Monday, April 3, 2017

An Accidental Jamboree

It isn't often that I get together a trip with people who have never paddled with each other before. This past Sunday, when I got my friends Kayak Dov, JJ, and TA together, it wasn't until we were on the water that I realized while they've all paddled several times with me, none of them had paddled with each other.

On the other hand, everyone kind of knew each other - JJ has blogged extensively, and Kayak Dov is an accomplished expeditioner with his own paddle blog as well. TA is fast becoming one of the more accomplished paddlers in the Inwood Canoe Club.

No strangers here, only friends who've not yet met, came to mind.

TA working the Avocet.

We set off from the Inwood Canoe Club, our goal to arrive at Baretto Point in the Bronx. It was only two weeks ago that Kayak Dov and I cartopped there, and we saw a dolphin a bit further east. This time though, no cheating. We were going to paddle all the way there from our home base, and back.

The weather was nice, sunny and warm, though the water was still quite cold, in the lower 40s F. In the days before, we'd all discussed what we would bring or wear in anticipation of the cold - and then it wasn't especially cold at all. I wore my usual cold water layup (Kokatat BaseCore and OuterCore, with a heavy sweater), and while I was a little warm, I wasn't suffering for it, and comfortable when the wind picked up.

A wee water break near 145th street.

Passing under yet another bridge.

Playing peekaboo with the Pace.

The ride down the Harlem was familiar and uneventuful, and took much less time than expected - only an hour and a half. We cut through the Bronx Kill, pausing to take in the view and practice a little landmark-to-chart orienteering, before proceeding north in the main channel, looping between the Bronx and North Brother Island.

Through the kill.

And right on out. Amtrak RR runs over this bridge.

My favorite view in the city: looking East from the Bronx Kill.

Looking to the right, the Hell Gate Bridge in the distance.

Here, I was able to regale fans who'd not previously heard my tour-guide spiel about North Brother Island. The highlights are captured in post I wrote about the first time I came out this way.

Barge headed south through the Gate.
North Brother Island just behind it.

As we curled around the channel, our destination was just out of sight, tucked behind a pier. The wind picked up and we were more exposed than we had been in the Harlem river, and in short order we were blown to the little cove, where we landed and said hello to the locals, who were out enjoying their park.

Snake-like hoses.

The final mile.

Passing the stacks.

Passing a tug tied up.

Looking past across the water, we could make out the Manhattan skyline in the distance, the Empire State Building, Freedom Tower, the Hell Gate Railroad Bridge . . .and about half a dozen kayaks coming towards us.
Two Groups, Once Landed.

Who were they? We wondered about different groups, narrowing down who had the ability, equipment, and proximity to make this trip without having come the same way that we had. My guess was North Brooklyn Boat Club, located back in Newtown Creek. I was right.

Well, this was becoming one of the best kinds of paddles - meeting others on the water. Same passion, different path, so to speak.

Baretto Point in the Bronx, Manhattan skyline in the distance.

I was a little surprised that there was hardly anyone in the group I knew. I recognized one woman, who'd come in as a customer while I was working at New York Kayak Company; I'd replaced a gasket or two on a drysuit. Everyone else was new to me though. They were a fun bunch, and there was sharing of tea and cookies, and comparing of paddling notes.

Shortly before we were going to leave, consensus grew to have the group depart as one big group - ten paddlers in all - and retrace our route back through the Bronx Kill. So, off we went, following some discussion between the leads of various groups.

"Hey, Julie, guess that makes you the trip leader!" Ho ho, ho ho no no no. Ten people is too many for one person to manage. I was up front and a bit of a "happy puppy" talking to people, but relied on the leads in the other group to keep eyes out, and most of my group had extensive shepherding experience. The only real clear direction I had to give was for one or two people to come in a bit from the channel to ensure a DEP ship that had cast off from a nearby dock had plenty of room to get through.

Setting out, homeward bound.

JJ checking out that barge up close.

Once we were in the kill, We pass through to the end - our timing was off for a whitewater feature that shows up. With a parting of the ways, our group headed north up the Harlem while our new friends headed south.

Ten paddlers through the kill.

