Daily Archives: January 2, 2013

Last Manhattan Circumnavigation of 2012

By Johna Till Johnson
Photos by Vladimir Brezina

At the time, it didn’t seem like a big deal: On a sunny weekend in late October, we decided to circumnavigate Manhattan.

We didn’t anticipate, though, that, thanks to Hurricane Sandy, it would be our last circumnavigation of the year, indeed our last major trip in New York waters. And so this trip has a special resonance in our memories.

A Manhattan circumnavigation is usually a pretty predictable trip, though always a treat. It’s not particularly long by our standards, but packed with variety. The scenery ranges from the urban…

Midtown Manhattan from the East River

In the East River: the Empire State Building, with Vlad in the foreground (photo by Johna)

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to the bucolic…

Fall colors in the Harlem River

Fall colors in the Harlem River

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Ferries in the East River

Riding the chop and keeping an eye on the ferries down by the Battery

and the paddling conditions vary nearly as much: The water down by the Battery is often exciting (enhanced by ferry and other shipping traffic)…

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Up the Harlem River

Heading up the Harlem River

but  the  long glide up the Harlem River is usually tranquil.

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All in all, we looked forward to a lovely, if unexceptional trip.

Unexceptional except for being our last long trip of the year.  The following weekend, we toured the Gowanus Canal—a scenic, but short, excursion.

And the Monday after that, Sandy arrived.

Our Manhattan paddling home at Pier 40 was shut down, and the pier itself remains closed (though we’re hopeful it will reopen soon). In addition, there continue to be some restrictions on paddling in New York Harbor. So we haven’t been out (in New York waterways, at least) since.

Which made this “unexceptional” trip rather exceptional, after all.

So our recollection of this circumnavigation is tinged with a bit of melancholy and a sense of loss. As the graffiti has it:

Poetic graffiti in the East River

“Alas this bitter life filled with sweet dreams” — Poetic graffiti in the East River

But even an “ordinary” trip has moments of incandescent beauty, which will live on in our memories…

Yellow and blue nocturne

The George Washington Bridge: Yellow and blue nocturne

We hope to be back on the waters around Manhattan in 2013!

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The individual photos are here.