Friday, April 18, 2014

Spring Boating safety: An idea for what to do when you find the unprepared preparing to launch

Looks like we've got another glorious spring weekend coming up here in the Northeast, one which will doubtless bring out the unwary boaters in droves.

I always feel like a bit of an idiot when I post my annual spring safety rant (see prior post) because I think most of the small group of people who read this blog already know what they're doing, but I always do it anyways just because you never know how people are going to stumble across this important information and I think that the more places it's lying around on the internet, the more likely it is to be found. So I make this one of the places every year. Just in hopes.

But this week I'm sharing something with much less hesitation.

What do you do when you go to your favorite launch site on a lovely soft spring day and find somebody getting ready to launch, wearing shorts and a t-shirt, with their lifejacket chucked in the bottom of their boat?

I've never actually run into that situation myself. I'm usually launching from Sebago, the club is committed to teaching members about boating safety, including cold-water boating, and so you very rarely see somebody setting out improperly dressed. But if I ever did, I think that I would try something that worked well for my friend Bob H. a few years back. He told me the story at the terrific Long Island Paddlesports Symposium that Elizabeth O'Connor used to run every March up until she moved to CT.  

 He'd gone for a paddle right before coming to the event (he turned up in full cold-water gear in fact) and as he returned to the beach two women had driven up with a canoe on their roof, wearing jeans and sweatshirts. He approached them and, as he told me when I asked him to refresh me memory of the story earlier this week, "I suggested that they place their hands in the water and note how long they could hold it until pain and/or lack of function ensued. I guess the sight of me in (dry)suit and hood underscored the point."

They left without even taking the canoe off the roof - a very good outcome.  

Although friends have laughed when I tell them this, I'm actually terribly uncomfortable with approaching strangers with safety suggestions. I would do it because as an educated boater and a kayak instructor, I feel like have an obligation to do so (plus I would feel absolutely horrible if I said nothing and then read about them in the paper the next day), but I really feel awkward when I do. This seems like a really nice non-confrontational way for even a shy person to get people to understand how cold the water still is right now and hopefully rethink their plans. 
A good idea and I thought I'd share it.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

It's My Park: New York City Water Trail - plus April snow???!!!

Quick lunch break post, just thought I'd share this neat little video about the NYC Water Trail that Queens Commisioner of Parks (and Sebago clubmate) Dorothy Lewandoski recently put up on Sebago's Facebook group. Tons of friends are in here (and me too, rolling at 2:15 and also in the ribboncutting group a bit before - boy was that a fun day)! 

PS...Come on, Spring. I've been singing your praises at the top of my lungs  and you wanna go and do this? 

Monday, April 14, 2014

More Spring a-Springin' - Prospect Park flowers (plus a hyacinth and a magnolia near home)

I got home from Sunday's sailing instruction class by 3:30 or so, only to realize that I couldn't stay home, it was just too nice, so I decided to go out for another walk in Prospect Park.

The winter ducks were mostly gone, and I think they took winter with them when they left. When I went for my duck walk two weeks ago, everything was still gray and brown. Didn't help that it was a raw and drizzly day, but all the vegetation was still pretty much in winter hibernation - although there were buds getting ready to go if you looked closely.

What a difference two weeks made. My walk started as just a walk, but then it became a flower walk, taking pictures of almost every different kind of flower I noticed. Looks like we have another wintery spell coming up, but this was encouraging to see. Here they are (plus a couple in my neighborhood - first two), and I must say that it's nice to be posting my own after a winter where I would absolutely have a moment in heaven every time a Facebook friend in California or Hawaiii posted COLORS!

No more writing, click on the hyacinth (no longer incipient) for a better view. 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Spring's a-springin' at Sebago!

I went out to the club today for something a little different - one of our relatively new sailing committee members gave a talk about teaching sailing, and although I'm not sure I'm a good enough sailor to teach, I thought I would go listen in at least. I'm glad I went, it was interesting thinking about sailing from that point of view, and it was also a good review of some of the basic principals of teaching, which wasn't a bad thing since it's been a while since my instructor certification and a person does get rusty.

