Jul 29, 2008

Paddling in Rome

We were in Rome for a day looking for an area where the slave market used to be near the first Ghetto during the ancient Rome.

Crossing into Vatican, we see a paddler on the Tiber. I wish I had a boat to paddle. The Tiber runs through Umbria to the sea. I wonder if people paddle a good section of it. That would be a fun idea.

Jul 28, 2008

Sebago goes to City of Water Day: Like Butter (milk)

The Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, a wonderful grass roots organization (hey, wait a minute, what's the water equivalent of a grass roots organization? algae? reeds? mangrove? Leave your suggestions in the comments) put together an amazing day at Governor's Island called City of Water. (Look at me, all linky!) Boats converged from all over the city, via the Hudson, the East River, and all Harbor approaches. Big yellow water taxis next to bright green kayaks (yeah, that's me in the bright green kayak and the shades)next to retired fire boat Harvey, next to war canoes, next to giant ferry boats, all sharing the water and all enjoying the day.

Sebago is a member of the Alliance, and, as such, we were thrilled to be part of the day. Our role was to show that kayakers use the estuary too. John, our fearless Commodore, handled the logistics of the day. Two paddlers, M and L, left the dock at dawn, and paddled all the way to Governor's Island. They are made out of better stuff than me (kevlar maybe). The rest of us (approximately 14 paddlers) made our way via car to Valentino Pier in Red Hook to launch. If you've never pulled a trailer full of kayaks through Brooklyn, you should try it: we sure were turning heads. One bicyclist at a red light stuck her head in the window--"See you later on Governor's Island!"

We met up with the Gowanus Dredgers, and by about 11 am, we were all launched and ready to go. Valentino Pier has a rough, gravel "beach" to launch from, not quite as fancy as the dock-to-be on the Sebago blueprints, not even as nice as our current dock, but wow, as soon as you pull out of the inlet, you are greeted by none other than Lady Liberty herself, green as can be and looking straight at you. Take a right, avoiding the rocks, and you are in Buttermilk Channel. Buttermilk is smooth, I thought, and creamy, and good for what ails you (as my uncle always insisted) and our paddle was just that. We had a safety boat babysitting us, and a clear passage from the Coast Guard (hi boys!)and we just bobbed along, going with the current, enjoying the sun and the mild breeze and before you knew it, we had covered the mile-and-a-half or so, and we were hauling boats up the gangplank and onto the lawn. Onwards to the participants' lunch!

View Larger Map

Governor's Island is beautiful and has a lot of history (look it up yourself, I'm linked out). It was a fort and then the Coast Guard (hi boys) had it for 30 years, and then the city got it, but there was a lot of disagreement about what to do with it, and now it is...just for fun it seems. How long until someone figures out how to cover the whole thing with condos? I suggest you get out there soon.

Some of us laid around, some took walks and went into the historical buildings, some rode the trolley, some went to the concert, some to the art exhibits, and some to the environmental exhibits. It was really cool. Tons of people from all over the city were there, all enjoying a perfect day.

By 3 pm, we were back in our boats. Buttermilk. They make buttermilk (traditionally) by...CHURNING cream into butter, and the dregs that are left is the buttermilk. The paddle back definitely had some churning water, perhaps even a few churning stomachs. The pleasant breeze was now a strong wind in our faces. What was the other thing my uncle said about buttermilk? Oh yeah, he said it puts hair on your chest! I have never actually drank any myself. Ick.

We landed on the Valentino gravel and loaded up the boats. Back to the club to wash the gear and put it away. It was a long day, with a large schlep factor, but totally fun and worth it.

Thanks to John for herding cats, and thanks to MWA for a great day, and thanks to the City for Governor's Island existing, and thanks to the safety boats for keeping us company (hi boys...oh I already said hi) and thanks to Insert your Favorite Deity for the water and the sky and land (not feeling so thankful right now for the wind, sorry).

See Donald's photos of the day here.
Thanks, Donald!

MWA's motto is Solutions for a Healthy Shared Harbor, and we were all part of the solution on Saturday. It was a real day of water solidarity. No, that can't be right, that would be ice. A day of damp collaboration? Well, it was just a great day.

Jul 24, 2008

New Water Quality Testing Program Calls For More Information to Guide Safe Recreation (click here for full report)

On July 24, Riverkeeper launched its Swimmable River Campaign and unveiled its Water Quality Testing Program being done in partnership with Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory aboard the Riverkeeper patrol boat. The program aims to investigate the processes that control Hudson River water quality, begin to provide water quality data to the public, and inform the government�s water quality management decisions with sound science. It is the first program to regularly test Hudson River water quality from New York Harbor to Albany and make the data publicly available quickly.

