A Magical Maiden Voyage

By Johna Till Johnson
Photos by Vladimir Brezina

“This will be your best circumnav ever,” said Randy, smiling.

I smiled back, a bit dubiously.

Randy’s a friend and the owner of the New York Kayak Company.  I’d just bought a new kayak from him—a red-and-black-and-white Tiderace Xplore-S Carbon Pro, a long, lean, lightweight boat designed for expedition sea kayaking.

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I loved the new boat—which I promptly named Solstice—but I was feeling a bit squeamish about taking her for a maiden voyage on a Manhattan circumnavigation. It’s always a bit tricky paddling a new boat, particularly one that handles considerably differently than your previous one.

Solstice is a good 15 inches longer than Photon, my old Valley Avocet, and an inch or two narrower.  That design makes for a boat that’s faster and more powerful, but also potentially harder to control. And although circumnavigating Manhattan isn’t an inherently challenging proposition, there are some tricky bits, even in calm conditions.

The  swirling eddies at Hell Gate can almost always be counted on to provide some excitement, for instance, as can the ferries at the Battery (and their wakes).  Being unable to handle your boat  in such situations is not a good thing—even less so in winter, when a capsize can lead to hypothermia, even if the rescue or self-rescue is effective. So taking a brand-new boat out for a 6-hour trip seemed, under the circumstances, slightly risky.

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In the water for the first time!

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A longer, narrower boat…

But Randy’s confidence was contagious, and I tried my best to shelve the worries.  And as Vlad and I launched a bit later that day, we were both looking forward to the outing, our first longer paddle in the NYC area since before Hurricane Sandy.  I hoped Randy was right.

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First strokes

I had no idea how right he’d turn out to be. The trip was… well, “magical” is the best way I can describe it. Or maybe “enchanted”…

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We head out of the embayment into the Hudson

First, there was the snow. It had been spattering down on and off all morning, but as we set off into the Hudson, the fitful flurries morphed into a real, end-of-winter  snowstorm, falling hard and softening and blurring the edges of the Manhattan skyline.  Paddling in snow is always exciting, and this was the first time in a while that we’d been out in a snowstorm. It seemed a good omen… one of many, as things turned out.

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At the Battery, we paddle round the just-docked Staten Island Ferry…




After we rounded the Battery (carefully avoiding the ferries) and made our way up towards the Brooklyn Bridge…

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… and into the East River

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The snow is really coming down now (photo by Johna)

… the flakes fell soft and fluffy, hitting our faces like cold fairy kisses.

There was almost no wind, and the water was glassy. If you looked closely at it, you had the optical illusion that the snowflakes were falling up, coming from inside the river towards the surface..

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Looking back, downtown Manhattan vanishes in the swirling snow

There was almost no sound, except for the occasional cackle of the ship-captains on the radio, which I kept tuned to channel 13 to keep abreast of commercial traffic..

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The romance of paddling on the East River in the snow…

(click on any photo to start slideshow)

We’d left late, and we knew the current would turn against us  in the East River, either at Roosevelt Island or even before. But for now we still had some current with us, and it swept us northward on the East River. When I wasn’t admiring the snowflakes and the romantic snow-blurred skyline, I was feeling out the new boat.

I’d been disappointed by the relative lack of reviews of Tiderace’s Xplore series, particularly as compared to the Xcite, the flagship model. Xcite is a wonderfully snappy, maneuverable boat, ideal for paddlers who particularly enjoy rock-gardening and playing in the waves. It was introduced to quite a fanfare of reviews, and most paddlers who own a Tiderace have an Xcite.

Xplore, in contrast,  had a more muted impact, and I hadn’t been able to find out that much about it, other than that it’s Tiderace’s conception of an expedition boat.  It’s a bit similar to the Valley Nordkapp, a boat I (and many others) have a love-hate relationship with. The Nordkapp is fast and responsive, but it can be tippy.  I was curious to check out the Xplore’s stability, so I was zigging and sagging Solstice, just a few yards outside of the East River channel.

As I was happily edging and turning the new boat, a ferry churned past on our left,  southbound.

It was safely far away, so I was a bit surprised to hear Vlad shout, “Look! There’s the East River Dolphin!” At first I was confused: Did the East River ferry company have a boat called the Dolphin? Or was Vlad making a joke about dolphins in the East River?

Then I realized he was neither confused nor kidding: He meant a dolphin—a real dolphin.

