Paddling in a Pandemic – There Be Fog – Chapter 4

As I come into Little Bay, a dull gray fog hangs over my bay. Ahead of me, a Cormorant paddles on the water…you can just make out the small black outline of that bird in the distance.

By Cecil Hoge

June 18, 2020

“Nebbia” is the Italian word for fog. Some ancient Italian writer once said “Nebbia always brings change”. I am thinking it must be so as I paddle into my fog-shrouded bay. But what change is coming I wonder?

The weather on this day is naturally humid and warm – the temperature is in the mid 70s. It feels cool, wet and warm…all the same time. The grey fog that hangs over the bay gives the day a feeling unreality, as if I am paddling in mixed soup composed of water and clouds and mist with no clear demarcation where one begins and the others end.

I like paddling on these kind of days. It makes me feel I am in a faraway land of oxygen, water and mist. I often imagine that I might enter a dense fog bank, paddle through it in almost blindness and then emerge in a different time and place.

But paddling today does not dispel what is happening in the country and when I return from my paddle I almost instantly digitally informed of new events.

Today, another million and half people have applied for unemployment, bringing the total of unemployment claims since the Pandemic up to over 45,000,000. According to today’s report, 20 million people are still receiving monies from their unemployment claims. What happened with the other 25 million I am not sure. Did they get their jobs back? Maybe. Are they in some nebulous “fogland” between working and not working? 

What will happen, I wonder, when the 20,000,000 plus people who do receive unemployment benefits find that their extra $600 a week has been cancelled on July 25th, as it is presently scheduled to be. Will they all go back to work? So many questions…not many answers.

It is a confusing time…the stock markets continue to hover above it all, as the fog hovers above my bay. Restaurants and bars are trying to open up. In many cases, they seem to be using a kind of Deli ordering system – you go to a window, give your order and then sit-down at an outside table and wait to be called. After a while they call your name and you go pick it  up and bring it back to a table. Some restaurants do have waiters that actually call on your table, but many only do that on the weekends when it is sure to be crazy busy.

Construction of buildings and houses on Long Island has started up again. In Port Jefferson, as I come into town, I see a new apartment building rising up. For about 2 months it sat partially started with only one floor in place, right next to another 3 story apartment complex. Now the beginnings of a second story has been added and I see signs a third story starting in some places. Soon, I guess, the building will rise higher to a third or even fourth story. 

That might not please the the folks next door in the other recently finished apartment building. That building was completed and fully occupied about a year ago. Now the folks next to the new apartment complex going up will have the opportunity to have a closeup view of their new neighbors. So progress goes on and the town is growing up and maybe not everybody will be happy with it.

Me, I wonder if the new apartment complex now being finished will ever be fully occupied? We shall see, as our President says.

In Newsday, the local newspaper, there is an article that 48,000 thousand jobs have been added this month – that is good news. The paper goes on to say that there are still 250,000 people who lost their jobs during the Coronavirus not yet back to work. So now the real question is when can they expect to get their jobs back? 

There are other things happening in this country as I paddle out onto my foggy bay. The President is planning a big rally of his folks in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Apparently, 100,000 people are expected to attend this coming Saturday. Originally, it was scheduled to take place June 19th, but then it was discovered that date coincided with Juneteenth, aka as Freedom Day, an unofficial holiday commemorating the fact that all slaves were free in Texas. That original date was June 19th, 1865.

Considering the fact that there are large scale protests still occurring across the country because of the death of George Floyd, the President decided that the timing might not be great, so the rally was moved one day later to June 20th. The fact that this event is even scheduled has created concern among health experts who point out that maybe it is not good idea for 100,000 people to gather together during a Pandemic. Apparently, the President and his team are not concerned. They are going hand out masks, take temperatures and give rousing speeches. Of course, it will not be required that everyone wear a mask because that would infringe on the freedom of the Trumpites, not mention hide their good looks…heavens to purgatory.

So, the rally is scheduled to proceed. If you ask me, it is an interesting experiment. If 100,000 Trump believers want to gather together in and around a building that certainly is their privilege. Trump team members have sagaciously set up a large outside area to handle the overflow – the stadium itself can only handle 19,000 avid Trumpites.

