Sunday, February 1, 2015

Frosty February

I got out on the water today with my paddling friend Dov Neimand. Th air temperature was much warmer than yesterday, with much less wind. A storm is expected overnight, and so we decided to get in some time on the water.

Actually, it was that neither of us had been on the river for a while. While I've done some pool sessions, I still prefer proper sea kayak, out in the open.

First we had to contend with this.:

It looks worse than it was. The ice was mushy and melty. The day before saw temperatures below 20 F and stiff winds. Air temps today were above freezing, with little wind, and less cloud coverage than predicted.

Before that, I had another problem to solve. I couldn't assemble my paddle - a small amount of water had frozen in the ferrules.

I managed to pick it out with my knife - but I still couldn't press the button down to open the catch! Turns out, water was more even farther down, and around the spring. I poured some hot tea on it and let it sit, twice, before it finally melted. So, hot tea? Good for your gear, not just you.

All the same, small ice floes had collected in the marina area to the north of the boathouse, and were flowing past with the growing ebb tide. Dov had paddled across the river already from his put-in in Englewood. He switched to his Greenland paddle once he saw the ice.

I managed to launch, and we set about practicing. The marina has pulled up their slips for the winter, leaving a series of pilings that are great for practicing the finer points of turning on the move - and with the growing current we had different experiences paddling with it and against it. We certainly knocked boats against the pilings a few times, and one of us went in a rolled up - no mean feat with water temperatures of 35.6 F at the Battery.

By this point ice was clearing up, and we found buoys to run some figure eights with. We also practiced backwards, and talked shop a bit - plans for the season, paddling, and so on. 

We decided to paddle north, against near-max current, to Spuyten Duyvil. As we did, we saw more and more ice - a long trail out in the main channel was amusing at first, but as we approached the railroad bridge we saw larger floes, and at the bridge itself, I realized a lot of ice was coming out of the Harlem, and from farther north on the Hudson.  We realized we wouldn't make it much further, and turned around to go back to the boathouse.

Before we went in, I took the opportunity to take a couple of cold water rolls. Now, my goal was to do one in the river every month, but I didn't get to in January. While I paddled twice, Once I was alone and the other time, had dinner plans with my paddlemates. I was also real sick for a spell. Anyway. I did it - and boy howdy do you feel the water. I was layered enough to not feel it on my body, but my face, covered in a balaclava, with the hood of my drysuit on, carried a lot of water up. I took it off once up. Not sure I want refrigerant cooling my head once upright.

If you haven't read Dov's blog, you should. He does long distance expeditions that put my day trips to shame - he's paddled months at a time across the Mediterranean, facing weather, traffic, language barriers, cultural misunderstandings, authoritative border guards, baffled marina clerks, bureaucracy, and all the usual mishaps of the expedition sea kayaker. 


I went to my second session of kayak polo last night. I mentioned my first in an earlier post on pool sessions. I'd meant to go this morning instead, but when the added another "Saturday Social", I opted for it instead.

If you're interested in kayak , you can read about the NYKP on their site, and the game in general here. NYKP relies on Meetup now for scheduling, so don't be put off by stale dates on their site. It's a fun game, the NYKP people are amazing, and it's a great way to stay active in the winter seasons.

We started with some warmup drills. OG worked with me to improve my throw which, surprise, works better with torso rotation. The trick is that you end up rotating your boat as well, which is why polo players get good at one-handed ruddering - a skill I meant to develop this summer anyway.

Once we'd played pass-the-ball on a bit, we lined up and too turns shooting the goals. Each had a goalie, and a passer to collect and pass balls, and one by one we took our runs at the goals. I was much better at getting on target than last time. Now, if I could only do something about that pesky goalie.

The lead organizers had us try working a play. This was a good idea, because my experience with polo so far is that with these being pickup games, most people play with no tactics other than, "get the ball, block the ball". In the play, basically the ball started in the corner and the offense team would pass the ball, one player to the next, across the pool, to shoot from the opposite side. I's refreshing to know that tactics are a consideration - and not a total surprise that they are, considering some members have actually played competitively and won championships.

So we played. We switched up teams a bit, the took a halftime, then played some more. While I didn't score any points this time, I did play "chase" role to harass whoever has the ball. By the way, it's easy to foul in this game if you aren't careful. Player competing for a ball will clash their paddles but once a hand is on the ball, paddles can't touch it. A player with possession of the ball also can't have a paddle wielded lass than an arm's length of distance from their body. I learned this one in zealously trying to block passing options.

In between halves, people practiced their rolling skills. Most of the regulars worked on their hand rolls, which are a bit easier in polo boats than sea kayaks. I'm pleased to report I managed at least a couple of paddle rolls he side I need to improve on, but I also completely failed once and had to wet exit. What happened was, my paddle angle was in completely the wrong angle and  couldn't get it right. One trick, which tried but needs development, is o let the paddle float for a bit to let the blade align with the surface.

Well, I did a few more, including a couple in the improve-on side, and that more or less restored my confidence.

Afterwards, a few people went out to dinner, but the Cowgirl and her ride-sharemates were plumb exhausted, and we drove back to Manhattan and went home. I'm feeling it all this morning - some minor aches and creaks, but that beats the slothful loss of musculature I've been feeling in these cold winter weeks.

Till next time.