I squinted and looked ahead, where he was pointing. Nothing.  Just the silvery sheen of water like liquid mercury.

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Johna scans for the dolphin

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There it is!!

Then I saw it! A  sharp fin sliced the air, and a gray-and-white body arced  out. A real dolphin! In the East River!

And a big one, too. We guessed it was at least twelve feet long. You could mark its position by the flock of seagulls that circled overhead, cawing and waiting for the dolphin to drive fish to the surface.

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East River Dolphin dead ahead!

We paddled as close as we could get, with Vlad taking pictures and me barely daring to breathe. The dolphin dove and surfaced, surfaced and dove, in what felt like a circle around us, followed by the flock of seagulls, which seemed to regard the dolphin as their property.

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We are joined on our dolphin watch by a green canoe

Suddenly a green canoe appeared from the mist of snow, paddled by a couple of guys who introduced themselves as Willis Elkins and Fung Lim.

“Did you see it?” they asked.  It turned out they’d seen the dolphin earlier that day, and had taken close-up photos and a great video:

We chatted a bit but mostly just smiled at each other, still stunned by the unexpected magic.

I remember many years ago—when the pollution of the New York waterways was at its peak and the cleanup had only just begun—hearing someone joke about the day when there would be “dolphins in the East River”.

I still remember the image that sprang to mind: fins arcing against the skyline of Manhattan.

And I remember thinking, “Not in my lifetime—if ever!” It just didn’t seem possible that the ecological damage could be undone to that extent. Cleaned up passably—maybe. But dolphins? Happy, healthy, and cavorting?

Yet here they were (we found out later there was at least one other in the East River that day).  That image that I’d thought was a dream—fins against the skyline of Manhattan—I’d seen in real life.  I couldn’t believe such a promising omen on Solstice‘s maiden voyage!

After we’d said our goodbyes and paddled away from the canoeists, I said to Vlad, “Now I’ve seen it all! What’s next? Rainbows, dancing unicorns, and choirs of angels singing encouragement?”

Well, we never did see the dancing unicorns, but as for the rest…

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Baby girl!

“What’s that?” Vlad exclaimed. There was something floating off in the water, silvery and pink. We padded up closer and it was a balloon, which  felt  appropriately celebratory. We turned it over and had to laugh at the message: “Baby Girl!”  Still, it felt like an encouraging note from the benign universe.

That feeling was only enhanced shortly thereafter when we encountered a brace of paddlers, including our friends Nancy Brous and Harry Spitz, who’d also been out observing the dolphins. It’s unusual to encounter other paddlers in the winter, so meeting  our friends felt like (yet another) happy coincidence.  We chatted and exchanged notes, and said goodbye.

Then we settled in for some serious paddling.

By now the current had well and fully turned against us, and we were looking forward to a long slog up the east side of the river. We weren’t sorry—the delay to take photos and observe the East River Dolphin had been more than worth it,  and we might never had seen the dolphin had we started earlier. But no getting around it: we were in for an hour, or more, of hard paddling.

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It’s going to be a slog…

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… but a lot of fun too!

Fortunately, those are the conditions the Xplore is made for, and I was pleasantly surprised in my ability to maintain momentum against the current.

What I did discover—and more on this in a minute—is that the Xplore (like many long, thin boats) is acutely sensitive to variations in the current.  It’s long enough that its bow and stern are almost in different time zones—and they’re responding to different current conditions.

As soon as I encountered an eddy line, the boat seemed to have a mind of its own as to which way it would turn—and I had to learn to work with it rather than against it.

“This boat design is clearly male,” I said to Vlad. “There’s no arguing with it, but if you  nudge it in the right direction, it does what you want in the end.”  (Perhaps wisely, Vlad had no comment.)

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We approach the Queensboro Bridge

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Monochrome tableau

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We struggle on against the current…

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… past the barges

After we’d powered past two big barges, obstacles that forced us into the middle of the river where the contrary current was strongest, we were able to turn into Hallet’s Cove and take a breather in the large shoreline eddy that develops there.

Now out of the current, I was paddling in a happy sort of daze, with the snow, the gray clouds, and gray water blending together. Out in front of me, I noticed something bobbing in the water.  “It looks a bit like a dog,” I thought idly to myself… and then thought… “Wait a second…!!!!”

Seal-heads look a lot like dog-heads, particularly in the water. And there certainly are seals down by Swinburne Island, in the Lower Bay of New York Harbor.

