Sunday, August 29, 2010

Wild Marsh

On a typical training day I put in on the Hudson and paddled north along the Palisades.

The New York New Jersey border is marked by an old rusty fence that goes out to the water from the woods. Just north of the border is a small pebbly beach which marks a site in the woods with some old ruins and a beautiful waterfall. The ruins sit in a clearing in the thick wood with the freshened air that comes with running water.

Back on the water I met a fellow kayaker heading in the opposite direction. He told me that the ruins were left over from a private swimming pool that he had frequented as a kid in the 60's. Not long after, the land along with the pool and the bathhouse had been donated to the Palisades park, and were vandalized to complete destruction. He recommended that I check out the marshes to the North as there was a family of bald eagles nesting there.

Farther north, just before the marshes, I took up a conversation with a woman on the banks. After a comment about the weather she warned me about wild animals. This disturbed me. Was she in league with Shark Man? I didn't know so I quickly paddled on.

Going up along the marsh I saw a narrow water way twisting between the tall grasses, an outlet from the marsh onto the Hudson. I turned into it, suddenly leaving behind the huge cloudy waters that I had come to know and finding myself in another world; a world of tall grasses, little crabs, and great birds flying along the narrow channels as I explored.

A few times my boat scraped its bottom on fallen tree limbs but for the most part the channels where both deep and wide enough. The tide was dropping, so coming out was harder, and where before I had just scraped the bottom of my boat, I now had to really wriggle it to overcome the obstacles. A marsh is not a good place to get out and push.

Leaving the quiet calm of the marsh I again met the other kayaker who had recommended it. He asked me if I had seen any birds. I looked around and saw “A duck!” He was unimpressed so I told him of the eagle and the two great blue herons that for a while had stayed only a short distance ahead of me, advancing every time I approached.

He pointed to a small outlet of rocks, “About a year ago I saw a panther over there.” He told me he wasn't crazy, and I believed him.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Manatee and Me Killing

On Wednesday, after a stop at Jersey Paddler, I was kayaking down in Central Jersey.  After a few miles of marshes and streams and a fat river, I found my way out to the Inter Coastal Waterway.


On my way back I heard a motor boat behind me, so I casually turned around to take a look.  The motor boat was speeding towards me.  The moment when the oblivious boater should have seen me, was coming, came, and was gone.  I thought, 'Whistle.  Hands, damn you, get the whistle!' But my hands weren't letting go of the paddle and began backpaddling with all the strength and speed they could muster.  I would have been out of the boat's path quicker if I was turned perpendicular to it, but I didn't want to take the time for the slightly less powerful sweep stroke.

With my hands busy and no whistle available without them I began to scream, my dying chicken scream as loud as I could.  Why is it, in that in that moment of panic, the scream I chose was my dying chicken scream?  I don't know.

Seconds later the motor boat was close, if the driver was looking at me I would have seen the whites of his eyes.  But he wasn't.  He and the woman next to him where having a nice conversation that had them both smiling and laughing.  Yet only a few feet away I was fighting with everything in me to stay of off the Went the Way of the Manatee list.

The woman turned from her funny conversation with a look in her eyes as though she had heard a chicken dying ahead.  She said something to the driver while the boat sped towards my end.  He looked up, startled.  He looked up to see me just barely escape his path.

Moments later he swerved and stopped as I stared at the back of his boat.  The two folk in the boat where now looking at me and I used a communication method that I had previously reserved exclusively for motorists that almost killed me while biking.  Then it had involved taking both of my hands off my handle bars, as now I had to put down paddle.

“I'm sorry, I didn't see you.”  The driver told me.

As the considerable wake rocked me,

Fictional version:

I said something clever that made him reject his manatee killing ways and stop polluting with his loud gas consuming carbon emitting boat.

What really happened:

“Yah, well, you have to keep your eyes peeled.”

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Rescuing a Downed Plane

Today while paddling on the Hudson a fisherman on a pier above me started gesturing and waving his hands at me.

There were some large wooden columns coming straight up out of the water and something small and colorful against their base.  If it was a baby drowning I could have saved it, but it was a small wooden rubber band airplane that was tangled against the post by fishing wire.