That gives health officials and Trumpites a great test of who is right. If no cases of the Coronavirus emerge, the Trumpites can tell all the world that this gathering never posed a danger and the Coronavirus is over and done with and a hoax to boot. And if the health officials and doctors prove right, there will be a few less people able to vote for our President this coming fall.

So I see this as great put up or shut up moment. The President and his team and 100,000 of his followers are submitting themselves to a science experiment. Given the fact that it takes several weeks for the Coronavirus to infect people and then make them sick, we will have to wait a month or so to see what happens. Perhaps, I should hold this story open until the end July to have good understanding of who is right and who is wrong.

We shall see, as our President says.

The blue sky, the puffy white clouds on this day – the scheduled thunderstorms have failed to appear.

June 24, 2020

The weather has turned hot and steamy today with some thunderstorms scheduled for this afternoon. That turns out to be “fake news” – the thunderstorms prove to be a no show. In fact, later the clouds spread out across a blue sky and a Southwest breeze springs up – see the picture above. Naturally, I take the opportunity to go for a paddle and ponder the wild blue yonder.

So, I head out for a paddle on the open bays and since this is the middle of the week, I find the surrounding bays devoid of people. Only me, my kayak, the bay below, the blue sky above with puffy white cotton candy clouds dotting the blue above. It may be warm and a little bit sticky, but with the Southwest breeze, it is a picture perfect day for a paddle.

Meanwhile, it seems the concerns of health officials about 100,000 Trump fans gathering in Tulsa a few days ago were overblown. According to the Tulsa fire department only 6,200 Trump fans actually showed up. The President’s security guards had a slightly higher estimate for attendees. They thought 8,000 to 10,000 people attended. Naturally, NBC, CNN, MSNBC, the New York Times, the Washington Post all played up the fact that many seats were empty. That must have been galling and disappointing to the President since he predicted all the seats would be sold out and there would be a big overflow crowd of eager Trumpites trying to get in. No such luck, Mr. President. On the good side there were less people to get the Coronavirus.

The President was undeterred and proceeded with another rally in Scottsdale, AZ, another Coronavirus hot spot. There his luck with attendance was better, even if the crowd was smaller. About 3,000 younger Trumpites gathered to hear the President speak and expose themselves to the Coronavirus. So, in a few weeks we can expect to see ever-rising Coronavirus cases in Arizona and shortly thereafter a few less Trump fans. I certainly believe that Americans should exercise their rights to freedom, but I am wondering if becoming ill with the Coronavirus is a smart way to do that.

Out on the bay, paddling on the waters of world, I did not ponder this too deeply. It was a beautiful day and there were no motor boaters crossing my path my path and disturbing my Wa. That is a Japanese word meaning “harmony”. On this day with blue sky above, puffy white clouds hanging within the blue, blue rippling water below, my Wa was in excellent shape.

June 25, 2020 

The President’s Coronavirus Task Force is up and running again. This time the President is a no show and the Vice President was there offering his assessment of the situation. He touted the fact that all 50 States were re-opening. What he said was true until he added one last word – “safely”. So, Vice President Pence almost made through a whole sentence without blatantly lying, but that word “safely” threw the whole sentence off track and in the end the Vice President lied. I understand Pence is religious fellow. I am just wondering if the Vice President has heard of the 9th Commandment which says, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor“?

Perhaps, that is not in his bible. Or maybe the term “false witness against thy neighbor” offers the Vice President some wiggle room.

Of course, there will be some who do not think saying we are re-opening 50 States safely was a lie. Everybody is entitled to their own opinion, but I would point out that the day before it was announced that there over 41,000 new cases of the Coronavirus and later on this day it was announced there were additional 45,000 new cases of the Coronavirus. Both of those numbers were all-time highs of new Coronavirus cases for single day. So, if that ain’t lying or bearing “false witness”, I want to know what is?

Of course, Vice President Pence did not wear a mask at this briefing. That would be unmanly and might reflect poorly on the President. At this Coronavirus Task Force meeting there were 4 other health officials, all of whom were wearing masks. And in fairness to those folks, all of them said just about the opposite of what Pence said.

