Tag Archives: Hell Gate

… And Once More to Long Island Sound

By Vladimir Brezina

On Sunday, the currents were right for a kayak trip through the East River out to Long Island Sound. Here is a slideshow of the highlights:

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Full Moon Rising over Hell Gate

By Vladimir Brezina

Last night, as a lavender dusk settled over Hell Gate

a pale shell of the full moon rose up among the high buildings

then shone white in the deepening blue sky

as the bright lights of the Second Avenue construction came on

How to Paddle Through Hell Gate Against the Current

By Vladimir Brezina

The Manhattan circumnavigation is a classic New York City kayak trip. Hundreds of paddlers do it every year. For a 30-mile trip, it’s surprisingly easy, largely because the strong tidal currents that swirl around Manhattan do much of the work.

To use the currents instead of fighting them, though, it’s important to time the trip right. The key is the correct timing of the passage through Hell Gate. When going around Manhattan counterclockwise (the more usual direction), you want to reach Hell Gate at, or before, the turn of the current from flood to ebb, so as to ride the flood current up the East River, and then the ebb current up the Harlem River.

But what if, for whatever reason, you are late, and find yourself facing a growing ebb current while still  in the East River short of Hell Gate? The contrary current slows you down, building more strongly all the while… And the ebb current in the East River can build up to 5 knots or more—faster than most paddlers can paddle.

It might seem that the whole trip might have to be aborted…

Not quite. It turns out there’s a way to paddle through Hell Gate against the current, and even use the contrary current to advantage.

Here’s how we do it.

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Irene and Lee Have Left Quite a Mess in New York Harbor…

By Vladimir Brezina

These tropical storms have certainly stirred things up! Hurricane Irene came through ten days ago and deluged the entire region, and a couple of days ago Tropical Storm Lee repeated the performance. This morning, looking out of the window on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, we saw a strange sight in Hell Gate…

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Recycled Adventures: Urban Kayaking, New York City

By Vladimir Brezina

Now that Johna and I are back from our New England kayaking trip (photos here, writeup still to come), it’s back to my regular old paddling routine in New York Harbor.

Here’s an account of one of my standard trips, written up a long time ago for the September/October 2003 issue of ANorAK, the Journal of the Association of North Atlantic Kayakers (a journal now defunct).  Rereading this account, I see that things haven’t changed much over the past decade. There’s mention of sewage, for instance…

In essence, the trip is a 50-nautical-mile circumnavigation of Manhattan with a side excursion into Long Island Sound, looping around City and Hart Islands. I developed this trip for those days when the timing of the tidal currents is such that the East River starts flooding in the early morning, just as I am launching from Pier 40 in lower Manhattan. Following the flood current up the East River soon gets me to Hell Gate, where I am faced with the choice of paddling against the current then coming down the Harlem River, or continuing with the current through Hell Gate into the Upper East River and out into Long Island Sound.  Being lazy, of course I choose the second option, returning to Hell Gate to resume the Manhattan circumnavigation only when the current has turned so that it will push me up the Harlem River. (As a bonus, I get to paddle through Hell Gate both ways at the peak of the current, sometimes boiling along at five or six knots, which can be interesting…)

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