Without speaking a word of English the man anxiously asked me if I could retrieve it for him.  Usually I have a knife with me, but today I was trying to get the clumps of Hudson river goop out of it by soaking it in my kitchen.  So cutting it free from the tangled fishing wire was not an option.

The fishing line was stretched between the top of the column, where it held a ghastly ancient rusty hook, and the depths of the river.  I knew I had to be careful not to let the hook fall on me.

I pulled on the fishing wire with the hope of breaking it.  Suddenly the giant rusty hook up above let loose, falling and narrowly missing me.  But the wooden plane was still stuck.

I asked the man up above if he had a knife.   He excitedly nodded assent and passed down a large pair of fish-entrail-covered-scissors at the end of his fishing rod.  I quickly cut the wire and freed the plane.

I passed it back up to him by way of fishing rod and accepted his thanks.

Crazy Shark

Today while paddling along the edge of Riverside Park in Manhattan a fellow sitting on a rock on the edge of the water asked me “Have you seen anything interesting in the water?”

“Sure.” I told him.

“Have you seen anything carnivorous?” He asked me.

My crazy detector went off and I didn't slow down to finish the conversation. But answered politely “Not that I know of.”

“I saw a shark over there.” I think he pointed, but past him, I didn't turn around to see.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Under our Feathers, We are All Naked.

A few days ago I went paddling with my friend of  22 years, the amazing Mr. Chaika.  His mother tagged along with us to Sandy Hook where we put the boats in the water and she hoped to spend the day on the beach sunbathing and swimming.  However, upon seeing the beach at Horseshoe Cove where I have become accustomed to launching, she asked to be taken to another beach that had more in the way of “facilities.”

Back in the car we got, and I drove for about 10 minutes or so until we found a beach that seemed to have what she was looking for.  From where I dropped her off we could see a path to the beach and said facilities.

The amazing Mr. Chaika and I had a fine day paddling.

When we got back and picked up the amazing Mr. Chaika's mother, she told us that she had been left to spend the day at a nude beach, which she had only realized once she had arrived at the water.

This brought to my dinner table that night the discussion of nude beaches.  Some members of my family claimed that it's perfectly normal to want to be naked in public and others disagreed.  I have never been to a nude beach, but it occurs to me that passing the entire Mediterranean coast of Europe will introduce me to many first times.
The other day I went out on a lake with my editor.  We threw a frisbee back and forth between our boats and had a great time.  He also took these pictures of me.

[caption id="attachment_95" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="The rope in front is tied to the camera."][/caption]

Sunday, August 15, 2010

This Blog isn't Supposed to be About Cars?!