I would mention that not only was the President not present at the press briefing, but the hour of the briefing was about two hours earlier that previous briefings. So, instead of taking place between 5 and 7 in the prime evening period when news viewership was the highest, it took place between 3 and 4. I leave you to decide why the timing was changed. That day, Texas and Florida decided to pull back their re-opening plans, immediately ordering all bars closed in Texas and Florida. It would seem that some of the rambunctious youths in those States were rambunctiously spreading the Coronavirus.

I understand the temptations of rambunctious youth. I was one myself. Who knows if I was young again and in Florida and Texas, I might be out and about spreading microbes wherever I went. As is, I can only look on at these sad proceedings and say I am sorry. Sorry that the leadership of the country is lying about the Pandemic, sorry that they are doing almost nothing to contain the Pandemic, sorry that the Pandemic is now rising faster than ever before in this country.

In my own world, I did not get a chance go paddling or rowing on this rather beautiful and warm day. I had other duties to attend to.

July 3, 2020

Things are not going well regarding the Coronavirus. The stats seem to be going against all the States that re-opened. It took a few weeks, but now there is a decided increase in cases. The good news is that deaths are still down. Deaths, of course, are what are called “lagging indicators”, so the fact that they are presently down does not mean they will stay down.

The present President looking at jets flying over Mount Rushmore

On this day the President chose to hold a Fireworks Celebration and Rally in South Dakota at Mount Rushmore. Over 6,000 people came to this event. Temperatures were taken, masks were handed out to any who wanted them. Most of the people who attended, being Trumpites, chose, like their President not to don masks. It will take about 6 weeks to find out how many of the people who did not wear masks got infected at that event. A curious aspect of the event was the fact that the chairs zip-tied together insuring that the 3,000 or so people sat on them could not, even if they wished, “social distance”.

Apparently, it a law in the great State of South Dakota for chairs to be zip-tied together at public gatherings so the chairs cannot fly away in a tornado or some such reason. At least, that is what some state official said on TV. As to whether 3,000 people should sit side by with no distance between them, the Governor of the State quite correctly said if people are worried about “social distancing”, they do not have to attend.

The President started his speech to the crowd by offering tribute to some of our most illustrious Americans, some of whom were both founders of the country and slave-owners.

Now some liberal minded people might have said that was not a good idea, coming just after the George Floyd and Black Lives Matter Protests, but the President thought it was important to assure the voters that he, as President, would not forget our rich history.

He then went on to decry the violence from the recent protests:

”Angry mobs are trying to tear down statues of our founders, deface our most sacred memorials, and unleash a wave of violent crime.”

The President vowed to do everything in his power to defend against the destruction of historical statues and the wave of violence sweeping America. Not everyone in this country agreed that a wave of violence was sweeping the country.

The “Fake News” crowd, the usual suspects –  CNN, MSNBC, New York Times, Washington Post – tried to suggest the while some violence was occurring during these protests, generally the protests were mostly peaceful and that it was actually the right of all Americans to peacefully protest.

Of course, the folks attending the Mount Rushmore event were not buying that.

And so it goes in the Great State of South Dakota.

The next day, the President held another fireworks display/rally in Washington, DC. Attendance was excellent so in the next several weeks we should be able to see an increase of the Coronavirus in Washington, DC. Of course, that would be nothing new. Washington has been suffering various kinds of viruses ever since it became the nation’s capital.

July 5, 2020

The Fourth of July has come and gone in Old Setauket. It was a little bit less robust than previous years, but it was still celebrated with some panache. Last night the sound of fire crackers and larger explosive fireworks was quite loud, but the clamor did not last for long. It started promptly at 9 pm and quieted down about a half hour later. For the next two hours it remained relatively quiet with only intermittent sounds of firecrackers. At 12 o’clock there were some last minute flashes and explosive sounds interrupting the midnight hour. I gather some late night party enthusiasts held off setting off all their fireworks until we had passed into July 5th.

Since the normal town firework displays had been cancelled by all the local town governments, the July 4th really was really quieter than past years. But the 5th of July was different. I cruised out into the harbor that day in my little FastCat and the harbor was loaded with small and large sailboats and small and large motorboats. Many of the larger craft had cruised over from Connecticut and were spending the weekend in beautiful Port Jefferson harbor.

