Sunday, March 29, 2009

Kayaking Season Begins Soon!

On June 15, 1774, Goethe, with Lavater and some others, set out across the "Lake of Zurich" in order to replicate the occasion, 25 years earlier, of Klopstock's famous ode, "Der Z├╝rchersee." Otherwise, I am not familiar with any works of Goethe inspired by boating.

I will look into the subject, because I have become an avid kayaker in recent years. There is (in my estimation) nothing like being out on the river on a sunny day in a kayak. My interest began several years back, when Rick and I became volunteers with the Downtown Boathouse here in New York. Since then, I am the more obsessed kayaker. During the winter, for instance, the DTBH has a program for keeping us in shape out of season. We practice every weekend in a large pool uptown at Riverbank State Park. It's now just a little under two months until the DTBH season begins, on May 15, the day on which, more or less, the temperature in the Hudson River is 55 degrees. At that temperature, if you fell in the water but got out quickly the risk of hypothermia would not be great, provided you got warm quickly. Those of us who are fanatics wear a wet suit or a dry suit for cold water temperatures.The preface to the season for me was the show put on by Jersey Paddler in (no fooling!) New Jersey. I rode out to the show yesterday with a couple of paddling pals.

Besides a lot to see at the show, there were mini-"seminars," featuring, for instance, Olympic medalist Greg Barton. And ways to test your paddling strength.

My favorite exhibitor was Qajak (pronounced "kayak"), a group that promotes and constructs Greenland-style kayaks. See the example at the top of this post. The materials the boats are made of are nylon, dacron, etc., but they looks just like animal skin. You have to be a better (and braver) paddler than I am, since the hatch is extremely narrow. Apparently, Greenlanders don't want to fall out when seal-hunting. 

But, then, they can probably roll pretty well, for which you need upper body strength. You could even try out your strength at the show with some Greenlandic-style aerobics, demonstrated here. This gal did a pretty good job.

Lots of other things to do and see and, of course, buy. I got away without spending much money; I purchased a spray skirt and a paddle float. This was not the year for me to purchase a kayak; maybe next year if the government doesn't make the economy worse. (Why do I think one shouldn't be too hopeful?) In the meantime, as a volunteer I get to use the kayaks at the DTBH.

Tomoko Yamamoto, a photographer, composer, and, as she says, "soprano," has a translation of Goethe's poem "Auf dem See" on her website, and also includes some lovely images that give an impression of the the pleasure of paddling a boat on the river. She seems fond of the poem for the Schubert setting.

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