Saturday, July 28, 2012

July Beach Stones

I'm less likely to take long walks on the local beach in the summertime, but after torrential morning thunderstorms the air was thick and still, threatening more rain, and enticing to me.

The summer birds are less varied than the winter visitors.  We have a tern colony, noisily defending a patch of beach delimited by symbolic fences purportedly for the less common piping plovers, of which I saw none.

As I walked across the beach  in front of this patch of reeds, blocking the view of the salt marsh behind, the skies blackened with wheeling flocks of what?  Mosquitoes, locusts, bats?  No, these are swallows, thinned out substantially in the moments it took me to pull out my camera and record the speckled sky. 

This was my treat for the day:  walking an extra half hour farther along the beach, beyond familiar territory, I came upon this odd relic, exposed only at the lowest of tides.   Puzzlement makes me want to make up a history:  devotional sculpture of an extinct race obsessed with slotted lumps and holes;  ancient defensive barricades against amphibious landing parties?  Or maybe just chance erosion by waves of the erratics scraped by glaciers from the New England bedrock and left here to amaze.

More likely an old, failed, and weathered attempt to forestall the nor'easter storm surges' effect on the sandy bluffs holding up expensive homes with water views above.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Stormy Bay Crossing

photo credit: Nancy James

6:30 am windblown Fire Island Lighthouse:  100 swimmers, 100 kayakers, plus countless volunteers, friends and family, after preparing for this day for the past year, would have been disappointed but secretly relieved to have the 5 1/4 mile, open water swim cancelled due to high wind, waves, rain, and poor visibility.  The event goes on, under challenging but not ridiculous conditions.



photo credit: Nancy James

That's my back in the foreground, under the PFD and paddling jacket, captured as I arrived on the scene to check in and meet up with T., my swimmer.   Winds stayed moderate at 10-15 kt from the E, and I don't think we ever got the 20 kt gusts that had been predicted.

I would have liked to take a few photos underway, but I can't brace in the chop, keep an eye on my swimmer and snap a photo without dropping my guard on at least one of the first two.  There were some memorable images, however, of sharp-edged, steel grey, low clouds blowing west above the shore of Fire Island behind us, against an otherwise uniformly overcast sky,  causeway bridge in the distance, my swimmer beside me.   Behind my westward gaze  come 2-3 foot waves, rolling in from my starboard beam, usually giving a predictable bobbing rhythm to the paddle, but occasionally converging or breaking in confused regions of rapidly changing depth.  I try to notice the bigger waves coming, but all T. can do is catch the occasional big one in the face while breathing, and keep my yellow form in view by his side as stroke follows stroke.  

T. finished with a pace just under 30 min per mile, remarkably similar to our pace last year under more festive conditions. My congratulations to all the swimmers and paddlers, organizers and safety personnel who participated in this Long Island tradition once again this year.