Snow was predicted; snow and light winds. I asked my friends if they’d come out this Saturday, but there were no takers. Then, Friday night, one emailed me: Still paddling despite the winter storm warning?
I checked. Gusts up to 30 mph were predicted, but the morning forecast was still rather light. I decided to sleep on it and see how things were in the morning.
After coffee and breakfast, and a little day-job work, the snow began to fall. Air temperatures were in the 20s. Wind, still light, verified by me walking up the hill to the subway. Two stops and a five minute walk later, I was unlocking the gates and gauging the water. Tiny waves, from the breeze, and a pretty quick current.
I pulled down my boat and set up a new camera mount, one where I can reach it and operate it manually without the remote. I’ll say this about the GoPro remotes: not reliable, and they consume battery life like a kid eating candy at Halloween (that is to say, quickly). I wanted video and still photos of the snow. I set out and caught pictures of both, paddling conservatively near the shore.
I’d been off the water for about three weeks, partly to get over a wicked head cold, so I wanted to take it easy. Once I found my rhythm again though, the water was a-callin’, and I set out northwards, figuring I’d at least get up to Spuyten Duyvil. But then, I saw a figure, two paddles, clearly a tandem boat, heading my way. I paddled out to meet them.
I was Kenny X and his friend Adam, in a plastic Boreal Design deck boat. Kenny and his various mates have stopped at Inwood several times before on circumnavigations. They were engaged in a circumnav, having put in at Hallets Cove a couple of hours earlier. I invited them to stop over and chat.
We ended up having quite a bit of social time, as they made lunch (chili, heated over a JetBoil) and we listed to music playing on his waterproof speaker. “Is that Gene Autry?” I recognized the opening bars of Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer. Being a cowgirl, I’ve listened to a lot of country and western, and there were more holiday-themed songs by the likes of Dolly Parton and Willie Nelson. It felt like a little Christmas Party!
As we were wrapping up, another Inwood club member, IB, stopped by, and we talked about going out. By that point I was already a popsicle, but I knew I’d warm up if we paddled. Kenny and Adam were on their way, and IB and I got ready to head out. IB generously offered his neoprene pogies. I liked them, but they were new to me, and took some getting used to.
By the time we launched, the boys were long gone, but we caught the max ebb current south to a small cove just north of the GWB. Knowing we’d have to claw our way back, we turned around, and I finally earned some of those calories I consumed (or would consume) over the holidays. The wind picked up and cold spray would hit my face, and we kept very close to shore in order to minimize the current. Gradually, the boathouse loomed larger and larger in our view, until finally we pulled alongside the dock and got out.
We drank hot tea and changed into warmer clothes, then put everything away.
I think one of the reasons winter paddling is so sublime is that while the environment is beautiful, disaster is never far away. I’m always thinking it’s like the games played by children, defining the sandlot as lava or something equally dire. When the water and air are cold, a simple tumble can quickly escalate to something pretty bad. Surrounded by death and beauty, we paddle on.
More than that though, it’s always nice to share a trip. Going solo has its rewards, but I’ve come to love having someone else to share the experience with. I didn’t expect anyone else to be out today, let alone two guys circumnavigating and a fellow club member heading out as well. What started out as a simple photo-gathering exercise became quite a party. I love it when that happens!