Friday, September 12, 2014

9/11 Post-work paddle

Ordinarily, if September 11th falls on a work day, my personal ritual is to walk downtown and around the site. This year I decided to let that go - I'd gotten post-work paddles back into my schedule as I was preparing for my Hudson River trip, and I enjoyed it, and I want to keep that up as long as weather permits. Weather definitely permitted tonight, I was even able to use my recently repaired surfski, there was a spectacular moonrise (not quite full, it's beginning to wane, but still doing a fine Great Pumpkin impersonation as it rose from the clouds), and it was moving seeing the Tribute in Light from out there. Pictures are a little fuzzy, hard to hold steady on a surfski, but give the general idea. Beautiful, beautiful night out there. Click for a slideshow view. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Sept 11

Photo I took from the Circle Line "half-circle" cruise a long time ago - this was either when we came to my cousin David's wedding (he and Jeannie met when they were both attending med school here in the city and that's actually how I ended up here, I was living with my folks in England but turned out to be entirely too law-abiding to go out and find myself an under-the-table job as friends had suggested I could do - a good friend who'd moved to the city and was loving it suggested I go on an interview while I was here, and although the first job was a bit of a disaster, it at least got me here) or when my parents came to visit me after I'd moved here. Have to get a better scan sometime but I'm so glad I do have this picture - love the way the towers and the Brooklyn Bridge echo each other.

Over on Facebook, I have been doing the "five days of gratitude" thing, I'd been challenged on Friday and although I initially told Luseana that I was going to start on Monday, I realized later that if I started on Friday, that would put Day 5 on the day that will probably always be the one day of the year when I feel the most grateful, both for surviving and for being able to actually be of some small use to others for the rest of the day after John Krevey got a ferry service going with one of the tour boat companies that would sometimes use Pier 63 as a departure point for parties. I had worked at the World Trade Center, I'd been laid off that June with a generous severance package, I was a partner at Manhattan Kayak Company, the economy at that point was strong enough that I was confident of getting another desk job when I needed to, so I'd spent the summer being a kayak guide on a technology officer's salary (sweet deal, yes) - I was back at the WTC that day because both the severance package and the guiding work were going to run out in October and it was time to start looking again and part of my severance package was an outplacement workshop - I just happened to pick the one on September 11th, but I was still on the ground when the first plane hit and managed to escape on what had to have been the last train out, moments after the second plane hit. I was in exactly the wrong place that morning, but I was very fortunate in all other respects and I will always be grateful for that. 

Here was the story of the day as I'd written it for my family, that night.

In the past, I've usually gone down for a walk around the area, but I've brought my paddling gear today and I think that this time, I'm going to go do my reflecting out on Jamaica Bay. 


Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Hudson River Paddle Part 12: Day 7, Bringing It Home - Yonkers to Red Hook


As usual, click on any picture for a better view.

Sunday, August 18th - My friends at Yonkers had offered to find me a place to stay for the night, but I'd said if it was OK, I'd rather stay at the clubhouse. This worked out wonderfully - I slept very well on the bench in the meeting room and I must have been excited all the way down to a subconcious level about the last day because for the first time in the entire trip, I could have skipped the alarm clock - it was set for 5 am as usual, and I woke up feeling completely rested, refreshed and eager to go at 4:50 am!

I dressed, had an energy bar for breakfast, collected the day hatch stuff and the other items I'd spread out to dry, re-packed my boat, re-filled my on-deck water bottles, and as a final step stashed my cell phone in a small drybag in the day hatch, where I could reach it easily, in case I needed to text TQ with any updates about what time he should meet me. I'd told him probably around 2 at Pier 40, assuming I would have the same slow start I'd had every other morning - I didn't send him an update from Yonkers even though I was finally getting on the water at the perfect time because I wanted a good cushion to play with in case of...oh, in case of whatever. 


