Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Herding Dudes on the Trail

I've mentioned the public trips run by the Downtown Boathouse before; the Inwood Canoe Club runs a similar program called Open House. In both cases, members of each club escort members of the public, sometimes called guests, up or down the river, according to conditions. While the details of each program - and similar programs run by commercial operators in the area - may vary, they do have a few elements in common.

Having started off as a "dude" on these trail rides, and worked my way up to formally leading these trips, I thought I might share the range of experiences that are going on during these trips. First of all, for the public - your first trip is generally amazing. If you have never been on the water, or only done so for practical purposes, you will see the city in a whole new light. Especially for Manhattanites accustomed to seeing the city from the inside, the sight of this little sliver of rock surrounded by water offers an entirely new perspective of landmarks and geography. From locations in midtown, it's easy to spot familiar landmarks: the Empire State Building, Conde Nast Building, NY Times and Bank of America buildings.

Further up the river, newcomers to the waterfront may be astonished at just how much parkland extended from midtown to Harlem, and after a short break, from Harlem on up to the northern tip of the island. It isn't called the Greenway for nothing. North of the George Washington Bridge, a greenhorn paddler will be surrounded by park. With the Palisades across the river and Inwood Hill park rising on the Manhattan side, it's a green river valley. Landings are possible on Ross Dock and Bloomers Beach in New Jersey, and at Inwood Canoe Club in Manhattan.

Now for the guides - called variously volunteers, assistants, Turtles, hosts - there is a slightly different experience. It's likely not their first time out, so their attention turns to details the public might miss. Things like the wind, and the current, and the overall condition of the group. A good guide is watching out for problems before they occur, directing people where to go to avoid problems. Guides typically offer advice on how to paddle better as well. No one likes to see someone else struggle, and a struggling paddler can hold the whole group behind.

 Guides are also communicating with the trip leader, or someone else who is in charge. Trip leaders make decisions about the trip, such as the destination, and whether or not to turn around due to conditions, generally in consultation with the guides. Trip leaders are also the de facto rodeo clowns - the center of attention and the voice of authority to the public. Every trip leader has a different style, but broadly, they set direction and are the face of the trip to the public.

 Guides and trip leaders are responsible for the well-being of the public. So what can go wrong? The weather is the leading culprit. Generally, the weather is predictable enough that really bad weather can be avoided. High winds, thunder and lightning, or heavy rain or non-starters. If for some reason these conditions arise while a trip is out, leaders and guides should be able to get the group to a sheltered spot to wait it out. If lightning is spotted, you want to get off the water fast.

Accidents and medical emergencies can happen as well. While rare, it is possible for people to fall off their boats. Every club I paddle with practices rescuing both the public and themselves. In a medical emergency, alerting the authorities is the best first step. I've never seen this needed, but it could happen - a heart attack, a seizure, what have you. Generally, a given trip is never more than a few minutes paddle from land, everyone carries a cel phone, and lately, every trip has at least one marine radio on it. However, most trips are uneventful, and are simply opportunities for guides to practice being prepared. Did we bring enough spare paddles and tow ropes? What's the collective skill level of the public? What are conditions like? Are we going someplace fun, or is this another boring paddle-to-nowhere ? I kid - as I've said before, no trip on the river is ever routine - but for experienced guides, public trips can feel like working on a dude ranch.

But at that point, if all safety and instruction skills have been mastered, entertainment becomes the next step. Rediscovering what makes these trips interesting to the public can rekindle interest on the part of those more experienced. The river is long, and there is always something new to see.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Marking the Trail

I'm getting the hang of using Google Maps markup capabilities to draw approximations of the trips I've been on. It's also useful as a planning tool to communicate more clearly where we want to go, when working with a group. Here's a map of my trip to Peter Sharp Boathouse. I didn't draw the return route because it was pretty much exactly back the way I came.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite

The cowgirl took off Friday from the day job in order to paddle to Liberty State Park with some friends. It was time off well spent.

Altogether we were ten paddlers, mostly women, all experienced in paddling around NYC waterways.

