Finally, Liquid Water!

By Vladimir Brezina

We’ve been ice-bound for the last month. No paddling—and we were beginning to feel it! But this weekend, finally, winter seems to have released its grip.

Here are a few photos from Saturday’s Manhattan circumnavigation (click on any photo to start slideshow):

71 responses to “Finally, Liquid Water!

  1. Looks like a beauty of a paddle! Awesome pictures!

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  2. Amazing photos.. I find it so fascinating the contrast between water and industry / the city… Living where I do, most paddles I will hardly see a building! Although I definitely prefer the wild, natural look, your photos really draw me in and make be want to be paddling with you on this beautiful day! Thanks for the armchair adventure..

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    • Urban paddling just requires a slightly different frame of reference—instead of rocks, trees, and birds, think of an ecosystem of piers, cranes, and boats, that, until you learn more about them, are just as autonomous and mysterious as their natural equivalents.

      And actually, on a day’s paddle out of NYC, you can have the trees and birds too. The urban, industrial harbor is overlaid on top of what was here before, but what was here before still keeps showing through… :-)

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      • I would really enjoy that paddle… If I were to come to NY, I would rather paddle and see the city than travel on the streets…

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        • When we can’t think what to do with visitors to NYC, we take them on a Manhattan circumnavigation! It certainly provides a very different perspective on the city… :-)

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        • A great Choice… Whats the difficulty level? Tidal flows, Currents? I am assuming that water traffic is one of the greatest hazards… Here there are big tidal drops and strong currents that must be avoided at certain times in the harbor channel.

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        • I was half-joking about taking visitors—but only half-joking :-) Most experienced paddlers visiting from out of town would have little difficulty the first time round Manhattan, provided they go with someone with local knowledge (like us), and provided they can find a boat to paddle (not so easy in NYC!).

          Local knowledge is required because of strong tidal flows (up to 5 knots in places) and heavy boat traffic, in the summer especially (in winter there is hardly any). Plus you have to be able to sit in a kayak for a long time—longer than most people like to do. It’s a 25+-nautical-mile trip. But if you time it right, the currents do about a third of the work. If you don’t time it right, it’s unlikely you will complete the trip, unless you really know how.

          In sum: it’s a trip on which someone who is either inexperienced or hasn’t done the research can easily get into trouble. But otherwise, it’s not that difficult.

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        • It sounds like something to put one my Bucket List…I appreciate the sound advice. I think this advice hold true to most places..even in our harbor over here in Coos Bay, Oregon. Not a lot to worry about regarding dangerous currrents, just stuff that you won’t be paddling against for very long.. You have to know the tides. From the start of the bay to the ocean it is about 10 miles one way. But the tidal rivers that connect to the bay can extend this mileage to well over 30 miles. Cheers for a good day…

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        • The first time, the Manhattan circumnavigation is an awe-inspiring paddle… and even after two hundred times—I speak from personal experience—it does not pale… :-)

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  3. A real treat! Thanks for taking us along again. Oooooh, The SIF!! We have liquid water here, too. I am still shoveling snow to reach the shed and one of our boats. Your paddle helps get the juices flowing.

    George

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  4. Amazing as always, Vlad & Johna! Stunning night shots. How long did you paddle after dark? Isn’t that a bit more dangerous? (And does that make it more attractive?) All the best, Frank

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    • It was pretty much completely dark at the George Washington Bridge. From there, we still had about 10 miles, a third of the circumnavigation, to go—with the current (but against the wind, on Saturday), about 2 hours.

      On this kind of trip, the danger at night comes mainly from other boats. So the danger is reduced, paradoxically, in winter. On Saturday, during the trip down the Hudson, three big barges passed us, and we saw a few ferries. That was it—it was very quiet. In the summer, there would have been hundreds of little motor boats…

      And yes, we do like to paddle at night :-)

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  5. Looks like a long and beautiful day!

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  6. Doesn’t count without a close-up of the Little Red Lighthouse under the G.W.