I was on the water right around 6. The sunrise was lovely and a little bit later, there was a piece of a rainbow over the Palisades. 
Morning rainbow snippet

Looking back at where I'd been

The ebb had just been getting started as I got on the water and as I approached the northern tip of Manhattan, it was increasing. I swept under the George Washington Bridge so fast I barely got a shot of the Little Red Lighthouse (that being the seventh of the lighthouses I passed on my trip - the only one I didn't get a picture of was the Stony Point Lighthouse, which is up in the middle of Stony Point State Park, which I passed on my longest day on the river - even if I'd known exactly where it was I don't think I would've been inclined to make a stop to see it). 

Spuyten Duyvil, at the northern tip of Manhattan

Approaching the George Washington Bridge

The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge

"If you want the rainbow, you must have the rain" - yes, the rainbow over the Palisades did of course mean rain was headed my way, and that started right around the George Washington Bridge. I thought about pulling out the short-sleeved paddling jacket I'd had in the dayhatch for the entire trip, but decided that if I just kept paddling at a good clip that would keep me warm enough.

When I found myself approaching the water treatment facility at 125th St. before 8:30 am, I decided it was time to send TQ an updated ETA. There is a small dock at the Fairway market at 125th Street, and I pulled over there to get out the cell phone. I texted TQ that I was now expecting to be there closer to noon, then put the phone away and pushed back out into the current.

As I approached the north end of the mooring field at the 79th Street Boat Basin, I saw flashing paddles approaching along the seawall - turned out to be some of the women of New York Outrigger out for a morning training paddle - I shouted hello as they went by and told 'em where I was coming from and their steerswoman, Di, who (along with a lot of other NYO folks) is an old friend from my Pier 63 days, flashed me a thumbs up. 

New York Outrigger - IMUA!

I'd already been in a good mood whirling along this oh-so-familiar stretch of the North River (as the stretch of the Hudson that runs by Manhattan is known) and seeing the NYO gang made it even better. A second outrigger passed heading north a little bit later and then a little bit later still I heard "Hut-HO!" from behind me and glanced back to find the first boat out in the current and bearing down on me fast - of course I immediately went into a sprint and raced them until they swept inexorably by and I capitulated, calling out "You guys are too good, I can't keep up"! I thought to try to draft a little too late, put on a last burst but couldn't catch 'em, gave up watched them charge away, but that had put me in just a fantastic mood and although I went back to cruising speed I kept some of that energy as I passed by all the familiar landmarks from my Pier 63 days. 

79th St. Boat Basin, "garbage barge pier", the "Uptown Downtown Boathouse" (although I think there's a new occupant there since the Downtown Boathouse was able to move back to the new boathouse on their original downtown pier this year), the Intrepid, Circle Line, the barge at pier 66 where I kept my boats for my first few years of paddling, Chelsea Piers where I actually learned to paddle a kayak and also the home of Classic Harbor Lines, the tour boat company I worked for on a part-time basis for five very enjoyable years, the fireboat station at the Gansevoort Peninsula, and then all of the sudden there I was pulling into the embayment to the south of Pier 40 at...10:30 am??? Hmm.


Intrepid and submarine Growler - navy brat, had to say hi!

The barge at Pier 66, formerly at Pier 63, which is where I kept my boats until 2006. Thanks to John Krevey for giving us such a welcoming home at a time when paddling was still regarded somewhat nervously by the powers that be. We all miss you, John.

Classic Harbor Line fleet - I worked on the Manhattan (motor yacht) and the Adirondack (white-hulled schooner); the America 2.0 joined the fleet after I'd left to go sail Sunfish at Sebago. Lovely boats, and a good outfit to work for.



The Chelsea Piers embayment where I took my first kayak lesson from Manhattan Kayak Company in 1998. I wonder if I would've believed you if you told me how far (literally) I was going to take this kayaking thing!



Fireboat at the Gansevoort Peninsula

I had picked Pier 40 as a takeout for a couple of reasons. New York Kayak is based there and if I'd somehow turned into a total beast (in a good way) on my paddle and gotten back in 6 days, on Saturday, or if there'd been some big problem at TQ's pool on Sunday and he'd needed to go help take care of it, there would have been a safe place to keep my boat overnight, and I could have gone home on the subway. It's eminently achievable from Yonkers, conditions would've had to be really, really bad to keep me from getting there, and another practical consideration was that I wasn't really thrilled with the idea of crossing the area between the Battery and Governor's Island by myself.  That spot is basically a 5-way intersection for some very big, very fast traffic; I don't mind crossing in a group because a group is a little more visible and with more eyes you have a much better chance of spotting anything you'd need to avoid. But it was only 10:30, the ebb was still going strong, the traffic hadn't looked too heavy so far, I was feeling great, and the idea of finishing in my home borough of Brooklyn, at Valentino Park, which has been the launching and landing site for a lot of good adventures, was incredibly appealing.

