Sunday, February 19, 2017

Back to the Seals - another paddle to visit the seals at Swinburne!

I can hardly believe that it's been a month since I got to help organize a paddle with friends from Sebago and the North Brooklyn Boat Club to go see the seals who've chosen Swinburne Island in the lower harbor as their winter home. It ended up being a truly amazing paddle, there was no wind at all and shortly after we set out, snow began to fall heavily enough that compasses came in very handy. When we got to Swinburne, curious seals were popping their heads up out of the glassy calm water to check us out all over the place! Sealwatching paddles are funny that way, they wouldn't be nearly as much fun if the seals weren't evidently nearly as interested in watching paddlers as the paddlers are in watching seals.

The North Brooklyn folks were the ones to first suggest that trip, and in addition to seeing the seals,they were interested in seeing Coney Island Creek (specifically the Yellow Submarine) and getting in a little mileage, so we launched from Kaiser Park at the western end of Coney. This meant crossing the lower harbor from Coney Island to Staten Island a little ways below the Verrazano Narrows, which makes for a trip requiring rock-solid intermediate skills under good conditions. You are crossing a major shipping channel, the tidal currents can be very strong, and if the wind kicks up, you can get some very large chop building up very quickly while you're out there. Our forecast in January was for pretty much no wind, which was great (and part of why I was so eager to make it happen); our main weather problem was the low visibility caused by the snow, which we were able to handle. The other main challenge with that version of the paddle was that Swinburne and Hoffman are not takeout friendly, so anyone who wanted to go along had to be sure that they would be comfortable in their boat for the duration of the trip. With all of that, the group that ended up coming along was limited to more experienced paddlers.

Fortunately for those who would've liked to come but didn't feel comfortable with that day's float plan, Steve H. (Sebago's "Paddling Chef", I've blogged about many great paddles with him, love paddling with him!) decided that it would be fun to run a quieter version of the same trip, launching from Staten Island and cutting out the whole channel-crossing ringmarole. He'd first tried to do it the day after the longer one in January (I was fine with that, I kind of liked the idea of two levels of paddle going on the same weekend) but he'd decided to try just a day or two before the weekend, and I guess people already had plans, because it didn't go off. I was hoping he would give it another try, and when the weather forecast starting showing some really nice weather for the President's Day weekend, he did! This time he got the notice out much earlier in the week, and we had a great crew go out today. It was a special treat to paddle with Sebago commodore emeritus Phil G again - he and his wife moved out of NYC a few years back and he now primarily paddles with the excellent Yonkers Paddling and Rowing Club, and we all miss him at Sebago - and he brought his signature Fig Newtons to share, just like the good old days! So much fun.

The weather was amazing, the sky was a glorious blue with wispy clouds, the sun sparkled on the surface, the water wasn't quite glassy this time but I don't think the winds even got up to the low end of the 7 to 11 kts I'd seen when I checked the forecast last night, and yes, the seals were as inquisitive about us as they'd been in January. In fact when we rafted up for an on-water lunch break, they seemed to get especially curious - we don't know if they were more comfortable with us when we were all sitting still in one place, or if the noise of our hulls bumping together got their attention, but it seemed like all through that break, there were always at least two or three little round heads in sight, and they got a little closer than they'd been when we were underway. We paddled about 5 miles all told and were on the water for about 2 and a half hours - with the cruising speed of a trained kayaker generally being about 3 knots per hour, that will tell you how much time we spent just sitting and looking! What a wonderful day.

Here are a few of my favorite pictures from the day. Click any picture for a slideshow view. For more, click here to visit my Flickr album. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Shared Waterways Report

A snowy day in NY Harbor, heading back to Coney Island after visiting the seals at Swinburne Island. Visibility was limited, but we knew where the channel was, we made a securite call before crossing, and we weren't about to play chicken with the big guys 'cause we know they can't stop. Everything went fine and it ended up being an amazing paddle.

