Thursday, October 31, 2013

Cows and Cowboys

A minor digression, given the cowgirl half of this here blog.

Apparently there were cowboys in NYC only a century ago.

There were helping to herd all those cows . . . through cow tunnels.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


This summer I finally bought a handheld marine radio (Standard Horizon 851x, if you're interested). After years of paddling without my own radio, I finally dropped the money to get one, in part because I paddle more near the big vessels in the harbor.

Some people might

As it happened, we were coming back from a short trip across the river and decided to wait for a southbound barge to pass us by. While we waited, I overheard that vessel and another talking on the radio - I paraphrase below:

Vessel 1: This is [vessel 1] coming round the Battery to the North River.

Vessel 2: Hey there vessel 1, this is [vessel 2] southbound on North River. one to do one or two?

Vessel 1: 1 is fine.

Vessel 2: OK. Hey, there's some kayakers here, about 4 by the Holland Tunnel.

Vessel 1: I don't see them.

Vessel 2: They're behind me now.

Vessel 1: OK, I see 'em.

So, a little translation first: The Hudson River is referred to as the North River, and "one or two" I think is code for 1 or two toots of the horn, which are the more traditional way of signaling passing port to port (1 toot) or starboard to starboard (2 toots).

I decided to let them know our intentions, first talking to Vessel 2, then Vessel 1, but neither responded.

As it happens, I was able to look up Vessel 2's owner and email them, and I got a reply from one of the crew. He hadn't heard me hailing them, but had heard me attempting to hail the other vessel. He gave me a nice pat on the head for being a polite kayaker and suggested a way to signal intentions better (one that I knew, but which we were not using). And that was that.

Put another way: I emailed a harbor vessel after trying to talk to her on the water.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Surf City

Last week, the night before I went to Piermont, I went along on another trip with some friends downtown.

JT Paddles to Jersey City.

For weeks I had wondered what "Surf City" was on the shop's trip calendar. Of course, I learned earlier that week when we took clients, but still, I kick a kick out of Surf City: it's a waterfront pub, not surfing in the slightest sense.

Tracy heading down current. Cruise ship and fireboat in the distance.

So, half a dozen or so of us set out on a friendly trip to Surf City. We left Pier 40 at low tide, moving quickly down and across the river. It's not far, perhaps three miles, with the current doing most of the work.

JT observes some sunfish.

As we paddled in to Morris Canal, we saw a quartet of small sailboats moving in formation, parallel, then in a line, then whirling in a line.

Warming by the Fire.

Surf City has a gas-powered fire pit. We took it over, ordered food and drinks, and settled in.

A Tall Ship.

My camera doesn't capture night shots well, but I did get a couple: an unusually tall-masted sailboat, and lower Manhattan from across the way.

Kayaks at the ready, Manhattan in the background.

There were steady winds from the southwest, and as we headed back, they kicking up a steady following sea. By the time we got back to Pier 40, a steady surge of waves was carrying us in. One to two feet high, we surfed in - surf city after all.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Piermont 2013

This past Sunday I paddle with some friends out of Inwood up to Piermont Marsh. It's a popular destination, if a long one, about 25 miles round-trip.We with the flood current and came back with the ebb, with some steady gusts on the way up against us.

El Lopex Paddles North.

There were only four of us: MH, the canoeist, El Lopex, another club member, and KT, a member of New York Outrigger invited along by MH. All are strong paddlers, but for the latter two this was the fartherst north they'd ventured.

Traffic on the way: A barge,and a motorized sailboat heading south.

A river cruise ship left shortly after we passed it at the dock in Yonkers.

Along the way, we took in the fall foliage of the Palisades.

Passing the Palisades.

A notable cliff face.

Tres Amigos (photographer not pictured).

Along the way we encountered a large group of kayaks on the western side of the river. I counted at least a dozen, a mix of deck boats and sit-on-top doubles. I spoke with a woman named Lyn in a white NDK Romany, who said they were a meetup group from Long Island. They'd put in at JFK Marina in Yonkers and were stopping at the Italian Garden, another popular spot along the way, for lunch.

Eventually we came to our destination, Piermont Marsh. Situated just south of the Piermont Pier, the Marsh is thousands of years old - according to a naturalist we encountered on our way in. There are three channels, all with tall grass easily eight feet over our heads. After the wind, an the current changing against us, the marsh was a nice respite.

A muddy landing.

The channels of the marsh.

KT enjoying a borrowed Chatham 16.

The way back was uneventful; we made good time with an increasing current. One paddler grew tired, but a decent resting spell cured him and we were on our way, passing more river traffic on our way down.

A moored barge.

All in all it was a beautiful day. While the time up was windy, the wind subsided most of the way down, and we enjoyed what is likely one of the last clear, sunny days of autumn, before the air and water temperature drop another notch, making trips like this one more complicated in the logistics.