For Immediate Release: July 24, 2008
Contact: Renee Cho, Riverkeeper
914-478-4501 x 239

This is a clickable map....
find your area for water quality results:

The initial findings also highlight a number of concerns:

• There are specific locations (i.e. Piermont Pier in Piermont and Newtown Creek in Brooklyn) that have chronically poor water quality conditions;
• Severe wet weather conditions, even if short-term, can render much of the estuary unsafe for activities such as swimming and kayaking.
• There are times and places, particularly near-shore after wet weather events, where counts of sewageindicating bacteria far exceed federal and state standards for primary contact recreation;
• In 2007, 21 percent of samples collected north of New York City had counts of sewage-indicating bacteria that exceeded the federal single sample guideline for primary contact;
• In the waterways surrounding New York City, 32 percent of the samples exceeded the federal single sample guidelines for primary contact;

Riverkeeper specifically recommends that government officials and environmental and public health agencies take the following actions:

Better Policy:

• Renew New York’s pledge for a swimmable Hudson River estuary;
• Create a cohesive water quality protection program for the region;
• Increase protection for key wetlands and buffer zones;
• Classify kayaking and personal watercraft use as primary contact recreation;
• Increase interagency and intra-agency communication;
• Focus testing and notification procedures on extreme conditions, in addition to averages;
• Work towards passage of the Federal Beach Protection Act and the Raw Sewage Overflow Community Right to Know Act; and
• Develop and implement sustainable stormwater management bills.

click on the title for the complete press release!

Jul 13, 2008

Shari capsizes in Jamaica Bay...product review

Did I ever tell you about the time I fell off a jet-ski right off the coast of Riker's Island? Ass-over-teakettle, i managed to get back on, with a jury-rigged ladder and a lot of foul language. It took some doing. Just as I got back on, here comes the Coast Guard! It was like a dream...they rolled up in one of those boats with the rubber tube bottoms, slid open the door, and there they were, the Coast Guard Rainbow Fantasy Team. One white, one black, one Hispanic, one Asian, all young and very healthy looking. In real life, I did not jump back in (oh it was tempting), but in the movie script I'm working on, it all comes out in a totally different way...anyway, that's not the point of this post.

The point of this post is that I capsized on yesterday's Members who are also Beginners paddle. Don't tell Jerry, OK? That's what I get for my previous post, saying, hey maybe I actually know how to do this kayaking thing. The blogosphere gods did not like my pride it seems.

It was a beautiful day, but very windy. (Need I mention that they promised the wind would be at my back later, and that I am still waiting for this ephemeral later that never comes?) There I was, happily bobbing over the waves that arise from, well from all that gravity and moon stuff, plus the wind, plus the wakes of the big fossil fuel burning behemoths (too much? ok, wakes from the power boats). Like I said, happily bobbing. The sound effects were something like "whee, whee, whee, oh crap, CAPSIZE." I never even saw that third one coming, it was hiding behind the second one. Anyway, with a minimum of fuss, muss and bother, I was popped back into my boat by a very capable committee of helpers. I could almost claim it was a drill. But you would know I was lying, so hey, what can I say, it has happened to better people than me.

My coast guard dream team? Nowhere in sight. My Sebago rescue team was...just as good looking, really. Really.

Side note bird report: no sightings of Prof M's elusive black necked stilt (see one here: http://www.surfbirds.com/namericanbirds/shorebirds.html) but I did see some American Oystercatchers (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Oystercatcher) and I love their orange lipstick look. These birds were previously close to extinction,so even though they are no longer rare in Jamaica Bay, I enjoy watching them play on the shoreline. What can I say, I enjoy a Budweiser bird as much as a microbrew.

But, wasn't this supposed to be a product review, I hear my dear reader asking. Get to the point, woman!

When I returned to the dock, after my salty baptism, I was thrilled to see my latest purchase and by far the best thing I have bought lately: a solar shower bag. You fill it with tap water, lay it out flat in a sunny spot (bench near back door of clubhouse) and go out kayaking. When you come back, the built in thermometer reads...104 degrees! That's a nice warm shower!

After washing the boats and putting them away, I hung my shower on the back of the club house where a handy piece of hardware was sticking out. It was warm. It was not salty. I really really like my outdoor shower bag. Someone should figure out a way to build one that covers the whole roof and we can all have hot showers. Then we can build some enclosures for the showers for privacy.

Then we can call the Coast Guard for a safety inspection. Ask for the Rikers Island department.

Jul 10, 2008

Trip Report, 7/6/08, around Canarsie Pol, out to Ruffle Bar & home.

The original weekend plan - Thursday evening & Friday up with TQ in CT. Saturday, a longer paddle. Sunday, I'd been asking around for somebody to go sailing with - until an email popped up from a clubmate J., looking for a trip leader who would be interested in paddling with her & her friend M., who was interested in seeing the bay.

She had me when she mentioned that M. works for the Bronx River Alliance. I've thought that was the most amazing group ever since being totally amazed at the amazingly well-named Amazing Bronx River Flotilla. Those people are all too cool. Didn't think twice, said "I'd LOVE to!". Prof. M decided to join us. J. was the officer of the day in the morning (our agreement with the parks department states that the grounds must be open to the public during summer weekends, so someone has to be there to answer questions & generally keep an eye on things), so our launch time was a civilized 2-ish.

