November 7, 2001
Delaware & Hudson Canoe & Kayak Club
WTC Memorial Paddle

by David Leshan
Our original plan was for the five of us (including Juergen Englerth, our Bavarian guest) to launch at Liberty Park, paddle the three miles across Upper New York Bay to lower Manhattan, and head up the East River with the tide to Mill Rock for lunch, then paddle back down when the tide turned. However, we spontaneously decided to detour up the Hudson, giving wide berth to a number of speeding sightseeing ferries, to a spot five or six blocks away from the WTC just north of Battery Park City. Sitting low in our boats, we could see neither rubble nor smoke but got a look at the World Financial Center which had had a great chunk taken out of it by the collapse and falling debris. Although we gained some protection near the shore, the clear, wind scoured day whipped up whitecaps across the middle of the harbor.
Before we left Liberty Park, we had taken pictures of ourselves sporting American Flags and roses brought along by Bill, who planned to have a brief memorial service somewhere along the way for the victims of the attack. Our Hudson detour, and a cold water rescue of Bill who, while trying to take a photograph off the Battery, back flipped in his Avocet, made it more expeditious to paddle no further than the deserted Twenty-Third Street Marina, where we ate a lunch brought to gourmet heights by Bill's hot soup and Jeep's collection of Halloween candy.
The East River, though well protected from the wind, seemed less so from terrorist activity, despite a host of new coast guard regulations. We passed one very large coast guard cutter and a NY merchant marine academy launch, but no one warned us away from docks, bridge abutments, or ferry slips, which we were supposed to give wide clearance according to coast guard rules.
We did look pretty harmless from a distance, and both Bill and Juergen flew American flags from their PFDs. (Juergen gained lifetime honorary membership in the Delaware & Hudson Canoe & Kayak Club when he circumnavigated Manhattan in January 1999 in white water boat. He had come over this time to run the NY Marathon and couldn't leave without doing a little paddling on his old turf.) The two to three knot current gave us a big boost for the five miles up the river.
Lunch was uneventful, though Bill had called ahead to have Arlene and Naomi, who arrived with their cameras, meet us at Twenty-Third Street, and Bruce decided to launch by gliding off the three-foot high yacht club dock. It went well until he got his nineteen foot Current Designs Extreme stuck partly in mid air, turned over, and had to wet exit. No problem, he changed into spare dry clothes, endured the ridicule, and explained that sea kayaks were not meant to perform this kind of launch, but how could he have known that unless he'd tried it.
Still very much sheltered from the wind, we headed down the river on the reversing tide. Just past the South Street Seaport, under Bill's guidance, we stopped and circled to hold our brief memorial service. Bill said a few words of gratitude for the day, and sorrow for those who had died. We cast our roses on the river.
Though still moving along peacefully in calm water, beyond the Battery we could now see flags fluttering wildly above the white capped bay. In minutes we were pounding through twenty-knot head winds into three-foot waves as we headed towards Ellis Island. Only Jeep in his Anas Acuta seemed to have no trouble cutting through the seas. Gradually becoming wet, cold, and tired, we were grateful for the lack of harbor traffic to avoid. Three quarters of an hour of paddling brought us to the shelter of Ellis, a half hour more, with the wind on the starboard bow quarter, took us to our starting point at Liberty Park. We hauled our kayaks out at 4:10, thirty-five minutes before the coast guard required us to be off the water.

Photos by Bill Covert and David Leshan

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