10 AM Saturday, 1/10/09 - All loaded up at the Sebago Canoe Club in Canarsie & ready to head out for our first paddle of 2009, a sealwatching adventure at Jones Beach led by Walter & Tony. There was a winter storm watch, but it looked like we'd be off the water & probably back in Brooklyn well before the snow started in earnest - and the wind speeds just weren't supposed to get that high. There'd been some debate during the leadup - but those of us who were of the mind that a snow paddle can be a lot of fun if it's not too cold & windy won out - and it was beautiful!
Jones Beach, here we come! Actually here we already were, but we had to drive around in circles for a little while - like much of Long Island, it seems like you don't get told much about how to get where you're going, you just know when you get there. In this case we were looking for Beach Lot 10. Took us a little going around in circles but Tony finally found it.
I have to admit that I was more hopeful of snow than seals. In the waterways surrounding NYC, there have been increasingly regular sightings as the water clears up, but they are still rare enough to be exciting. I figured this trip was going to be like any wildlife-watching trip - there's no guarantee. I was quite happy to be getting on the water at all, but this sign gave me my first inkling that there was more than a slight chance that we might see them. Seems sealwatching is a very normal winter pasttime in Jones Bay!
More evidence that maybe these seals aren't as scarce here as they are in NY Harbor. BTW the numbers I cut off here, which you can call if you'd like to sign up for a winter seal walk, are 516-679-7254 for the ones out of the Theodore Roosevelt Nature Center in Jones Beach, or 631-668-3781
for walks out on Montauk Point.
Getting ready for launch. For once, the forecast was pretty much dead-on. Light snow showers in the morning (we'd seen a few flakes while loading up at Sebago), a bit more in the early afternoon & then really starting to come down later in the afternoon. The morning air was absolutely calm.
A few more intermittent flakes were coming down as we readied ourselves & got on the water - and the first seal appeared before we were even on the water!
psssst...hey Vicky & John...don't look now but you are being followed...
Walter taking a picture of a seal. The question is, who's watching who?
They were EVERYWHERE. We were so transfixed that we just stopped paddling & drifted with the current (which was moving along nicely) & the seals just moved in closer & closer.
That ripple was the closest a seal got to us - that one popped up right in the middle of us. It was looking at Vicky & John & I don't think it realized I was there too, until somebody got me to look at it and I gasped audibly. It heard me, turned around, saw me & split before I could get the picture.
Walter quietly watching a seal watching Walter.
Finally we decided that we really should do a little paddling on the first paddle of the year. Heading on out towards the inlet. The seals seemed to be heading in the same direction - Walter's conjecture (which seems sensible) was that they were heading to the inlet to catch the fish that were going to start coming in on the flood.
The Whale, (spotted by John on the beach where we paused for hot drinks & a leg-stretch)
Up in the dunes at Jones Beach.
Mermaid's Purse & arc in the sand traced by the beach grass blade moving in the wind. I feel like there's some name for these tracings, something I learned once but have forgotten. Something to do with a compass - maybe I'm just thinking of the way the grass becomes a compass, tracing circles on the sand.
John liked the look of this too.
Striations in the sand
The crew - John, Vicky, Walter (co trip leader), Jim, Stevie & Tony (co trip leader). Good group, we had a lot of fun.
Heading back - still ahead of the storm but the snow was starting to fall a little more.
Amazing piles of mussels on these pilings. Had gotten the lens hopelessly wet by this point but even blurry, you can see the growth. As we were loading the boats on the cars afterwards, a seagull landed near us with a huge clump of these that he'd managed to pry loose. Walter looked at it & said, in an impressed tone of voice, "Wow, look at the mussels that seagull's got". We all of course thought he meant muscles, and turned around expecting to see some avian Arnold Schwarzenneger - actually the mis-heard version worked, though, the gull had to have some muscles to muscle all those mussels!
Just a little post-paddle chillin'.
awright, that's enough of that! Actually I was doing my January rolls. I kept rolling all winter last winter, and I'm trying to do that this year too, although this winter is proving to be a lot wintery-er than last winter & I'm totally prepared to skip a month or two if conditions aren't reasonable. Now here, the wind had started to pick up a bit & yes, I did get cold, but this was just about the perfect setup for January rolling - I had a good spotter (Tony, who took this & the next picutre) spotting me, a good thick hood on, and there was a nice warm room with a radiator about 100 yards away, and a thermos of cider, another of chowder, and a big bag of gingerbread men in the dayhatch right behind me. The cookies got a little beaten up during the rolling but nobody turned 'em down because they were broken when I brought them out! I wasn't the only one who thought sharing cookies was a good way to wrap up the day, either. Yum.
Back at the club, the snow was really sticking. Again, Stevie & I got a little sidetracked by Long Island's proclivity for not giving directions - we ended up on some local road & totally couldn't find the Southern State Parkway until it had already turned into the Belt Parkway. We were back in Brooklyn before things got really messy though - even with taking the scenic route, the timing worked out well.
Great day. Hm, wonder if anybody's got any plans for next weekend yet?