It was a beautiful day, with little wind. The only complaints we could muster would be that it was muggy on the way out, with a light haze draping everything in the distance.

We set out from Pier 96 and began crossing the river. With strong current southbound, we stay in the channel, avoiding ferry paths. I had a bit of a surprise when I paddled closer to shore and came around a blind corner to see a ferry poised to leave, but after some hand waving, worked out with the pilot letting me drift past him before he left. After that, it was a pretty smooth ride down the New Jersey side, past Maxwell Cove, past dry docks in Hoboken, past the Goldman Sachs building and Morris Canal.

At this point I took a picture of E in her Necky Elaho.

Morris canal is a waterway that runs between the northern edge of Liberty State Park and Jersey City, with Liberty Marina tucked in far behind. Once past Morris, you're practically at Ellis Island. Here, C looks out ahead. The building is on Ellis Island, and farther south, you can make out Lady Liberty.

We paddled past Ellis, and on in front of Liberty, where I took several photos like this one., with B, S, D, and R lined up in front of Lady Liberty.

Once past and below Liberty Island, we headed west into a large bay below Liberty State Park. From here, we could make out everything from Jersey City to Lower Manhattan. Here's the cowgirl, with Goldman Sachs in the background on the left, and the Freedom tower poking over her head on the right. Make of that what you will.

On the far end of the bay is a housing development called Port Liberte. While it's private property, it's a pretty site to look at, and a few people decided to take a look. Here, S and D paddle towards the restaurant at the waterway entrance.

From the entrance, looking behind us, we could barely make out the Verranzano Bridge through the haze, in the distance.

After hovering around the entrance, we paddled back to meet our friends who had landed at Liberty already. ALong the way, we came across one dead crab. . .

And then the shell of another - only this second one was a beautiful horseshoe crab shell.

This being the second time I was down in the harbor this summer, I have to say this view of Lower Manhattan is becoming familiar - especially as the Freedom Tower continues to climb.

On the way back, the wind picked up a bit, and conditions were more interesting. That's OK, because the lil' buddy was up on the deck.

We spent about an hour and a half layover at Liberty State Park - following a group of sit-on-top kayaks run as a program by Liberty State Park to a small beach landing. From there, we walked over to a picnic area and had lunch in the shade, making use of the facilities and taking pictures of ourselves and the gorgeous views from this little vantage point. I had most of an Apack MRE, skipping the cookie and candy, since it was a short enough paddled that I didn't need all 1300+ calories.

On the way back, we passed behind Liberty Island - it's less traffic, and a bit more intuitive of a paddle. That being said, it's an area an old coach of mine called "the washing machine" because the collision of currents and topography results in waves coming from all directions. We all managed to get through without any trouble, but in part by keeping ready for a high brace to either side of the boat.

As we came up on Ellis Island, we passed one barge, and could see another one approaching behind us. A small boat motored up to our main element, and then up to the lead elements. We were worried that it was Coast Guard or some other law enforcement, perhaps that someone had violated the security zone around Liberty but no - the small boat was a pilot (or harbinger, perhaps) of the barge, letting us know where the barge was headed. We got out of its way and kept moving up the main channel while the barge - loaded with a crane and two truck-mounted cement mixers - went into Morris Canal.

We paddled up - the current fully with us now, until about 38th street, when we performed a ferry crossing - moving laterally and letting the current carry us up the river. It's an odd side, moving straightforward, but watching the cityscape move sideways. We paddled straight into the embayment at Pier 96. Altogether it was about a six-hour trip, of which only four were paddling. As day trips go, it was just about right.

While I like to do lessons learned, it's hard to pick anything outstanding here. In medium and large groups, trips typically break into smaller groups, with a fast group and a slower group. That is exactly what happened here, and while it's good to keep a group together for the sake of visibility and safety, having smaller subgroups doesn't hurt.

For long expeditions - especially in any kind of conditions - sea kayaks are a must. One paddler was in a sit-on-top, an Ocean model Prowler. This model has a good prow, which helps cut through waves, but is otherwise a very wide boat that gets bounced around in conditions like "the washing machine". This isn't bad in itself, but it did slow the boat down.

