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Today I paddled from Pier 96 down to Pier 40 – that’s about 56th street to Houston street on the Hudson river. I got a line on a guy at New York Kayak Company who might be able to mend a bonk on the nose that the Argonaut suffered a few months ago, and today I was finally able to connect my schedule to his.

Weather was alright – in fact Saturday turned out to be a pretty amazing day, considering it’s October, and the weather earlier and later in the week has not nor is it predicted to be terribly charming. Water temperature was still in the high sixties, as was the air. I left early in order to get good current south, though a steady breeze encouraged me to put on my paddling jacket.

Normally, paddling south out of the embayment at Pier 96 requires heading out a bit into the channel, due to a 100 yard security zone behind the cruise ship terminals just below 96. While I was heading out there anyway, I saw an NYPD boat and what I thought was an FDNY boat. Now, I knew there were some events in the harbor this week, but I had only vague ideas of what they were. I wasn’t surprised to see these guys, but I wasn’t sure what exactly they were there for.

Well, one of the boats came closer, and turned out to be a USCG boat. Sometimes they just buzz by, but these guys were coming to me, so I signaled that I was stopping, and then maneuvered to stay steady in the water.

“Where are you heading,” asked the nice, young, well-armed man.

“Pier 40,” I said.

He explained there was a 500 yard security zone at Pier 80, due to a Navy vessel berthed there. Now I remembered something about some US Navy ship coming to NYC, but I guess I’d thought it was going to stay in the harbor.

Now, the cowgirl has some acquaintances who bristle at authority, even well-armed authority, telling them what to do, and the cowgirl has some other acquaintances to whom large calibre automatic firearms are moderately intimidating. However, having grown up military, the cowgirl knows these guys are just doing their job, and bears no grudge. She learned a long time ago how to talk to soldiers on guard duty.

After figuring our where Pier 40 was (“Houston Street!” I hollered), they said they’d let me through but would shadow me. Fine. I figure they were a little bored, early in the morning, no one on the water except some chick in an eighteen foot kayak. Once we were at the end of the security zone, they signalled and I paddled on my way.

Shortly after that, I approached a ferry terminal near 38th street (I think). There was a ferry backing out. I came to a stop and raised my paddle. He did a weird three point turn, saw me, and headed out. I caught some pretty amazing surf off his wake, but just a couple of decent waves.

Making my way down, I passed Pier 66, home of Manhattan Kayak Company, New York Kayak Polo, and New York Outrigger. It’s next door to the Frying Pan restaurant, a great place for a burger along with a nice view of the river.

By then, the blowers for the Holland tunnel were in sight, just below Pier 40. Pier 40 itself is a large building, so large that it tends to blend in as part of the shoreline – until you realize how far out from the waterfront it sticks.

It took about forty-five minutes to travel 56 blocks – not accounting for the extra time spent talking to the Coast Guard. I was early, but I saw the Downtown Boathouse’s Houston Street program getting started. I pulled in and talked to the guys. A gust of weird blew a sun umbrella clean off its post, landing in the water upside down. Took some doing, but one of the guys managed to wrangle it back in using a sit-on-top kayak and some interesting paddling techniques.

A little while later I met up with the guy at NYKC. Good news is, he said it didn’t look nearly as bad as my photos made it look, and he gave me several options, including one quite a bit cheaper than what I’d been expecting. That repair will be a whole ‘nother story. Once we settled on a deal, I looked around the shop and tried on some drysuits – also a different story – and went on my merry way.

Part two will come later this week after I pick up my boat. Stay tuned.

Published in 2012 Backpaddle Downtown Boathouse Inwood Canoe Club New York New York City NYC

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