We took our time heading back, partly because we had more wind against us than expected. The current grew in our favor as though, so it wasn't especially taxing. People sometimes get pie-eyed when I talk about paddling for two or three hours at a time, but with a group like this, we had plenty of conversation - telling old paddle stories, riffing on current events, remembering what parts of the river used to look like, and so on.

Passing Yankee Stadium.

Passing Marble Hill station.

So, it seemed that in no time, we were crawling back through Spuyten Duyvil, the Henry  Hudson bridge and Columbia C in plain sight, the Palisades in the distance.

Passing under the Henry Hudson Bridge.

The water near the railroad bridge looked especially feisty, with confused seas sending brief spouts of water several feet in the air. I took a brief ride out there, in my newly acquired boat, a Tiderace Pace 18 (details to come). I found the Pace likes the rough stuff almost as much as the Gemini SP does!

Kayak Dov said his goodbyes and paddle over to his put-in in New Jersey. The rest of us headed back to Inwood, unpacked and cleaned our boats. We each talked about the amazing dinners we had prepared, well-deserved after such a robust paddle.

All's well at sundown! A barge passing as we packed.

And so came to an end, another pleasant day on the water.

Monday, March 20, 2017

An East River Adventure

"Do you want to go paddling?"

This was the regular call of my good friend Kayak Dov, an accomplished sea kayaker and instructor, an all-around adventurer. Truth was, I'd considered it earlier in the week. Sunday was a beautiful day, and I hadn't been on natural water in a while. But, it was predicted to be windy, and the water was cold, and I had a lot of chores to do.

I dithered a bit, and then said yes. In short order we'd worked out a cartop plan to try someplace new: Baretto Point Park, in the Bronx. The New York Times writes about it every couple of years; as the South Bronx crawls forward in its on-again off-again development plan, the fact that there is a rather nice little park on the shores of the upper East River, and "urban oasis", is somewhat astonishing, over and over and over again.

It's even a destination I advertise as a place to take clients, though so far the only takers petered out before we even got to Randalls Island. From Inwood, it's an all day trip, but in this case, we were starting at the park, planning to paddle east before the current turned southwest.

"What is this place," asked Dov. "It's like the kind of neighborhood Batman's villains would hang out it. He's not wrong. After driving out on various highways, we found ourselves on a service road running parallel to an avenue that was running alongside an elevated highway. Then we took some streets that crossed tracks and veered south to a land of warehouses and semi trucks. We were in the armpit of the South Bronx. No one came here unless they had to.

Fortunately that meant parking was easy, though we had a lengthy portage to the little beach itself.

Getting orientated.

Dov took a couple of bearings and we identified some landmarks. The upper East River bends a bit and expands and contracts along its length; it's a much better place for practicing orientation and learning how deceptive the land can be when viewed from sea.

We set out eastward, passing a DEP ship (the Red Hook) tied up at a pier next to the park, and then on past Hunts Point.

Kayak Dov, in his Rebel Ilaga.

The East River is used for shipping, mostly barges, so we kept our eyes out for vessels coming and going. In short time, we were caught up by this little tug, pushing what seemed to be a golf driving range.

Dov guessed that it was a garbage scow, and the fencing was to prevent garbage from being blown into the water. I hate to say it but I think he might've been right about that.

Tug on the East River.

The tug passed us, and then seemed to be getting closer. We realized that she was turning in towards shore, which seemed odd, until we realized she was probably heading up the Bronx River, which emptied into the shallow bay on our left.

After she passed, we kept paddling. I figured we'd get out to the Throgs Neck, perhaps farther, before turning back. Suddenly, Dov exclaimed, "did you see that!"


"A porpoise, or maybe a dolphin."

Maybe, I thought to myself. I scanned the horizon. I didn't see anything, but it was certainly possible. After all, one or more whales were sighted in the Hudson river last fall. And, it wouldn't be the first time a dolphin was spotted in the East River.

I got out my phone (which has a lifejacket of its own) and watched while Dov floated out into the channel.

Then I saw it!

We played a game of gopher for a few minutes, looking here, then there, telling each other where we'd spotted it. I started recording video, clips of a minute or so at a time, hoping to catch it. Eventually I did, but just a few times.