Update: took a gander at Google Maps, and re-constructed our voyage approximately as follows:

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Plastic Jesus

The Cowgirl got in on a trip to Port Liberte, which will be detailed later. The best part is that I got enough footage to finish out a video to this song, which tends to run through my head when I'm out on the water . . .especially on the waves.

Monday, August 20, 2012


Some of you may have gone back and read one of the earliest entries for this blog, which was in fact re-blogged from an earlier take. I had set out on a solo trip to Peter Sharp Boathouse, but fell short, turning back due to the weather. Since then, one of my goals has been to make that trip, and after putting it off due to time and tides, I finally made it last Sunday.

Peter Sharp Boathouse is one of the more distinct destinations in NYC waterways. It's a sizable boathouse, large enough to fit rowing shells, floating on a barge in the East River, approximately at the end of Dyckman, where the Harlem River Drive ends (or starts, depending on your perspective).

There's also a gorgeous park built around Swindler's Cove, with a beautiful garden and some naturalistic walkways. By land or by sea, it's a beautiful destination. Look up Peter Sharp Boathouse and Swindler's Cove for more information on each.

I was making this trip mostly to take pictures, and to work on my distance paddling. Yet, for a long day of solo paddling, the entire trip turned out to be remarkably social for me.

A Late Start
I got off to a late start. I had worked out that high tide was about 1030, and therefore wanted to be underway by 730. My train was running late, so while I was all packed up and ready to go by 745, the leader for the Downtown Boathouse's public trip was short on volunteers, so I stayed around to help get them set up.

The public trips at DTBH are probably what they are best known for. Basically they take about 18 people out on the river for three hours, heading north or south based on the currents to a destination, and then come back. It's a free program; details are on their website

As you might imagine, setting up the trips takes some time - it takes about an hour from letting people in the door to getting them underway. There's paperwork, pulling down the boats and kitting them out, running a short evaluation to make sure everyone is capable of making the trip - it adds up. Fortunately, by about 845, some more volunteers had shown up to assist with the trip, and I was able to get underway for my own. I'm grateful to those who took up the reins.

The First Leg
The stretch of water from 56th street to the George Washington Bridge is pretty familiar to me now. I'd almost say routine, but nothing is ever routine on the water. For those of you non-New Yorkers, The GWB is about 175th street, or about 7 miles fro 56th street. After that, I would paddle another 3 miles or so into the Harlem River, and another couple of miles after that. Altogether this would be about a 24-mile round trip.

From 56th street, I paddled up past familiar sights: the pedestrian pier at 66th street (or so); the 79th Street Boat Basin, the mooring field that stretches beyond the boat basin up into the 90s; I could make out Riverside Church in Manhattan, and the landing for Mitsuwa in New Jersey.

As I approached Riverbank State Park I glided past the new piers built at the end of 125th street, and took an extended water break. I had watched a large DEP vessel pull up alongside Riverbank, and made sure I gave it a wide berth. At that point, moving out further into the river only helped me, because the current is stronger in the middle of the channel, and it was just about an hour short of maximum flood.

The DEP Red Hook.

Around this time, the wind started to pick up and become steadier, blowing from the south, directly against the current. As regular readers know, these are the perfect conditions for big waves: two of nature's more powerful forces running against each other like rams. The shoals south of the GWB were pleasantly choppy; what awaited me north of the bridge were some 3- or 4-foor swells. 

Heading straight into them, I wasn't worried. I was riding up and down hills of water, watching the front of my boat climb above the horizon before falling forward and smacking down - rather loudly at times - into the trough. I pierced incoming waves, water washing over my deck, around my spray skirt. A lot of people perceive the waters north of the GWB to be tranquil compared to the chop of the lower part of the river; it ain't always so.

I had recently added a little spring-footed Jesus statue to the front of my boat, mostly as a gag, and because the old "Plastic Jesus" song has gotten in my head on some of these longer trips. Watching Jesus stay on tight, fast to my boat as I clashed with these waves, I felt amused. These waves were a lot of fun.