Sunday was one of those quiet gray days out there. There was a chance of thunderstorms in the afternoon. There's always a chance of thunderstorms in the afternoon. If you only paddled when there wasn't, you'd never paddle at all in the summertime.

You do have to respect that "chance of", though. Right before we launched, we checked. I pulled out my VHF. Prof. M. pulled out her Treo. OK, the moderner technology won, I was still listening to conditions in Central Park as she wrapped up her update & put the Treo away. Still just chances of thunderstorms for the next few hours - good, it's a go. We all had something to wrap up in if we had to wait something out, and we agreed that sticking close to shore was a good idea.

We decided to start out around Canarsie Pol. Prof. M's great to paddle with, she's an avid birder & can actually tell you which kind of tern or gull or other shorebird you're watching - going around the Pol with her is an extra treat, since the islands in the bay are all favorite hangouts for all sorts of birds.

It was quiet out there. Not a lot of boats. We traveled the north shore of Canarsie Pol, watching the weather as we went. Not a rumble. The sky was gloomy but stable. We passed the osprey's nest, rounded the tip of the Pol, and aw, there's Ruffle Bar. Let's go to Ruffle Bar.

We went to Ruffle Bar. It had rained hard the night before. We passed through the foulest-smelling murky plume of sewage outfall as we crossed the Pumpkin Patch Channel - no idea where it came from out there in the middle of the bay but it was awful. Ugh. Well, our guest might as well see the bad with the good. I hadn't planned to roll anyways since there are always water quality issues after heavy rains. I was glad I'd stuck with it.

We got through it quickly, though, and by the time we got to the bar, the water & air had cleared. So strange how localized that thing was - probably following the ebb out the channel.

We landed on the north side. I said that the best beachcombing was on the other side of the island (there used to be a casino, I think it was, on Ruffle Bar - that's gone but there's all sorts of old bottles & stuff), but we were having a nice leisurely paddle & I think by this point the Prof. had us focused more on birds than bottles - so we stopped, and went for a nice long stroll on the beach, birdwatching all the way.

We saw birds & the tiny black snails that pepper the shorelines, we watched tiny fish scrambling to not be left high & dry as the water ebbed fast from the beach. We wondered about discolored upwellings in the sand. I startled a large & handsome garter snake. We watched hermit crabs. I told about playing a mildly mean child's game with them in Hawaii -- I loved taking them out of their tidepool homes, setting them down a short distance away, and watching them unerringly find their way home.

And as usual, we watched the horseshoe crabs.

I can't remember which of the other 3 finally made the connection between the discolored upwellings and the horseshoe crabs.

It seems that when they are trapped on shore by the outgoing tide - they dig in to wait for the water's return.

Many don't make it. Their domed remains litter the sands.

The tiny black snails are carnivorous. Clamshells and crab shells that the seagulls had abandoned as picked clean were thick with the snails, for whom the leavings of the gulls must have been an absolute feast.

Other things buried in the sand -

An old boat or barge, just stubs of ribs now.

And for all I had dismissed the side on which we landed as having sparse beachcombing pickings, I found the best bottle I've found yet.

We paddled home after that, working up a good appetite keeping our boats tracking straight in a following sea. J. told a story about a man she once saw eating plate after plate of mussels at Nick's Seafood Restaurant, a Brooklyn classic in Mill Basin.

Of course that was where we ended up having dinner. Even though we had to finish paddling & drive there.'Cause guess what -

Nick's Lobster and Fish Market Dock has lobster. Nick's Lobster and Fish Market Dock has a fish market.

What Nick's Lobster and Fish Market Dock does not have is a dock!

They used to - but for some reason, not any more. They should. The kayakers would come in droves.

But they had beer, and fantastic calamari, and steamed littleneck clams & lobster sandwiches, and there's something to be said for dining in clean dry clothes with your boat-washing-and-putting-away all finished. A perfect end to a perfect day.

cross posted at Frogma

Jul 9, 2008

Loggerhead Turtle Sighted

Yesterday I sighted a Loggerhead turtle off the Horse Beach just before the Mill Basin.

It was bright yellow and dark pink dots and was 2 1/2 feet wide. It popped its head through waves to breathe. It made an eye contact with me.

Against the turbid Bay water, its fleshy colors were quite contrasty. This would another reason not to have Jet Skis.

For more information, check out this wiki link

Jul 8, 2008


Recently I met up with an old sailing acquaintance of mine down in Barnegat Bay, NJ for a group sail with some members of the TSCA (Traditional Small Craft Association). My friend Kevin was launching his newly completed Welsford Navigator Yawl, built in his Maryland home shop last winter. I was very curious to see the boat, because this is a design that I am considering for a future building project of my own. Click HERE for a full report.

Jul 2, 2008

Photo Trip Report - Orient Point

Click on the heading for a photo trip report of last weekend Orient point trip.
Thanks to everyone for making it a wonderful trip.