While on my way to the Monksville Reservoir to find my glasses I got a flat tire and pulled over on the side of the road though there wasn't really a shoulder to speak of. There where plenty of cars on the two lane road and they where going pretty fast.
I had two problems. The first was that I know nothing about cars. While I am using my parents' car to get me and my kayak around while I'm training, I hope that once I'm home I'll tow my kayak with my bike and never have to drive again.
The second problem was that, while later that night I would find my cell phone buried under my bed, I did not have it with me at the time. So I needed a plan, and it was to call my dad and ask him what I should do. I began trying to wave down cars in the hope that someone would stop to help and lend me a phone. A lot of cars past by and nobody stopped to help.
It occurred to me that this would probably come to me needing to change the tire. This was not something I knew how to do, but maybe I would be able to figure it out. First I had to find out if I had a spare tire with me, so I opened up the trunk and picked up the mat that was the floor knowing that there might be a hidden compartment under it. The good news was that there was, the bad news was that, while it had some tools, some garbage, and some unidentifiables in it, I did not see a tire down there.
There was a truck across the street pulling off a side rode, the driver called out to me “Are you OK?”
Before I could explain my problem he told me “Don't worry, I called the police.” And drove off.
At this time a couple of thoughts passed through my mind. The first of which was that in NJ it's illegal to drive without shoes, yet I didn't have any with me. The second thought had to do with something else that was going on that may have also been a little bit more illegal, I wasn't sure.
I continued trying to wave down cars in the hope of solving my problem before the police showed up. After a while a woman stopped her minivan and asked me if I needed a hand. Just as I was beginning to explain to her that all I needed was to borrow a cell phone, the police car pulled up behind me and she drove away seeing that her services would no longer be needed.
It's a good thing the police came to help me. The officer got out of his car, walked up, and explained to me “You can't leave your car here, I'm gonna have to have it towed.”
“That'll cost me a lot of money, won't it?”
He answered “Yah, probably. It's just that this is a dangerous spot and I can't allow you to keep your car here.”
I looked around frantically for somewhere else I could put my car. There was a space that might work a couple hundred feet down the road on the other side. I asked the officer if it would be OK if I left my car there and he said yes.
Not knowing anything about cars I asked him if he thought that my car, with a flat tire, could handle that distance.
“It would be bad for the rim.” He told me.
I mentioned that I didn't know where my spare was, or even if I had one, since it wasn't my car. “You don't have a spare?!” he asked, in authoritative disbelief, as though he could give me a ticket for that alone. I showed him the secret compartment that did not have a spare tire in it, only looking at it this time I could see something that I hadn't noticed before. Underneath the secret compartment there was another compartment, and that one had a tire in it.
Before moving my car I asked the police officer if I could borrow his cell phone.
No. If I wanted I could walk to the station down the road, it wasn't to far away.
I moved my car and the police officer left me, no better off then I had been earlier, except that now I knew where my spare tire was, even if I didn't know how to install it, and the rim of my wheel was a little the worse for wear.
Once in my new location I went to the back of the car and began taking everything out that looked like it might have to do with changing the tire. I'm really good at changing the tube on my bicycle really quickly. This however was a different beast entirely. I had a feeling that I needed something called a jack, to bring the car up, but I wasn't sure. Either way, none of the tools I had pulled out looked like they could do that. Maybe for changing a tire I didn't need such a thing. I examined the wheel, thinking that I probably needed to unscrew those bolts. I didn't want to do that without a jack I decided.
A woman pulled over on the opposite side of the rode and asked me if I was OK. I walked over and told her that I was, but my car wasn't. Could I please borrow a cell phone.
“Sure, no problem.”
While my dad was explaining to me where to look for the jack, the police officer came back. In answer to the woman's explanation of what was going on the officer said “Yah, I had to deal with this guy earlier also.”
Once I had hung up the woman asked me if I would be alright. Not knowing the answer it took me to long to come up with something to say, so she was gone. The police officer got back in his own car and drove off.
Just as I had given up on him however, he pulled his car over next to mine on the opposite side of the street. I quickly moved myself over and met him next to my car. We looked for the jack where my dad said it would be and the police officer, kindly, told me how to change a tire making only one reference the whole time to the fact that I wasn't wearing shoes.
I thanked him profusely and we parted ways marking the beginning of a long and fruitless day.

My Glasses

Charlie has written about me twice in various publications. Now it’s my turn to write about him. He’s a nice guy who’s living the adventurer’s dream at an age that I can safely say is over 50. He bikes, kayaks, sails, and knows more about Russian stuff than the vodka in my freezer.
A couple days ago I had the pleasure of an invitation to kayak with him up at the Monksville Reservoir. The reservoir is named for the town that was submerged in order to make it. Its walls are the green mountains of Appalachia except where bordered by a dam affording the rare and nearly impossible view of mountains and valleys beyond and below the pristine surface of the wate