Impressment at Inwood
I was able to steer out of the waves easily simply by heading closer to shore. I did so as I approached the Inwood Canoe Club, another paddling club I am a member of. They have a nice little red clubhouse just below Dyckman on the Hudson side, and were starting up their public program.

Inwood doesn't have a proper embayment, so what they do is run groups of the public either north or south with the current for about twenty minutes. The shoreline is almost entirely park up there, with the Palisades on the New Jersey side, so it's very bucolic. While I said I was only passing through, the Commodore talked me into helping corral some of the public, and I took the lead position with a couple of waves (of people - we didn't take them out in the wind-against-current waves). 

By then I was worried about losing time and losing current. I had plenty of current left to go up, but the longer I waited, the less time I would have for lunch before turning around. I wanted time to rest and enjoy the scenery, and to take pictures along the way. I bid adieu to my comrades at Inwood, and set out around Spuyten Duyvil, into the Harlem River.

The Harlem River
Spuyten Duyvil is a storied name in NYC waterways. Variously attributed to either a Dutch phrase, or an English soldier's pronouncement that he would swim it "in spite of the Devil", it's the area where the Harlem and Hudson meet. Currents get weird, swirling as they alternately pour in or out of one river to the other. It's mostly harmless, but an experienced boater will be prepared to have their vessel turned by the river.

The effective gateway to the Harlem is a rotating railroad bridge. Amtrak runs over this line, but the bridge will pivot to open up channels for boats to pass through. Sitting as low to the water as we do, kayakers tend to not be concerned whether the bridge is open or not, although at high tide, it might be a tight fit for some to pass under the bridge in its channel-closed position. 

On this trip, this wasn't a worry. In fact, not only was the bridge open, but I got to watch it open.

As I passed through, I saw familiar sights. To the right was Inwood Hill Park; above me was the high blue arch of the Henry Hudson Highway. On the left, high cliff walls over the Bronx, and eventually, the giant Columbia C painted on the cliffs, directly across from Baker Field, Columbia's athletic complex next to the park and Indian Road.

I passed a lagoon that I know becomes a mud flat at low tide. I paddled under the Broadway Bridge, past two Metro North Stations, and around the bend until I was next to an MTA rail yard.


What strikes me about this area is that it's both industrial and bucolic at the same time. Gorgeous greenery adorns the river, climbing up the sides of bridges, stopping just short of gravel fields lining the rails, or empty lots where factories used to stand. From the river, I can see residential buildings facing away from the river; their frontages presumably to the streets opposite me. Now, given the short distance across the river, the views facing the water might now be spectacular, but I think that with a little cleanup, the Harlem could be a pleasant view, replacing empty lots with parkland, makeshift fishing holes with piers and overlooks. It could become one of the nicest parts of the city, making the South Bronx and eastern Washington Heights desirable neighborhoods.

A fishin' hole.

Who thought these stairs were a good idea?

This is where I stopped short last time.

As I came around the bend, I passed the University Heights Bridge (207th street) and my destination came into view. On my left, I could see some tall apartment buildings; on my right, Peter Sharp Boathouse. Between them, further down, the Washington Bridge and the Alexander Hamilton Bridge.

Here's some trivia about these two bridges: the Washington Bridge (181st street) does not connect to the George Washington Bridge, which runs just a few blocks south and connects to the Bronx as the Alexander Hamilton Bridge. This causes no end of confusion to people who refer to these routes by their proper names, rather than their highway names. The Washington Bridge is not the George Washington Bridge, despite their proximity and the similarity of their names.''

Landing for Lunch
I landed at Swindler's Cove, in a little nook of a dirt-and-pebble beach right across from the boathouse proper. I had imagined landing at the boathouse, but there is really nothing there other than a low dock to exit from. The boathouse is usually closed (in the two times I've been there), and a large gated fence prevents accessing the rest of Manhattan. Land at Swindler's Cove, and you get bathrooms, trash cans, even access to the street if you walk far enough. 

Fair Warning? Better not touch the water.

I've heard rumors this was anything but what it is today.

Peter Sharp Boathouse.

