A Paddle to the Norwalk Islands
By Vladimir Brezina
Last weekend was sunny and warm: It could already have been early summer. It turned out to be the perfect weekend for our long-planned paddle to the Norwalk Islands with our kayaking friends Alex and Jean, who are also fellow bloggers at 2 Geeks @ 3 Knots (check out their lovely blog!).
Johna and I left, early on Saturday morning, from Manhattan’s Pier 40 as usual. We joined up with Alex and Jean at their base in Horseshoe Harbor in Larchmont, about half-way into the trip. We made it to the Norwalk Islands comfortably before sunset, and camped on Shea Island. On Sunday, we retraced, more or less, our route. Altogether, over the two days, we paddled about 84 nautical miles (97 land miles).
Here’s the story in photos.
(click on any photo to start slideshow)
We depart from Pier 40
It’s early in the morning
Reflections off North Cove
We pass the South Street Seaport
The East River bridges
We approach the Williamsburg Bridge
We pass U Thant Island
… with a fresh crop of cormorants
Queensboro (Ed Koch) Bridge
Roosevelt Island tram
Into Hell Gate
Not quite spring tides, but close
We approach Throgs Neck
Under the Throgs Neck Bridge
… and into Long Island Sound
Grim Hart Island
At Horseshoe Harbor, we meet Alex and Jean
… and paddle on down the Sound
Jean is in her new Tiderace, Willy… and has a great forward stroke!
The Captain Islands are in sight
That open-water feeling…
Approaching Great Captain
… and Wee Captain
Stamford Harbor Light
Traffic out of Stamford
Afternoon on the Sound
Greens Ledge Light
Alex supplies the color
The first of the Norwalk Islands, Sheffield Island, off the port bow!
The old Sheffield Island Light
Late afternoon light
We paddle past Sheffield and toward Shea
It will be a golden sunset!
Blue and pink
Evening light among the Norwalk Islands
Golden sunset indeed
We round the corner toward our campsite
We land at our campsite on Shea Island
Boats on the beach
We explore the island
… before the light fades
Bathed in the last light
It’s low tide
View across the Sound
Last sunlight on the tidepools
We return to the boats
… and carry them up above the high-tide line
(click on any photo to start slideshow)
The dawn light filters into our tent
… reflect in the tidepools
The moon is still high in the sky
… and cool
Waiting for sunrise 1
Waiting for sunrise 2
Waiting for sunrise 3
Waiting for sunrise 4
Here it comes!
The sunlight warms us (photo by Johna)
… although Johna still needs her coffee
Our friends are stirring!
After breakfast, we prepare to depart
The sun is now high in the sky
Goodbye to the islands
Back on the water
We approach Sheffield Island Light again
The view across the Sound
Stamford Harbor Light once more
Wee Captain again
Johna charms a cormorant
The 2 Geeks @ 3 Knots performing on Great Captain Island
We say goodbye to Alex and Jean and head for the city
Execution Rocks Light
Break for a snack
Hart Island again
We reach Throgs Neck on time to catch the current
Back under Throgs Neck Bridge
We approach the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge, with the city behind
Wind against current :-)
Hell Gate powerplant
The Hell Gate bridges again, from the other side
A quick passage down the East River
Toward the Williamsburg Bridge
… and under
We turn the corner and see the classic East River view
It comes closer…
… and closer
Clouds and sun under the Manhattan Bridge
Paddling out toward the sun
Brooklyn Bridge once more
South Street Seaport again
Safely past the Staten Island Ferry
It’s summertime weekend traffic in the harbor
We cross the Hudson to the New Jersey side for faster progress north against the Hudson’s ebb current and northerly wind
One bonus: a beautiful view of the Manhattan skyline reflecting the sunset
The Colgate Clock shows the correct time, for once
Last rays of the sun
… reflect off Manhattan
We put on lights and warm clothes
More photos as here. And here are Jean and Alex’s photos and story of the trip!
I’ve paddled to Norwalk islands several times but never turned around and paddled back the next day! You guys are tough!
Or crazy :-). I had to be up at 3 AM the following Monday to catch a flight, so coming home the next day was pretty much the only option. But as Vlad says, “It was actually quite a smooth trip.” In retrospect, the only thing I’d have done differently would have been to have dressed more warmly Sunday night–it got COLD on the Hudson!!
Hey there! Looking at this post was THRILLING, but not nearly as much as paddling and camping and hanging out with you two… Really fun to see your extra legs of the trip. Vlad, the photos are gorgeous. Thanks for a memorable weekend :)
You guys are the best camping companions EVER! Thanks for making it memorable.
Memorable indeed! Thanks for paddling and camping with us!! :-)
One of these days, we’ll have to do the reverse trip. We could meet you at Throgs Neck and paddle down the East River and through the harbor, ending at Pier 40. Then back the next day. The only difficulty would be where to put your boats overnight…
Reblogged this on Locating Frankenstein's Brain.
Verynice gallery. I especially liked the sunrise picks from the camp site.Beautiful!
At sunrise, with nobody about, you could think there that you were in a very wild place—not just a few miles from New York City… :-)
I long for thinking about and enjoying a wild place.
