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Circuit Ridin’

My good friend AW dropped her boat off earlier this year at New York Kayak Company for some much needed repairs. As the combination of weather and schedules cleared up, we made plans for some of us to paddle down there from Inwood, meet her, and paddle back. It’s a long, lonesome paddle, and now that spring is here most of us don’t need much of an excuse to go on a trip.

Trouble was, with the weather we had Saturday, we had to put off that trip, and AW was busy Sunday, so she couldn’t make it. However, the Cowgirl has a bevy of paddling friends, one of whom was hankerin’ to get out on the water Sunday, what with the beautiful predicted weather. My good friend and fellow NYKC ranch hand SS agreed to meet us at Pier 40 and paddle AW’s boat back.

IB and I met at Inwood, running a little late, departing at 1400, about 1h15m past Battery Low. We might have left sooner, but would have had to wait longer to turn around for the return. As it was, we made excellent time, about 1h50 minutes, and all in spent about an hour killing time before we left.

On the way down, we saw a curious sight – a Circle Line boat that passed us kept unusually close to the Manhattan shore below Riverbank State Park. We also spotted a beautiful Spanish training ship, the white-hulled, four-master Juan Sebastian de Elcano, moored in a berth near the Intrepid.

More importantly, I used my radio a bit, in part to allay IB’s concerns about ferry traffic. Between Pier 96 and Pier 66 I made a couple of announcements, along the lines of, “Securite, Securite, this is kayak two, southbound on the North River, Pier 84” (or wherever we were). The North River is the old mariner name for the Hudson River, and that’s how you’ll hear other professional vessels refer to it.

While at the shop, I picked up a new neoprene sprayskirt, a knife (to replace one that decided to plunge into the Harlem), and some lines to secure hats and glasses. I talked shop with the desk help, caught up on gossip with SS, and got plenty hydrated – I was well into the middle stages of a head cold and needed to keep up my fluids.

SS took AW’s boat out in the Pier 40 embayment. It’s a different model than other boats she has paddled, but she’s paddled plenty of the same make (Tiderace). We set out north, with less current than our trip down, and practiced the same radio protocol. At one point, we did directly contact a Circle Line vessel that we thought was pulling in to a slip we were paddling before, but the captain assured us he was parking a few piers up. Circle Line’s got several places to park.

It was a beautiful day, and that was reward enough. Clear, sunny skies, and air temps that belied the mid-50s F of the water. We crested over ferry wake, and paused when a tender swerved in front of us while rounding ’bout to a parked crane barge. Once clear of midtown, we began the long trip alongside nearly endless Manhattan parkland.

One unusual sight was the KT Albatross, a large ocean-going bulk carrier. We spotted her from the Upper West Side as she passed, southbound, under the George Washington Bride, and like our earlier Circle Line friend, curiously close to the Manhattan shore. While normally I would have gone out in the channel for more current, I wasn’t sure how long she’d stay so close to shore, so we kept near the outer line of the mooring field above 79th Street Boat Basin.

Onward we went, finding odd spots where standing waves belied unusual underwater bathymetry. Eventually, we passed under the George Washington Bridge, past the red buoy, and onwards home.

It was a bonnie day, with good friends, and we did someone a favor. SS got to see the north, and all in, roundtrip it was a scotche over 18 miles. With current, we managed to return in about 2h10m.

Published in 2014 Backpaddle Inwood Canoe Club New York City NYKC

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