Dolphin Surfacing.

Eventually, I put together this little clip, which gives a better sense of the search.

Eventually, we didn't see him for a while. A barge was coming out and so we decided to clear the channel. I paddled to the south, thinking it was marginally closer, sheltered behind a large rock. This put us at the northeast corner of Flushing Bay, so we came up with a new plan, something fun to do from the water in Flushing: watch the planes land at La Guardia airport.

La Guardia Airport.

Kayak Dov Stylin' and Profilin'.

Watching the planes land.

 On a clear day, you can see planes landing.

Another touchdown.

We didn't loiter too long, not wanting to overstay our welcome at the very end of the runway.

As we headed back, we fought a steady headwind. The wind had changed direction and grown in strength to its predicted Force 5. Fortunately the tidal currents turned in our favor, as the water started to slurp towards the black hole that is Hell Gate.

In short order we crossed under the Instrument Landing Pier and then crossed back to the Bronx. I say, "in short order" but it actually felt like quite a bit of work, one stage at a time: to the pier, to the channel, across the channel.

Fortunately the wind was an onshore one for us, and we had a pretty easy paddle back to the beach, surfing in some waves kicked up by a nearby barge.

It's not an NYC paddle if you're not close to traffic!

Before turning in, Dov let me try out his Ilaga - it's an amazing boat, one the tracks true but responds very, very well to edging.

It was a beautiful day, if somewhat cold. The water temperature in particular is still quite chilly, and if not for our pogies, our hands got numb very fast.

The upper East River is a neat place to paddle. There's much more variety of shoreline than along NYC's Hudson coast, and the dynamics of traffic and wildlife are unlike anywhere around Manhattan. Whether paddling there or cartopping to put in there, it's a worthwhile destination.

In particular, you can get this view pretty easily.

La Guardia, the Manhattan skyline, a jet plane.

Sometimes, it doesn't take much to prompt a great day at sea.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Drysuit Repair

A friend of mine bought a used drysuit last year, and despite having the latex gaskets replaced by the manufacturer, discovered in some recent pool sessions that it leaks. I offered to take a look at it while he's on vacation; here is what I've found.

The first trick was to find the leaks. The gaskets seemed fine, but throughout the drysuit, most of the sealing under the seam tape was dried and flaking away.


In an early attempt, I sealed the gaskets for bag clips, and then inflated it using a SUP air pump.

World's Funnest Inflatable Humanoid.

I then wrestled it - which must have looked really interesting to any onlookers - compressing first the legs, then the body - listening and pressing my face up in places where I thought air was escaping. The legs seemed fine, but the body was leaking air. However, I couldn't determine exactly where it was escaping from.

I took it home and hung it in the shower, partially filling the drysuit with water and then letting it hang in different positions to see what leaked. This was an improvement, but still inexact. I couldn't see anything dripping from the legs, but clearly water was escaping along the chest zipper. It came down along the relief zipper as well, but not as much. However, it would run down the edge of the fabric and drip like a stalactite, so I wasn't sure where along the zipper it was leaking.

Filled to the ankles.

The next test helped me narrow down the leaks. Following advice from a friend, I smeared liquid soap all over the zippers and their seams. I then inflated it - with deep chest breaths, no pump, because I didn't have one with me - and then squeezed the body much as I had before.

I have to say, by this point my technique in compressing the drysuit to check different areas of its surface was much refined.

Lo and behold, little bubbles of soap appeared, in varying sizes, along the chest.

So, clearly not the zipper itself, but the seams around it.

If you look on the other side, you can see where there's just not much backing up the stitching.

The next step is to see if there is a good way to re-seal that seam. I'm guessing AquaSeal, or something similar, but I want to take time to consider how best to make it a continuous, singular spread. I don't want any gaps in coverage.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Safely Sharing Waterways

Recently, The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released a report on boater safety, including the challenges in sharing waterways between commercial traffic, recreational boats (motors and sails) and, of course, paddle craft.