I only got out of my boat to go tell Randy that I was OK and heading on south - I'd told him I expected to arrive on Sunday and I didn't want him to worry; turned out he wasn't even there but I left word I was fine with Carey, went back to my boat, pulled out the phone again and texted TQ, "I'm going to Red Hook!" - and the way things were going, my ETA was still noon!

World Financial Center with the new WTC 1 towering up behind

Ebb carried me on south beautifully; just as I approached the Battery, the Staten Island Ferry and a Statue of Liberty ferry pulled out, and the SeaStreak cruised by - that was actually perfect, that meant a number of the boats I'd been concerned about were just leaving the area; I did a good look around for tug-and-barge units and other big guys who I would need to avoid, didn't see any of those, so off I went. A couple of tour boats did pass as I scampered across to the red buoy just north of Governor's Island, but not close enough to cause me any worry. 

Looking back at Manhattan from the Buttermilk Channel

I crossed the Buttermilk Channel and stopped at the Mary A. Whalen to see if Carolina was by any chance out; didn't see her but shouted out "Ahoy the tanker!" and that brought her on deck to see who was yelling out there. Great fun sharing what I'd just done with her, she took that lovely picture of me about to finish, of course, and it turned out that with TQ coming to get me in a station wagon, we were going to be able help her move a little of the remaining heavy metal from her Heavy Metal fundraising sale, so that all worked out nicely and I was really glad I'd stopped by.
Carolina Salguero aboard the Mary A. Whalen, home of PortSide NewYork

Carolina's shot, me in the homestretch, very happy!

With a few more minutes to spare, I set out again - by now the flood seemed to be started in the Buttermilk Channel, but I didn't have far to go and by 12:10 I was pulling into the cove at Valentino Pier, where TQ was waiting for me. Hooray! 
Arriving at Valentino Park

We unpacked my boat, loaded up the car, and went and helped Carolina move her metal (which was indeed heavy, but we got the things she wanted shifted shifted in two trips). She gave me a shackle the size of my two fists together as a thank-you present, which I have sitting on the windowsill in the living room now, and offered to take us out for lunch. Now, ordinarily I would jump at lunch in Red Hook, there are some great restaurants there, but the weird thing was I wasn't particularly hungry, and the not-so-weird thing was that I could feel the mother of all nap attacks coming on, so we said thanks but no thanks. Took my boat to the club, offloaded that, then TQ helped me bring all of my gear up to my place. We agreed to meet for a sushi dinner later (we love sushi and I wanted to take him out as a thank-you, he'd taken a day off from work to come meet me) and after he took off, I sort of dealt with the gear, turning every bag upside down, dumping the contents on the floor, hanging a few things (the tent and the soggier paddling clothing) up in the bathroom, spreading the rest out so that at least nothing would fester. Then there was a sandwich, a shower, and a long and wonderful nap in my own bed. Good to be home!
Schooner Pioneer in the Buttermilk Channel


Google map, Day 7 - Yonkers to Red Hook, 20 miles.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Hudson River Paddle Part 11: Day 6 On the River - Croton Point to Yonkers



Packing up at Croton Point. The tide was going out fast, ended up using a trick I learned from Louise, collected some round pieces of wood and using those to roll/slide my boat down to the water instead of dragging it over the rocks - she did that hull-sparing manuever with one large branch at the concrete boat launch where we took out after our Lake Cayuga day and I remembered it as I was standing here watching the water recede and trying to figure out the best way to get the boat (unliftable when loaded) to the water without gouging the living daylights out of the poor hull.