The fact that there were many visitor craft and pretty much all the local residents who had boats were out and about in the harbor and the surrounding bays, made that day seem totally typical of a summer day in the Port Jefferson waterways. There were kayakers everywhere, standup paddlers galore, solo kayak fishermen, solo kayak fisher ladies, small motorboats, large motorboats, small sailboats, larger sailboats and what can only be described as a few really large yachts. On this day there were several yachts well over 100’ either docked in the harbor or motoring out of harbor or motoring into the harbor. These larger 100 foot plus yachts made the other sailboats and motorboats look like little toys. In fact, the opposite was true – the big yacht were toys of some really rich folks either living here or passing through.

This is my FastCat moored just off of Stone Beach 1. It is a prototype of a new Sea Eagle model I am planning to introduce this winter.

I took this day as an opportunity to cruise out with my son Joshua in my FastCat out through the Port Jefferson inlet into Long Island Sound. Once out of the inlet, we turned to the left towards New York City and headed a half a mile West to a beach I call Stone Beach 1. It is quite close to where the richest man on Long Island lives, although his house is actually behind Stone Beach 1, off of a scenic cove. I believe this gentleman does not bring his boat into Port Jefferson Harbor because there is no place to dock or moor it. It is difficult to find place in our 4 bays for a 222 foot long yacht. No matter, I am sure he keeps it at the ready in some not too distant port.

Stone Beach 1 is well named by me because it has billions of stones. If I could wait around for a few hundred thousand years or a few million years, maybe those stones would become beautiful white glistening sand, soft on the feet. But I do not have time for that transformation, so we anchor about 10 feet off the stone shoreline. 

I can get to this same beach by motoring to the cove on the inland side and walking across to the Sound side, but that’s would require shoes and a 100 foot trek across the rocks. Josh and I prefer to just motor out to the outside beach and slide into the water. This eliminates the need for rock resistant shoes. On the Sound side, our feet still touch the rocks, but if we stand in 3 or 4 feet of water the flotation coming from the salt water, makes walking around reasonably comfortable. I do not recommend walking across Stone Beach on land with bare feet. It is painful for me just to think about that. It hurts and without tough sandals or shoes it is a no go area as far as I am concerned.

Another benefit of motoring around to the Sound side in my FastCat is that it comes fully equipped with all our beach needs…the attached canopy protects us against vicious sunlight, the radio I carry on board plays rock music, and I always bring seltzer to quell our thirst. My FastCat has two swivel chairs which allows us to sit in the shade and oversee Stone Beach 1. Best of all, there is nothing to lug across the spit of rocks that divides Long Island Sound from the little cove on the other side.

This is my son Joshua in his Campesino hat enjoying the water with “Stone Beach 1” just behind him. I dare you to try and count the number of stones on the beach behind my son.

When my son goes swimming he always wears a hat since he is, like me, sensitive to the sun. Joshua, who is autistic, learned to swim at an early age and he still enjoys swimming now at 48 as much as ever. One has to watch him because he might at any moment to decide to swim out into the Sound a 100 feet or so, where it can be an easy 20 feet deep. At Stone Beach 1, the shoreline drops off fast…you only have to go out 15 or 20 feet to be in over your head.

On this day there is a Southwest breeze. That is the normal wind direction in summer and on the North Shore of Long Island, that is wonderful direction because it blows off any scum and jellyfish or mysterious material that I call either “Umgum” or “OogieBatanga”. Trust me it is better not to meet up with any of those elements. No worries though, on this day, all of that material is on its way to Connecticut and the water is blue and clear and truly refreshing. It is a pretty warm day with the temperature is in the mid 80s. The water temperature is in the high 60s, making it comfortable to swim in and truly refreshing.

I would like to mention what I think are two other great features of Stone Beach 1. It is just east of Oldfield Point, which is a point of land that juts out into Long Island Sound and appropriately has a scenic lighthouse overlooking the the point. The point of land seems to create added tidal currents which sweep by the beach and keep the water generally clean. The second feature is the fact that there is never anyone on this beach and if there is, generally they are at least a 100 feet away. So “social distancing” on this beach is not a problem.

