Tag Archives: Manhattan Circumnavigation

Snowfall by the River

East River in snow

By Johna Till Johnson

I’ve always loved the East River.

She’s not really a river at all, but rather a connector between Long Island Sound and New York Harbor.  That topography accounts for her rapid currents, which are slightly out of sync with those of the Hudson (a tidal estuary). And it also accounts for much of her charm. To me, the East River has always been beautiful, mysterious, and slightly dangerous, with an allure that’s impossible to resist.

Before I learned to kayak, I’d walk along the river and think, “Wouldn’t it be lovely to go into the water?” Crazy thought! In addition to the swift currents, the East River was known in decades past for pollution and the occasional dead body. (These days, the water is much cleaner. There are even dolphins!)

After I took up paddling, I ended up actually in the East River more than once, usually by design (practicing capsizing in current) but one memorable time entirely by accident. And I’ve paddled its length many more times than that—my best count is that I’ve circumnavigated Manhattan around 40 times, and I’ve paddled out to Long Island Sound a handful of times as well.

But as is the case with most true loves, knowing the East River better only increases her allure.

It was natural, then, when a blizzard rolled in, for me to make time to go down to the East River and see what she looked like in snow.  I’m biased, but isn’t she gorgeous?

Manhattan Circumnavigation at the Edge of Fall

 By Vladimir Brezina

Midtown Manhattan

Under the Brooklyn BridgeOn Sunday, the weather broke. After weeks of hot humid weather, there was suddenly a chill in the air. Morning mist shrouded the higher towers of Manhattan, and later when the sun broke through, the air remained crisp and cool. Here and there, leaves were already turning. Fall had unmistakably arrived.

Perfect weather for a Manhattan circumnavigation!

A look back at downtown Manhattan

Here are some photos:

Continue reading


By Vladimir Brezina

As a reward for setting out in our kayaks on a cold, snowy Manhattan circumnavigation, we raft up in the shelter of our favorite barge…

Reward 1
Reward 2

… and get out the cheese, apples, and hot tea!

Reward 3

A contribution to this week’s Photo Challenge, Reward.

Travel Theme: Fresh

By Vladimir Brezina

Ailsa’s travel-themed photo challenge this week is Fresh.

Yesterday I saw that the ground under the mulberry tree on the corner is littered with fallen mulberries. It’s that time of the year!

And that means that, on our next Manhattan circumnavigation, at a certain spot we know, we’ll be able to pick fresh ripe mulberries right from our kayaks!

Right from our kayaks
These are red
And some are already ripe

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):

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.


By Johna Till Johnson
Photos by Vladimir Brezina

IMGP4390 cropped smallI looked behind me.

Vlad had disappeared.

Both those things were somewhat unexpected. Normally Vlad paddles slightly ahead of me, or we keep pace. But the sun was high and he was uncharacteristically lagging behind, and I thought maybe the  heat was getting to him.

He was on the far side of the Harlem River, over to the East.  And last I’d checked, he’d been paddling away from me, towards the low, almost insignificant, pedestrian bridge that connects Wards and Randalls Islands.

Now he’d disappeared under the bridge. I followed across the Harlem River to see where he was headed. In the several dozen times we’ve circumnavigated Manhattan together, we’ve never gone under that bridge. Never even discussed it. I wondered what had prompted him to do so today.

When I caught up with him, he was stopped, looking curiously at the reeds and marshland in the little cove that opened up past the bridge.

“What made you decide to come in here?” I asked.

“There’s a place where mulberry trees grow right down to the water. You can pick mulberries right from a kayak,” he said. “Erik Baard has been writing about it for years.” (Most recently here.)

Mulberries? From a kayak?

I looked around. Sure enough, I’d passed several green trees whose branches nearly touched the water. But none of them looked like berry trees.

I paddled closer to Vlad. He explained that we were in the remnants of what used to be Little Hell Gate. It was the strait between Wards and Randalls Islands that, just like “big” Hell Gate still is today, was once an open passage, with fierce tidal currents. But when Robert Moses built the Triborough—now the RFK—Bridge in the 1930s, he joined Wards and Randalls Islands together by blocking off Little Hell Gate at one end to turn it into the placid backwater that we’d entered today.

But what about those mulberries?

We paddled closer to the green trees and inspected them. It didn’t seem like there was anything much… but wait…  what was that?

IMGP4388 cropped small

A splotch of white against the foliage. Sure enough: White mulberries!

And ripe, too. And surprisingly sweet.

IMGP4391 cropped small

Laughing with delight, we plucked and ate the berries. There were plenty of them—because who else could reach those berries except for kayakers?

IMGP4399 cropped small

“Erik mentioned there were some red ones, too,” Vlad said. We looked at some of the other trees. Wait… what was that? A flash of pink?

IMGP4407 cropped small

IMGP4408 cropped small

We paddled closer, and sure enough, caught sight of some dark-purple mulberries against the green. (The pink ones were semi-ripe).

IMGP4410 cropped small

More mulberries!

And there are more to come, judging from the quantities of unripe and semi-ripe berries. We hope to be back in the next few weeks to repeat the experience, when the tides are once again right.