Journal Entry 8/16: Croton Point to Yonkers - Back in my "home waters" again! Passing under the Tappan Zee Bridge today brought past the furthest north I ever paddled from Pier 63, and I've done a number of paddles that brought me to Piermont or points south. Don't need the charts anymore, I'm in familiar territory now.
Green can 15, with cormorants. Just south of Croton Point, ebb's going strong already. First buoy I took a picture of on this trip was green can 233, just north of the Troy Lock. That's a lotta cans, right?

Had my first real boat parking issue (screw-up) last night - I've been landing around low water, I was really tired after my 32+ mile day, and the boat's too heavy to budge without a full unpacking (I didn't remember the trick with using pieces of wood as rollers until the morning) so I brought it partway up and then tied it securely to a low-hanging tree, thinking that when it floated it would bump into the leafy branches, which looked fairly forgiving . I woke up and checked on the boat in the middle of the night; it was there but looked weird, so I walked over to check and discovered that the boat had actually slid underneath a branch which held it down as the tide came in and the cockpit was completely full. Oops. No big deal, I got the boat out, drained the cockpit, pulled the boat further up the beach and went back to bed, but I forgot that there's a tiny hole between the cockpit and the day hatch where the seat back used to be fastened. I'd stuck some duct tape on that but it had eventually fallen off. I remembered the hole the next morning when I went to put something in the day hatch. Oops again. Took a while to bail that out but again, it was OK in the end - mostly the stuff I carry in the day hatch is stuff that's OK with getting wet.

Got on the water a little later than I wanted to, as usual - partly the day hatch surprise, but also that's just been my normal modus operandi on this trip, set the alarm for 5, turn the alarm off, go back to sleep, wake up for real at 6, packing always takes longer than I want it to (although I did get faster as I went along, partly because I got to knowing what had to go where, and partly because I was eating the food so every day there was a little more room), on the water 7:30 to 8:00-ish. Louise (my Antarctic kayak guide friend who organizes the kayaks for the Ithaca event that actually gave me the impetus to finally get off my lemu and DO this thing) had told me that I should put the alarm clock in the bottom of a drybag and forget about it, but I explained that I'm not a morning person and with the ebb starting pretty early, I didn't trust myself to get going early enough. It was really lovely weather for sleeping in a tent while I was out there and although it would've been nice, I think that dispensing with the alarm would've been detrimental to my timing.

Anyways - it was a GORGEOUS morning, no wind to speak of, Tappan Zee flat as a mirror, lovely! Ran into my first friend just north of the bridge - Staten Island Steve was leading a trip for Hudson River Recreation, nice to see him although I just said hi, didn't stop to chat.

Tappan Zee - so smooth!

Saw a new lighthouse (for me) today - I didn't know there was a lighthouse at the Tappan Zee Bridge, when I led the crazy 50-mile day trip to the Tappan Zee Bridge back in my Manhattan Kayak guiding days, we went up along the west shore because the Palisades are so nice to paddle along - I'd actually stayed on the east shore this time because I realized I'd never actually seen that stretch; the Tappan Zee is so wide ("zee" is Dutch for "sea" because it opens out so much there) that we didn't spot the small lighthouse from the far side. Cute little red and white one, I think I got a nice picture.

I did! I did!

A couple more pictures with stories from the Tappan Zee Bridge area -


Sometimes ignorance really is bliss. There's a lot of construction going on on the Tappan Zee Bridge right now, the aging span is being replaced and there are cranes and barges everywhere. I picked a relatively quiet spot to go under. When I got to Yonkers my friends asked me if I'd had any trouble at the bridge - I said "No, why?" and they said that with the construction, security's been bordering on ridiculous - at one point the powers that be apparently announced that kayaks simply were not allowed to paddle under the bridge, at other times the word was that crossings were allowed but only at certain places. Now it's possible that the crane-and-barge-free-spot I picked was one of the OK spots but in this case what I didn't know definitely did not hurt me. 

And this is Wilson, of course. Who else would it be? I found Wilson floating downstream all alone and decided that I was going to find him a home, even if I just chucked him out on the promenade in Yonkers for a kid to find. I ended up giving him to the first person who noticed that I was paddling down the river with a basketball - there was a young family out enjoying the morning by the water and Dad laughed and asked if I was looking for a game out there, I said, "No, I'm just looking for a home for this basketball that I found wandering around on the river," and that's how Wilson found his new home.