All sorts of springiness going on at the club today - Jim L. was prepping Seagull, the safety boat, for launch, John D. stepped his mast, gardeners were gardening and the cherry tree is blooming by the basin.

The class let out in plenty of time to allow for another outdoor activity. I wasn't together enough to bring my gear, but it ended up being a pretty breezy afternoon, so joining the happy hordes in Prospect Park for a couple of hours afterwards turned out to be the perfect thing to do.
Hooray for Spring!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Spring Safety Spiel

Well, goodness, have we got a nice-looking weekend coming up here in the Northeast. Temps in the 60's in NYC, light winds and sunshine - perfect weekend to break out the ol' canoe, right?

And of course the answer to that question is, as always for this time of year,

"Yes, of course, but please learn
 the risks and have the right gear."

I suspect I'm preaching to a combination of choir and fellow preachers here but I always feel like I have to do this this time of year - the air's warming up but that water is still cold to the point that a mishap that would be humorous in August could actually be the last mistake that person makes.

There've already been a couple of the usual late winter/early spring news stories about kayak accidents doing the paddler social-media circuits - a couple of fatalities, plus one really lucky saved-life story. Naturally the story with the happy ending involved a paddler who was wearing their life jacket - I haven't got time to hunt down the link right now but if I'm recalling correctly, the story was that someone spotted the overturned kayak from shore and called for help. The paddler was past the point of being able to move by the time rescuers arrived but the lifejacket kept them afloat.

In NY State, we're still in the time of year when anyone out in a recreational craft of 20' or less is required by law to wear a properly-fitted lifejacket; that's not the rule everywhere, but a boater who doesn't is taking a big and completely unnecessary risk.

Beyond that, dressing properly is also important - remember that we had a very, very cold winter; I was talking to some of my polar bear swimmer friends last weekend and they were remarking on how cold the water remains right now at Coney Island.

Thinking of doing some spring boating, but not sure how you should prepare, or just feel like you could use a refresher? Visit the links in my Cold Water Safety section, top of the sidebar - always good to know before you go!

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Osprey Hunt Success!

A dozen pictures from today's very successful osprey hunt await you at the end of this short writeup!

I got to the club around 2 and after a few hellos to friends who were there, I got my stuff together and got ready to head out for a nice afternoon of seeing the ospreys in person. Pete P. happened to turn up at the same time so we paddled together, I wasn't up for organizing anything today but it's always nice to have company.

We did a big loop around the islands of the western section of the bay, ten miles or so, moving along at a good pace without much in the way of breaks. Dinner tasted really good and I don't think I'll have any trouble sleeping tonight!

It was a gorgeous, gorgeous day out there, a few other kayakers were out, plus a couple of fishing boats and there were tons of people on the trail around West Pond - including a couple who'd brought their kitty, 'cause what would a kitty like more than a trip to a bird sanctuary?

The photos below were all taken with my Optio. I had the Panasonic with the zoom lens with me and when one of the Canarsie Pol pair landed on the nest just as we passed by, I told Pete that I was going to land and get out the good camera to see if I could get a better shot - but just as we headed for shore the osprey flew off the nest and over to the shore, where it landed and started just walking around on the beach like a seagull. At that point I figured that if we landed it would scare the bird, who looked very relaxed picking at something on the waterline, so we paddled on. Tons of ospreys - there was one flying overhead before I even left the dock!

BTW, the osprey photos remind me of a rather funny Tugster post when Will was complaining about how hard it is to take a picture of a boat without some pushy famous landmark photobombing your efforts. It was a lovely clear day. Pete and the NYC skyline was intentional. The final picture with the flock of brants and the NYC skyline was intentional. I didn't realize I was getting WTC1 and the Empire State Building in my osprey shots until I got home!

No more writing after this, you can click on the first picture and view them in the slide show version without missing anything.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Coney Island Boardwalk

A bit breezy for kayaking today but fine weather for a walk on the boardwalk. Funny how long it's been since I was there - Coney Island is a favorite destination of mine for winter walking (and picture-taking) but guess what, it was just too cold for that this winter! Nice to be back, lots of people out enjoying themselves and the amusement park workers were hard at work getting the rides and games ready for opening day (April 13th this year).

This is just a set of pictures - click on the first one for a slideshow view.