The entire thing is quite a good read. You can find a good summary here, and the full report in PDF form here. Fellow paddler and NYC blogger Frogma has a post up about a recent experience she had with a group in low visibility, sharing the waterways; nothing terrible happened. There's no reason these waters can't be shared.

There is a lot to unpack from the report and its summary. Setting aside the typo of "waived" for "waved" early in the document, I thought I'd write up what I see in what they came up with. What's in italics in this post is lifted directly from the report.

There are three organizations that are referred to throughout the document, sometimes by name, sometimes by acronym. The USCG is the United States Coast Guard; NASBLA is the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators; NWSC is the National Water Safety Congress.

Who are these people?

Well, the Coast Guard is the Coast Guard; they're a branch of the American military that falls under Homeland Security. My brother was an active USCG member and is finishing up as a reservist with the rank of chief; their main role is law enforcement and SAR (Search And Rescue). Also, icebreaking.

NASBLA is an association of US state boating agencies. They have a lot of standards, and good information, but no enforcement capability; that's the realm of the individual states.

NWSC is a non-profit, formed in 1951, to promote safe recreational use of our waterways. That's straight from their website.

The report itself opens dramatically, recounting the day last summer (2016) when a NY Waterways ferry collided with a couple of kayakers, part of a larger group, on a trip out of Pier 84 in Manhattan; this is accompanied by a screenshot from a "bridgecam" showing the kayakers and the sun glare conditions on the water.

However, that is all you will hear about that story, and pretty much all you will hear about paddling in New York City. Nothing else in this report addresses or references that incident or any findings about it.

Early in the summary, the report states:

. . .all recreational vessel operators need to attain a minimum level of boating safety education to mitigate risk. In addition, the NTSB [National Transportation Safety Board] believes the U.S. Coast Guard should require recreational boaters on US navigable waterways to demonstrate completion of an instructional course meeting the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators or equivalent standards.

OK, I agree with this, in principle at least. Anyone operating on US waterways should know what they're doing. But, what would that mean? Here, they're saying the Coast Guard should require boaters to demonstrate that they have taken a class the meets standards set by NASBLA, or something like that.

Except, think through what this means organizationally. This means that first NASBLA has to create standards, and then get agencies to offer those classes. Not only that, but they have to ensure those classes actually meet those standards (or, is it the Coast Guard's job - it isn't clear). And, on top of all of that, the report tasks the Coast Guard with making sure mariners have taken one of these classes. Madam, might I see your boating safety diploma?

Although the number of registered recreational vessels has decreased over the last decade, the reduction is not reflective of the trend in the total number of vessels on the waterways. In fact, the number of canoers, kayakers, and standup paddleboarders (SUP) increased by 21.9 percent between 2008 and 2014 (see Appendix A), with the vast majority of their vessels being unregistered. Consequently, the number of interactions between these diverse vessels has risen, thereby increasing the safety risk, especially where confined waterways limit the ability of vessels to maneuver safely.

Registration of paddlecraft would bring a very different dynamic to the industry. For one thing, unlike motor or sail boats, you don't need a lot of training to get started - which is arguably one of the concerns in the first place.

All that being said, I can't help but believe that disparate sets of data are being used to paint a picture of irresponsible paddlers clogging our nation's navigable arteries. They're saying that 1) there are more paddlecraft out there, but also 2) they aren't registered, so therefor 3) there must be a lot more unregistered paddlers out there!

Maybe this is true. But, even the industry is uncertain about growth. Is it mostly recreational boats? Sea kayaks? Whitewater boats? How much of the growth in paddlesport is in areas defined as shared waterways? How many of these known-to-be-unknown paddlecraft are on shared waterways, as opposed to a lake or a pond?

The safety risk is exacerbated not only by the diversity of waterway users but also by differences in their experience, marine knowledge, and boat-handling skills.

Holy shizzlesnacks, that is a true statement. And here, we start to get to the heart of the problem. Most of the paddlers I know have at least enough experience to know what they should and shouldn't do, and have basic knowledge of the "rules of the road", or COLREGS. 

On the other hand, anyone can buy a boat at Wal-Mart and put in at Liberty State Park or Inwood and start paddling in a commercial shipping zone. I have seen people on the water in vessels that are clearly not meant for the conditions here, paddled by people who do not demonstrate even minimal knowledge or ability. And if you're a commercial operator, you don't know. You can't tell who's and expert and who's not.

