Monthly Archives: January 2012

In the Mangrove Swamp

By Vladimir Brezina

A few days ago, Johna and I spent a couple of hours in the “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island on the Gulf coast of Florida.

We were hoping to see alligators, but no luck. The closest we came, perhaps, was this tableau that we came across on the trail:

Alligator 1, Human 0 ?

But the mangrove swamps on either side of the trail were teeming with life.

Continue reading

Red Hook: An Unexpected Adventure

By Johna Till Johnson and Vladimir Brezina

Freshly Pressed on the home page!

Experiencing the unexpected is the essence of adventure.

That was amply illustrated by our paddling experience on a recent weekend. In company with Harry and Runar, we set out toward Swinburne Island to see the seals that live there each winter. It was a perfect day for the trip: Sunny, temperature in the high 50s,  just enough wind to make things interesting. We figured it would be a great way to start off the seal-viewing season.

Instead, we ended up spending an afternoon exploring a part of the world we’d never seen before: Red Hook, Brooklyn. What we gave up in paddling and seal-watching we gained back in art, architecture, and entertaining social interactions.

Continue reading

Getting Together in the Park: A Photoessay

By Vladimir Brezina

With a white coat of freshly fallen snow hiding for the moment the drabness of winter, it was a bright, festive day in Central Park yesterday.



Everyone was out having fun!

Everyone was in a happy, outgoing mood. And so, more than usual, it was a day for getting together with other members of your species…

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Beauty and Censorship

By Johna Till Johnson (with Vladimir Brezina)

Shortly after I landed in Cleveland this morning, I drove by a sight that made me gasp with excitement: The Detroit Superior Bridge. Despite the name, it’s actually in Cleveland, and was built in 1914-1918.

Why am I so excited? Regular readers of this blog might recall that I love the shape of the Hell Gate Bridge, and its sister the Bayonne Bridge. And the Detroit Superior Bridge has the identical double arches, although it’s more than a decade older than the other two.

It’s like discovering an older half-sibling you never knew existed—and learning she’s not only beautiful, but graceful and accomplished, and living in a city you’d never have expected.

You might also notice that the above link is to, rather than Wikipedia. Why? Today (Wednesday, January 18), Wikipedia has joined other sites around the Web in a blackout protesting the proposed SOPA /PIPA antipiracy bills currently in front of the U.S. Congress.

If you’ve somehow missed the controversy, here it is in a nutshell: SOPA/PIPA (the acronyms stand for Stop Online Piracy Act, the House version, and Protect IP Act, the Senate version) is intended to protect against online piracy by granting broad new powers to the U.S. Government when it comes to blocking access to sites that deliver pirated content.

That all sounds good, and you’d expect that I, as a founder of a business based on intellectual property, not to mention a regular recreational blogger, would be strongly in favor of strengthening protections against  piracy—as, in fact, I am.

But SOPA/PIPA goes too far—way, way too far. There is plenty to hate about these two proposals, but the main issue is that, should they pass, the government could shut down sites that have not been proven to deliver pirated content.

Instead, all that’s required is an allegation.

That’s wrong for all sorts of reasons, starting with the fact that in a free country, I shouldn’t be able to stop you from exercising your rights by alleging that mine have been violated. A court of law has to agree with me that my assessment of the situation is, in fact, accurate.

Moreover, consider the potential for abuse: How long before, say, Americans United for Life and the National Abortion Rights League begin accusing each other of posting pirated content? About a New York nanosecond.

Sure, the bills’ drafters say that the laws aren’t intended to be used that way, that they’re primarily focused on offshore sites, yadda yadda yadda blah blah blah.

The reality is that, regardless of intention, the  proposed legislation can easily be abused. And even if used properly, it’s far too broad and needs to be re-thought from the ground up.

By all means, let’s protect intellectual property. But doing it with vague laws that introduce worrying new powers is the wrong way to go about it.

If you agree with us, please write your Congresscritters and advise them to do the right thing when it comes to SOPA/PIPA: Vote ’em down.

Nature Morte

By Vladimir Brezina

Photos taken in 2010 at Slickrock, Glover’s Reef Atoll, Belize.

Read on full-width photo page —>

A Winter Paddle Around Manhattan

By Vladimir Brezina

On Saturday, the air temperature was predicted to be in the 30s, then falling rapidly after dark. The water temperature was in the 40s. With a cold front coming over in the afternoon, winds were predicted at 15-20 knots, with gusts up to 30 knots. There was a small craft advisory.

A perfect day for a nice paddle around Manhattan!

Continue reading

Once More Around the Reservoir at Sunset

By Vladimir Brezina

Jogging around New York City’s Central Park Reservoir at sunset on New Year’s Day 2012

Across the water, the towers of Midtown

As the sunset fades

Above, a single white cloud remains

The individual photos are here.

Last Sandy Hook Kayak Trip of 2011

By Vladimir Brezina

Johna and I try to go out for a longish paddle every weekend. We don’t always succeed, but we succeed often enough that a backlog of trips that we have yet to post is accumulating.

Here’s one from early November. It’s strange now, in January, to see ourselves in these photos paddling without drysuits, and with leaves still on the trees…

Continue reading

New York Cityscapes

By Vladimir Brezina

I always promise myself that I will go out especially to take photos of New York City’s spectacular architecture. And I will… some day!

In the meantime, though, incidental photo-ops offer themselves… I posted some of the results a while ago in Beauty and the Beast. Here are a few more.

More photos are here.