I thought I was going to be in Yonkers by 1 but then once again an afternoon wind came up (this time an uncomplicated headwind) and the current turned - that's why I'd been setting the alarm clock for 5, once again the last couple of miles were a pure slog and if I'd just gotten up a little bit earlier I could've cut quite a bit of the slogging out. 

Approaching the day's destination, just a little ways past the big blue box.  GW bridge and Manhattan in the distance!

Still got here (Yonkers Paddling and Rowing Club, where I'd made arrangements to stay after finding myself in a pinch when the new management at the Beczak Center turned out to be unaware that boaters doing the Watertrail had been permitted to camp there - with friends at the YPRC I didn't bother to argue) by 2:15. 
So nice to find the doors open and a few friends there cleaning. They made me welcome and then went back to their project; when they finished they took off, and at that point I crashed on a bench in their meeting room for a couple of hours. Woke up, called Jack (he'd told me to call when I got there), found out that he and Renee were coming back from Lake Sebago and weren't too far away. I got out my sketchbook and drew the club while I waited, I'd had this idea of doing a drawing a day, that didn't really happen but it was nice to have time to do one today.



Wish I'd opened the big doors - more welcoming that way. Proportions are way off too, should've been longer and lower, but this was a bit of an experiment, drawing an actual thing instead of either making something up or copying a picture. 

Jack and Renee got back, we put their boats away, hung out at the club for a while, then went out for Mexican at the place that replaced the mom and pop place that we used to like to go to after teaching the kids' sessions at the Yonkers Y. Different ambience entirely, but the food's delicious.

Returned to the club to find a couple more friends just returning from a late afternoon stand-up paddleboard trip - they'd seen my boat and not realizing I'd be back so soon, they left this:


 it was still on the backing and stuck under my deck bungees - would've been a fun surprise if I had gotten back later, but I'm glad we got back in time. I peeled off the backing and stuck it in my journal for fun. 


so glad I did run into them though - all five of us sat out on the dock and watched the sun go down and chatted for quite a while. Such a good end to the day.



Bed now, seriously hoping to get myself a good start tomorrow. Last day!

And I hate to do this but I'm afraid the last day report will not be until next week, probably Monday - TQ and I are going out of town for the weekend, hooray!

Google map, Day 6, Croton Point to Yonkers - 16 miles and change. 

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Hudson River Paddle Part 10 - Day 5 On the River, Chelsea Yacht Club to Croton Point - Hudson Highlands!

Approaching the Highlands

Journal Entry, again somewhat embellished with more detail: 8/15 - My favorite part of the Hudson today, the Hudson Highlands! Took a million pictures (small selection here, there will be Flickr albums for the full trip later) even though I got off to a late start, because I finally got to meet Dennis and Arlene, my email friends at the Chelsea Yacht Club. 
Like an idiot, I'd forgotten to put their number in my phone, but when I arrived at the club, other members helped me out with the number and I left a message. Unfortunately I didn't get their responses until this morning, funny that my first stay in a house since I left Ithaca was also the first night with no cell reception! Fortunately they were able to come down in the morning and we had a good time meeting - they brought me breakfast biscuits and candy and I kept saying "I really should launch" and then talking for another 20 minutes. Well, one point of doing this solo was to set my own timetable and I really enjoyed meeting them, so why rush off?



Still had some ebb left despite the slow start - was down to Bannerman's Island pretty quickly and the lollygagging continued with a stop for the first two-hundred thirty-seven thousand of the million pix. This was my first up-close visit to Bannerman's ever - the one time I was supposed to go there was on a Manhattan Kayak trip - I was just getting over the flu, and I was supposed to go in a double with a friend, but he wasn't comfortable with the way the big Necky Amaruk sat on his car, and I was wiped out enough that I said I would be perfectly happy to just hang out in Cold Spring for the day, so he switched to a single. I've sailed past the island on schooner deliveries but never had a chance to really stop and admire. For those who aren't familiar with Bannerman's, the island is called Pollepel Island on the charts, but most people call it Bannerman's after the Scottish immigrant who built the "castle" that still stands there today (although in ruins) as an armory for his military surplus business. Great article in the Hudson River Watertrail Guide, or visit bannermancastle.org for lots more info, including how to sign up for a tour of the place. As you can see, though, Mr. Bannerman was a whimsical builder, this must have been quite a place to be invited to back in the day. 