According to a Coast Guard estimate, only 28 percent of motorized recreational vessel operators were required by state laws to complete a boating safety course or pass an examination of boating safety knowledge in 2015. 

Adding additional risk, recreational vessel operators may not realize that their vessels’ small sizes and nonmetal construction materials make both visual and radar detection more difficult. An officer in charge of the navigation watch on a large cargo or passenger ship positioned 100 feet or more above the water’s surface will be challenged to see from the bridge window or detect by radar a paddleboard whose operator is maneuvering in close proximity to the larger vessel.

These are two very important facts. On the first, the challenge is the disparity between regulations in the several states, in particular when they share waters - for example, New York and New Jersey on the Hudson River. On the second, I am of the opinion that this needs to be communicated more. Captains are not necessarily being jerks when they can't see you. They can't always see something as small as a kayak or paddleboard. We are hard to see, even with our bright colors, reflective tape, and use of radios.

This is where I'm glad to say the report includes non-paddle craft as well; the problem of sharing waterways is not limited to human-powered vessels.

Open motorboats accounted for the highest number of injuries and fatalities (1,661), followed by personal watercraft (656), cabin motorboats (305), canoes and kayaks (230), and pontoon boats (139). A comparison with Coast Guard recreational vessel accident data from 2011 showed similar trends. 

In contrast, very few operators of non-motorized recreational vessels are required to be licensed or demonstrate knowledge of the navigation rules, and many operators of motorized recreational vessels are exempt from these requirements as well. You might make the argument that despite the increase in unregistered paddlers, there hasn't been an excessive increase in paddlers involved in injuries and fatalities.

The degree of risk overall appears to be influenced largely by a lack of awareness or understanding of the navigation rules among a large portion of recreational boat operators and by their lack of adequate boating knowledge and skills.

Here is the only other notable mention of August's accident in New York City:

The tour operator involved in the August 2016 New York City accident was unaware of the practice that counterparts in Chicago employed: the use of radios by kayak tour guides to communicate with commercial vessels. NTSB believes using radios is a practice that can enhance safety, and practices such as these should be shared among HSCs (Harbor Safety Committees) so that stakeholders can learn about them and implement them as appropriate.

NTSB concludes that all recreational vessel operators need to attain a minimum level of boating safety education to mitigate the various risks associated with the type of vessel being operated. 

[Emphasis mine]

Yes. Amen to radios, with the caveat that they are not 100% effective. Paddlers are low to the water, and I have heard directly from commercial skippers that they do not always have the ability to reply to every call, especially when completing a complex maneuver. It's still useful to announce a securite, and even more useful to listen to the other traffic around you. 

And, I agree that all recreational vessel operators need to attain a minimum level of boating safety education. It's hard not to. It's a common sense idea.

However, this brings us back to the gaping hole at in the center of this report: there is no clear definition of who is responsible for defining or maintaining these standards, nor for enforcing them, nor who is responsible when they are violated. 


  1. Harbor safety committees can substantively improve safety between commercial and recreational vessels if risks are regularly identified, practices are developed and implemented to mitigate these risks, and these practices are shared with stakeholders and other harbor safety committees. 
  2. All recreational vessel operators need to attain a minimum level of boating safety education to mitigate the various risks associated with the type of vessel being operated. 
  3. The Coast Guard should renew its efforts to seek legislative authority to require recreational boaters on waters subject to the jurisdiction of the United States to obtain education that meets National Association of State Boating Law Administrators or equivalent standards. 
  4. A Guide to Multiple Use Waterway Management should be reviewed and updated at regular intervals.
I hate to pick nits, because I agree with so much of what is said in this report but:

  1. Yes, they can. But how many will, and who would make sure that they do?
  2. Yes. Absolutely. But again, who defines that, and then makes it a standard?
  3. Just to be clear, the report is saying that the Coast Guard should ask congress to let them enforce rules created by an interstate consortium that in itself has no enforcement powers.
  4. Yes. Whatever this document is should be reviewed and updated. But, at the risk of sounding like an owl . . . .Who? Who?
As a result of this report, the National Transportation Safety Board makes the following safety recommendations 

