New Kayak

I first went kayaking in 2004, on a rainy day in Bonaire, on a guided trip through the mangroves of Lac Bay (which, according to our guide, was not a swamp. Despite appearances).

I started paddling the Charles around 2007, through Charles River Canoe and Kayak. I’d been using their winter business, the Weston Ski Track, and decided to give kayaking on the Charles a try. I liked it, especially in the Newton/Auburndale region, and have been a season pass holder for the past couple of years, and have been thinking about getting my own for a couple of years, but have been holding off due to the uncertainty at work.

Unfortunately, Charles River Canoe and Kayak lost the concession to the Newton Boathouse in 2013, and have been operating the boathouse for the new concessionaire, Boating In Boston. Apparently, that relationship is ending, and they’re closing the paddling store with a going out of business sale*, with equipment 30 – 50% off. I got a boat, life jacket, paddle, and some foam blocks and straps to get the boat home for around $1,200, saving $500.

The boat I got is a Wilderness Systems Tsunami 145. Most of my paddling has been, and probably will be on the Charles, but I wanted something I can take out on the ocean, or at least Cape Cod Bay in the future. I was a little hesitant–I’d had a very unpleasant experience with a Tsunami 140 on one of the shuttled river trips, but the 145 is a designed for paddlers who are (ahem) slightly larger. I tried it out a couple of times, and found it to be comfortable.

I’ve had the boat for two weeks now, but only really got to take it out yesterday. I was busy last Saturday, and it took me a good chunk of of last Sunday getting the roof rack set up – don’t get me started on multilingual instruction sheets that are all diagrams with little explanatory text, so I only had enough time to whet my appetite for it. Yesterday, I took it for a nice long paddle through the Charles in Dedham.

Due to the drought, the water levels are noticeably low. I put in at the boat launch off Great Plain Avenue, and the river bank at the water’s edge is actually river bottom, which I found out the hard way when I sank into the mud up to my knees, and got stuck. My flip flops are now stuck there until some future archeologist finds them. I paddled upstream to the put in at Charles River Park, intending to go further, but there wasn’t enough water. So I turned around, and continued back downstream until I got to Motley Pond, where I turned around.

The boat is comfortable –my two concerns had been a tight cockpit, and back support. The cockpit is small, but not too tight. I was able to adjust the seat back so I was able to sit up comfortably, and used the leg raisers to bring my legs up to the roll pads. The boat has a rudder, but the water was shallow enough in several places that I had to flip it up. The boat tracks well even with the rudder up, but obviously steers better with the rudder down.

The boat definitely is more “tippy” than a recreational kayak. I got so that I was comfortable taking my Nikon D80 on the rental kayaks I was using, which was great since it allows for longer lenses and a polarizer. I think that for a while anyway, I’ll be back to my Canon G12 inside the waterproof housing – just in case.

About the only thing I don’t like so far is the color – I bought it on clearance, and the “dusk” color was the only one available. It’s really ugly, with a base color of a kind of tomato orange with oversprayed areas of gray. Having my own boat vs. renting definitely has tradeoffs: I had to pick up a roof rack, it takes time to get it up there and snugged down, and it takes up a lot of space in the garage. On the other hand, I’m no longer limited to rental locations, and I’m really looking forward to exploring the waterways around me.

*After a couple of weeks the message changed, and the sale was now billed as a “moving” sale. They’ve found a new location for the store – 132 Charles Street in Newton.

Amazing Grace

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One of the things I liked best about my old job was being close enough to the East Bay Bike Path to be able to go for a ride after work. I just love going for a ride along the water around sunset

I decided to go back for a ride this evening. The days are short enough now, and night falls quickly enough now, that I had to time things carefully. Tarry too long at the far end of the path, and it’s fully night by the time Pomham Rocks Light comes into view.

Tonight, I timed it just right. The sun was still pretty high when I paused by the water in Warren, but the sun had set and the clouds had turned pink by the time the lighthouse came into view. And then, Judy Collins’ Amazing Grace came on the iPhone, and it was perfect.

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Growing up, during our vacations at the Cape my parents liked to go for rides after supper, usually winding up at a beach for sunset. The radio station my dad liked had to sign off at sunset, and often signed off with Amazing Grace. Hearing it again at sunset brought back a bunch of memories.