Lunch is something I'll detail in a later post, but basically, I had civilian MREs (Meals Ready to Eat). In anticipation of camping, I reverted to my army brat heritage and found some "emergency rations" along the lines of what the military uses to feed its soldiers in the field. It's mostly protein and carbs - perfect for a full day of sustained physical activity.

I had the "Spaghetti with Italian-style meat sauce" package, which was basically Chef-Boi-R-Dee with sides of crackers, peanut butter, raisins, and a cookie. A flameless heating unit made the entree more palatable. I have to say, after four hours in my boat, it was a pretty good meal, washed down with lemonade and some tea I'd brought along in a thermos. It included a bag of peanut M&Ms that I saved for later.

While I was eating, I saw three men in kayaks land at Peter Sharp. They were about 30 yards away from me. I called out to them and waved; they waved back but otherwise seemed un-interested. To be fair, what would three men paddling thirty miles around one of the most densely-populated islands in the world make of some siren woman calling out to them from the shore?

I invited them over, and even pointed out that the restrooms - which they clearly sought, trying to find entry into the boathouse - were on the mainland, such as it is. But, they were happy to lunch on the dock and leave me be, so I chatted with a family who had bicycled over to the park, and a man who watched my boat while I used the facilities myself.

On their way out, one of the men paddled over and said hello. His name was Ted, and his companions were Vlad and Igor. This is "other Vlad", as in, not the Vlad of Vlad-and-Johna fame. I was still digesting, so I told them I would try to catch up with them on the way out. I left about fifteen minutes later, retracing my steps, and not catching up with them until we were practically at Dyckman on the Hudson River.

It's worth pointing out that at this point in my "solo" paddle, I had volunteered about an hour and a half with two different clubs, waved at people on the shore, talked to total strangers in the park, and hollered at some fellow kayakers on their way paddling around the island. You're never totally alone on the water unless you really want to be.

Coming back, I took a few more pictures, including one of a shoe floating in the middle of the river, sole down, like some invisible person was standing on one foot. I figure if you're looking for waterproof footwear, you could do work than to go with this brand.

I spotted some boys jumping into the water from the Bronx-side cliffs. I've never seen the movie The Basketball Diaries, but apparently this activity was part of the movie. The NYT wrote up a piece about this a couple of years ago - apparently as the boys get older, and braver (and arguably, more foolish) they progress to greater heights from which to plunge. I only got the photo - I did not want to stop for video, because I wanted to catch up to the trio I'd spotted back at Peter Sharp.

As I came around Spuyten Duyvil, sure enough my boat was spun about 60 degrees to the left. I wasn't pitching or rolling, but I did have to adjust my paddling to get the boat pointed where I wanted - in spite of the Devil, I suppose. 

I spotted Ted & Company, who had paused to drift with the current, and I caught up with them. Turns out we know a few people in common - VS from my trips to Staten Island and Alpine, Vlad of Vlad-and-Johna fame, and Erik, who runs Manhattan Kayak Company. The NYC paddling world is large enough that you can't know everyone, but you're probably only one or two degrees of separation from any fellow paddler.

I was a little torn. On the one hand, it would have been nice to paddle back down with other people, but on the other hand, I'd told my Inwood mates that I'd stop by on the way back to say hello - they were having a cookout and I figured it would be a nice place to relax. I decided on the latter, bid farewell to the circumnav guys, and paddled in to Inwood.

At Inwood, things were even more chill than I expected. A handful of people were preparing food; a couple of guys were looking at the dock, figuring out how to fix a specific problem where part of the boards are sagging. I caught up with the fleet captain, and we talked about me moving my boat up there one day. There's space for it, and Inwood would be a great place to stage my boat for trips further north, or north of Queens, possibly as far as Long Island Sound. heck even this trip would have been very different if I had't been based out of 56th street. However, there are some access issues whose resolution is uncertain at this point, so that's a decision I'm putting off for a while. In any case, it's good to know I can stage my boat in a couple of places, depending on where I intend to go.

