Sorry for the short notice, just found out this week myself. This Saturday, March 8th, from 10:30 am to 3 pm, the Small Boat Shop will be holding their annual Cold Water Safety Workshop at their shop in the Rex Marina, 144 Water Street, Norwalk, CT. Free, no reservations required! If you're looking forward to Spring boating, and you're not already familiar with the significant hazards posed by cold water (including understanding that the sneaky thing about Spring boating is that the water stays dangerously cold LONG after the air has gotten invitingly warm), this would be an excellent workshop to attend.
We'll hopefully start seeing some warmer temperatures soon but the water got VERY cold this year and it will stay that way for a while. Spring is a fine time to be on the water if you take the proper precautions - a workshop like this is a great way to learn what you need to know.
The workshop will be broken into 2 sections; the "classroom portion" will be in the morning; they generally have represesentatives from the Coast Guard Auxiliary Norwalk and the Connecticut DEP boating division (Mark Chanski, who's participated in the excellent Cold Water Boot Camp video series and has some great first-hand stories), and TQ's going up to do a clothing talk.
After the morning discussions and videos, there's a short lunch break, then it's time for anyone who wants to to suit up and jump in the icy icy Norwalk River. This is why the SBS's workshop is my particular favorite - there are several shops in the tri-state area who do workshops in the Fall to get people ready for the winter, and they all do a good job, but this one's the only one where you put on the cold water gear and test it out in the conditions it's designed for. It is quite an experience!
This was the iciest I've been to so far, 2011. Photo by Ric Klinger, more from that day at the end. Great fun, but have to say it was nice to have hot showers and a warm shop just yards away!
We've participated in several of these (TQ lots more than me) and I always enjoy them. I can't make it this time due to a prior commitment to bloggers, photographers, and beer, but I did want to at least spread the word.
For more info on the Small Boat Shop, visit thesmallboatshop.com - just note that the Cold Water Workshop info there is old, left over from their originally planned date of February 15th, which had to be rescheduled due to one of the winter's numerous snowstorms.
Sorry, got a little out of order because my March 1st paddle left me so positively carbonated that I had to write about it, but there was a paddle the week before too and I did take more pictures than just the food ones. Friends at the club were asking about that at the insurance paperwork workshop on Sunday, so I figured before I share more pictures from Breezy Point, I'd backtrack for the seal er BIGELOW'S paddle. TQ has suggested a name change from "Seal Paddle" to "Bigelow's Paddle" to avoid disappointment if the seals are scarce - they've turned up every other year, but we were on the water for a particularly short time this year, and as I was telling one of the other paddlers while we were out on the water, it's not entirely clear whether it's us finding seals or seals finding us, either way sometimes it takes some time and we sort of hustled back soon. Something about single malt waiting back at the cars or something...
Anyways, even without the normal friendly phocidae, it was a lovely day on the water and of course I took plenty of pictures - click here to go to the slideshow. Towards the end, I do just repeat the same pictures as I posted for "(Shell)fish on Friday" a couple of days ago - now me, I never get tired of Bigelow's, but if you already saw those you can end on the picture where everybody's talking with their hands. Enjoy!
Crunch crunch crunch - icebreaking out from the dock this morning.
We get slush tomorrow and snow on Monday but today's forecast looked as though today was going to be one of the nicest paddling days this very long and weathery winter has offered yet. I tried to get something stirred up at the club.
My original plan was to do a loop around Ruffle Bar, with a break on the bar for snacks and maybe a little beachcombing. To give a little wiggle room in case it was reallyreallyREALLY nice, I also mentioned the possibility of throwing in a meander or two - nothing specific, just allowing for a little more time on the water than the basic trip around Ruffle Bar if people wanted it.
Something like this - solid line being main plan, dotted lines being possible variations (click if you can't make out the details):
I called it an 8 to 10 mile trip, figured that we'd be back by 4 at the very, very latest. Mentioned some hope of seals, we didn't see any at Jones Beach but various friends have been spotting them in the Lower Harbor and they have been known to use Ruffle Bar as a haul-out spot for sunning. Thought I would have some company, but lo and behold, nobody RSVP'd, and nobody turned up at the club this morning. I think that leaving the announcement until midafternoon Friday meant that people had already made plans.
So I was on my own.
Ordinarily, when I'm paddling solo in the wintertime, I clip my own wings for safety's sake. I'll generally paddle a route that hugs the shore, and I'll keep it pretty short.