But all the way up here? In the East River?

Sure enough… it was a seal, eying us curiously from the water. Yet another omen!

Vlad took several photos before it dived out of sight.

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East River seal

By this time, it appeared nothing would be beyond belief. Dolphins, seals… what could be next?

A barge, as it turned out. Fortunately the captain had been regularly announcing himself on the commercial channel, and by the time we got to Hell Gate, we knew a barge was coming through from Long Island Sound, destined for the Battery by way of the East River.

So we holed up in another eddy to wait for the passage of the barge. Or at least, Vlad did.

I’d somehow gotten myself just a yard or two outside the eddy line, and spent some time spinning around in the whirlpools and tiderips that characterize Hell Gate when the current’s flowing.

I was well out  of the way of the barge, but nonetheless it’s an unsettling feeling to be swept beyond your control by the current. I quickly learned that the Xplore rewards good technique: The thing to do when the current takes control is to take it back, by paddling forward (regardless which direction that sends you). Once you have momentum you have control of the boat, and can turn however you need to. But  if you try to fight the current, bad things ensue.

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We wait in a Hell Gate eddy for the barge to pass

At any rate, I soon pulled in beside Vlad and we watched the barge float past. Then it was time to make it across “the Gate” and into the Harlem River.

Normally we ferryglide to the north of Mill Rock, along the most direct route into the Harlem River. But by this time the current was pretty strong—we were two hours past slack—and I had my doubts about our ability to make it by that route.  Vlad took off, and seemed to be doing a credible job making his way against the current.

After a token attempt, I gave up, and let the current sweep me south of Mill Rock, from where I paddled happily (and quickly) up the sheltered back side. We reconnected just north of Mill Rock, and heading into the Harlem River, settled in to enjoy the steady push of current for the rest of the way home.

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The Hell Gate drama over, we head into the calm, wintry Harlem River

But first: Lunch. We stopped at our usual  barge just inside the Harlem River, and shared a lunch of sausages, cheese, apples, and tea.

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We head for our lunch barge…

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… where we raft up…

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… for a cozy lunch in the snow

Then we set off up the Harlem River.

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Onward up the Harlem!

By this point, I’d gotten a good sense of how the Xplore handles (at least in the day’s conditions of low wind and waves and moderate current).

The Xplore truly rewards good technique:  I found you can turn it purely by edging, so long as you edge “properly”—by which I mean driving your sit-bones downward, rather than trying to yank the boat up with your knees.  If you do it properly, the boat will reward you with a 180-degree turn regardless of whether you even remember to add in a sweep stroke,  low brace, or bow rudder.

It also responds wonderfully to a well-executed forward stroke—you can speed up measurably by simply switching your stroke to high angle, without changing the cadence or effort you put into it.  (If you speed up your cadence, or increase your effort, it will speed up still more. It doesn’t accelerate particularly quickly, but  you can maintain a fairly high speed with relatively low effort once you get there.)

And it simply loves good torso rotation—the boat can tell the difference between merely rotating your torso and making a full-on effort from the hips.

In sum, if you pay attention to form and balance (or are lucky enough to have good intrinsic abilities in both), the boat is an absolute joy to paddle.  After a bit of practice, I found I could maneuver the Xplore with just a half-inch shift in my torso placement. And, as Randy had advised, the boat responds with precision, doing the same thing each time.

It lets you know immediately if you’re getting sloppy, though, and if you try to maneuver it with strokes alone—not paying attention to balance and form–you’ll be pretty unhappy with the outcome.

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Under the lower Harlem River bridges…

As we headed up the Harlem, we found ourselves in our favorite conditions: Wind against current. The current was with us, and the wind (admittedly, a light breeze ) was in our faces. We whipped by under one bridge, then another, and another, with snow-frosted trees on both sides…

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… toward the trio of mid-Harlem bridges

But wait? What was that? Something familiar-looking floating in the water, silvery but blue this time. We paddled over: Another balloon. “Happy Birthday!” was the message this time.

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Happy Birthday!

And not long afterwards, we found our third (and final) balloon of the day: “Happy Valentine’s Day!”

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

Okay, so maybe no dancing unicorns. But  a rainbow of three colorful balloons… more than we’d seen on a single trip before… and they certainly felt festive and celebratory. So what about those angelic choirs?