I stayed a bit longer than I intended to. I had been waiting to hear back from a friend on some plans we had in the afternoon, but after exchanging some texts, I was no longer in a hurry. While I'd put down an expected return time of 1500, that was no longer realistic given my late start and earlier impressment. I made the rounds, saying hello to folks, drinking some water, offering some tea. At about 1445 I set out again, paddling south, in much smoother conditions.

Let me make really clear just how different the conditions between the GWB and Inwood were on this trip.

Here is the water as I was heading up:

Here is the water as I was heading back:

Now, I was almost knocked out of the saddle when the wake of a passing Circle Line boat caught me at a weird angle, but I weathered it and managed to keep going - under the bridge, across the shoals, past Riverbank, with a different, smaller DEP boat tied up at its side.

An Amiable Companion
As I passed the launch platform at 125th street, I spotted a reader Feathercraft collapsible kayak paddling out. I said hello and met Harvey, a native New Yorker whose wife charitably allows him to dry out his boat in the living room, later folding it up for storage. 

We kept each other company for most of the rest of the way down; his wife was meeting him at 72nd street, a similar launch where the DTBH operates another program. He isn't with a particular club, but has been paddling for a while, and has taken some classes - he seemed pretty well prepared, and familiar with different landings. We had good current, and it took only half and hour to get to 72nd.

Once there, I decided to paddle in and say hi to some friends. I started my kayaking career at 72nd. It's a hard location to work, but very rewarding as most of the public are families and casual people out for a stroll on the promenade. I helped corral a couple of wayward boats, and then set off, around the pedestrian pier, for the boathouse at 56th street.

The Last Leg
The stretch from 72nd to 56th is a short one, but I remember when it seemed like the whole world. However brief, it involves going into the open river, away from any sense of safety, into currents, into unpredictability. Along the way is a garbage loading pier, where tugboats sometimes arrive to take out the garbage. It's an active waterway with all kinds of traffic. Like I said earlier, nothing on the river is ever routine.

That said, I was home in no time. While the sky was cloudy all day, by now the sun was powerful enough to finally be heating up the air. There was little wind, making for a smooth ride back into the embayment. As I pulled in, I watched the public program in action - a dozen colorful little plastic boats, bobbing in the embayment, people enjoying the water and taking in the novelty of seeing the city from a different point of view.

I landed and said hello to my friends. I pulled out the Argonuat and laid it out for washing. My mind was still bobbing on the waves, and I thought about what a full day this had been - from setting out, to crashing the waves, to guiding the public in Inwood, then around to Peter Sharp, lunch, meeting total strangers, stopping to chat, and then heading back. It was a remarkably full day, and I am glad I got to go.

Living in New York City, or any city really, it's easy to get caught in the day-to-day, to settle into a routine, and I'd been feeling that quite a bit in the dog days of summer, too hot or tired to go out much. I set out on this trip to "get away from it all", yet oddly, I didn't really leave the island, and I spent more time with people than I typically do in a given day at work. Thinking back to it now, it seems like a long vacation, though I was only gone a few hours, and that is what makes kayaking - especially sea kayaking - so appealing to me.

Every moment brings a change in the weather; a passing ship pushes out waves. Other people are out in their boats; are they friendly, or indifferent? No matter where you go, even familiar locations can become novel again.

As the summer comes to an end, I can see a limited number of big trips in the near future. I hope to do more, but this one turned out better and more interesting than I'd imagined. We'll see what other trails I get to ride, but certainly, this trip will be one of my better ones for some time to come.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Draft Horse

More to come. The cowgirl couldn't wait to get some footage of herself trying out a Stand-up Paddleboard (SUP) today.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

An Old Lady Nears the End

Remember when I wrote about the Ferryboat Binghamtom last month? Well apparently, she's going to be taken away.

I'm genuinely sad to get confirmation (via a poster on the Facebook page for the ferry). I had really hoped this could be one of those things where enough rally got the ship fixed up.




Sunday, August 12, 2012

Another Rescue

The cowgirl found herself involved in another rescue today, this one in the middle of the Hudson, with some additional challenges.

I led a group of five people south to Mitsuwa, an asian supermarket in Fort Lee. It was my first time paddling this distance with this group, and overall, it was a good trip, even including this minor mishap.

