Ice in the Morris Canal

By Johna Till Johnson

Ice in the Morris Canal

For my first paddle in a long while, the weather was cooperating beautifully. The day before had been cold and blustery, and the day after was predicted to be dark and rainy. But Saturday dawned sunny, clear, and calm.

There was just one catch: The temperature had been below freezing for a couple of days, and wasn’t predicted to rise above it today. Would the embayment at Pier 40, where we launch from, be iced in?

I worried anxiously in the cab on the way down.

Unnecessarily, as it turned out: As we pulled up to the pier, my heart leapt at the sight of bright, clear water lapping gently against the dock. (But I would see my ice later on, never fear!)

My friends Val and Julie joined me a few minutes later. We’d agreed to keep this trip short: I could ease back into paddling, and we wouldn’t have to worry about being too far from home.

Currents dictated that we should head south in the midafternoon: Slack was at approximately 3 PM. So departing Pier 40 around 2 PM meant we could paddle for an hour or so, then turn around and ride the rising flood back home.

Morris Canal was the obvious choice. It’s a short canal on the New Jersey side of the Hudson, just north of Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. It’s a popular destination in the summer, because there’s a waterfront restaurant where you can get burgers and drinks before heading back.  In fact, most paddlers don’t usually go much farther down the canal than that.

Julie and the Manhattan skyline

Julie in the Morris Canal, with the Manhattan skyline behind

But we had time on our hands. So after a surprisingly short jaunt across the Hudson aided by the still-strong ebb, we paddled slowly down the canal. Past the shuttered restaurant… past sleepy marinas… past working boats, including various tugs and a fire boat.

We explored a marine crane, marveling at our ability to paddle underneath. Mostly we watched as the waterway slowly transitioned from commercial (condos and parks) to decaying industrial, to wild.

The waterfowl were the first clue. At the first marina we startled what we think was a blue heron, who seemed both perfectly natural and strangely out of place amidst the pleasure boats.

Later on, amidst the standard urban mix of mallard duos and and clusters of geese, we caught sight of what Val identified as coots: Black duck-like birds with white faces. And slowly the landscape changed as well from concrete and rusting steel to reeds, which rustled faintly in the stillness.

Reeds… and ice.

At the very end of the canal I found my ice: Nearly translucent sheets perhaps 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick, thin enough for a kayak to paddle through, but still with a tricky habit of pulling paddles underwater and destabilizing the boat. After amusing ourselves crunching through the ice for a bit, we turned around and headed home, into a rising flood assisted by a stiff breeze. For the first time that day, we really felt the 20-something temperatures.

Val bundled up against the cold

Val bundled up against the cold

We arrived back at Pier 40 just before sunset, chilly but energized.  Ice crusted our paddles and sheeted over our decks, and we were quite happy to pack up and head over to a nearby bar for steaming bowls of chili and fortifying libations.

Sunset from Pier 40

Sunset from Pier 40

Ice in Morris Canal: A perfect way to welcome in 2015!

(Click on any photo to see all the photos in a slideshow)

51 responses to “Ice in the Morris Canal

  1. You guys are my heroes. I’d be sitting in the car…engine running and sipping hot coffee. :)

    Liked by 3 people

    • Johna Till Johnson

      Well, Julie did bring hot tea :-). But there really was no need–it was lovely, if brisk. Now, any serious wind and I wouldn’t be saying that…

      Like

  2. Looked like a great day to be on the water and not in it! Great shots!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Johna Till Johnson

      Yes, we were quite happy to not be IN it. :-) Thanks for reading and posting–and thanks for the kind words on the photos. I’m learning!

      Like

  3. Beautiful pictures but brr. I get cold just looking at them!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. oureverydayadventures365
    • Johna Till Johnson

      Indeed! I’ve heard quite a lot about Manly—one of my surfski buddies lived there for a couple of years, and loved it! Thanks for the blast of sunshine… maybe one of these years I’ll brave the multiday trip to Oz…

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Lovely photos, the colors are intense and the kayaker in front of the Manhattan skyline, in winter no less, is classic. Congratulations on getting back to paddling in the middle of winter!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Johna Till Johnson

      Yes, Julie’s an awesome kayak-model :-). And you can only stay afraid of your drysuit for so long….fortunately, it is a bit like bicycling, your body remembers…

      Like

  6. Excellent trip and pictures! If we had a rigid hull tandem ready by the dock… :)

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  7. How beautiful but brrrrrrr! I giggled at the thought of you taking a taxi to for kayak ! Do you have it in a storage unit ?

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    • Johna Till Johnson

      Glad for the giggle–that’s why I put in that particular detail! Our hardier friends bike, or walk, to the pier but we’re pretty far away. And yes, we keep it in a converted shipping container right by the water.

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  8. Woo Hoo ! You finally got back on the water ! Congrats and tell those old coots I said Hey.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Enjoyed visualising your trip, reading your description and looking at the shots, johna; thus I can well imagine the kind of ripping time you must have had really doing it. I will also add that I am a little envious of the strength and suppleness in your upper body and arms with regular paddling (LOL..)…. Best wishes… Raj.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Johna Till Johnson

      I don’t know about suppleness, but you do get stronger! Would love to take you on a tour of the NY harborways if you ever make it out here, Raj.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Vicarious kayaking for this land bound soul. What a great day! What a great story! What great narration!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Wonderful pics and tale, Johna. You are all obviously very hardy, and fit to brave the cold weather. I see that Julie hasn’t even got a hat on. :)

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I’d loved to have joined ya for this trip. I really like the transitional photos and commentary.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Yaaaaay!!!! So happy to see you out and afloat! :) Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Johna Till Johnson

      We picked quite the day for it :-). Are you guys iced in? Vlad and I were suspecting so. Though things have changed quite a lot after Sunday’s rain…Thanks for posting!

      Like

      • We’re not iced in… we’re sick! The flu found us, despite one shot (Alex) and meticulous avoidance of sneezing commuters (Jean, who can’t do the shot due to allergies). But we look forward to seeing you guys once we are in totally in the clear. Dinner and hot toddies would be nice. :)

        Like

  14. Pingback: My Article Read (1-18-2015) (1-19-2015) | My Daily Musing

  15. This post inspires me to explore the industrial areas of the Duluth harbor.

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  16. cold but wonderful outing and great pictures! :)

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Between sea and sky… beautiful!

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  18. I would have stopped for the burgers and coffee! :) Lovely photos, Johna. xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  19. I love these pics. Just so much, Thanks!

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  20. LOVE paddling on 1/4 inch or so clear ice. I love the sounds it makes. Thanks for sharing.

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    • Here in New York Harbor we don’t actually see that kind of ice all that much, except in a few quiet spots like the Morris Canal. The currents are too strong, and it’s not cold enough, for the sea to freeze in situ. Instead, we get a lot of ice floes drifting down from upriver in the Hudson. These floes are a lot thicker than 1/4 inch—

      They drift rather quickly with the wind and tidal current, so that you can launch in open water and try to return a few hours later to find that the dock is completely obstructed by these floes for hundreds of yards around…

      Like

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