Tag Archives: Yellow Submarine

Seals & Submarine

By Vladimir Brezina

Crossing Ambrose Channel

Last Saturday: Air temperature in the twenties (Fahrenheit) in the morning, struggling up into the thirties during the afternoon. Colder on the water, of course. Water temperature around forty-five degrees Fahrenheit. Definitely drysuit weather, with gloves or pogies a requirement (and hot tea!). Partly sunny, with increasing clouds. Moderate northerly wind, becoming southeasterly in the afternoon. Current indicating a trip to points south. A perfect day to visit, once again, the seals of Swinburne Island, with maybe the Yellow Submarine of Brooklyn thrown in!

In the event, we saw only two, perhaps three, seals (which kept their distance, so no good photos) at Swinburne Island—a similar low number as on our last trip a month ago, and as reported by other kayakers so far this winter. In previous years, we’ve always seen ten or more seals at Swinburne by this time in the season. A little worrying…

And, bizarrely, the Yellow Submarine seems to have gotten a fresh coat of yellow paint (and some fresh graffiti) recently! Compare

Yellow Submarine, November 2010

Yellow Submarine, November 2010

with

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Yellow Submarine, November 2013

Here are all the photos (click on any photo to start slideshow).

Weekly Photo Challenge: Surprise

By Vladimir Brezina

This week’s Photo Challenge is Surprise.

Kayaking around New York Harbor, we see many surprising things. And one of the most surprising, hidden in a narrow Brooklyn creek, is the wreck of an entire, respectably-sized submarine. The Yellow Submarine of Brooklyn has a fascinating history—involving a crazy but surprisingly well-developed scheme to salvage valuables from a famous sunken ocean liner—that I’ve already written up here and here. So I’ll just post a few photos—

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Travel Theme: Secret Places

By Vladimir Brezina

Over on Where’s my backpack?, Ailsa has posted this week’s theme for her Travel Photo Challenge: Secret Places.

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The Yellow Submarine of Brooklyn

Our story begins in 1956, with one of history’s most famous maritime disasters. In thick fog on the evening of 25 July, the Italian luxury liner Andrea Doria collided with the liner Stockholm and next morning sank off Nantucket. 52 people died.

But for others, the great shipwreck was a great opportunity. Adventurers dreamed of schemes to strike it rich through salvage (although in the end, as usual, it was the lawyers who made the serious money). And there was plenty to salvage:

The Andrea Doria was known to be bountifully loaded with such diverse items as a $250,000 solid silver statue of a mermaid; thousands of cases of liquor; tons of provolone cheese; 200,000 pieces of mail that the federal government would pay 26 cents a piece for; the ship’s bronze propellers, worth $30,000 each, paintings locked in air-tight vaults; industrial diamonds; the ship’s $6 million metal scrap value; passengers’ personal property left in several vaults and more. [From an old article in Forgotten NY, now apparently deleted.]

Among those hoping to strike it rich was a Brooklyn Navy Yard ship fitter named Jerry Bianco, who developed a bold plan: build a submarine.

Bianco believed he could build a vessel strong enough to descend to 240 feet of water, where the liner rests at the bottom off Nantucket, and could actually raise the sunken vessel by filling it with inflatable dunnage bags; when filled, the bags would lift it off the bottom or to the surface — or so the theory went.

Lest this sound crazy, Bianco did succeed in forming a corporation, selling stock, raising more than $300,000, and building a 40-foot, 83-ton submarine that passed Coast Guard inspection with flying colors, and, in October 1970, was ready to be launched.

But for want of a nail…  Bianco was chronically short of money (he painted the submarine chromium yellow, because that was the cheapest paint he could find).  Because the launch was to be paid for by the pound, he did not ballast the submarine fully, and it capsized upon being lowered into the water.

And there it has remained ever since.

By now, not much of its yellow paint remains; it’s half-submerged, rusted, barnacle-encrusted… a modest, curiously-shaped object that nevertheless hides a fascinating history.

It’s in Coney Island Creek, a bucolic backwater of New York Harbor visited only by birds, fishermen… and kayakers! But not many know about it. We didn’t for many years. But now that we do, we visit it often. It’s one of our secret places.

These photos are from a visit just last week. The text above is partly adapted from a previous post on the Yellow Submarine. And a nice New York Times article on the submarine and its location is here.

“Just Another Day in Paradise”

By Johna Till Johnson
Photos by Vladimir Brezina

It’s late morning on a cool, rainy early June day.

Vlad and I have taken half a day off midweek for a training paddle—we need to get our mileage up for the Long Island circumnavigation we’ve got planned in a few weeks.

The currents aren’t right for too much, so we’ve decided to head down to Coney Island, land if possible for a late lunch, and return. (Boat landings are prohibited on the swimming beaches at Coney Island during the summer season, so we are not sure how the landing will work out…)

The day is oddly peaceful for midweek: Despite the usual ferry and commercial traffic, everything feels peaceful and subdued—muffled, perhaps, by the grey clouds that lower overhead and cling like cotton wadding to the buildings and bridges.

Cool, cloudy, muffled: Not what you’d normally think of as a wonderful day. Much less a heavenly one. But just south of Governor’s Island I overhear this exchange on the radio:

Captain 1: “How’s it going? We really need to get together sometime.”

Captain 2: (unintelligible crackle).

Captain 1: “Yeah, I hear ya! (chuckle). Just another day in paradise…”

Vlad  and I laugh at that, and wonder. Maybe the two are planning to get together in Bermuda, or the Bahamas? Surely New York Harbor on a cool, rainy day doesn’t qualify as “paradise”.

Guess what? By the end of our trip, I’m not so sure. Yes, we get shooed off the beach at Coney Island by the lifeguards. But we paddle across schools of dancing fish, peruse the Yellow Submarine…. and are greeted upon our return just at sunset by one of the most dramatic, spectacularly colorful rain showers either of us have ever seen.

Just another day in paradise? Look at the pictures, and you decide!

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The best of these photos are enlarged on a full-width photo page. Take a look –>

All photos from the paddle are here. And for the Yellow Submarine of Brooklyn, see here.

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…

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In Hidden Corners of New York Harbor: Three Treasures

By Vladimir Brezina and Johna Till Johnson

With the ability to paddle through the shallowest water and the narrowest gap between rocks and pilings, and the motivation to poke into obscure corners, a kayaker sees things in New York Harbor that those on larger boats miss.  Most affecting—because they too were once alive—are the remains of the vessels that at one time or another were left in an out-of-the-way corner of the harbor and never moved again.  Here are three such places:

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