Moving on down to Cold Spring, I found two visitors from the maritime museum on Lake Champlain, the C.L. Churchill and the Lois McLure (I had left blanks for the names in the journal, with a note that I'd forgotten the names but would be able to get them from my photos, which I did).





Cold Spring, West Point - such a stunning piece of the river where the water flings itself through a dramatic double bend. Storm King, Breakneck Ridge, World's End - love the names. 
Breakneck Ridge - there's a nice hike up this ridge, TQ and I did it as one of our annual Escape from Black Friday hikes a few years ago and it was a good one.



West Point

Paid for all the sightseeing with a long hard slog across Haverstraw Bay, lost the current again and the wind picked up in just the direction the Romany hates (I will whine about either one, that's a kayaker's right, but I would pick a plain old headwind over a quartering tailwind any day). Loaded the way she is, she's very headstrong, so rather than fight it we basically tacked down to the Croton Point campsite.

I was a little ticked off when I got there, stupid people had evidently been using the Watertrail campsite as a drinking spot, which would've been fine except that they didn't pick up and there was a lot of crap around (including a container of some really disgusting-looking orange liquid - scary). 

I did a little picking up before I set up camp, I'd picked up some trash on Esopus Island where it had first occurred to me that leaving my campsites better than I found them would be even better than just leaving them as I found them, but it was a lot more rewarding there because that one was pretty well cared for, the trash was mostly of the bottle caps and bits of paper variety, things that are easy to drop without noticing during a campfire - ten minutes of picking up and I was running out of stuff to pick up. This one, I barely made a dent. Note - I think I was crabby from the mileage, I hadn't actually realized it but at around 32 miles, this had been my longest day - when I woke up the next morning it somehow didn't look quite as trashed. Weirdest thing was where somebody had bagged up their trash and then just left it - what, you think the Croton Point Maid Service is going to come clean up after you? Sheesh. I did take the smaller bag up to a garbage bin - smelled like something dead in there but I didn't realize that until I'd picked it up and at that point I figured I would just hold my nose and get rid of it.


Dinner is pasta with sauteed squash, onions, sausage and cheese again - I thought I was going to do the dried scallop congee I'd planned for one meal tonight but I also thought I would be stopping to say hello to Bill at the Annsville Creek Paddlesport Center (and maybe buy the cheapest paddle they had in stock for a spare) and the idea was that I was going to start the scallops soaking there - except that I got there fifteen minutes after they'd closed - a gentleman who'd just come out from under the railroad trestle that leads from the creek out the river told me that they'd just been locking the doors when he launched (figured out when I got home that Bill runs tours out of the Norrie Point Marina facility on Fridays so he must shut down Annsville Creek to go do that). With no one to visit with there, I decided to skip unpacking to get to the scallops and just move on - pasta's easy, fast and perfectly tasty. Good call since it did end up being a bit of a slog to get here. Was getting cranky across Haverstraw Bay but cheered up once I hit Potato Rock (another fun name) and started looking for the campsite. 


Speaking of names, I almost forgot, my chartbook came in handy at Annsville Creek - a gentleman there asked if I knew if the cove just north of Indian Point was call Lents Cove. I didn't know off the top of my head but we looked at the book and there it was, Lents Cove. Turned out that his name is Lent and the cove is named after his family, who'd come to the area in the 1600's and settled there. Neat to be able to help him out.

Bedtime now - good dinner and a little wine after a long day, I'm pooped.

Yonkers tomorrow - I can see the Tappan Zee Bridge from here (woohoo!) so if the crazy winds of Croton that Susan warned me about don't get me, I'm hoping for a short day.

PS - Is it still "roughing it" if you had hot showers 3 days in a row?  



Google map, Day 5 - Chelsea Yacht Club to Croton Point, 32 miles