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Near the top of the Harlem now…

As always happens, the Harlem River portion of the trip ended too soon. Almost immediately after the Bette Middler boathouse appeared against an icy backdrop, we saw the Columbia “C” and the Spuyten Duyvil bridges and cove.

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We pass under the Henry Hudson Bridge…

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… and under the Amtrak railroad bridge into the Hudson

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Out in the Hudson, looking north…

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… but paddling south

Then we were out in the Hudson and rocketing with a strong ebb current southward, towards home.

As we passed the Dyckman Street pier, some people on the pier started shouting and waving. I waved back, but was too far out in the water to hear what they said, until the wind changed direction and I caught a short burst of words: “…. You guys are AWESOME!!”

Okay,  I can’t be sure these folks were angels. But I’m telling you, there was our choir singing encouragement.

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We approach the George Washington Bridge in the blue twilight

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But where is Manhattan today?

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Blue bridge nocturne

And then it happened again…!

We paddled down the Hudson into the deepening dusk, watching the city lights wink on and listening for ferries and other boat traffic on the radio.  The snow had mostly stopped,  although occasionally a flurry or two would pile flakes on our boats.

And as we paddled by one of the piers, yet again we heard shouted encouragement, in the same words…”You guys are awesome!”

Now, that’s never happened before—plenty of times we get waves, or a thumbs-up.  (And a few times, Vlad has been threatened and had rocks thrown at him.) So to be told twice—in so many words—that we’re awesome… well, you can tell me that’s not an angelic choir.

And I’ll tell you we’re all entitled to our own beliefs. :-)

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The lights of Midtown Manhattan

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Almost home…. the top of the Freedom Tower is still wreathed in snow clouds

As we drifted into the luminous night, all we could think was…. Could a maiden voyage have been any more magical?

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More photos from the trip are here.

114 responses to “A Magical Maiden Voyage

  1. What a fine adventure for a fine new kayak – I admire both.


  2. Great pictures and a really good read. Sounds like a great adventure.


  3. Wonderful – really interesting written and excellent photos captured… :-)


  4. Pingback: East River Dolphin Sighting | HarborLAB

  5. Fantastic! I pinned the photo “Johna Scans for the Dolphin” under Color Photography on my Pinterest Board. I hope that is okay with you.


  6. What an amazing experience you had. I would never have thought you would see a dolphin in such a busy environment.


    • Johna Till Johnson

      Well, as you can imagine… neither did we! (Actually, Vlad knew about the East River Dolphin ahead of time–but never thought we’d see it.)


  7. Truly a fantastic voyage for your boat’s baptism!


  8. What an absolutely fantastic maiden voyage! The dolphin, the seal, the balloons, the spinning and all,of it! I was riveted to your tale. You are awesome! ;-) and so was your day.


  9. vastlycurious.com

    Wonderful! You may be squeamish – I would be scared shitless!


    • Johna Till Johnson

      It really wasn’t that scary– we train quite a bit for this kind of thing, and nothing scary happened at all. Just enough excitement to be entertaining…and as you said, wonderful! Thanks for posting.


  10. wonderful!!!! thanks also for the video it was so intense, great idea, pictures are great but a video can bring you just right there with you two! it makes me feel like a was there too, thank you so much!!!! ;-)


    • Johna Till Johnson

      I agree-the video’s amazing. And a big shout-out to Willis Elkins and Fung Lim, who filmed it… believe it or not, when we saw them was the SECOND time they’d been out on the water that day to visit the dolphin…


  11. Laura Bloomsbury

    what a magical adventure and sea-going safari. Have to confess the swell on the Hudson made me gulp so was relieved to see the lights of Manhattan! Here’s to ‘Solstice’ and long may the sun shine on you both. Brilliant images Vlad as usual – how well the reds contrast with the steely waters.


  12. Let me repeat the chant, you guys are really awesome! What an exhilarating experience on a maiden voyage. Now you have nothing fear and will truly enjoy your new kayak. Congratulations!


  13. What an exciting tale, Johna! An adventurous maiden voyage in a clearly male kayak :-) Pure magic, from beginning to end – this is the best read I’ve had in ages – bravo!


    • Johna Till Johnson

      Ah, you caught that! Yes, you can’t order it around, but if you behave properly, it does too… :-) Thanks for reading, and posting!


  14. You guys really are awesome. I was captivated by the shots with the snow coming down. And as for the dolphin and seal – absolutely amazing! It was such a joy going through this post.


