A Winter Manhattan Circumnavigation

By Vladimir Brezina

IMGP9624 cropped small

The calendar says that winter hasn’t started yet.

But what does the calendar know? Paddling-wise, it’s already deep winter here in the US Northeast. The days are short, and once the sun sets, the temperature plummets dramatically. It’s not the season for loitering on the water after dark, and even more so, for landing after dark, unavoidable as that often is. Putting away the boats in the dark, with wet fingers frozen by the cold wind, can be a distinctly unpleasant experience.

So, it’s the season for shorter trips suited to the shorter days—such as the old standby, the Manhattan circumnavigation.

Here are some photos from Saturday’s circumnavigation (click on any photo to start slideshow).

The individual photos are here.

55 responses to “A Winter Manhattan Circumnavigation

  1. amazing!!!! you live on the edge… :) of the kayak.

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  2. What a great journey to have “joined” you on. I’m trying to figure out how you took pictures while paddling? Do you take off those flipper-type gloves for each picture? Seems like it must be tricky, and with freezing fingers once done! I can’t imagine paddling that choppy water – looks tough. Loved the scenery, it’s a view I’ve never seen before. Spectacular photos! ~SueBee

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  3. I just love your life! I have always wanted my own kayak…but will have to live vicariously through photos. (We do have a rowboat…and that will need to suffice!) Thanks for sharing!

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  4. Some of the photos look like the water was quite choppy. Was it more so than usual?

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    • More choppy than usual? Yes and no. Although it can be as smooth as glass, there is usually some chop, in particular portions of the waterway depending on the local circumstances. Paradoxically there is often more chop in the summer than in the winter, because of all the boat wakes.

      On this day, there were some waves at the beginning of the trip in the Hudson (photos 3 and 4), where we were paddling with the wind, but against the current, and so experiencing wind-against-current conditions :-) The water became much smoother once we turned the corner of the Battery into the East River (photo 5), which was protected from the wind.

      In photos 3 and 4, the waves look bigger also because of the longer focal length—I must remember that in the future when I need a dramatic effect :-)

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      • Vlad thanks for the explanation. I did notice that some of the photos looked quite calm but yes 3 and 4 looked dramatic to be sure. I hadn’t thought about the boats in the summer which of course would create some challenging effects for those in kayaks!
        On another note your winter kayaking mitts look like those used for winter cycling that can be attached to bike handlebars.

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        • But at least in the summer the water is warm! That changes the psychology quite a bit ;-)

          I don’t wear the pogies, as they are called, but gloves instead. But Johna wears them and many other kayakers do. Interesting that you have something similar for riding a bike in winter. Did one descend from the other or is that a case of parallel evolution? :-)

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        • Vlad I will admit to not being hard core enough to ride my bike in the dead of Canadian winter at least not yet. I follow a blog called All Seasons Cyclist and he has talked about the mitts and shown photos. They look remarkably similar and I wonder too if created for one sport they were adopted for another.

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        • You don’t need to apologize for not going out in winter—the Canadian winter is a lot colder than ours! Of course, we would have an excuse not to go: we need the water to be liquid ;-)

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        • Haha! Well I am good to run in the worst of it but cycling brings on that wind chill. I don’t run fast enough to cause a breeze :)

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  5. What a great hobby you have!

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  6. what an array of photos…GREAT!…as others have said…water looked a little rough…and with the cold…a little much for me…So I’m glad to sit here and view your day!

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  7. lovely winter light in your photos. sure looks chilly on the water though.

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    • Actually, it was warmer than on our last trip. Generally speaking, provided you are properly dressed, it’s not cold sitting in the boat, especially when you are actually paddling, because warm air builds up in the boat. The pain comes when getting out—sometimes you can even see all that lovely steam escaping from the cockpit once you have vacated it. So, in winter especially, we never get out—until the end of the trip, when it has to be faced…

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  8. Fun and thanks again! No SIF this time?

    George

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  9. It looked windy out though you looked dressed for the cold. I never new there were so many bridges, but, dah, Manhattan is an island! Great photo essay and slide show. I always love your posts around about New York City – it really gives me a sense of place – thanks Vladimir.

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  10. And you have the wonderful photos to prove it, Vlad. Gorgeous!!

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  11. mylifeinfocusblog

    you are just too brave for words!

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  12. You’ve done it a couple of hundreds times, Wow!!!

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  13. Sweet as a Picture

    Very nice. I like all the touches of red in the photos.
    How do you dress — in layers, so that you don’t feel bulky but are still warm?

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    • Well, the drysuit is the outer layer (it’s possible to add more layers on top of that, if necessary, but it’s best to plan ahead not to have to do that). It’s waterproof, but it’s fairly thin, and by itself it provides little insulation. The insulation comes from whatever you wear underneath. So you need to put on whatever it takes to keep warm that day, depending on the predicted temperature, etc. Layers are good because they trap insulating air in between. The downside is that it’s hard to change during the day whatever you have put on under the drysuit, so a common experience is to be either too cold or too warm, or, often, both. :-)

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  14. great photo blog and pictures! i can almost feel the ride :) thanks for sharing!!

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  15. Beautiful shots what would we do without a camera :) I know write more descriptively :) I love when words and photos come together. wonderful post but I say you are NUTS time to walk on LAND! I must take a drive down into NYC I do miss the cities and that one is AWEESOME as is BOSTON :)

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  16. Wow, well the latest in the year I have gone kayaking was indian summer in October. And the earliest in April. Thanks for sharing your chilly ride!

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  17. Love this.. I have been to New York but your photos give a different view.. thanks for sharing this ;)

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  18. At last I have enough internet bandwidth to view your gorgeous kayaking photos from the trip. Maybe the cold air gives a particular clarity to the air. Thank you so much for this post, I admire you and Johna getting out in the chill of winter, and reading all the comments added a whole ‘nother “layer” to your trip.

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  19. The above comment is actually from rainbowspinnaker, now I’ll click the WP icon……

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  20. wow what a cool paddle. Great images.

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