A Perfect Summertime Manhattan Circumnavigation

By Vladimir Brezina

A Manhattan circumnavigation is the classic trip of New York City kayaking. No two Manhattan circumnavigations are the same. After having done a couple of hundred of them, probably, I can safely say that. And last Saturday’s was one of the best. It had it all—perfect summer weather, a variety of marine traffic to liven things up, a few exciting waves, a secret cove with ripe mulberries, and as a finale, a spectacular sunset…

Here are the photos. (Click on any photo to start a slideshow.)

These and other photos from the trip are here.

43 responses to “A Perfect Summertime Manhattan Circumnavigation

  1. amazing photographs… I enjoy the opportunity to go on your adevntures with you via wordpress, thanks


  2. Stunning photos. It is always interesting to see the view of the city from the water.


  3. Looks like a wonderful day on the water. I love the sunset view and the mulberry picking.


    • Somehow we always manage to return just in time to see the sunset :-)


      • Perfect timing! :-)

        With the heatwave in the city. Is it cooler on the water?


        • Much cooler—probably 10 degrees (F) or so. Then if there’s wind, it can get downright chilly on the water even in the summer. But there are other summer days when there is no wind and it’s oppressively hot even out on the water. I don’t do well in heat, and on those days I much prefer to paddle at night…


        • Ahhh! How interesting! I like the sound of the 10 degrees cooler bit. :)

          So, you can actually paddle at night? Obvoiusly it’s not too dark to see and paddle around, huh?

          I’m enjoying this different view of the city. Thanks for sharing your experiences and answering my questions. :-)


        • We paddle faster at night ;-)

          Around New York there are so many lights that it’s never really dark at night. Actually, the lights impose a different problem—how to distinguish between shore lights and those on a boat that’s about to run you over…

          Even outside built-up areas, there’s often a moon, and even when there isn’t, it’s surprising how much you can see in the dark once your eyes become adapted to it.

          Most importantly, you don’t really need to see the water when kayaking, once you have some experience.

          Night paddling is actually a lot of fun!


        • So VERY interesting! Who knew!? I didn’t. It’s good to learn something new every day. Thanks! :-D

          Happy Paddling!


        • You are most welcome! Thank you!


  4. Looks great – It was a beautiful day, Don’t let it get away, A beautiful day


  5. Beautiful summer time!! Thank you for sharing :)


  6. Beautiful sunset! Thank you for sharing. About how long does a leisurely paddle around the island take?


    • Johna Till Johnson

      That depends on your definition of “leisurely”. Serious and semi-serious racers can do it in under 5 hours.

      Without a lot of effort (but with favorable conditions) Vlad and I completed one in 5.5 hours recently.

      But, that requires making few to no stops (no bathroom breaks, photo shoots, or picnics).

      If you’re more inclined to those, your time will be more like 7-8 hours, maybe longer (depending on how long you picnic). My first circumnav went from (I think) 9 PM at night to 7 AM the following morning–so 10 hours. But that included several breaks–not to mention the coaches needing to track down some errant paddlers who took the wrong course. In the dark!

      Fortunately, there are great places to stop right before Hell Gate and afterwards, so you can pretty much decide whether you want to do a “slow” trip (lots of breaks) or a “fast one”—and time your start accordingly.

      Hope that helps!


      • Yes it did. That was interesting. You must be in good physical condition to be out there that long – impressive! Thanks for the long answer to lakenormanprep’s question. You could probably take this and develop it into a blog post (my 25 cents).



        • Actually, the Manhattan circumnavigation is basically a half-day trip, which we often do when we have something else to do that day as well. When we go out for a full day, we paddle for anywhere from 12 to 16 hours (occasionally longer), on a trip that may include a Manhattan circumnavigation as part of it, such as this one.


    • Just to put the times Johna mentioned in perspective, in the first Mayor’s Cup a few years ago (a race round Manhattan that has since been discontinued), Greg Barton (an Olympic gold medal winner) won in a surfski with a record time of 3 hours 21 minutes. (I believe that record was broken in subsequent Mayor’s Cups.) The fastest sea kayaks (the class of boats we paddle, although their boats were probably faster) came in at around 4 hours. So we still have considerable room for improvement :-)


  7. wow circumnavigate? how far did you kayak? i assume the island is pretty big, right?


  8. Great photos of your circumnavigation around Manhattan! I grew up there. It was nice to see it from a different point of view.
    I liked two photos in particular: Sunlight over the Palisades (beautiful lighting) and Two Suns over New Jersey. When did NJ get 2 suns? I have family there…have they been keeping it a secret? :)


  9. I didn’t see the Statue of Liberty in your pictures, so I’m happy to have shown it, even from a distance of 1500 miles and 37 years.


  10. What a great way to see NYC. Forget 5th Avenue. Loved the photo story.


  11. Beautiful pictures and the story!


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  13. Wonderful photos!


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  17. Amazing pics! Nice landscape, and I really like the vibrant colors of kayaks in front of it!


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