To the US Coast Guard: 

  1. Establish a process whereby, at regular intervals, all harbor safety committees identify the safety risks posed by the interaction of commercial and recreational vessels in their respective geographic areas; where necessary, develop and implement practices to mitigate those risks; and share successful practices among all harbor safety committees. (M-17-1). 
  2. Seek statutory authority that requires all recreational boat operators on waters subject to the jurisdiction of the United States to demonstrate completion of an instructional course or an equivalent that meets the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators standards. (M-17-2). 
  3. Work with the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators and the National Water Safety Congress to review and update A Guide to Multiple Use Waterway Management at regular intervals. (M-17-3).
To the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators: 
  1. Work with the National Water Safety Congress and the US Coast Guard to review and update A Guide to Multiple Use Waterway Management at regular intervals. (M-17-4) To the National Water Safety Congress: 5. Work with the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators and the US Coast Guard to review and update A Guide to Multiple Use Waterway Management at regular intervals. (M-17-5).
At the end, the report basically puts the onus on the Coast Guard - already one of the most underfunded military or police organizations in the United States - to work with an interstate consortium as well as numerous "harbor Safety Committees", the latter of which may or may not be well-defined. They're all supposed to keep this document updated, and to enforce not only the rules, but that everyone on shared waterways has taken an approved course.

Now, I love me some regulation of industry, but I do wonder how this would work, especially in a time when deregulation and smaller government are coming into vogue.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Winter Bluebird Day

Mr. Cowgirl's new drysuit came in, and we were itching to try it out on the water. Fortunately, yours truly had been organizing a day trip for that very weekend, and so we set out early in the morning for the Inwood Canoe Club.

Our plan was to head out to North Brother Island, or Randalls Island if we were running late.
No one else could make it, so it was just the two of us, and after kitting and fitting, we set out: up the Hudson to Spuyten Duyvil, down the Harlem, through the Bronx Kill, then out around the Brothers.

Passing Fort Washington.

A cooler hat near Swindlers Cove.

A curious structure atop a barge.

There were several signs of new construction along the Harlem, in particular the waterfront of Roberto Clemente Park and, in the South Bronx, new buildings and the refurbishing of old buildings.

In just under two hours, we arrived at the Bronx Kill, turning left to head down it, and saw a newly-built, not-occupied building on the Bronx side, and a fancy pile driver on Randals Island.

Pilin' for what?

The eastern end of the Bronx Kill is one of my favorite waterborne views in the city. I've been here at sunrise, watching pink clouds turn to orange and then yellow, and on overcast days when the entire world might as well be the sea between Queens and the Bronx. Even on a day like today, however, sunny and bright, the breadth of the view was amazing.

Mr. Cowgirl takes in the view.

What lies beyond?

We had a quick snack of cashews and raisins, as we took in the traffic.

First, there was a large barge being pushed southbound to the gate (Hell Gate, that it - we were just north of it). Then we saw a small barge emerge from the gate and head, curiously, between the Brothers - an unusual route because it's narrow and about a third as deep as the main channel around North Brother Island.

But then, we saw an even more interesting sight, and overheard a securite on the radio: a Rheinauer tug pushing a barge up from the gate, with another tug right by it. About half a mile behind it was another barge.

We decided to head north along the Bronx shore, wait for these two vessels to pass, and then look to make our crossing where we wouldn't be in a blind corner.

Ships go in.

Ships come out.

But then, we saw what the first two tugs were up to. The captain announced he'd make a "left wheel" about 400 yards, and what he meant was that we was making a U-turn between North Brother and the Bronx, and his fellow tug acted to push the vessel sideways.

This kinda made sense because, while we were close to slack tide, there was still some current, and for a barge to be pushed from one end would have made a very difficult turn-in-place. So, the second barge pushed from the side, helping her pivot to face south, and then get pushed into place in order to dock along the Bronx shore.