We only had about an hour and a half to explore the lake before he had to leave for a meeting and that time was spent in pleasant chitchat.
When we were wrapping up Charlie wanted to get a picture of me for his paper, so I stayed in my boat while he went to get his camera from the car. While waiting I worked on a technique called high brace skulling and inadvertently went under. Unfortunately I was holding my paddle at an awkward angle when this happened and coming up took a bit more effort then usual. Still no trouble, I was up in two moments instead of one. My hat had come off in the process though, sure it was still tied on like my glasses, but off my head. Still tied on like my glasses I thought. I put my hand to the side of my face to feel my expensive prescription sunglasses. My hat was still tied on, but my glasses where not. I double checked, they still weren't there.
Charlie was now at the top of the boat ramp holding his camera, asking me to pose for a picture. I tried to smile and look at him with the confident look of a professional kayaker. Charlie saw the distressed look of someone who had just lost his glasses. So he wasn’t quite taking the picture, and I was trying to pose. I gave up; taking my life jacket off and releasing my spray skirt I jumped into the water and swam down looking for my glasses.
I tried a number of times. Treading water, I filled up my lungs, dived seven feet down to the bottom, and swam along the sandy bottom, failing to find my glasses until I had no air left. Then I would come up as quickly as possible and, a moment later, try again. Take the air in, dive, swim along the sandy bottom with the fish. Take the air in, dive swim. I did this about 6 times.
I asked Charlie if he still wanted to take my picture and he declined, sharing the sour mood at loosing my glasses. Running late, we had already used the time we allotted ourselves. While he said we could stay longer, I knew that his meeting was important to him, and besides, my glasses would still be there the next day. So we went home and my glasses remained at the bottom of the reservoir with the rest of Monksville.
The next day I was on my way back. At this point I will leave out details in the interest of preserving the notion that I am an excellent driver except to say that I got a flat tire on the way.
Once there I got a mask and flippers from the back of my car, put on the flippers and tried to walk down to the water. I don’t know how ducks do it, walking with flippers is really hard.
Remembering that I had to walk backwards I made my way into the water and began diving for my glasses. I took a systematic approach to searching, that way I would be bound to find them.
A family with kids paddled up on a set of sit on top kayaks. We talked some and I had their sympathy for my plight. They threw a stick for their hundred pound golden lab named Bear.
Bear was very interested in my diving. The first time I came back up I had his complete attention. The next time I went down he followed me. From up above he dog paddled right behind me and turned around to head into shore as soon as I surfaced. This went on for about five dives.
I had finally completed my route with no success and now began diving randomly in areas where I thought it was more likely to find my glasses. In most places the lake bed was flat, and with the two or three feet of visibility I had, I was able to search with a high degree of confidence. In areas a little farther out there was a lot of plant life growing from the bottom, tendrils waiting to trap me. What’s more, they could hide gooey water creatures in their murky cores.
Five hours had passed and I hadn’t found my sunglasses. I am left with only one thought. In Monksville there is a turtle, who is now looking very cool.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

My Fight For Justice

I have become scared to leave my car behind when putting my boat in the water.  In addition to the towing incident, I recently got a ticket for illegal parking.  Let me be clear, I didn't do it.

I pulled my car into a lot in the Palisades park.  There was a police car there which put me on edge, because while I have a tremendous amount of respect for the law, I don't have very much respect for the law.  The police car sat there in the lot, just him and me, as I pulled my car up to the ramp.  I then unloaded my kayak and all my gear, moved the car into a perfectly legal space, walked back to the ramp and put in.  That whole time the police car was there watching me.  Watching me.

As I paddled on the river that day, I gave it little thought, but that doesn't mean there wasn't evil afoot.  And when I got back, the ticket was there under my windshield wiper like a flag of ruin in the wind.  The ticket claimed that I had parked illegally and was required to pay about 50$.  A great injustice! I was going to fight it with the righteous anger of a man who had been wronged not just once, but was suddenly a repeated victim of this government's traffic oppression.

That night I read the Bill of Rights.  With a thorough understanding of the law I would be unstoppable in court.

The courthouse, together with a police office, provide law for the Palisades Interstate Park.  I went to there with my mom, because it was on the way to our destination in the Catskills.  I had combed my hair and put on a clean shirt in a wasted effort to make a good impression on the judge.

First, in a small office I spoke to the prosecutor.

“What's your name?” he asked me.

I told him my name.  He looked for it on his list and couldn't find it.  My dad's name was there though, and that made sense because my dad is the owner of the car.  I talked to the prosecutor for a bit. I explained my innocence of these terrible accusations made against me.

“I'm going to ask for the case to be dismissed.  The charges are being made against Jeremy Neimand, and he wasn't driving the car so he can't be found guilty.  Just sign here.”  putting a small piece of paper in front of me after writing something on it.

