Circumnavigation of Manhattan 4.30.2016
This trip has been long in the planning, mostly due to the long travel/paddle time commitment, so it was great to finally be able to complete it. On this day, we had a confluence of great weather, great company and great paddling. Although the put-in at Inwood Hill Park was littered with trash with a few sketchy characters hanging around on a Saturday morning, it did offer easy access to the Hudson and free parking. It offers a short walk to a sandy beach but no facilities. This is a pier to be aware of when launching, but on the ebb it’s located in an eddy.
We arrived around 07:30 and given our need to move with the currents, the four of us made ready as quickly as possible to get on the water, finally pushing off at 08:21. Before launching on a cloudy, cool day, a quick look at the water beyond the pier showed a nicely ebbing current of around 2 knots. Once ready, the four of us pushed off and into the Hudson river, heading southwest towards the city.
It wasn’t long before we realized that we were moving quite fast, verified by the array of GPS devices in the group and the fact that we arrived at the George Washington bridge, a little over 1nm away, in about 10 minutes. An impressive span when driving, it’s even more so from the vantage point of a kayak. Surprisingly, we found a light house at the western base that we would never have seen from the car. This is known as Jeffrey's Hook Lighthouse, moved here from Sandy Hook in 1921. From launch to the GW bridge, the group averaged 6 knots over 1.37nm.
Once past the GW, the next 2.7nm moved even more quickly as the group averaged 7 knots, covering the distance about 25 minutes. Having lived in New York, I’ve always known things move fast, but this was a blistering pace. This put us near Grant’s Tomb as we continued our trek southwest, the city skyline growing in stature as we paddled. Next, another 3.2nm flew by at a leisurely 6.7 knot pace, slipping past in less than 40 minutes. We could easily see the Intrepid museum with the old Concorde clearly visible.
We continued on more slowly, as there was so much (too much!) to see, finally completing another 2.2nm in about 30 minutes for an average of around 4 knots. The slower pace was also due to trying to find a place to take out for a bit of a break since we were significantly ahead of schedule. All of the take outs on the nautical chart did not pan out so I approached a US Park Police boat to ask for some local knowledge. The officer very nicely pointed us to the Jersey side for a take out as nothing was available on this side of the Battery. Since the current was moving and boat traffic was increasing, a crossingrequired us to plan a little about how and where we were going to cross. We left on our intended ferry angle, but the barge moving up river with some speed required us to change angles and move past its stern, leading to a less efficient but still effective crossing.
We then crossed the small channel to a sandy beach where took a break. After considering the current, boat traffic and our timing, the desire to go past the Statue of Liberty would have to wait for another day and we planned out return across the Hudson. We eddy hopped a bit up the river before ferrying over, ending up our desired location, which turned out to be a private yacht club. After a few minutes resting in boats, a yacht club employee kindly asked us to move on as there was a bit of construction taking place. So off we went and headed towards the Battery.
During the planning, I expected the Battery to be the diciest portion of the trip in terms of boat traffic, but hand railing along the shore kept us out of harm’s way. We continued along till just past the Staten Island Ferry terminal and decided to cross to avoid the helicopter landing pad with six choppers at water level with spinning rotors and noise to match. The larger number of people at the base of the Manhattan bring attracted our attention and we decided to lunch early, landing at a semi-rocky beach at the base. This provided us with a great view of the Manhattan skyline as we provided a great conversation piece to the onlookers for whom kayakers in drysuits was akin to something from the Bronx Zoo.
From there, we moved out under the Manhattan Bridge, not getting very far before Yong started expressing discomfort over a possible strained muscle. With no place to land, he was directed to raft up with Sid where he was able to do enough stretching to be able to continue, albeit at a slower pace. We continued on with the idea that we would see how Yong did until the scheduled stop at Hallet’s Cove, where we could get him a ride back to the put in if that became necessary.
The flood moved us swiftly past the UN, under the Queensboro bridge and up to Hallet’s Cove. Yong was able to do a proper stretch on shore and declared that he could finish the trip. So off we went, ferry through the confused eddies of Hells Gate and into the Harlem River. By this time, we were experiencing slack, which we found slow as compared to our pace earlier in the day. This would only last up to the Peter Sharpe boat house, where we took our last break. By the time we got back in the boats, the ebb had begun and we were able to ride the current back out to the Hudson and down to the put in at Inwood Hill Park.
By this time in the day, with the sun having been out for awhile, the parking lot was jammed. So much so that we were literally boxed in. leaving us to ponder how we would get out. Luckily, the person boxing us in saw us arrive and assured us that he would move when we were ready to go. (One note of caution for those who may try to use this put in: although we did not have any trouble whilst there, there were quite a few questionable folks around the lot with some drug dealing taking place.) We moved boat and gear as a group, and left with a new found sense of accomplishment and a great collection of memories.