As this was starting to happen, I radioed the skipper, paraphrased as follows:

KC: Rheinauer, Rheinauer, this is Kayak Two just south of you, across from the Brothers. Capain, do you need us to move?
Tug: Who is this, Kayak Two?
KC: Yep Kakak Two. Near the Bronx Kill.
Tug: I don't see you.
KC: [waves paddle]
Tug: Oh, there you are. No you're not in my way, but that one coming from your right is headed there.
KC: OK, thanks. Over and out.

"We're crossing now," I said. I put out a short securite just to let everyone know our intentions, and we headed towards North Brother, the first tugs making their little turn maneuver, and the other one I'd spotted adjusting course clearly to its port - that is, towards where we had just left and not where we were.

I don't mean to belabor radio communications, but when they work they can save a lot of grief and uncertainty. I'd rather ask someone what they're up to than guess. I also have to say, tug skippers are among the most professional and straightforward I've dealt with on the radio.

After we crossed, I announced we were done and would be out of the channels, and said thanks to the captains, and got a "thank you" in return. Fuzzies on the Radio!

Our Rheinauer friend completing her maneuver.

A short break. Manhattan in the far background.

At this point we started around North Brother Island. I've been out this way a couple of times before, in 2012 and 2015. (OMG, have I really been blogging about kayaking that long?) So I'll recap succinctly by saying it's one of the most tragically-storied islands in NYC, Typhoid Mary and General Slocum, abandoned ruins, not allowed to land.

The old plant.

"Ruins" on the chart.

The old ferry dock.

The caretaker's house.

Channel marker 9.

Bird Sanctuary

"It's one of the spookiest islands," said Mr. Cowgirl - right as a bird of prey's piercing shriek let loose across the cold, hollow water.

The bird screamed again, and again, and we spotted it: a hawk, maybe a falcon, perched in the empty branches of the island's trees. Top left-ish of the following picture.

Where's the bird?

At this point we joked that if we were in a horror movie, the audience would be screaming at us to paddle faster. But, you know, in horror movies people can't know what to do. What if paddling faster just meant a jump-cut to use paddling into a shark's mouth?

Also, zombies may not swim, but they can wade.

We continued on our way, clockwise, coming around the southern side. Here we could take in the view of the famous Hell Gate bridge, as well as Manhattan, in the distance.

 New York City: a nice place to live.

I was also please to see something still standing, which I spotted back in 2014 on a trip out to Flushing: A tv and chair. "An Eames Chair," speculated the Mr.

What I like about the following photo is the doubt-reflection of the kayak's tail end.


In short order,  we set out our return, observing our tug friends were where we left them. The wind had picked up just a little bit, and veered a but to a more westerly direction. Where we'd been a tad too warm on the outbound leg, we were now just right - and when we stopped for a quick bio-break in the Kill, we got shilled right quick.

Farewell North Brother. Our Rheinauer friend heads home.

We were in the Bronx Kill at a time I've rarely been at, early enough in the tidal cycle that there was still some depth, but late enough that there was a strong eddy at the spot where it becomes a rapid. We played a bit with some peelouts and eddy turns.



At one point, a sizable wave train stood up. It was starting to disappear by the time I snapped this photo, but was quite fun - especially since it popped up while we were trying reverse peelouts !

Love Train. . .Freight Train . . .Wave Train.

The paddle back up the Harlem was uneventful. At Spuyten Duyvil, we tried playing with the eddy currents there as well, but they weren't quite as well-defined as in the Kill. After five hours out, with only a short shore break, we were ready to head in, where we cleaned up and put away - but not before encountering Inwood's resident paddleboarder on the water, and another club member who'd just come back from paddling to Yonkers.

Nuclear Kayaking.

I do like this last image though. The entire day was very sunny, so many of my photos had intense lense flare. Add onto that a wet outer lens cover, and I can assure you that there are many more surreal photos in the Cowgirl's library than you'll see online.

We stopped by for a pint at the local pub where our fellow club member was having a get-together with friends (birthday and welcome-to-the 'hood). When we got home, we both were ready to crash out - suddenly our all-day paddle caught up to us physically.

North Brother Island is one of my favorite places to paddle to, even without getting out there. I hope I'll get out there more often.