I enjoy Piremont Marsh. It's a bi of a reach for most Manhattan paddlers, but a worthwhile destination nonetheless.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Your Guest This Week

Over at Wind Against Current today you'll find a guest-post by yours truly, covering my evolution from being a member of the public to the Kayak Cowgirl.

There are some photos up, and some lyrics to one of my favorite trail songs.

I've been a fan of Vlad and Johna for years now. Their adventures have inspired me to chart some of my own mad schemes, and pursue the skills necessary to make them happen. Since I started working down at Pier 40 this summer, which is where they paddle out of, I ran into them a couple of times, and got to know Johna on my recent night circumnavigation.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Spuyten Duyvil

The other evening after work I took a short trip up and through Spuyten Duyvil. I'm making a methodical study of our local waterways for places to teach and practice, and the tides were such that I would get a good glimpse of the Duyvil around max ebb on the Hudson. I learned a couple of new details.

First, as one would expect, a strong current is a great time to see the Duyvil in action. Just west of the railroad bridge were patches of short standing waves, an expanding fan of eddies, and overall strong current. I used my typical approach, using a little cutout nook just south of the railroad bridge that is sheltered from the current, to get right up to the line.

Turning in to go against the current isn't difficult but requires a little finesse, edging away from the current while sweeping to take it straight on. Then, strong forward strokes and sweeps are required. I like to stay to the right so that a short burst lands me in a small sheltered area just below the railroad bridge.While incredibly shallow at low tide, it's still protected from the environment, and a good place to take a short break, and to collect a group if you're with one.

Second, the current in the Harlem itself before the bridge isn't terribly overpowering, and even beginner paddlers could cross it with little effort. This is good to know, because as it happens, the area on the north side of the Harlem, between the railroad bridge and the Henry Hudson bridge, was actually very still, making it a good place to practice even through the ebb current was nearing its maximum rate on the Hudson. Even better, according to my charts, and a little paddle sounding, it's deep enough to practice rescues, and maybe even rolling.

Spuyten Duyvil, from Google Maps

In the picture above, the bridge on the left is the railroad bridge, with the Hudson to the left of it. I approached along the edge of the shore and burst under the bridge into the U-shaped bay on the bottom, then paddling across to the shore on the upper side of the picture.

The little bay on the south has been a good place to practice maneuvers, rescues, and rolls, but it does get shallow - part of it becomes a mud flat. Knowing I've got another area to use is good to know - although, it's less protected from the channel, so I'd want to keep an eye out for traffic.

For more on the history of Spuyten Duyvil, check out Forgotten NY's article. Apparently there was a fire on the bridge a couple of years ago.

I think the Duyvil might also be a good place to practice rough water work, as long as we are mindful of traffic and inform the bridge operator ahead of time.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

A Foggy Paddle

I paddled this afternoon with two members of the Inwood Canoe Club. One is one of my regular paddling buddies, and the other was up an an ACA assessment. The air temperature was in the high 60s, low 70s, very humid, with dense fog most of the day. Unlike yesterday, it never burned off, leaving our area - northern Manhattan and the Palisades - shrouded in moor-like tendrils.

This was one of those days where I did not bring my camera, but at several points wished I had. It was in the boathouse, and I had just put a fresh battery in it. I just figured I'd be too busy to take photos.

We paddled north a bit, to Spuyten Duyvil, and considered going in. Along the way, we saw a soccer ball fly into the water, followed shortly by a young man climbing down to retrieve it, though it was clearly too far out. I paddled over to the ball, scooped it up, then tossed it back.

We'd seen a large ship coming up the river earlier. As she grew closer we realized just how big she was - and right down the middle of the river. We typically see barges far to the New Jersey side, which is technically an anchorage. I looked up our behemoth visitor; she's a Bahamas-flagged oil tanker, the Afrodite:

Later, we over heard radio traffic warning her skipping that "about a hundred" kayakers were near the Tappan Zee Bridge. I'll be asking what that was about.

Rather than go into the Duyvil, we waited for a south-bound barge to pass and crossed the river to an area just north of Bloomers Beach. There we tried a couple of rescues, then landed on the beach for a snack lunch.

I had a little distance from my friends as I checked the chart, and when I looked up I saw some them perfectly framed against the Palisades, with just enough fog to look mysterious. Color really pops in humidity, and our always-beautiful playground was all the more pretty in the mist.

We saw three outriggers set out from Englewood Marina, just south of Bloomers Beach. As they set out across the river, I overheard radio comms warning the Spuyten Duyvil bridge operator of human-powered watercraft heading their way. One of the outriggers came towards us, and we recognized them from their visit earlier this summer.

We proceeded south a bit. By now the ebb current had picked up. We looked both ways, then set out across the river, heading straight across, knowing the current would take us south a bit.

So that's at least three photos I missed: the ship, my friends, and the outriggers. Who knew such a short paddle, in our neighborhood, could be so interesting? I have got to stop taking out area for granted.