At the Bottom of the Food Chain

By Vladimir Brezina

In the harbor ecosystem, kayaks are definitely at the bottom of the food chain.

Still, sometimes they remind me of those frisky little mammals scampering under the feet of the great lumbering dinosaurs…

Even the smallest ferries can swallow kayaks whole

and even the cutest little tug is safe to approach only when it is tied up

Even at anchor, though, the true monsters are intimidating

(click to expand to spot the kayak in that photo!)

Kayaks in the open must run before anything moving

or better still hide along the sides of the channel, observing

waiting for a break, before making a dash for it

But when the monsters die, the kayaks come out to sniff at their carcases…

(for previous posts on the Graveyard of Ships, the Yellow Submarine of Brooklyn, and the ferry Binghamton see here and here)

Update: Actually, now I think about it, there is in the harbor one form of life that is even lower on the food chain than kayaks: swimmers!

32 responses to “At the Bottom of the Food Chain

  1. Johna Till Johnson

    Our “squirrels crossing the superhighway” blog, FINALLY! Only a little bit late :-) Thanks for writing this one up, Vlad!

    • I forgot the “squirrels crossing the superhighway” image—otherwise I would have tried to work it in. There’s also “riding a horse on the highway”, “rollerskating along the Interstate”, “speedbumps” of course, and others, but they didn’t quite seem to fit…

  2. oh wow, awesome and very beautiful shots.. thanks for sharing.. ; )

  3. Lucky to be allowed!! I think in Italy is forbidden to paddle in the harbor area (almost sure…)

  4. Ah, the power of contrast – great photos!

    • I am always on the lookout for those dramatic shots of my kayak model, Johna, coming head to head with a tanker or a giant container ship… (telephoto lenses should help a lot in that regard)

  5. Nice photos! As a former US Navy man, we always referred to it as the “Law of Gross Tonnage.” No matter if you have the right of way, your kayak looses! :-)

    • We ALL respect the Law of Gross (or Greater) Tonnage! That’s really the only law that remains when the Rules of the Road break down—which, with kayaks, they unfortunately often do, not so much because kayakers don’t know what they are (of course, some don’t—but then many motor boaters don’t either), but because the captains of large vessels don’t know that the kayakers know them, and actually don’t think of kayaks as vessels… So essentially we have to keep as far away from large vessels as possible (small motor boats are another matter) because otherwise, even if the situation is actually totally safe, the captains will freak out…

  6. Dramatic indeed! And brave!

  7. As one who used to be at sea in ships like these, I like these photos.

  8. Thee photos are wonderful. What kind of camera do you use that you don’t worry about it getting wet?

    • It’s one of those high-end waterproof point-and-shoots that every manufacturer seems to offer these days. This particular one is a Pentax Optio W90, which I’ve been very happy with for a couple of years. These cameras are intended for, among other things, underwater photography (at shallow depths), so they really are waterproof for kayaking purposes.

      I am currently upgrading, however, to the Optio WG-2, the latest incarnation of that camera line. Mainly, it has more pixels—16 as opposed to 12 megapixels—and to my mind you can never have too many pixels for kayak photography, because many photos have to be cropped from larger frames that are compromised variously by water spots, slanted horizon, etc., etc….

      On special occasions, I do bring my DSLR, which can produce much more interesting telephoto shots, but which sadly is not at all waterproof. I am very nervous when that camera is out of its dry bag…

      BTW, your “Unfocused” photo was great!

      • Thank you, it was lost in the archives… it was nice to see it and actually realize faults and all it was beautiful. At the time I think I glanced and thought it was too blurry, but that is part of the beauty. Accidents can be good!
        Thanks for the info.

  9. Great post! Love the photos! Very interesting perspective! Thanks for visiting my blog so I could find yours! Looking forward to more!

  10. Wow – not what I expected to see when I read the post title – but so glad I still opened. Those photos are insane! I can’t imagine how small you would feel sitting in your kayak next to one of those monsters of the sea! I have to say – while it would be an adrenaline rush – I love the kayaking I do in my region – no traffic like that whatsoever! I am still in awe with those photos! Think I will stick to my blissful waterways in the Ottawa/Gatineau area – perhaps venture out to the 1000 Islands this summer – will share the waters with motorized boats, but nothing as awe-inspiring as what you have seen! Wow.

    • We do feel small!

      But fortunately the really big ships are spaced quite far apart, and better still, their movements are predictable and there are many places in the harbor where they don’t go.

      The ferries, on the other hand, are less easily avoided…

      And, of course, in the summer all the spaces between the big ships and ferries are filled with thousands of little motorboats, zipping this way and that more or less at random at high speed. There’s no point in trying to avoid them—we have to rely on them to avoid us, which they, mostly, do.

      Have fun kayaking this summer in a more tranquil area!

  11. Very brave to kayak in the harbor. Loved your photos and story. I especially like that 2nd pic. Very cheeky! ;)

  12. wow…makes paddling around in these waters out here seem tame as a swimming pool.

    • It’s a different experience. We enjoyed our Long Island circumnavigation in part because it was so peaceful, with no need to look over our shoulders all the time to see if a barge was bearing down on us. But then, of course, we were happy to be back home when we encountered that first barge again at the end of the trip…

  13. Pingback: Travel Theme: Big | Wind Against Current

  14. I’m impressed! You are brave.

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