I have not yet explained Stone Beach 2. Again, that is only the name I apply to it, but it too is a wonderful beach. Rather than being to the West of the inlet, it is to the East. So when I come out of the inlet, I turn right to go to Stone Beach 2 and head towards Montauk. That beach is on another point of land that juts out into Long Island Sound a half mile east of the inlet. On the other side Stone Beach 2, over a high dune, is Pirate’s Cove. That is quite a large cove that is to the left of Port Jefferson Harbor just as you come through the inlet.

The reason I go to Stone Beach 2 sometimes is if there is a Northeast wind it will actually push the dreaded “Ungum” and “OogieBatanga” onto Stone Beach 1. So that makes Stone Beach 2 my beach of choice if there is a Northeasterly breeze. That is not often, but sometimes it is the case. Now if there is a North or Northwest breeze, then the situation is hopeless because surely there will be a buildup of “Umgum” and “OogieBatanga” at both Stone Beach 1 & 2. And if it is later in the summer, that might also bring in the arrival of some really nasty jellyfish, which provide stings to remember.

July 11, 2020

Yesterday afternoon, we had an interesting experience. We were slammed with a tropical storm. It was not that severe, 30 to 40 miles per hour winds and a couple inches of rain, but it is very unusual to have a tropical storm in July. August and September and October are our typical times for tropical storms and sometimes hurricanes. So this was early in the season. It seems that this year, which began absurdly warm in the winter, changed to quite chilly in the spring, has decided to speed up and bring us tropical weather before its time.

On the Coronavirus front, today it was announced that we had the most cases ever so far for a single day. 68,000 new cases of the Coronavirus have been diagnosed. In addition, it seems that deaths are again rising. After going down to several hundred a day, deaths now have risen to 800 or 900 a day. Fortunately for me and my family, we are in a part of the country where the Coronavirus is now almost fully under control. New York State, which still has the highest number of overall cases, now over 400,000 cases, now has among lowest incidence of new cases – less than 800 cases each day. That’s a lot for most countries, but for America, it is almost Coronavirus Free.

That situation is not true of Florida, Texas, South Carolina, California and many other states which have recently opened up. They have experienced, contrary to Vice President Pence, very large surges of the Coronavirus in the last 7 days. So while most of the Northeast has tamed the Coronavirus, this spunky beast is showing up throughout the South and the Southwest and in California.

All of that can be truly said to be totally predictable. In fact, it was stated by numerous health officials and epidemic specialists that if we were not careful and prudent in opening up, new cases would pop up. And pop up they. In fact, it is quite clear that the Coronavirus is more out of control than ever before.

Speaking out of control, another 1.3 Americans filed for unemployment this last week. That makes almost 50,000,000 people filing for unemployment since the Coronavirus started to take hold of this country. Now, according to pundits, experts and stock market mavens, this was better than predicted. Apparently, there are only 18,000,000 plus people with continuing claims and while that is more than double the highest unemployment rate in the Great Recession of 2008, it still would indicate that 30,000,000 people have gone back to work. That sounds pretty impressive, but somehow that does not pencil out for me – something seems a little strange about it. Apparently, there are some people who were “furloughed” and not “laid off”. That means they theoretically will have jobs after their furloughs end. 

I am not convinced about that theory. A number of large companies have announced that they may have permanently “lay off” some the “furloughed” workers.

Those receiving unemployment claims or other aid from the government is now over 30,000,000. No worries though, stocks are UP, UP. UP!

But do not worry folks, the stock markets are probing new highs. Both the Nasdaq and the S&P are close to their all time highs and the S&P is up roughly 53% up from its March lows.

The wisdom of the markets have spoken: All is well.

Now as a skeptical older man, I would take issue with that. I would say the markets are ”berserk”, to use a technical term. And my conspiracy side tells me somebody is prospering from those “berserk” markets. I would even suppose, some scallawags are manipulating the markets. Heavens to Purgatroid…could that be true? 

