A Winter Paddle Around Manhattan

By Vladimir Brezina

On Saturday, the air temperature was predicted to be in the 30s, then falling rapidly after dark. The water temperature was in the 40s. With a cold front coming over in the afternoon, winds were predicted at 15-20 knots, with gusts up to 30 knots. There was a small craft advisory.

A perfect day for a nice paddle around Manhattan!

The morning view from the Statue of Liberty webcam:

A Manhattan circumnavigation is, among other things, a passage under a succession of 19 bridges (or 21, if you take the Queens-side channel past Roosevelt Island). First the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges…

… then the Williamsburg Bridge, with the old Domino sugar factory next to it on the Brooklyn shore…

… then the Queensboro Bridge…

(We did take the Queens-side channel past Roosevelt Island, since the East River was already beginning to ebb and the Queens-side channel has a nice succession of eddies through which it is easy to make one’s way against the current all the way through Hell Gate: see here.)

In winter the backwaters of the Harlem River are a haven for huge rafts of Canada geese, ducks, and gulls, some of which we unfortunately disturbed on our passage through.

Protected against the wind by the side of a colorfully rusty barge in the lower Harlem River, we too rafted up for some hot tea…

… while contemplating a dramatic view of the city behind us.

Then onward up the Harlem River. The Madison Avenue Bridge…

… the wheeling, squawking gulls of Yankee Stadium…

… and the three bridges of the mid-Harlem.

With the passage of the cold front, the sky ahead was clearing to an eggshell blue…

… as we made our way through the upper Harlem River.

Just past the 220th Street Bridge in Spuyten Duyvil, icicles always hang off the rocks on a day like this.

And then the short winter day came to an end. The sunset flashed through the clouds over Inwood Hill Park…

… reflected off the windows of the Bronx…

… and lit up our passage under the Amtrak railroad bridge into the Hudson.

To the north, the Palisades stretched out under the darkening sky…

… and to the south, the last bridge: the George Washington Bridge…

… and beyond it, Midtown Manhattan once more.

It was still a couple of hours back to Pier 40, down the dark, strangely quiet river. When we arrived, we found that our entire boats, and we ourselves, were encased in a layer of ice.

More photos are here.

6 responses to “A Winter Paddle Around Manhattan

  1. Thanks for sharing what looks like a great winter trip. The photography is terrific. Tell me what sort of camera you use on the water, please.

    Alan, Delmar, NY

    • Thanks, Alan!

      These photos were taken with a Pentax Optio W90. Over the years I’ve had a series of Optio models—the W90 is the latest I have, but I believe there’s a more recent model still now on the market—and I’ve been very happy with them. Above all, they really are waterproof, which is essential for worry-free kayak photography.

      But there are some tricks to kayak photography beyond just having a good camera. I get questions like yours pretty often, so I think I will do a more detailed post on the subject soon. Stay tuned!

  2. Beautiful photos! I don’t remember Saturday being a day as nice as the one depicted in your photos. Great trip!

    • Thanks, Randy!

      And Saturday actually was a beautiful day! Even by some objective measures—there wasn’t that much wind once we made it round the Battery into the more protected East River, and the sun started poking through the clouds—but above all because going out in a kayak makes every day memorable and beautiful in its own way…

  3. Pingback: Once More Round Manhattan | Wind Against Current

  4. Pingback: Weekly Photo Challenge: Beyond | Wind Against Current

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