I was able to get out briefly on the water - on actual coastal seawater conditions - Saturday. The whole weekend was beautiful, with air temperatures in the high forties. After the winter we've experienced so far, that felt downright tropical.
I went with my friend and fellow teaching assistant SS. We worked together at NYKC last summer and have kept in touch through the winter season. SS hadn't been out since November, and I'd only been out a couple of times since then, so we took it easy. we did a lap around the Pier 40 embayment before heading south towards Battery.
But first, quelle horreur, we discovered our favorite boats were no longer available. I'd taken to paddling an Impex Montauk near the end of the season, and she'd been in an Impex Mystic, perfectly sized for her petite frame. The Montauk was gone, presumably sold, and the Mystic had a note on it, to the effect that its new owner would be picking it up shortly for its new home in Maine.
Such are the hazards of relying on equipment that is not your own. Instead, I took out a yellow Impex Force Cat 4, and SS took out a Tiderace Xcite-S. Both were more than capable for our needs.
While the air temperature was warm, the water was not: last reported near 35 degrees Fahrenheit at the Battery, drysuits and layers were mandated. I took the opportunity to try out some new neoprene pogies, and I cannot say enough good things about them. They were excellent. They kept the wind off my knuckles and kept my hands warmer than they've even been in the winter. These particular ones had wide, stiff collars, making it easy to slip my hands in and out of. They were perfect.
We left shortly after the flood tide started. It wasn't strong enough to hold us back, but it meant that we would not get very far. To head out much farther past Battery would have been pointless, and a steady wind made us decide not to risk a river crossing. It was only 10-12 knots, but with gusts up to 30 reported, we were seeing some sizable waves, with whitecaps forming shortly after we returned.
We also experienced following seas, which were novel to SS. Following seas are when waves come from behind, moving faster than your boat. They lift the back of the boat, move underneath, and then lift the front of the boat as the wave runs on ahead. Then, the next one arrives, and the next, and the next, and so on. The effect is like stop-and-go traffic: the initial lift pushes the boat forwards, but then hits the breaks as it moves in front. It can also make for an unsteady feeling, as the boat may yaw (pivot sideways) unless a stern rudder is used to correct and hold steady.
We had this almost the entire way back. We took short breaks in South Cove, and later near Pier 26, before dotting out and around the Holland Tunnel blower. Before landing we spotted VB of Wind Against Current getting his boat ready to launch, and later spotted the other half of that blog, JJ, getting her boat ready. I am sure they went quite a bit farther than we did.
All in all it was a good paddle. It was a beautiful day, and we got a hint of spring even though it's still February and cold temperatures are predicted to return shortly.