    • Johna Till Johnson

      Thanks so much! And I just wish I could convey the way everything smelled—so crisp and clean… and so quiet!! (Except for the cackle of the radio…)


  15. What a great adventure and documented magically through words and photos. Your description of the boat handling like a male made me laugh out loud. Balloons, dolphins, seals and angelic encouragement – what else could you ask for?


  16. Amazing Story and fantastic Pictures! The colours are brillant. Thanks for it.


  17. I’m glad you wrote up a long post about this. I really enjoyed being on the ride with both of you plus all those pictures! It was a magical day and well worth the effort of having gone out.



    • Johna Till Johnson

      Thanks, Nancy! And the effort was a little more than it might have otherwise been… since we’d had a soiree the night before! (Fortunately, we didn’t launch particularly early). Thanks again for reading and posting!


  18. Now thats what I call a cool present to thy self (Xplore) for a 3*star sea paddler. Congrats!


    • Johna Till Johnson

      Thank you! As you know, I swore I wouldn’t get another boat until I passed the 3*–nice how things worked out!! (And thanks for posting!)


  19. What a wonderful story and photographs to match. I know nothing about kayaking, but you had me every inch of the way. Magical indeed!


  20. Great post — congratulations on the new boat, Johna, and also for managing to photograph the dolphin and seal while spinning in a whirlpool. Our balloon message to you: TOTALLY AWESOME :)


    • Johna Till Johnson

      Ummm… Vlad did most of the photography, since I was busy figuring out how to work the boat! But thank you, A and J!!


  21. “There’s no arguing with it, but if you nudge it in the right direction, it does what you want in the end.” — words so true :-) The pop of red against the grays of the late winter/early spring day made for such interesting images. Dolphins, seals, who would have thought in the waterways of Manhattan??


  22. vintagefrenchchic

    This was a Grand Maiden Voyage. Dolphins and seals in the river?? Amazing. The balloons? Not so much. The skyline shots at the end are very surreal feeling in mood and color. Thank you for sharing it all!


    • Johna Till Johnson

      Thanks! The dolphins and seals were indeed amazing… and as for the balloons… on a gray winter’s day, we’ll take rainbow colors where we find them! (And glad you liked the shots at the end–Vlad wasn’t sure which one he liked most, so he put them all in….)


  23. I can’t swim and am afraid of small water craft but you made me feel like I was in your boat with you! What an exciting read and the photo’s are amazing.
    The cliche’ “In the right place at the right time” comes to mind. A day filled with joy, wonder, surprise and skill – doesn’t get much better than that and I think you had many signs that you were where you should have been Truly a magical day and I thank you for sharing such a beautiful day with us here.


    • Johna Till Johnson

      Mountain Gypsy…. I find it hard to believe that you are afraid of very much! You set goals and meet them, in the face of all kinds of obstacles. That takes huge courage. Who knows, maybe someday you’ll learn to swim (and maybe even love small water craft—have you ever tried paddle boarding?)

      Thanks for reading, and posting! (And yes, we had many signs and omens!).


  24. Dolphins , Seals , new boat , balloons and some land fans = “Banner day” . The Xplore-S looks great Johna . I know this was her maiden cruise and I reckon it will take a few more to fully realize it’s potential , but how does Xplore stack up against Avocet so far ?


    • Johna Till Johnson

      Wow, Stephen, apples and oranges! A bit like comparing a kitten to a polar bear. The Avocet is stable and responsive–the Xplore S sacrifices some of both for sheer speed. But the thing I realized today is that it’s a totally different boat at rest and in motion. If you really want to experience how the boat handles, keep it moving FAST (in any direction). It picks up both stability and responsiveness when it’s moving.

      I’ve been taught this many times, but the Avocet doesn’t hold momentum long enough for the message to sink in. And it’s super-stable and responsive even at rest, so there’s no real incentive to see how things change when it’s moving.

      The Xplore, however, is literally a different boat when it has some speed going, particularly if you throw in an edge. The faster you go, the more stable it is–and the more momentum you have, the faster it turns (unless of course you’re trying not to weathercock, in which case your choices are to slow down or put the boat fully on edge).

      It also gets just a wee bit grumpy if you try to fake it or phone it in–I’ve never paddled a boat that’s so aware of the difference between torso twist (twisting at the waist ) and full torso rotation (twisting from the hips, and simultaneously driving the foot into the footpegs). I haven’t been carrying my GPS, but by eyeballing it I’d guess you pick up at least 0.3 knot by doing the latter, making no other change in your forward stroke.

