New York Harbour Tour 1996
"Under Arrest!"

by Jürgen Englerth
Friday, December 27, 1996

Canoeists: Jürgen Englerth, Oliver Herrmann
Canoe: Grabner Outside (inflatable)
Put-in/Take-out: Liberty State Park, northern end
Distance: 7.5 miles
Weather: sunny, mild
Time: 3.5 hours

This was my first canoeing experience in the New York Harbour. On our annual Christmas visit to New Jersey, I had brought my inflatable canoe with me. Two days after Christmas, Oliver Herrmann and I pumped up the canoe near the old railway station at Liberty State Park.
We pushed off at 12.45 pm with perfect weather.
We passed the eastern side of Ellis Island, circled Liberty Island and started to cross over to Governors Island. Since, at that time, I had no experience with tidal waters, I was stunned by the strong current going south with standing waves in the middle of the harbour.
About one hour into our trip, we encountered our first contact with the authorities. A NYPD-boat approached us and I told Oliver: "Leave the talking to me!" Oliver was only sixteen and this was his first visit to the United States. When they were within earshot, one of the officers asked: "Where are you coming from?". "Germany", I answered. When I saw the irritated look on his face, I quickly added: "But we put in at Liberty State Park". "Do you have a radio with you?" "No, but I have a Leatherman Tool", Oliver said. Hadn't I told him to leave the talking to me??? Fortunately the officer had more pressing things on his agenda: "We are looking for a body. A person has committed suicide by jumping from a bridge. If you come across him, please contact the police." "Yes sir!", we said and resumed paddling.
We made it to Governors Island and I still wonder how we managed it without being run over by the Staten Island Ferry. We started paddling along the southeastern shore of the island, unworried by the signs that said "Military Area". Our luck didn't last for long. A Coast Guard boat, manned with armed officers, pulled up alongside our canoe and the person in charge stated: "You are under arrest for trespassing!" Someone tied a rope to our boat and they began towing us to their Coast Guard post. When the officer started doing the Miranda routine, I tried reasoning: "Sir, we were just trying to avoid the strong currents in the channel by canoeig so close to the island. We did it because we were concerned about harbour safety!" I guess, I softened his heart, because he untied the rope and told us to leave the island and never to come back.
After that little intermezzo, we crossed over to the Battery and paddled up the Hudson until we were level with the Colgate Pier on the Jersey side.
Our plan was to cross straight over to the pier but the current was so strong that, even though we paddled upriver at an acute angle, we ended up at Ellis Island. From there it was an easy paddle back to our car where we arrived at 4.10 pm.

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