July 18, 2020

The day is gray, but my heart is warm as I lolligag over the water

This day is not so beautiful, but the temperature is cool and almost refreshing. There is considerable humidity about. I would say both the temperature and the humidity was about 72. As I often do, I took the opportunity to go for a paddle. I did not get to far into it before my paddle descended into lolligagging. As I as have mentioned in other blog stories, lolligagging is when determination to paddle at a brisk pace evaporates and I become totally lackadaisical and too immersed in the moment. At that point, I am no longer concerned about getting a set amount of exercise.

My focus shifts to my surroundings and I paddle without direction or need of destination. The air feels cool in spite of the elevated humidity and I am enjoying meandering at a none too quick a pace out of Little Bay. Because there is a pretty brisk Southwest wind, I paddle across the bay to the leeward side. Once protected from wind by the trees on the south side of bay, I slow my paddle and look about. Great green trees surround the shore in front of me and hide many of the houses that are just beyond. Just in front of me, are several egrets and herons happily taking their pick of minnow in the reeds by the shore. This side of the bay no longer has waves or even ripples. I stop to lolligag and enjoy the moment.

The sky above looks like it might rain, but I know from studying the radar on my iPad that clouds holding rain have mostly passed so I drift aimlessly and contently. No big worries about rainfall should my iPad be wrong, I have my brought trusty waterproof kayak blanket which I can throw over legs on a second’s notice. For the upper body, I have brought an impervious and totally waterproof L.L. Bean waterproof jacket. If the occasion calls for a waterproof jacket, I am ready.

I paddle on in Setauket Bay towards the Southern end of that bay which terminates a narrow stream running into a tiny pond just in front 25A, the main drag from Setauket to Port Jefferson. Beyond the pond and the Phragmites, I hear the sound of cars passing by, going towards Port Jeff or back to Old Setauket. I paddle close to the small bridge that crosses over the small stream like waterway with the tiny pond just before the drain that runs under 25A. I note “the pond” is now fully clogged with sediment and Pampus Grass, aka Phragmites.

Someone forgot to tell the Phragmites that they were supposed to die. Someone also forgot to drain the little pond of mud and muck, which, as you can see, is still mud and muck.

Last year I remember George Hoffman, then and perhaps now, the leader of Setauket Harbor Task Force, confidently telling the Village Herald, our local paper, that the evil Phragmites would be destroyed by a new technique of cutting the Phragmites stalks in half. And in fact, later last year I remember paddling into the same waterways and seeing the Phragmites all cut cleanly in half. That technique would exterminate the evil reeds and then they would disappear. Alas, the Phragmites did not get the message. If you look at the picture above, you will see they are doing quite nicely, thank you. I wonder if cutting the stalks in half actually stimulated growth?

I also remember that George Hoffman said that the village had been given a million dollar grant and some company would shortly drain the swamp, so to speak. George went on to say that would help clean the bay of algae and pollutants. As you can see from the large mudflat in the middle of the “pond”, that part of the plan has not been carried forward. Perhaps, the money went to clean up someone else’s swamp.

I would like to mention that the Republican Governor of Oklahoma, Kevin Stitt, has been diagnosed with the Coronavirus. Kevin, a fervent Trump supporter and a fan of opening up Oklahoma early, attended the rally. So, he may be the first of many folks to get the virus from attending the rally. His office, by the way, says they do not think Kevin got the virus from attending the rally, but the fact remains he did attend the rally and he did get the virus.

July 30, 2020

On this day, Herman Cain, Trump supporter and pizza chain executive, died of the Coronavirus. He also attended the Trump Rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Before his death, he was quoted as saying he did not know where he contracted the Coronavirus. Apparently, he liked the Tulsa Rally. “I was there! The atmosphere was exciting and inspiring!” he said in a tweet with a photograph showing himself without a mask with several other Trump fans, also without masks.

On this day, Carrie Lam, Chief Executive of Hong Kong, said she would invoke emergency powers and postpone for one year the election that was to be held this September. The Chief Executive was quoted as saying, “This postponement is entirely based on public safety reasons, there were no political considerations.”

On this day, Donald Trump sent out a tweet suggesting that the November Presidential election might be postponed because he deemed that an election held on November 3rd, 2020, “will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history. It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???”

POTUS was concerned that mail-in votes would be subject to fraud.

We shall see what we shall see.


About Cecil Hoge

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