Above the space that I was supposed to sign there was a short paragraph which said that I was pleading guilty. “Ehh,  I don't want to plead guilty.”

His answer came quick and matter of fact as though it was the simplest thing in the world.  “Oh, don't worry about that.  We only ask you to sign that form because it's the only one we have.”

“Do I have to sign it?”  I asked.

“No, you can sign it later with the judge if you like.”

I elected to sign it later.

After a short wait we were let into the court room.  It was an old room in an old building.  The room itself was walled with dark wooden panels and the carpeting was the color Old Official.  The white haired heavy set judge read everybody their rights.  I thought, I can subpoena the police a officer who gave me the ticket and have him explain why.  Perhaps with a clever cross examination I could trick him into admitting that a mistake had been made.

The first defendant that was called had a public attorney.  In a few minutes the issue was resolved and the Judge asked if anybody else wanted a public attorney.  After a moment of silence, as the public attorney was on his way out, one man said “Yes.”

“I only meet by appointment.”  the attorney said, and completed his escape from the courtroom.

A few other people where called before me, most had been going 5 to 10 miles over the speed limit.  One man brought his lawyer with him to plead guilty to the speeding charge.

Another man couldn't speak English.  The judge tried talking to him without any success.  My mother mentioned that I might find myself in similar circumstances before long.  Finally, a prosecutor was able to translate for him.

It was my turn.  The judge read the piece of paper the prosecutor had written asking my case to be dismissed.  With a look of surprise he asked me to explain it to him.  I tried, but I was interrupted numerous times by an increasingly incredulous judge.

“The ticket was made out to my dad.”  I tried.

“No, it was made out to the driver of car.  Were you in control of the car?”

I didn't know what he meant, I wasn't driving the car when it was parked but I had left it in that legal parking spot.  If the car had gone off and committed some crime while I was away I certainly should not have been held responsible.

“I drove to the parking lot and left the car in the parking lot to go kayaking.”  I told him hoping that that would answer his question.  It didn't, so he asked two more times about control of the car and both time I gave the same answer, thinking that that's what he wanted to know.

After the final time he nodded as though I had admitted defeat and then sent me back to the first room with the prosecutor to have the prosecutor recommend something else.

This time the prosecutor did not recommend that the case be dismissed.  He sent me back into the court room to wait while the judge went through a bunch more cases before calling my dad up to the bench.  My dad wasn't there so I went again.

The Judge began railing at me for having such a ridiculous idea about ticket payment as to suggest that I might get out of this, and that my dad would have to come to court, when a voice came from behind me “I'm his mother, and I'll pay!”

And my manhood was taken from me.  Perhaps one day it will come back, but for now it's gone.

The judge went on, “So you want to plead guilty?”

“No.  The reason why I'm here is to plead not guilty.  I have no idea why I was given the ticket.”

The judge told me that my dad would have to come back on another date.  He went on to tell me that while my dad might have to pay the state, I should certainly reimburse him for it.
I asked if the next trial date could be soon since I'm leaving the country.

“It doesn't matter if your here or not since you're not the one on trial.  It's entirely up to your father's defense.”

I'm home now.  I hate cars, and when I have my kayak in Israel I intend to hook it up to my bike with a trailer to get it to the water.  And I can be sure, I'll never have to meet this judge again.

Sunday, August 1, 2010


I was doing the volunteer thing again, this time for the YPRC, with a large crowd of  youths.  I paddled across the river from New Jersey to Yonkers and was given the job of perimeter, which involves sitting in my boat and watching enthusiastic folks get to know sit-on-tops on a corner of the river.  I was there to provide assistance if anyone needed it.  This can be a very tedious way to volunteer, so aside from the usual distractions like splashing people and warning them to be careful of fearsome sharks, I worked on my rolls.

[caption id="attachment_86" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Kids and volunteers enjoying the river."]

Kids and volunteers enjoying the river.

One kid who was watching told me that he almost knows how to roll and has his bow dip down really well.  In fact, he would be practicing his roll “right now” if only he had “remembered to bring his nose plug.”