      The bottom line is that I love the Avocet–it’s a fantastic boat, and I’d take the three-star in it any time–and I’m planning to fix mine up and keep it, because there are some things it’s superb for.

      But for fast sea kayaking, the Xplore is in a whole nother dimension…


    • Johna Till Johnson

      Oh, Stephen, here’s another review you might appreciate: http://kayakbute.wordpress.com/2012/11/18/the-xplore-m-harcore-dream-machine/


  25. Magical indeed…. mystical perchance… mixed messages… definitely! Wonderful post!


    • Johna Till Johnson

      Hey, I’ll take “Baby Girl”, “Happy Birthday” and “Happy Valentine’s day!”

      Thanks for reading and posting!


  26. Do you know of a word press program that could help me learn to put my photos and my comments one after the other. I just cannot seem to get oit to work on this windows 8-which I hate!bbI had a hard time with it on my Vista… beebeesworld


    • Johna Till Johnson

      Vlad may have more insight here, but I think a lot of it has to do with your WordPress theme. We spent a TON of time looking at all the themes before deciding upon Coraline—which even so, is far from perfect for both photos and writing. I’m not sure there IS one, frankly!


    • Maybe I can help, but I am not quite sure what you mean by “put my photos and my comments one after the other”. Can you explain a bit more fully?


  27. Allyson Mellone

    You guys are awesome in skill and physical endurance to do a water tour like this! I enjoyed all of your encounters. Do you have to call in your location as you move so that the water traffic is aware of where you are?


    • Johna Till Johnson

      Technically, we probably should–and for a large group, it’s wise. Most days, though, we keep our radios on and only advise when it seems applicable (typically while crossing ferry terminals). And… thanks!


  28. Not a bad day for having consumed so many imbibibles (?) the evening before! Those balloons are hilarious.


    • Johna Till Johnson

      Oh no, the secret’s out! :-). Actually, you may not have noticed, but we drank a LOT of fizzy water. And yes, gotta love the balloons… Baby Girl!


  29. Mad Queen Linda

    You two ARE awesome! Congratulations on your new boat. Please let us know when you see a manatee in the East River — the time can only be around the magical corner. This was a great post.


    • Johna Till Johnson

      Thank you! And yes, I seriously started looking for them, after this. And Vlad is holding out for a whale….


  30. Some circumnavigation!!


  31. You guys ARE indeed awesome!


  32. Well, I have to agree with everyone else! YOU GUYS ROCK! :) What an amazing trip – you experienced so many exciting things, all in one day! When I first saw the picture of the “it’s a girl” balloon, I thought maybe you were making an announcement :)….but I read on and realized what was going on :) I loved your description of the day, and your boat! I’m really impressed that you kayak in the snow! I have to tell you, it just looks cold!! I hope you are warmer then it looks :) Thanks for sharing your magical day with all of us!


  33. Pingback: This Year’s Visit to the Swinburne Island Seals | Wind Against Current

  34. That was some ride! Though I have to admit, the weather didn’t look any too inviting.


    • Actually, it was… well, magical! :-) Paddling in snow usually is—it’s often calm and quiet, with the flakes gently drifting down… (Of course, sometimes the wind is sandblasting them into our faces, but we choose not to dwell on those occasions…)


  35. Fantastic images and expressions in this post :-) I’m pleased that you got round safely. Your new craft looks very sleek :-)


  36. What I think (like it matters, but never mind) — what I think is that Solstice may have a masculine mind (pace Vlad), but she is a WOMAN. A magical kind of woman, long and lean and glamorous, who does double duty as the Mary Poppins of kayaks and kayakers.
    May you have many more enchanted voyages with the sexy enchantress.


  37. I continue to enjoy your work. Thanks for your patience-I hope my exhaustion gives way to creativity soon! beebeesworld


  38. This was a fun read. Sounds like a great maiden voyage.


  39. Great read, and great photos to bring the words to life. At first, I thought: “Why would anyone want to go out in that weather?” But it reminded me of going to the zoo in cold, lousy weather. That’s when you see the animals doing all sorts of cool things. Likewise, I suppose when you take a venture out into the East River on a cold, snowy, gray-sky day, your reward is to see things (and hear things) the fair-weather fans miss!


