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The Watchers

Yesterday was beautiful, and as Friday came to a close, I chafed at the bit to get away from work, up to Inwood, to take out my boat. The weather was perfect: little wind, and the tide had only just turned south by the time I got there. The sun was setting in the west, behind the Palisades, and there was very little water traffic.

I was delayed getting on the water because I took the time to mount my new toy: a GoPro Hero 3 wireless camera. I bought it over a month ago on a sale, but not put it on my boat yet. I’ve got a variety of attach points, but for now I’ve only set one up on the bow, ahead of the forward hatch. It’s still farther back than I would have liked, because there’s gentle curve on my deck that is too steep in parts for most of the mount plates.

In any case, I got it set up and took the whole thing out for a spin. The nice thing about Spring finally warming up is that I can carry less gear and dress a little lighter. I was in shorts and a rash guard, with my paddling jacket in case in it got breezy.

I paddled north, slaloming around the pilings of La Marina. I’ve gotten in the habit of paddling close to the restaurant, waving at folks when they wave at me. As the weather has gotten nicer, more people have come out to the pier at Tubby Hook. Sometimes there are fisherman, and I have to watch out for their lines. Here, one man aimed his camera at me, while my camera took a shot of him.

I turned to cross the river. The Hudson here is wide – about a mile – and I always underestimate it, probably because so much of my paddling career has been farther south. It’s not much less wide down there, but there is more development, more piers and other man-made extensions, so it feels less wide. I sometimes call this area the Inwood Sea.

Across the river, I landed, briefly, north of Englewood Cliffs marina, startling some geese who thought they had a beach all to themselves. I captured some nice shots of Manhattan, looking south past the GWB. I had some water, then relaunched.

Coming south, I got some footage of the the marina. There’s still a fair amount of damage, presumably from Sandy, on the outer deck. A little further south, I saw a father fishing, with two little kids. I waved, they waved back, shouting and pointing at the little blue boat in the water.

This is one of the things I love about paddling around the city – the (usually) unspoken transactions between us on the water and those on the shore. We’re a colorful, sometimes surprising element of the scenery. In our bright colors like fishing lures, paddlers are bait drawing the public in to use the waterfront. People wave, sometimes uncertain if they should. We wave back, because hey, we’re people too.

This is especially true of little kids. They get excited. There is something you don’t see every day. What might have just been a playdate in the park becomes an observation. Paddlers are more personable than motor boats; we get in closer to the shore, and are more recognizably human, rather than the impersonal boxes and canopies of recreational motor craft.

On my way back, I paddled under the pier at Tubby Hook. This was a little tricky; by then the tide was definitely flowing south, and there were old pilings barely under the waterline, as well as the pilings supporting the pier. A little girl watched me, running from one side to the other as I passed, and when I emerged on the river side again, she asked if I could give her a ride.

“It’s a one-seater,” I said, but then I pointed towards the boathouse. “Come by Memorial Day Sunday at ten and we’ll give you a ride.”

With that, I set off, past La Marina, to land at the boathouse, clean up in the setting sun, and go home.

Published in 2013 Backpaddle Inwood Inwood Canoe Club New York

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