Monday, December 19, 2016

Come in from the Cold

I've been watching a little slurry of ice form on my spraydeck, little fragments sliding around, like the last bits of a cool drink at the fairgrounds in summer, or the final repositories of alcohol in a margarita. They're not, of course - instead they're the Hudson River, splashed on and frozen in place, broken up by the steady undulations of my torso rotation.

It's about 30 F air temp, 42 in the water, and I'm working my way around Spuyten Duyvil into the Harlem River. My original ambition was to go to the Brothers (islands), or at least Randalls Island, but schedule constraints mean I won't go half that far, and will in fact fight some current on the way back. I don't care, though. I haven't paddled in about three weeks, and it's a sunny to partly cloudy day, and it's just nice to be out.

An icicle is forming on the carabiner of my camera, getting longer, I swear, every time I look at it. There's a thin layer forming around the clip of my water bottle, and even my contact tow is developing a 'break in case of emergency' layer of ice around the rope.

I'm layered up like a Russian nesting doll: InnerCore base layers, a PolarTec onesie, Outercore pants and a long-sleeved winter running top, and then a Navy surplus USMC "Wooly Bully" sweater. All of this is underneath my Gore-Tex drysuit of course, and since the wind is a bit stiffer than I anticipated, I've got my balaclava on, and neoprene pogies over my gloved hands.

Yep, it's winter alright. You wouldn't know it from the photographs though !

They're still working - why shouldn't I?

On my way up, an NYPD boat passed me, and later at Spuyten Duyvil, another arrived from the north and they radioed the railroad bridge requesting entry.

I passed under unimpeded, and they caught up a few minutes later once the bridge rotated open.

Ice, ice, baby!

I worried my drinking water would freeze!

There was some construction work on the 207th street bridge - later, I'd see a tugboat do-si-do to hook up to one of the crane barges. Also some work on the super-tall projects on the Bronx side across from Peter Sharp Boathouse.

Looking north.

Looking south.

This time of year, the sun transits at a southern angle, very low in the sky. I need new sunglasses - these are so scratched up, they're practically foggy, nearly worse than my uncorrected vision!

Mercy, mercy, mercy.

I still call this look, "Luchadora the Explorer".

A twinkle in her eye.

There was a steady northerly wind, stronger than predicted when I decided to go out today. It was bone-chilling, though with all my layers on I was fine. In fact, while usually my legs are warmer in the boat and out of the wind, on a day like this they were colder, not as layered as my core, and sitting on the water.

I had lunch in my boat, sheltered in the eddy of High Bridge. I'd brought along hot tea and hot cider. The cider, along with some caramel-filled chocolate, perked me right up for the return journey.

You might have though this was a summer day, except for the icicles I found on the cliff left over from the cleaving of Spuyten Duyvil creek.


Icicle, icicle!

See? Below freezing temperatures.

From the top!

It was just as well that I cut my original trip plan short. While I had to fight about a knot of current on the way back, I'm not sure I would have wanted to be out the additional couple of hours. Maybe on a more relaxed day, or with friends, but by myself? And also, I had to be back home to finish packing for my annual family visit.

Henry Hudson Bridge, Palisades.

As I approached the Hudson River, I could make out a lot of wave activity. Not huge waves, mind you, but a pretty steady procession of footers. There was still a bit of flood from the south hitting that wind from the north, and when I got out into it, I found myself doing a little surfing of those following seas, all the way back to the Inwood Canoe Club.

When I got out, I put things away quickly and decided to walk back to my care in my drysuit. I took my gloves off since they were wet, and immediately regretted it: while my hands were cold when in wet gloves, chilled by the wind, they were even colder without that thin layer of insulation. By the time I was finished packing, my hands felt like they were on fire, they were so cold. My gloves are not winter paddling gloves, but they thin layer of protection they offer was better than bone-chilling wind on my hands.

I did take my drysuit off at my car, and contemplated the day. It was cold, no doubt. Unlike my usual December paddles, there was no "hey it's kayaking in the snow". All the powder we got on Saturday melted away in the bizarrely warm Sunday that followed. Also, there was no whale to chase. So why did I go out?

Well, one, it's fun no matter what. Also, I haven't been out in a while, and this might be my last chance before the New Year. I even paddled the Argonaut, my older, bigger boat, and that was a nice change of pace from the Gemini SP.

But does kayaking require a reason? Of course not!

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