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.


bonnie said...

Still sorry I managed to do myself out of the J-Bay to Gov's I trip through sheer lack-of-togetherness.

bonnie said...

p.s. -

Spartina grass roots.

bonnie said...

p.p.s. - I've heard 2 versions of story behind the name "Buttermilk Channel". Won't vouch for either but used to like to tell both to our schooner passengers when we managed to get over there (rare on the 2-hour public sales, but when everything was JUST right, it would happen).

Both involved use of the island as pastureland for dairy cows.

One version had milk being ferried across the channel being churned to butter in the cans being ferried across on a barge.

The more far-fetched had the cows being swum across at low tide & the milk being churned while still in the cows!

The Wide World said...

Uh, the MWA is the antithesis of a "grassroots" organization. They are a corporate model top down entity forged by the city elite at MAS. Not to say that they are not capable of advancing good issues.

Shari said...

Thanks, Wide World, for explaining this. Who or what is MAS?

bonnie said...

Municipal Art Society. Actually, I'd have to say Wide World is right - but what the MWA does a really good job of is getting the actual spartina-grass-roots organizations to talk together, work together, be heard together.

And THAT takes some major cat-herding skills!