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A Cold New Year

One week into the new year, and New York City has already gotten its first real snow. With temperatures below freezing, I decided to go for a wee paddle.

The day before, strong winds blew and formed an icy mesh over the snow that had fallen the previous night. The roads were salted and sidewalks scraped, so transportation wasn’t a challenge. My bag was packed with drysuit and all my kit, from a previous contingency for paddling over the holidays, which came to naught. It was easy to let the winds die down in the morning, and for the sun to warm things up a bit, and I was on the water before noon.

Temperatures were about 28 Fahrenheit, or -2 Celsius, but in the sun, and certainly once moving, I was actually quite warm. I wore all my layers: base plus midweight, a synthetic fleece onesie, and my heavy wool military surplus sweater as well. A fleece neck gaiter and a warm cap rounded me out, and pogies kept my hands warm. Another trick I’ve picked up is to have thick lobsterman gloves, kept dry in a bag, for operations on land. Without all these layers, it was cold.

Loading up the Pintail.

The weather was sunny and clear; as I paddled south, against a bit of current, I had the wind at my back and the sun in my face. Things were pleasant, as I slowly wound up my touring cadence, which hasn’t been used in a few weeks. There was no ice in the river, but plenty of snow dotting the landscape on either side.

I decided to try taking pictures using my older iPad, which is in a waterproof case and floating foam. Unfortunately, it was very blurry, and hard to operate the touch screen when wet. Even more unfortunately, I seem to have dropped below the operational temperatures for the battery, because it shut off and would not revive until I got home. I’ve had this issue with iPhones as well: when it gets too cold, the battery just stops working.

Blurry GWB
Blurry iPad shot.

Hence, you’ll have to take my word that the artsy presentation above is the George Washington Bridge. You’ll also have to take my word on wildlife.

A thundering noise approached, a deep thumpathumpatuhumpa I could feel in my chest and hear echoing off the cliffs. I saw a helicopter but that couldn’t have been it; then I saw an Osprey, of the mechanical variety, not the bird. The tilt-rotor V/STOL transport used by the US military flew up, not too high overhead, got as far as perhaps Riverdale, or Yonkers, then turned around and flew south, relatively low over the bridge.

Just north of the bridge, I stopped in a little cove to snack on an oat bar and have some warm tea. Occasionally I had to balance my thermos lid, with tea in it, on the spraydeck in order to maneuver. However minimal, the wind moved me a bit.

While I was sipping, I saw a spindly heron take flight, heading west out across the water.

Snack done, I played a bit in the eddy line that forms near the Little Red Lighthouse on the flood current. It was far enough into the cycle that there weren’t big waves, but the eddy line was still kinda stiff, and I practiced crossing a couple of times. I’d started a couple of hours later than originally intended, so the flood current was more to deal with than I’d planned for.

I headed south, deciding I would check on a sunk rec kayak that one of my clubmates spotted earlier this week. It’s washed up in front of a storm drain, peacefully wallowing in a culvert. It looked to be in better shape than I expected.

I’d encountered some fishermen along the way, four men standing on shore fishing. They hadn’t caught anything. We had a nice chat – mutual admiration for steadfastness in the cold. I waved on the way back.

Heading north, the NW wind was more in my face, and the sun was behind me, so it was a bit more chilly than my sojourn out. My body was warm though, and I kept up a steady if casual pace.

All told, I was out a little less than two hours. I had somewhat elaborate dinner plans and felt like I’d gotten enough of a workout. It was quite nice to be outside, even in the cold – perhaps especially so. It heightens the senses, to be sure. On such a lovely day, warmth of spirit triumphed over cold temperatures.


Published in ICC Inwood Inwood Canoe Club Kayaking New York New York City NYC


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