Five Weeks In

I’m now about five weeks into my new job, working as a front end developer at a startup in Newton called appScatter. So far, I’m liking it a lot.

I really like working with the guys I’m working with. Rami is warm and friendly, knowledgeable, and laughs easily. Mike is smart and enthusiastic and very positive; his style is to encourage rather than enforce. Mark is even newer than I am, and I’m still getting to know him, but he dove right; he’s enthusiastic and inquisitive.

Unlike my old job, this position is strictly front end; I’m building a single page app using AngularJS, and it’s been quite an adjustment. I knew nothing of Angular before; I spent part of the week before I started boning up, and felt I understood it at a conceptual level, but of course, practice was another matter. Once I actually started digging into it, I was fighting syntax the whole way. Every stupid little thing — and it was always the little things; the big things were relatively easy — seemed to take forever. I wasn’t used to the Angular style of passing functions around in the arguments of functions; it didn’t help that I was moving from a fairly plain text editor (Homesite) to Sublime, which autocompletes quotes and parentheses and brackets, and doesn’t select text quite the way I was used to. So I was ending up with extra or missing quotes and brackets and parentheses, and was in JavaScript Hell for a few weeks. It didn’t help that I’d given wildly optimistic estimates for my tasks, based on how I would have done them the old way.  I feel like I’m gaining on it now, and the last few pieces I’ve added have come along a lot more easily. I’m spending more of my time on the fun little details of smoothing out the user experience, and less on the basics. I’ll have a lot more to say about Angular, I’m sure.

The other adjustment I’ve had to make is not having access to the server or the database to help myself on the client side. In ColdFusion, the basic generation of the page is done on the server, usually by cfoutputting a query, often one I wrote myself. Now, I’m making web service calls, getting the data, placing the data in Angular’s model layer, and letting it handle the display.

The commute is shorter than the commute to Rhode Island, by about 20 – 40 minutes each way. About the only thing I miss are the people and my sunset rides along the East Bay Bike path.

Turner and the Sea

I’d originally planned to do a sunset ride along the East Bay this Monday, but I was feeling stiff after the night dive, and was also aware that it was the last day of the Turner and the Sea exhibit at the Peabody Essex Museum. After checking the museum website to make sure they were open today, my mother and I headed north to see the exhibit.

While we were there, we saw their collection of nautical art, and Yin Yu Tang, an 18th century Chinese house, now relocated to Salem, and then it was time for the main exhibit.

Joseph Mallord William Turner was one of Britain’s premier artists around the turn of the 1800’s up until his death in 1851. He had an exceptional talent for use of light, and as his career progressed, his work became increasingly abstract, before abstract art came into vogue. This exhibit focused on his maritime work.

We both agreed that the exhibit was somewhat misleadingly named — yes, there were Turners there, but there were also a lot of other maritime painters represented — some were predecessors whose work inspired him, others were contemporaries inspired by him, and some were by contemporaries whose work inspired his competitive juices.

For me, the most impressive piece was Fishermen at Sea. It’s an oil painting of fishermen on the open ocean, with a full moon breaking through dark clouds, and transilluminating a breaking wave. Photographs don’t do it justice. The backlighting of the wave is superb, and in person, you can see the red glow of the fishermen’s charcoal fire. It’s a large painting, about 3 x 4 feet, and in person, you can see the details in the brush strokes. The photo I’ve linked to is somewhat greener than the actual picture.

The other standout is Battle of Trafalgar, painted at the request of the Prince of Wales (later George IV) as a companion piece to Loutherbourg’s The Glorious First of June. Both paintings are huge, taking up whole walls.

The exhibit ends with a bunch of his sketches and studies. When he died, he bequeathed many of his works to the British government, including many unfinished pieces and studies. Many of these are very abstract—some as a matter of style, and some possibly because they’re unfinished versions.

I enjoyed the the Turner exhibit and the standing exhibit of maritime art. There really is no substitute for getting close to a painting and being able to see the brush strokes, or being in the same room as a giant piece like the Battle of Trafalgar.

Day Dive, Night Dive

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This gallery contains 10 photos.

Last night I did a combination late afternoon dive and night dive with my friend Andrew. The weather was supposed to be dicey, with rain and possibly thundershowers, but we lucked out; the rain held off until the end of the … Continue reading