Monday, July 29, 2019

Kayak Support for the 15th Annual Grimaldo's Mile

From what I've seen, the Mayor's Cup in Hoboken on Saturday went great. Meanwhile, I was helping out with the Coney Island Brighton Beach Open Water Swimmers'  (CIBBOWS) 15th annual Grimaldo's Mile swim race.

Grimaldo's Mile is named after a lifeguard who was really instrumental in turning Coney Island and Brighton Beach into the popular open water training ground it's become for NYC area aquatic athletes. It's funny - if somebody just stumbled across this blog today and just poked around in the last couple of years, they would think that recreational water access is just a normal thing here in NYC. That's getting to be the case now, and certainly was the case historically, but there was a rather large hiatus when the city's waterways got to be too polluted to play in.

The passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972 (thank you Pete Seeger & friends!) mostly stopped the river from being used as a legal dumping ground for industry, and the local waterways began a long, slow recovery, setting the stage for a renewed interest in recreational use.

That wasn't as much of a no-brainer as you might think, though. Perceptions of the water quality stayed bad for a long time -- when I started paddling in the late 90's, people's reactions when I told them about my new hobby generally involved cracks about how I must glow in the dark; I get a lot less of that and a lot more "That must be fun!" these days, which is really neat. Also, the impression I have is that NYC had lost the recreational traditions that naturally grow up in port cities, and with no recent history, and deep concerns about liability, the higher-up powers that be weren't entirely sure that opening up access was a really good idea.

It took people who were actually there on the waterfront and in a position to vouch for the idea to make it happen. There were a number of people and organizations to whom I would give credit for opening the waterways to the level of paddling and rowing we have here today, and I owe a lot to all of them.

Lifeguard Grimaldo Medrano was the guy who did that for the open-water swimmers. Before he took up their case, Coney Island and Brighton Beach lifeguards didn't let anyone swim outside of the jetties, which are spaced maybe 500 to 600 feet apart.

I started swimming at Coney Island far too late to meet him, but the love that my swimmer friends have for him is profound, and every Grimaldo's Mile is a tribute to him.

You can read more about him in a moving NY Times article I always like to share when I talk about this race - it tells his story way better than I could. Click here to read.

It was a beautiful morning at Coney Island and I had a wonderful time helping out. I always enjoy doing kayak support for CIBBOWS races - and this year was extra fun because my friend Steve the Paddling Chef has been doing some lap swimming and decided to give open water a try. Grimaldo's is a fantastic intro - my first open-water swim was in the Hudson, where just going to the beach isn't an option, and it was a little intimidating. I'd never swum any serious distance in water where I couldn't see, and the green murk of the Hudson was enough to freak me out a bit. Fortunately one of my paddling friends was doing swim support that day and came paddling up just as I stopped to tread water and think for a minute. Couldn't whuss out in front of Harry!

Steve did report a similar reaction (his open water experience had also been somewhere with tropical fish and coral), but he carried on just fine. The last few shots here are him finishing the race - I took about a million of him but I think these ones show the sequence pretty well, right down to the high-five with one of the Swim Angels (experienced swimmers who are there to encourage less experienced swimmers as necessary) as he left the water. There were a number of other Sebago Canoe Club folks paddling and we were all so excited to see him pull this off!

And then afterwards I joined another friend who'd volunteered in a roughly 3/4 mile swim. The water temperature was perfect for swimming. All in all, just a great day.

Photos from the day - click on any photo for a better view. 

Early morning in the Coney Island Aquarium's Education Hall
Registration underway
Buoys heading out
Marker buoys awaiting pickup

Education Hall filling up!
Paddling to the start - such a calm morning!

Starting Line - at Grimaldo's Chair in Brighton Beach
Swim Angels are ready!

Into the water

And they're off!

Heading for Stilwell

Paddlers gather to cheer on Steve the Paddling Chef

who is now also Steve the Swimming Chef! 

Approaching the finish

High-five with Eric the Swim Angel before the run to the finish.

My post-swim look. Beach hair, don't care!

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Fun Event Saturday - Ke Aloha Outrigger's Mayor's Cup and Ohana Festival, Hoboken Cove

"Hey! Did somebody say Mayor's Pup?"
(adorable photo swiped from Ke Aloha!)

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No, pup, you're adorable, but it's Cup! Starting line 2018.

Quick post today to mention that the 3rd Annual Ke Aloha Mayor's Cup Race and Ohana Festival is happening at Hoboken Cove on Saturday the 27th. I'm SO sad I can't make this year, I've attended the last two, and it's a wonderful race with that spectacular view of Manhattan (and of course the Statue of Liberty for the outriggers and surfskis), and Ke Aloha gathers some really wonderful entertainers and food vendors for their Ohana Festival in Maxwell Place Park. It's a great event, and if you're in the area and looking for a lovely way to while away a few hours on Saturday, I just can't recommend this enough. Click here for full details

A bit more from last year. At the moment I recorded this snippet, I may have been as unwound as I got for all of 2018 (so relaxed!). Enjoy. :) 

147 from Bonnie on Vimeo.

Maxwell Place Park

Mmm kalua pig bowl. The guy had had spam musubi but was sold out, but this was pretty ono!

Samoan dance by the Hudson

Monday, July 22, 2019

Return to the Graveyard of Ships, 7/7/2019

Me and trusty Romany with Hila (ex ATR-89). Thanks to clubmate Frank Favia for the spectacular photo! Click for a better view. Flickr album links at the end of the post. 

The poor blog has been being neglected as I've been busy with other things, and maybe had a touch of blogger's block, but a weekend of being lazy and hiding at home from the heat wave has let me do some catching-up. So hello, here I am!