But today I paddled out from under the bridge and there was this,
And this (serious ice is nothing to mess around with, but this was just a little patch floating around loose between Canarsie Pol and Ruffle Bar - could've gone around but more fun to go through)
And this...just a pretty, pretty day, and a fine temperature for paddling --
And I went a little berserk after rounding Ruffle Bar, and all of the sudden I was heading for Breezy Point. Because it was like that, and there wasn't anybody out there except the police and the Coast Guard, and it was just too glorious to go home yet - this was one of those diems which you just have to carpe as hard as you can. So I did.
And I paddled and I paddled and I paddled and I saw my seal and flocks of loons and longtail ducks and eventually there I was, looking out at the Atlantic - why, if Buoy #8 wasn't in the way I'm sure you could see Captain JP and the Bursledon Blogger. Helloooooo!
Ended up being pretty close to 18 miles. That buoy lean is in my favor for the homeward bound leg, I had a good strong flood to ride back to the club (that was one of the considerations I actually DID make when I went berserk). The last couple of miles I could tell I hadn't done this sort of thing in a long time, but I was actually happy to actually find that I was pushing myself, it's been a winter that inspired much laziness on my part, good to thoroughly break out of that for a day.
Still had daylight when I got back to the club, with a glorious sunset going on just as I finished putting my boat away and packing up to leave.
It was a very, very, very good day. The weather can now turn as snotty as it wants to for the next couple of days - I had enough outdoor fun today to tide me through.
More pictures to come - this is it for the moment, though, I seem to be pooped for some reason! G'night!
I came in search of scaup and bufflehead, the winter ducks I'd seen out here last year on President's Day. I'd come in January and there was a small flock of lady buffleheads who turned up just before sunset, but mostly it was gulls, pigeons, mallards and swans. Sunday, there they were! Look, there's a scaup (lower left) and a bufflehead (upper right), there were flocks of both all over the bay.
Buffleheads are so skittish, you could never get this from a kayak. Notice how they look black and white here? Their heads actually have a lovely iridescent sheen to them and I really wanted to try to catch that on this trip. I did, a little further down.
Single scaup. Liked the yellow eye shining in the sun on this shot.
Bufflehead cruisin'. My birder friend Prof. M said they remind her of little tugboats - I'd thought of that too, they have that same sort of sturdy, broad-chested build.
Very small, though, here are some mallards for comparison.
Three scaup. The male scaup have a little bit of iridescence to their heads too - you can see a hint of purple here, but it's very subtle.
The buffleheads, though, the shine is noticeable - these three pix caught it pretty well.
Handsome little guy, isn't he?
A Facebook friend has suggested using half a paddle and employing the canoe stroke known as the Canadian J-stroke (paddle never leaves the water, the stroke is very quiet and there's none of the visual hubbub of the other blade flashing up in the air) to try to get a better view of these guys when out in the bay; I'm curious to try that but for now I'm reasonably happy with the photos I got. Might try taking one of my little tripods if I try this again - I was using the zoom lens at maximum zoom and a lot of pictures that looked quite good on the little camera screen turned to be ever so slightly out of focus. Still, for a spur of the moment thing, not too bad!
Scaup with reflections from the bridge. It was interesting, these guys weren't as "feed me feed me" as the geese, gulls, pigeons and mallards, but some of them were coming in and nibbling at the sliced bread people were throwing. Fortunately they didn't seem to think that the sliced bread was the greatest thing since sliced bread, but they were definitely curious, and not worried about the people at all.
The bufflehead, though, although not AS skittish of the humans on the hoof here as they are of humans in kayaks in Jamaica Bay, were still keeping a bit more out towards the middle of the bay. They had no interest at all in mooching, all they wanted to eat was whatever little critters they were finding on their dives. Whoops, there one goes again!
Swan, apparently enjoying the warm air on the webbed feet.
A couple of canada geese - common but I still think they're nice-looking birds.
And a poleful of pigeons! I just liked the way they looked with their sentinel seagull baygull.
Most unexpected bird of the weekend, though?
Remember when I painted this last year after spotting the first oystercatcher of Spring on a very mucky day in the middle of March and wondering if he was regretting leaving Florida? Well, we saw an oystercatcher in Jones Beach on Saturday. Around here, oystercatchers are a MUCH better sign of spring than robins, which I've seen in Prospect Park in December, and this is REALLY early for one of them to be back. With the weather we had last week, the little guy was probably congratulating himself on his cleverness in getting back so early, getting a head-start in staking out turf, all that - well, this week he's going to be sorry as winter returns. Hopefully this is winter's last laugh, but it definitely isn't quite over.