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  7. New York has such as iconic skyline, these shots ring back memories of when I travelled on the Staten Island Ferry. Wonderful photos.

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  8. Stunning pics! Happy paddling!

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  9. Dear Johna and Vladimir. You bring us on a great and lovely journey of spring. The light is very special right now, and are emphasized in the pictures. Thank you for this encouraging post.
    I noticed the power plants still stands :-)
    All the best,
    Hanna

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  10. How lovely to have your freedom again…..and lots of beautiful shots of those towering buildings from low down in the water.
    As the light drops do you put lights on your craft?

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  11. Vlad,
    Terrific! — the man with the golden lens prowling his beat, shaping up the bridges, making them glow. All accounted for I think. My sentimental favorite is the lowly Amtrak swing bridge, whose twin in Albany needs work, unfortunately may get replaced instead.
    Best wishes for Johna & you when face the challenge.

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  12. Amazing Pics,,, Feeling like to be there.

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  13. so pretty…as always…enjoy every paddle you do!

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  14. Wow! These photos are great. I’ve never been to NY and I loved viewing it from your angle! It never occurred to me that there were so many bridges! Yes, naive, I know…! :)

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  15. most of us get cabin fever but your love of the open water takes ice bound to new depths – enjoy the melt

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  16. Lovely to be “along with you.” Its been a long Montana winter this year…so nice to see such interesting photos.

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  17. Lovely shots :-) Did you think about raising a sail and doing some Ice-Yachting with your kayaks while it was frozen? ;-)

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    • Can’t do it in NYC itself, because the ice isn’t smooth. It mostly does not actually form here—the water is salty and has strong currents, which break up the ice—but rather drifts down the Hudson from upriver, where it’s much colder, breaking up into small pieces in the process, which then freeze together again if it’s cold enough. The result can be very chaotic:

      Not good for ice yachting, to say the least.

      But in the past ice yachting was a well-known activity down by Sandy Hook, and even today it is practiced up in the Tivoli Bays, where the water freezes in situ into a single smooth sheet of ice. Unfortunately many winters it’s not cold enough, and the poor ice yachters can go out only once or twice each winter, and some winters not even that…

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  18. Beautiful! Love the night shots especially!

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  19. I passed you guys around Mill Rock! I was ducking up against the Manhattan shore looking for protection from the gusts coming up the River and saw your boats cruising (against the current but with the wind) on the other side. A belated, “ahoy!” from the North Brooklyn Boat Club.

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    • Johna Till Johnson

      HI Dewey! We didin’t see you (and yes, we were against current but with wind). But we may have heard the tug captains commenting about you. Were there three of you? And did you go under the Triboro bridge? (Er… RFK bridge, now.)

      We were just south of Randall’s Island when we heard on the bridge-to-bridge channel the following exchange:
      Tug captain #1: “You won’t believe this, but there’s three KAYAKERS out under the Triboro.”
      Tug captain #2: “Kayakers? Now I’ll believe anything!”

      Would that have been you?

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      • That was us! We were on the west channel of Roosevelt Island keeping pace with this ginormous cargo ship that loomed between the buildings as it went up the east channel. we stopped to gawk at it as it continued on under the RFK and Hell Gate… Happy to astonish the occasional tug!

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  20. I thought I heard you say you guys were circumnavving when Stef and I paddled over. V Impressed. Hopefully the ice won’t return with the next cold spell.

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    • The hardest part was actually launching off that bouncy dock… :-)

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    • Johna Till Johnson

      What Vlad says. We actually almost aborted the trip due to bouncy water, or more accurately, due to my perception that if the water was bad NOW it would be much worse later (the wind was predicted to pick up). Of course, it didn’t…. when we got back the dock was as calm as a tabletop…..It was really a lovely trip!

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  21. I don’t know how warm it was but it looked like a beautiful day to be outdoors.

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  22. I always love traveling with you guys on your river rides. Your photos are amazing and give s a view I would never have seen. Thanks for taking us along on your adventures through your images.

    BE ENCOURAGED! BE BLESSED!

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  23. the glory and beauty of Manhattan

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