somewhere between two and two and a half hours, so I managed to pull myself away and launched right at 3.

Originally I was thinking of a longer paddle but I've had a slow recovery from the flu I had a month ago (hence the inactivity here, I just haven't been doing much) and haven't been in the best shape anyways. 2017 was supposed to be the year I got back in shape after a year of giving myself a break because I'd had cancer, but things didn't work out that way. Maybe 2018. Anyways, realizing I was not up to snuff health-wise yet, I decided to keep it short and sweet. High water was at 3 so instead of doing my usual 2+ hour exercise paddle, which is hanging a right and going to the Marine Park Bridge and back, I hung a left and went to the Cross-Bay Boulevard bridge. I definitely have a thing for going either to something or around something - whether it's an island or a point or a bridge, the distance of a lot of my paddles get determined by my looking at something and deciding I want to go there. I didn't set out to go to the bridge, but once I was paddling towards it it looked like a good goal. 

Ended up being a fine paddle. Just me and the birds out there. I always love that about paddling on Jamaica Bay in the wintertime - it's such a privilege to be in the middle of NYC and yet be alone in the middle of all of this space. There were a few people on the beach, but the only other boat I saw was the Coast Guard or maybe harbor police zipping by in a big orange RIB with their blue light flashing. For a minute I was afraid that somebody had called in a kayaker in distress from the Belt Parkway and they were coming to "save" me - I wasn't doing anything to cause alarm but it wouldn't be the first time that had happened to a Sebago club member! Fortunately that wasn't the case, they buzzed on past me without even veering towards me for a look. 

Seriously, if you're going to see one motorboat while out for a winter paddle, it's nice when it's the folks you'd want to be there if something happened to go wrong. 

Aside from that, it was just me and a fine assortment of winter birds -  brants, loons, buffleheads, and a lovely pair of mergansers, plus swans, mallards, Canada geese, and of course gulls (year-round denizens). I was very excited for a little while when I saw a spot of white on Elder's Point Marsh, there've been snowy owls around this winter and I thought it might be one, but it was a sign. I did actually go looking for an owl a couple of years ago and found one, but that was a paddle where I didn't have plans afterwards, so it was able to be pretty open-ended. 

I got to the bridge a little before 4:30, a little under an hour and a half after launch. That had included quite a bit of stopping for pictures and birds, plus a side trip to retrieve a stray balloon so some poor bird or fish wouldn't eat it and die, but I'd gone left because with high water at the same time as I was launching, that meant some assistance going home - I could feel the current building as I neared the bridge so I knew my planning was OK.

Going back, I mostly left the camera alone and just got into a good steady pace. I was back at the dock at 5:30. Eight miles in two and a half hours. I felt it, but not too badly.

Not the most exciting paddle I've ever done, but oh so good to be out there on the water for the first time in February (note later - actually I realized after I posted this that this was my first paddle of 2018 - see comments for how I managed to not know that when I wrote this). Hope I can make that happen again soon!

All pictures after this - click for a slideshow view.