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Let It Snow!

By the time I got to the boathouse, my enthusiasm was already flagging. In the course of a half-hour walk from my home, the snow had turned from big, beautiful puffy crystals to a sort of driving hard mist; the technical term is, “wintry mix”, I believe. The current was strong, just an hour after max ebb, and I thought perhaps I should go home and make a cold winter’s day of it.

I’m glad I didn’t. While I was out on the water, the weather changed yet again, and when I looked up at the Henry Hudson bridge, I saw those big poofy crystals coming down at me, occluding an already cloudy sky.

Originally, this day was meant to be one for cold water rescues at the shop. We had students lined up and the weather was promising. The snow did not come until the afternoon, and in any case the main concern was wind – very low. But, for a variety of reasons, class was canceled, so I was left wondering when I’d paddle next.

I also picked up a new set of paddle jammies – for the most part, the sort of clothing layers worn underneath a drysuit. I’ve been able to get by with a mix of running clothes and wool, but now I’ve got proper wicking – at least the brochures say so. So, getting on the water was a good way to test my new gear.

Neither the water temperature nor air temperature were terrible. The water has only now gotten down to 40 F or so, and the air was in the 30s. The snow was coming due to colder temps at higher altitudes and high moisture. In fact, more amazing than the snow was the fog that came and went over the river.

Because of the fog, I didn’t cross, but rather paddled north against the current to Spuyten Duyvil. I have to say, after three weeks off the water, not to mention a festive holiday diet, it took a while to find my big muscles again, but eventually I did – and right about then was when the weather turned pretty again.

I stopped by the Spuyten Duyvil station for Metro North and watched a train pull in, then pull out. I padded through the north channel of the Harlem’s mouth into the Hudson, past old pilings and into the fog before heading back towards shore. I pointed my camera forward, back at me, up at the sky.

It was just tremendous how beautiful it was. Being overcast and foggy, I could feel the snow but only see it when it passed in front of something with contrast. Inwood Hill appeared lit up with broadcast static as I floated south with the current.

I saw two swans, beautiful birds who have made the environs around La Marina their home. I saw no boat traffic, not even a barge or police boat. I’d seen those earlier downtown, but not out now. I considered paddling down to the George Washington Bridge but then though better of it. The wind was picking up and the snow was fading, and I didn’t want to paddle against current with no real purpose. I landed, put everything away, and came home. One thing I’ll say for paddling in the snow – or rain for that matter – washing the boat is easy, just turn it upside down, let precipitation accumulate, then sponge it down.

One thing I ought to mention about paddling alone in January – I had a very cautious float plan. For the most part I was never more than ten yards from shore, I was dressed for immersion, I had hot tea, and a radio, and I was in familiar waters. Conditions were actually quite light, other than a strong (but weakening) current, with winds around 6 MPH.

Paddling during snow is beautiful, and fog is always sublime. You can be the only person in the world, witnessing how well thing get on without people. Well, maybe not the train, but still: it was beautiful.

Published in 2015 Backpaddle Inwood Inwood Canoe Club Kayaking New York Sea


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