With both commercial and recreational boating traffic growing across the country's waterways, though, interactions don't always go this smoothly. The National Transportation Safety Board has recently come out with some recommendations, and I thought I would take a break from the pretty pictures that I've mostly been posting of late and share a link to the NTSB's press release, which includes a link to the full report (80+ pages but much of that is appendices). Interesting read - one thing that I did notice about the full report is that lack of training actually wasn't a factor in the ferry-kayak incident that's mentioned at the beginning of the report, but it did draw attention to the general issues caused by increasing numbers of boaters in the harbor, which have been the subject of many a lively debate among New York harbor users for pretty much the entire time I have counted myself among that group.

Thank you to both Nancy Brouse at the New York City and Hudson River Watertrail Associations, and Carolina Salguero at PortSide NewYork for sharing the information - I think I saw the information from both of them within about ten minutes of each other!

Added note later - excellent suggestion from an engineer friend for low-vis situations like the one we were in in the photo above, received after I shared this on Facebook: "Some advice, there are a couple of vessel tracking app's the can be run on smart phone. All though larger vessels choose to avoid low visibility conditions,they are often caught by closing weather while underway. These app's will show you who your sharing the channel with. You also have a bette chance of radio contact since you can now call the vessel by name. I use "vesselfinder". I did know you can look at ship locations online but not having a smart phone myself, I never would've thought of using an app as an on-board tool when out in murky conditions. Good stuff, thanks Tim!

Friday, February 10, 2017

Snowy Commute

Ti Grows in Brooklyn says, "And why is it again that we never moved back to da 'aina?" Brrrr. I went to work anyways and here are some scenes from the morning commute - Brooklyn, Manhattan Bridge, SoHo. Click for a slideshow view.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Sunday Fun Part 1 - Brooklyn Bridge, and LIONS at Jing Fong (yay!)

Busy week at work (and that's even assuming that tomorrow isn't a snow day 'cause of the snowstorm), but I did squeeze a lot of fun into last Sunday! Part 1 was the morning up to the first hour of the afternoon, when I joined my old Sebago friend Laurie for another walk across the Brooklyn Bridge followed by dim sum at NY's biggest Chinese restaurant, Jing Fong (the food's good too)! She likes to get friends together to do this on a pretty regular basis, and I'm so glad she's gotten me into the loop! It wasn't quite as shiny a day as last month's hike/brunch/hike morning, so I didn't take as many outside pix as I did last month, but I did like the picture above.

It did occur to me that I hadn't taken any pictures of the restaurant, which is impressive, or the food, which is delicious, last time, so here's the restaurant, viewed from the stage at one end of the enormous room and looking down to the far end. 

Here are a couple of the ladies with the carts full of more deliciousness than you can possible try in one sitting. I've stuffed myself both times, the walking back to Brooklyn across the Manhattan bridge works out really well. Both time there's been that last cart that goes by with something that looks really onolicious, but we're all too full - nice to have something to look forward to, I guess!

First round here, just getting started. We've got sticky rice, and tofu with ginger sauce (Laurie's favorite; I'm actually not a big fan of tofu but the ginger sauce is so good that I actually  kind of liked it), and chocolate bao, and, uh, some other bao (I think it was vegetable), and of course tea all around. I think one of the chocolate bao was the first thing I tried here - both times Laurie and I were the only ones up for the bridge walk (she said more people would start doing that as it warmed up, last month especially was SO cold!) and with the early start got to the restaurant first. We were mostly letting the ladies with the carts go by, because we didn't want to start filling up before everybody else got there, but when the bao cart lady stopped and told us about the chocolate bao, this was new to both of us and we had to try. VERY yummy! 

This was another thing I'd never had before Jing Fong - this time we named them "notcarrots" after one of the gang bit into one expecting a carrot and exclaimed, "That's not a carrot!" They're actually more like the sweet sesame balls, only with cilantro stems (actually kind of a good taste with the sweet, if you like cilantro, and if you don't it's really easy to pull them out and leave 'em on your plate)

And after that my intention of doing a good dim sum post fell apart because it was the end of Lunar New Year and the lions showed up and I got distracted, because lions are distracting. They just are, you know? :D And SO much fun. 