We were coming south from Inwood, and had almost completed crossing the Hudson below the GWB. We were at about 155th street based on the Manhattan grid. Suddenly, I heard one of our whistles blow. I turned around and one of our paddlers was in the water.

She was OK. She managed to hold on to her boat and her paddle. After some maneuvering, we got lined up to pull her boat out and dump the water from it.

The problem was, she was in a boat that had no bulkheads. A typical sea kayak has watertight walls in front of your feet and behind your seat, meaning that as long as the hatches stay closed, only about a third of the boat will fill with water. Her boat was a hand-crafted skin-on-fram boat - a wooden frame with a waterproof cloth sewed on. The entire boat filled with water.

This made the boat heavier and harder to lift out of the water. Even after we dumped it, there was still plenty left in it. On top of that, conditions were such that more water came in once we put it back in. We actually had to get her back out of the boat after the first time we got her in, to try and get the water out.

We did do that though. As rescues go, this took longer than usual, but it did work out. She was able to paddle farther on - against wind and current - and suffered no further mishap on the way out or on the way back.

It did push my knowledge base a bit. I've never dealt with one of these boats, and now I've got a better idea of what to do. First of all, it takes much more effort and time to drain. Second, the boat needs float bags. We were lucky this one didn't completely sink - the bags were only partially inflated.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Short Stop

The cowgirl headed north today, but alas a late start cut short the destination. I was hoping to catch a couple hours of flood tide up to the Harlem River, and take some photos there, getting as far as Peter Sharp Boathouse. However, a gabby woman at the beauty parlor, along with a need for lunch before I launched, meant I started to fight the current right around the time I got to the GWB.

Hand in hand with that were predictions of winds up to 15 miles per hour. There were some gusts, and coming back there was a steady wind coming at me. I didn't relish the prospect of fighting current north and paddling back through thunderstorms after dark . . .so I called it short and landed at a muddy patch just north of the GWB, south of Ross Dock.

Muddy ain't the word for it. By the time I was ready to launch, the water looked fine, but as soon as I stepped past the waterline, my sandals were stuck in mud. I couldn't climb in my boat without bringing along some extra muck. I almost got stuck, straddling my boat like I was going to sit in it, my feet anchored to the riverbed. I was able to free myself, backed out, and launched like I would from a beach - facing the water and bunny hopping with each incoming ripple until the boat was on the water. While that worked, I noticed that it was a good twelve or fifteen yards before my paddle wasn't touching mud with each stroke.

There was some kind of race going on. My first clue was when I saw a Coast Guard ATN boat (Aids To Navigation) with a blue light on. I later texted my brother, who has served for over a decade, and he said it meant either search and rescue or law enforcement. Then I saw a caravan of motor boats and kayaks, each clustered together and moving slowly, which usually means one thing: swimmers. I asked around later on, and it turned out there was a relay swim event around Manhattan.

Watching this event perplexed the cowgirl on a couple of points. One set got REAL close to a barge, much closer than I'd ever let anyone get. Then, as we got closer to midtown, and 56th street, and the cruise ships next to it - well everyone had to stop because one of those graceful beauties was backing out. Given that the current was flowing south, and the wind blowing north, I'm not sure what might have happened to the swimmers, but everyone had to stop and peel off while the Norwegian Princess got underway (I may have the name wrong - that's my generic name for these queens of the sea).

I pulled in, good and tuckered. The wind had picked up quite a bit, and I warned some members of the public to keep paddling lest they be pushed into some pilings.

I ought to mention another sight, one I observed not too long ago on another trip: vintage planes. There is a biplane that flies, straight out of the roaring twenties. I have also seen what looks like a World War 2 era bomber, not sure of the model but definitely of that era. I'm not sure if they're filming a movie, or just having a lark.

I took a closer look at the Binghamton. I think it is repairable; the damage is all to the superstructure. No pictures though -the wind was a-blowing, and I didn't want to trade in my paddle for a camera.

In fact, no pictures at all this time - nothing new, this was a trip on familiar territory.