There are still quite a few around, if you look…
I am really impressed you made the distance each way in a day. When I’ve looked at it it always seems like a multi-day. I can’t figure getting much past Davids Island in a day’s paddle.
Well, it’s easy to get to Throgs Neck. From the Battery to Throgs Neck, with the current, doesn’t have to take more than 2.5 hours. (And the same in reverse. From Inwood down the Harlem River it might be a bit longer, but not much longer.)
But once in Long Island Sound, the current dissipates dramatically. That’s when the work begins. If you persevere, though, you will start picking up the ebb current down the Sound, from west to east. It’s nowhere as strong as the currents around the city, but it’s a noticeable help.
Just to give you a concrete idea: on Saturday we left Pier 40 around 7:30 AM, or a bit later. And we arrived at Horseshoe Harbor in Larchmont—a few miles beyond Davids Island—at exactly 1 PM. That left us the whole afternoon to paddle to the Norwalk Islands.
7:30 on the dot. I was clocking it!
Amazing photos once again Vlad! Love the bridges.
I could see we would be coming down the East River, under one bridge after another, just before sunset, and I was looking forward to it :-)
Yes that is spectacular Vlad. Well captured!
I take photo opportunities into consideration when planning trips. Johna half-suspects that we crossed the Hudson to New Jersey at the end of this trip just because I wanted to take the photos of Manhattan reflecting the last light from across the river… ;-)
Oh I hear you Vlad! On a much smaller note today I ran an extra mile or so to see if I could spy the baby goslings I saw on the weekend. Well your efforts and planning paid off big time!
That’s the spirit! And no doubt you were rewarded for your hard work! (Or is hard work its own reward? I’ve never really sorted that out… ;-) )
No baby geese today but it was a beautiful sunny ….and wait for it…hot day here. Who can complain :)
A splendid morning to wake up to so much excellent photography, filled with surprises, some encouraging further study. For one thing nice to know where Caitlin Ann is these days, a while since last seen hauling scrap from Albany, glad she’s still in service. For another a long perusal of the two lovely Xplores gave way to a sense of looking too hard, finding relief in the saw of might.
And one especially do we affect
Of two gold ingots, like in each respect:
The reason no man knows; let it suffice
What we behold is censured by our eyes.
Where both deliberate, the love is slight:
Who ever loved, that loved not at first sight?
Different colors, though. I’m partial to red, but Jean’s boat looks very sleek, can’t take my eyes off it both here and at 2 Geeks.
That was my impression too—the white makes the boat sleeker, somehow…
Thanks, Michael!! :-)
I think this may be the first Tiderace poem ever written!
enjoyed your story in photos! thanks for the ride! beautiful pictures as always! :)
Thank you—so glad you could come along!! :-)
Love these photos. I enjoy following you on your kayaking journeys. You know the best part for me? I stay dry. Heh heh! :-D
Like they say, kayaking is a dry sport! ;-)
By the way, I was watching T.V. show Sharks and these guys came to ask for money to help their kayak business. They designed a kayak, which you can fold and unfold into about the size of a laptop, but it was very sturdy and kayak-worthy. I wrote the name of their company down but can’t find it. Wanted to ask if you’d heard of them. I don’t remember whether they got what they asked for, because I was distracted. Never got to see the rest of the show. Oh well.
It was probably Oru Kayak, the origami kayak guys (they mention the Shark Tank on their site). I’ve heard of them, but have no direct experience of their kayak.
Ahh! I thought their kayak was very interesting.
Here is a Kayaking question do you guys often capsize? If you do do roll out of trouble or release in to the water and then use fellow canoes to get back in?
Well, we try not to capsize too often, at least not unintentionally… ;-)
But it depends on what kind of paddling you do. When you practice in rough conditions, among rocks or in surf (we’ve just returned from Maine where Johna did just that—post forthcoming!), capsizes become more likely. And similarly, the rescue techniques will vary. If you can roll back up, great. But if you push the envelope, sooner or later you will fail to roll and then you’d better have a way of getting back into your boat, alone or with the help of others…
Cheers Vladimir – thinking of getting canoe again and test paddles a sea kayak – I was surprised how stable it was – my only real experience is in an Open Canadian and a GP which was very stable apart from getting in and out of on the river ha ha.
There’s a whole range of kayaks, from the very stable to the very unstable. A stable kayak is safer up to a point, but as the conditions become more challenging it eventually becomes less safe than an initially less stable kayak paddled by a skilled kayaker…
But if you want to do any kind of photography from your kayak, you need a boat that is at least reasonably stable. You need to be able to let the boat look after itself to some extent while you take your pictures. For the same reason a rudder can be helpful, so you can point the boat with your feet if your hands are otherwise occupied…
Thank you for taking me on such a lovely trip. Great slide show, Vlad.
Thanks, Tish—so glad you enjoyed it!!
Bravo, once again! It was excellent, watching your trip in my armchair. :-)
Great photography, Vladimir.
Best regards, Dina
Glad you could come along—thanks, Dina!! :-)