Where Are the Whales?

By Vladimir Brezina

IMGP1750 cropped small

Last Sunday, the current was predicted to ebb through the morning, then flood in the afternoon. Perfect for a paddle south, through New York Harbor out to sea!

But then where, exactly? Round Staten Island? Or to Sandy Hook? But we’d been there just two weeks before

This summer, we’ve been hearing a lot about whales. By all accounts, whales have been positively frolicking about, just outside the harbor. A whale-watching boat, the American Princess, has reported sightings almost every day. And many of these sightings, of feeding humpbacks as well as pods of bottlenose dolphins, have been off the Rockaways, just a mile or two from shore.

So that’s where we decided to paddle on Sunday.

In the event, we didn’t see any whales. (The American Princess didn’t either, that day.) Perhaps fortunately, neither did we see any of the great white sharks that (we read later) were present in that same area at the same time…

But it was a great ocean paddle nevertheless. Here are a few photos—

Whale watch annotated small

(click on any photo to start slideshow)

51 responses to “Where Are the Whales?

  1. What an incredible trip! How long were you out on the water?

  2. Too bad about no whale spotting but I think there has been enough shark jumping into kayak discussion for a while. :)

  3. photos were so fantastic – and the down map was enjoyable – also – glad you missed the sharks that were in the area. :)

  4. Awesome! Thanks for sharing!

  5. What a wonderful way to go sightseeing!
    Strange, when normally everything happens by opposites in this Southern Hemisphere, we are starting to see whales here, too.

  6. Thanks for the ride! Awesome trip and great photos as always! :)

  7. Just out of curiosity…what is the developed protocol for being hundreds of yards offshore in a kayak if a great white comes a calling?

  8. What an amazing way to see New York!

  9. Another great set of photos, Vlad. It didn’t look like too much of a rocky ride, so I hoped you enjoyed yourself. Sorry you didn’t see whales, that would have been icing on the cake for this trip. Maybe you saw something else in the water? Fish? :)

    • It was very calm that day—except in the tide rips, of course…

      We didn’t see all that much in the water, but plenty on the water: birds and all kinds of boats and ships.They always provide visual interest, and there’s plenty of time to look at them while paddling :-)

  10. Nice ship photos, always a pleasure to peruse the variety that passes in & out of NY harbor, particularly the Reinauer tug. She’s Craig Eric Reinauer (I think), a regular here.
    Vlad, do you know Ceres is docked at Croton Point? She evidently fouled her anchor at Nyack, fixed that, now heading whither? I had no idea she passed through our area (en route to the Clearwater festival), will be watching Marine Traffic for a return, hoping for a breezy day to catch her under sail.

    • We see hundreds of tugs and ships during a day like that. I don’t usually make a point of photographing them, but maybe I should start? :-)

      This summer I’ve been aware of Ceres’ progress generally, but haven’t been following it closely. She should be showing up in NYC soon. I saw some time ago that they advertised for crew for the trip back…

      • I find it very hard to cut back on photographing the big ships, at least in part because they look so out of place here. Once they show up it becomes a matter of choosing a good spot & laying in wait, but this plays havoc with the float plan. It only takes a tug, a tanker & an eagle or two to sink the plan altogether. Throw in a lively marsh and we go nowhere!

        Johna, using the Cyprus? Is the Ikelos in back-up status, or do you switch back & forth depending on conditions?

        • Down here, no matter what distractions tempt us, the current carries us to our goal, sometimes despite ourselves :-)

          I confess I had to Google Cyprus and Ikelos. I don’t even know which one Johna has. She’ll have to answer this one…

        • Johna Till Johnson

          Hi Michael,
          Funny story. I switched to the Cyprus after a session with John Carmody (top-tier coach). He took one look at me with the Ikelos and literally lifted the paddle from my hands, and tossed me his. “Try this,” was all he said.