“Oh, you can borrow mine if you like.”  I happily offered.

With mild panic he gave some very good reason for why he didn't want to give it a go.

My friend Link was soon out there with me and joined me in practice.  Link has a little bit more trouble with his rolls then I do and while I've never seen him miss a roll before, he was in a moment, out of his boat in the way that I had been when I was learning to roll not to long ago. But no worries, myself and a number of other experienced paddlers where there to help him get back in.

Some of the volunteers took a group of sit-on-tops out on a small excursion and I was asked to stay and watch those who did not want to go.  A little boy asked me where the others where going and I told him “They heard there was a Jabberwock upstream and went to see if they could get a glimpse.”

“What's a Jabberwock?”,  he asked, quite interested.

“You don't know the story of the Jabberwock?”  I told him the story, and lost his attention in the process.

I was chatting again with Link and told him of how a local internet news group, Teaneck Patch, had offered to pay me to write for them about my trip.

Link's kayak was home made and a much more delicate boat then my plastic one.  He had to be very careful around rocks.  So when he was trying to roll again, this time with a Greenland paddle that we had borrowed from a friend, we handled the whole thing a bit less smoothly.  He had gone over on purpose and began the wind up for his extended paddle roll.  It would have gone perfectly, except he lost hold of his paddle.  The paddle began to float away and Link was upside down, head under water.  That is not a good position to be in without a paddle.

So I quickly pulled my boat up next to his, he grabbed my bow, and used it to pull himself out of the water.  Or at least, that's what should have happened.  What actually happened is that I pulled my bow up, but not quite close enough to his waving for help hands.  By the time he finally did get a hold of my bow he had already taken his spray-skirt half off in an effort to wet exit.  So he pulled himself part of the way up, and then out of his kayak.

Helping a man get back in his boat is not a hard thing to do if you know how, and I do.  But Link wanted to get back in using his inflatable paddle float.  Unfortunately as he began to blow air into the paddle float he realized that we were being pushed by the current towards some rocks and an ancient sewer pipe.  We neither wanted Link nor his boat to be hit against these obstacles so he held onto the back of my boat from underneath with his legs and one arm, and used the other arm to hold onto his boat.

I began to paddle.  It was slow going against the current with both the extra boat and Link's less then hydrodynamic form.

Link asked “Are you sure we're making any progress at all?”

“Yes, I'm sure.”  But it was slow going.

After some time we had made a few feet of progress away from the rocks and where no longer immediate danger of Link or his boat colliding with them.  So I, quite tired from pulling so much even a short distance through the water, suggested that we stop there and he resume trying to get back into his boat on his own.

He did, but before he could make any meaningful progress with inflating his paddle float we where once again near the rocks.  We made our train with Link as the link between the boats (That's not why I chose the name Link for him though, really.  Link is a character from an old tv show that shares some characteristics with my friend.)  And I began again to put my all in to paddling towards the boat ramp about 100 meters away.

I think I read in a book that a good way to pull someone along is to have them sit right behind you on your deck and I suggested this to Link.  He didn't think it would work.  I was working really hard now to bring him all the way to the ramp since I didn't want a repeat of what happened a moment ago, just losing ground to have to pull him through it again.

Link made some comment, probably friendly and good natured.  I didn't want to hear anything friendly or good natured, I was working to hard to pull him through the water since he couldn't get back in his boat very quickly.  I said something rude.

That's OK, Link is a friendly good natured guy who teaches dance.  After another few minutes, when he had apparently grown tired of the usual

“Are you sure we're making any progress?”


he said something else that was friendly and good natured.  I was even more exhausted then I had been the last time so I said something that was even ruder.

Eventually we made it back, I think all told it took about three weeks to make it those hundred meters but it felt longer because I had to pee.  When we where about ten feet away from the ramp I told him he could manage the rest on his own.  He let go of my boat and as quickly as I could I leaped ashore and ran to the nearest bunch of bushed for a moment of privacy.

When I returned he told me that once he set his mind to it, it took him only a moment to get back in his boat and he could have done it back near the rocks after all.  The boy who can almost roll told me that I did everything wrong.