    • Exactly! Good weather all the time is really boring :-)

      Actually, “good” weather, especially in the summer—sunny, cloudless, hot—is not good kayaking weather. Cloudy skies with a bit of wind are vastly preferable. There’s a reason kayaks were invented in the far north…


    • Johna Till Johnson

      Thanks for reading, and commenting. And perhaps you’ll weigh in on Solstice’s gender… sounds like there is something of a debate :-)


  40. Thanks for sharing your adventure with another great blog post, Johna. And Vlad, congrats on the great photos. Manhattan dolphin and seal sightings in one lifetime is unique, but in the same day – that’s kind of mind boggling! So pleased you’re enjoying the Xplore. Remember to experiment with the relationship between head position and edging in the Xplore – moving head forward by hinging at hip joint (rather than bending spine) will accelerate the bow’s lateral movement. Have fun!


    • Johna Till Johnson

      Thanks, Randy! I am toying with the notion of moving the seat back a 1/2 inch, but I’m not sure it’s necessary. It’s amazing how much that boat rewards good form, though!! (And yes, I’m loving it. Her. Him :-).


  41. Bold Conversations

    I enjoyed reading your kayaking adventure. I have an Explorer SeaKayak and I paddle on and around the Chesapeake Bay. I have a dry suit but I’m a warm weather gal so I tend to wait out the winter. I’ve learned a lot about life while I learned to kayak. (http://wisdompartner.wordpress.com/2012/10/09/lessons-from-an-accidental-paddler/) Kudos for paddling in the snow. Thanks for sharing your adventure! I’ll be on the water soon too!


    • Johna Till Johnson

      Thanks for posting, Alicia!

      It’s a great video and Robert sounds like a wonderful teacher.

      Now, maybe you should set as your next goal “going out in winter” :-)

      Thanks again for reading, and posting.


      • Bold Conversations

        Brrrrrrr…. :-)


        • Johna Till Johnson

          Oh come on, it’s not that bad! People ski in the (gasp!) SNOW, right? The only two downsides are the short days and the fact that no matter what you do/wear, your fingers get cold at the end of the paddle.

          But it’s wonderful to be out on a brisk January morning with the sun glinting off the snow on land and the smell of the sea in your nose…


        • Bold Conversations

          That’s what Robert my instructor says too! Check him out at http://www.adventurecrafters.com. The latest I’ve gone out on the Bay with him was December. I imagine it really must be lovely on the water with snowflakes falling gently. And you’ll have to tell me all about it!


  42. Thanks for taking your readers along with you on the trip! What a great post! —Jadi


  43. This truly is a magical post. Learning a city by circumnavigating its shores is a fantastic thing to do. I have only visited NYC once and then I was lucky to arrive by ship on a June dawn. It was the best moment in many ways. Being inside the city has its thrills, but you immediately become a miniscule part of the mass and the vistas are enclosed/shut down; from the water you retain self while being able to observe the whole glorious endeavour through 360 degress. And spot dolphins. Thanks for visiting my blog post.


  44. Congrats for the new boat. Ever met a shark?


  45. I can certainly see that it’s narrower, sleeker. It looks like a katana.

    Speaking of blades and boats; back in the 80’s the US Navy was experimenting with “sea knife” hull designs (perhaps coincidentally, there is also a kayak manufacturer called Seaknife but I don’t think that they apply the technology). I haven’t heardanything more about it in years. Have you?


    • I didn’t know about either one (hull design, kayak) until your comment. But Google reveals something of both on the internet. (They don’t seem to be related—Seaknife Kayaks produces fairly standard-looking kayaks.)

      I would imagine the sea-knife hull design would now have been overtaken by the various hydrofoil-based designs that seem to be capable of astonishing speeds…


  46. Really enjoyed that!!
    Thank you!


  47. Great story, great adventure! You are really something…


  48. The Freedom Tower is looking pretty amazing. Is there much protest anymore about use of the WTC site for a new tower instead of only a memorial park? The last I heard was that most of the families of the survivors approved the establishment of a new tower.


    • I didn’t really pay all that much attention to the back-and-forth, which took the best part of a decade, and is one of the reasons why it took so long to do anything. But I think your understanding is right—there were protests, and some wanted just the memorial, but now most people have made peace with what’s happening… Too late to change it, in any case…


  49. Love the wintery calm photo and the video with the dolphin. Exciting, but also serene.


  50. Sweet as a Picture

    Wonderful adventures on the water! I’m so loving to read about it! Thank you for sharing! :)


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