          As soon as I got back to NYC, I bought the Cyprus (in a shorter length than the Ikelos, I think 205 vs 210) and haven’t looked back.

          The Ikelos is just backup paddle and I never use it. Now that you mention it, I should probably test it to make sure it still works!

  11. I love the big ships. What a beautiful view of the skyline too.

  12. Looks like a great day! Jean was out in the Sound all day, but all she saw was bunker (no whales; no sharks either). Thanks, we enjoyed your post! :)

  13. I really enjoyed seeing all of your photos. Such a different perspective from a kayak.


  14. Vlad – I’m VERY much enjoying your photos!

  15. Nice bit of healthy exercise for the pair of you…on a sunny Sunday afternoon…in Summertime…
    Why is it your pictures make me want to sing in pure pleasure?

  16. oh the joys of summer!

  17. Ikelos (continuation)
    LOL — Johna, Vlad’s photos of you plying the huge Ikelos blades a few years ago inspired me to get one. It’s slowly become my main paddle. Wonderful drive, easy to maintain a brisk pace while relaxing the rotation rate — no need to mimic an out-of-control washing machine agitator. Julie tried mine, liked it so much she got one too.
    It can be a handful in wind, when we switch to the Cyprus.
    Coaches much too dictatorial & narrow-minded for my taste. At Lake Champlain Sea Kayak Institute one objected to bent-shaft paddles, which I was not about to discard for his sake. Loved the sessions otherwise, but old Perl programmers know a thing or two on their own, mainly TMTOWTDI (there’s more than one way to do it).
    Sorry if this is out-of-bounds, not seeking a tedious technical thread a la paddling.net, just finding it ironic & amusing you stopped using the paddle you (unknowingly) inspired us to obtain.

    • Johna Till Johnson

      Hey, if you can’t have a good kayak-geekout on WindAgainstCurrent, when CAN you? :-). I’ve given the wrong impression of John, though–he was the opposite of dictatorial. His point wasn’t “use this” it was “try this and see what you think”–and swapping paddles with me was an efficient way to get there.

      It could also be a “where you are in your development” sort of thing.

      My forward stroke has improved considerably since switching to the Cyprus, largely because I have much better control over the blade (and thus blade angle, blade position, etc.)

      But you bring up some good points…It might be a good time for me to see if I can maintain that control with the bigger blade. If I ever do move back to the Ikelos, though, it’s likely to be a shorter length.

      Did not know you were a Perl programmer. Ever tried PHP?

      • Putting aside his bent-shaft disgruntlement, the LCSKI instructor was excellent, fixing my forward stroke which was the main goal in taking the course. I had struggled for two years trying to establish harmony among boat, paddle & paddler, more difficult than it seems.
        He did not know I owned a straight shaft Cyprus, left behind because it was a little too long, although obtaining it was a step in the right direction. A few weeks ago we traded it for an Ikelos which Julie now uses.

        • Johna Till Johnson

          You’ve got me thinking–I may decide to use the Ikelos for Blackburn (if it still works).

          One thing I find interesting—the trend towards not-feathering paddles. I’ve never understood the logic/physics behind feathering paddles. In my mind, it just accommodates the asymmetry most people have built up over years (can rotate further/more easily in one direction).

          But the whole point should be to become more symmetrical, not cater to someone’s learned asymmetry…..

  18. A RETIRED Perl programmer, which means I barely understand my own code. Well, not as bad as all that, but my facility with the syntax is falling off.
    No PHP other than the occasional ugly hack needed for Julie’s dragon boat team’s website. I’m the webmaster, trying to keep it basic, no desire to dig in deep. Most of the paddlers seldom visit the official site, use the FB site instead. OK by me, but no point in getting carried away with slick features. Winter work, anyway, paddle season too brief for complicated projects & side-shows.

  19. Fabulous as ever. You clearly show Manhattan as intended. I was hoping for whales too but the shot with the rays of sunlight was pretty dam good!

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