City of Water day (my last post was a plug for that) was fantastic - we had beautiful weather, I helped out with our beautifully refurbished war canoe and did well enough to get promoted from bow to steerer by my last trip of the day, and I was on a break at the right time to catch the Billion Oyster Project demonstration. Not a lot of pictures from on the water but I definitely will share some photos of the oyster folks, that was very cool!

Today goes a little farther back than that, though. Sebago has not done a trip to Witte Marine Salvage, aka the Staten Island Graveyard of Ships, in several years - in fact the last trip report I can find from there was in 2010. I'd been making noises about getting back there and had been planning on looking for a good day in the fall, and then early in the first week of July, I got an email from Steve the Paddling Chef saying that Sunday the 7th looked perfect tidewise and did I want to assist?

Well, he took care of all the coordinating, all I had to do was join a lovely bunch of clubmates and a couple of guests from other clubs on a very nice paddle from Conference House up to Witte and back, with a lunch break on a little beach at the base of the Fresh Kills landfill. And everybody thanking me for helping Steve with the trip when he did all the work. Yeah, life was indeed good!

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frogma kayak smiley, patent pending

I did find I had one little bit of concern when visiting Witte's for the first time in a while - there are always rumors that there just isn't anything left there, so as one of the organizers (not that I did any organizing) I did kind of find myself thinking "What if we drag everybody out there and there's nothing to see?". Of course I've been hearing rumors like that pretty much since I started my NYC kayaking career with a paddling lesson at Manhattan Kayak Company back in (yikes) the late 90's. I know I missed the heyday of the place, and it's true that there aren't as many boats there as there used to be, even since my first visit; Witte's is a salvage yard, not a museum, and with NYC's construction industry booming they're selling all the scrap metal they can. In addition, the Army Corps of Engineers has been doing some clearing out to keep pieces of the boats from coming loose and becoming hazards to navigation as they float off into the shipping channels. Folks who have been visiting for a while may find old favorites gone, but there's still enough there for first-time visitors to be impressed.

Here are a couple of old favorites of mine that I didn't see this time. This old Astoria ferry was not actually at Witte's, it was off by itself a little ways south. I did hear a rumor that this one got cleared out because a development went in and the developers didn't think condo buyers would want to look at a junky old boat. Personally I think it would be cool to have a condo with a view of a sunken ship, but I'm guess I'm probably not representative of your average Staten Island condo buyer.

And I think this tugboat is gone. Kind of sad as it was fun to see these old wooden tugs, even rotting away in the mud like this - but here, I think you can see pretty well how if pieces of this old vessel were to break loose and get out into the shipping channels, they really could be a hazard. The paddler disappearing behind the bow gives you a little sense of scale, this was a good sized boat and constructed of some big, solid timbers. It's also possible that we just missed it somehow, but at any rate, I'm glad I took the photos I did. 
So yes, there are some that are gone, but it's still a fascinating place to visit by kayak. And of course I came back and put together a new Flickr album - actually two Flickr albums. For the "blog version", click here. This one is 25 of my favorite photos from the day. If you were on the trip, or are just some kind of glutton for photographic punishment,click here for the extended version (39 photos, with most of the additional photos being pictures of the paddlers on the trip).

Want to learn more about the Staten Island Graveyard of Ships? Get yourself a copy of the short documentary Graves of Arthur Kill, produced by Gary Kane and directed by my good boatblogging friend, "Tugster" Will Van Dorp.  

Friday, July 12, 2019

City of Water Day - July 13, 2019

Should've put this up much earlier in the week!

This is a typical scene from the Sebago Canoe Club's event for the Waterfront Alliance's annual City of Water Day. It's grown from an event on Governor's Island 12 years ago to a day with events all over NYC, in Yonkers, and New Jersey. Click here for the Waterfront Alliance's information page with details about everything that's going on everywhere, or here for details about the Sebago Canoe Club event (see the sidebar on the right). We'll be doing kayak, canoe, sailboat, and rowing trips all day from 10 to 4; last trip launches at 3.  

Friday, July 05, 2019

4th of July NYC Skyline Sequence

I had the good fortune to be invited to a 4th of July party at a beautiful Staten Island apartment, one with a glorious deck offering magnificent views of Upper New York Harbor and the full skyline from Jersey City over to Brooklyn. No more words here, just click on the first photo for a slideshow view. 1st 2 from the Staten Island Ferry, the rest from the deck.  

Wednesday, July 03, 2019

Pride People

So, jeeze, the second half of June was crammed with so many kinds of awesome I've had a terrible case of blogger's block just trying to figure out where to start. It's all a little overwhelming. It started off with an ACA Instructor Development Workshop with three great days of dusting off skills, while camping out at nearby Floyd Bennett Field. Then there was a fantastic family gathering in Michigan to celebrate 110 years of marriage (one 50th and one 60th anniversary). Then to finish things off I joined Scholastic colleagues on Sunday to march in my first NYC Pride. It was World Pride and the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots. Scholastic employees have marched together just as friends in past Pride Parades, but this year the company made it official.

Sebago had a rescue class going on up at the lake on the same day. I would've enjoyed that, and rescues are one of the things I slacked off on practicing after my mastectomy & reconstruction, and my rustiness on some of the more advanced rescues - Hand of God in particular - was noticeable at the IDW, so the class would've been a good follow-up. Because of that, I didn't quite make my decision the minute I saw the announcement - but after thinking things through I decided on going to the march, but I was leaning towards marching from the start and it didn't take too much thinking to decide.

I might talk more about my reasons for going in another post, but for tonight, I thought I would at least kick of my July blogging by sharing some photos from the march. I got there a good bit early to have some time to wander, it was a picture-taking paradise and as I meandered my way slowly up to the staging area, the question that kept running through my head was "How is it that I've never even come to see this before?" Click here to visit the album I put together. Enjoy!