2003 Delaware & Hudson Canoe & Kayak Club
Manhattan Island Circumnavigation

Saturday, August 16, 2003

Low water at the Battery +0.2' at 5:55 a.m
High water at the Battery +4.8' at 12:16 p.m.

7:30aSeven paddlers start south down the Hudson from the Englewood Boat Basin on a hazy, overcast morning. The River is perfectly flat with a light breeze from the south. We're a little nervous because the NYC Blackout of 2003 ended yesterday, causing major untreated releases from the City's sewage treatment plants and closing all local beaches for swimming. But we checked with the NYCDEP and the guys from the Downtown Boathouse, and the reports were that the water was OK for paddling. As Admiral Nelson might have said, "Damn the Sewage, Full Speed Ahead!" It's all part of NYC Paddling.
8:00aGeorge Washington Bridge.
8:30aGrant's Tomb. South breeze and a good south-flowing current. Nothing particularly nasty by the North River Sewage Treatment Plant.
9:00a70th St. Nice south current.
9:30a30th St.
10:00aHolland Tunnel. Weak S current. Boat traffic is unusually light.
10:30aThe Battery. Water is slack and calm between North Cove and the Battery, unlike the usual chaotic cross-chop, swells and boat wakes.
10:55aRest stop on the Manhattan shore under the Brooklyn Bridge. We're joined by Brant and Elaine in their CD tandem kayak - they were part of an Atlantic Sea Kayakers group that cancelled their circumnavigation because of potential raw sewage. ASK's decision was probably smarter than ours, but it turned out OK for us anyway.
11:05aSet out north up the East River.
11:35a23rd St. Water is flat with a strong north current, but not as fast as other times we've seen the East River.
12:05pNorthern tip of Roosevelt Island. We stop to play in the big waves by Gracie Mansion.
12:40-2:05pRandall's Island rest stop. We share the break in the seawall with a commercial expedition of 5 paddlers from the Manhattan Kayak Company and Jack Gillman's crew of 19 from the Yonkers Paddling & Rowing Club.
2:35p165th St. Good south wind and a strong N current in the Harlem.
3:05pBroadway Bridge
3:10pSpuyten Duyvel Strong SW wind on the Hudson. As soon as we crossed under the railroad bridge at Spuyten Duyvel we had to paddle hard just to make headway against the wind. As we struggled against the wind a big barge loomed to the north in the distant haze, heading south down the Hudson. The barge seemed to be far off and moving very slowly, or maybe even standing still, but as we paddled against the wind it came upon us surprisingly fast. Before we knew it we were in a three-way race pitting us against the wind and the barge. Some of us wisely turned back to the east, patiently letting the barge pass in front of them, while the rest of us paddled on and tried to cross in front of the barge. We managed to get across safely with room to spare, but the smart thing to do would have been to wait. A lost paddle at the wrong moment could have been a disaster. What we failed to consider was that like all big boats on the River, the barge moved deceptively fast. We also failed to consider that 8 hours of paddling and sore limbs may have affected our judgment because none of us wanted to turn around and give up distance we had already earned against the wind. Next time I'll wait.
3:35pReturn to Boat Basin.

As we stood on the beach, stretching our legs and putting our gear away, a solo canoe paddler pulled up on the beach, looking for a place to camp for the night. His boat was filled with gear and he looked as if he had been on the River for days.

"Where you coming from?" we asked.

"Lake Tear of the Clouds," he replied.

It was Michael Brace, who would tomorrow complete the first documented, entirely solo descent of the Hudson River from its source to the Battery. We talked about paddling and his trip through the Hudson Gorge, and gave him advice on where to camp before he pushed off tomorrow to paddle to the Battery and end his trip at the Downtown Boathouse.

Michael Brace's Claim to Have Completed the First Documented Entirely Solo Trip

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