Last food picture - I don't know what they call this at Jing Fong but the snack truck (not sure whether it was a full-fledged manapua van or not but they definitely had a lot of yummy things!) that used to park outside the gate at 'Iolani, my high school in Hawai'i, called them "honey twists" and this was my favorite after-school snack! This was the cart that went by after I was too stuffed for one more last time, so this time I made sure to get one! Far from Hawaii, but took me back. In the background - tofu again, plus a really yummy beef and rice noodle dish with (I think) black bean sauce, plus the last of a plate of seafood balls wrapped in bacon. I wasn't even sure what the bacon was wrapped around when I asked for one, "wrapped in bacon" was enough for me, and it worked out fine!

Want to read more about Jing Fong? Click here! 

And that's pretty much it for Part 1. Part 2 as soon as I can - and this is where I announced over on Facebook that I'd earned my boat nerd card (in case there was any doubt that I deserved one)! 

Friday, February 03, 2017

US Winter Swimming Championships - coming soon to a Coney Island Beach near you!

Or at least near you if you live in NYC! Such fun to see this picture pop up as my Facebook memory today, I must've taken hundreds of pictures at last year's event, but I think this one of Daina and Devon high-fiving after one of the heats in the chilly chilly Hudson was my favorite. Actually I'm not sure I ever posted it here, I think I got sidetracked after the one post that I just linked to, but I never meant for it to be a Frogma Facebook Exclusive or anything! Anyways, my goodness but I had a good time last year, and I'm hoping to get myself out to the 2017 championships, being held in Coney Island on Saturday the 18th of February. Full details here, come on out for some amazing competitions and great sportsmanship - the January 1 Polar Plunge is an awesome event (or so I hear, I'm always at Sebago for our frostbite paddle & potluck, but some year when it's too nasty to paddle I may go observe, 'cause it sounds like a blast), but these are the REAL polar bears!

Monday, January 30, 2017


OK, I am not a big shopper these days (have everything I need and most things I want and not much room for anything else), and I seldom just go into stores to look around, but there was this awesome Asian import emporium called Pearl River on Broadway that I used to love - it just had all kinds of stuffs. Mostly I would buy food there, tea and cookies and Botan Rice Candy (this is a kid-from-Hawaii thing, has this rice paper wrapper that melts in your mouth) and I think once they had Noh of Hawaii haupia mix (and I bought like their entire stock); I do also have a sake set from there, and some chopsticks, and sandalwood soap, and a few other odds and ends, and then there was one time that I had a very special art project and needed some things to finish it, I wasn't sure exactly what things, but I was pretty sure that if I just went to Pearl River and walked around looking at things for a while, I would find whatever it was and I did. That was just the kind of store it was.

They closed last year after 12 years in the same location after getting hit with a huge rent hike. I was so upset I answered a "What would be the best way to improve SoHo" question in a SoHo Business Improvement District questionnaire that Scholastic employees got to take with "SAVE PEARL RIVER!" No use of course, they just couldn't cover a SoHo rent selling five dollar tchotchkes and forty dollar scarves, no matter how cute or pretty, so they shut down and just did online retail for a while (check 'um out at Sometime recently, I was delighted to hear that they'd found a new place in Tribeca. I hadn't had a chance to go check it out yet and I wasn't thinking of it at all but I'd run into my friend & neighbor Gail at the march, and neither of us wanted to stick around in Foley Square for too long after we got there (I would've had a late night the night before anyways after going to my first ceili in fifteen years in Long Island City, and then when I got home I found out about my friend passing away and then I just couldn't get to sleep), so we decided to walk over to Broadway and then up to the Q train at Canal Street, and that's how we stumbled across Pearl River's new location at 359 Broadway! We had a great time looking around; I didn't have any cash on me so I just looked, but I'm going back for some goodies SOON!