Kayaking on the Hudson

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Circumnavigation of Manhattan

The “Circ”, Circumnavigation of Manhattan

When I first heard about the “Circ,” I wanted no part of it.  Paddling 30 miles in one day around Manhattan sounded like a recipe for disaster.  I wondered if I could make it that far without running out of energy.  I passed on invitations for this trip on several occasions, then my friend Dave did the trip and reported back to me.  Dave said it wasn’t that hard and he was sure I could make it.  I trust Dave’s judgment, so I signed up for the trip this year (2013) with a group from the Cold Spring Kayak Club.

The secret to this trip is to go with paddlers who have done it before.  We had 8 paddlers, with about half who had already completed the trip.  Rich, our leader, had done the trip before and had worked out the timing so the currents would be in our favor.  (This is THE key to this trip).
Kayaks preparing to launch.  George Washington Bridge in the background

Hudson River - Upper Manhattan
On June 1, we launched at 9:00am from the Englewood Boat Basin in NJ, just north of the George Washington Bridge.  The current in the Hudson River is very strong in this area and we were flying down towards the tip of Manhattan.  Our overall moving average for the trip was 5 mph, which is pretty fast for a kayak.  The water on the west side of Manhattan was varied.  We had a headwind, so there were some waves created by wind fighting the current.  We also had boat wake that came from every conceivable angle and often refracted off of the bank so you had to watch for waves coming from anywhere and everywhere.  It was nothing our group couldn’t handle, but I wouldn’t recommend this trip for beginners.
Freedom Tower.  After this, it got too rough to take pictures

At the tip of Manhattan, we got an incredible view of the city.  On our left was Manhattan, the Freedom Tower, the Intrepid museum, etc.  To our right we could see the statue of liberty and Ellis Island.  Unfortunately, it was too rough to take any pictures at this point.  There were water taxis and ferries coming and going from every direction.  We had to stay together and keep a keen eye on all of the boat traffic.  Legally, we had the right of way, but realistically, I doubt if any of the sight-seeing or ferry boats would yield to us.
Approaching the Brooklyn Bridge after rounding the tip of Manhattan

As we rounded Manhattan, we approached the Brooklyn Bridge and our first rest stop.  There is a tiny beach adjacent to Brooklyn Bridge Park-Main Street, in the area affectionatly known as DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan, Brooklyn Overpass).  The beach disappears at high tide, so we had to haul our kayaks up onto the rocks.  It was a quick break, just long enough for a snack and a bathroom break, and then we were off up the East River.  Conditions on the East River were quite varied.  It was calm at times, and other times there was a lot of wind-blown chop.  There were also plenty of boat wakes that hit us from varying directions.

In the past, Rich had always passed Roosevelt Island on the east side, but he decided to take us on the west side to see more of Manhattan.  It was fantastic seeing the city from the water, but after Roosevelt Island, we had to cut across the top of Hell’s Gate to get to our next rest stop.  It would have been easier getting into the beach at Socrates Sculpture Park (Astoria) if we had gone down the west side of Roosevelt Island.  As it was, we had to cut across several very strong currents that twisted our boats sideways almost instantaneously.  It was tough going, but the current wasn’t at max flow, so we landed at the beach and hauled out our kayaks for a 3 hour layover.  
Kayaking with the Empire State Building in background

It might seem strange to hear that we sat in the park for 3 hours waiting for the tide to change, but one look at the white caps filling Hell’s Gate and you quickly realize it got that name for a reason.  Anyway, Rich explained that paddling the Harlem River against the current was no fun, so we might as well wait it out.  So we had lunch and took a nap.  It was here that I first heard the term “Circ” when a women asked if I was on the “Circ?”  I had no idea what she was talking about, until she asked if I was circumnavigating Manhattan.  Then I heard several more people who were “in the know” refer to the trip as the “Circ.”
Kayaking on the Harlem River

At 4:30pm, when the current had changed, we paddled through the now benign Hell’s Gate and up the Harlem River.  We had views of the Empire State building, the U.N. and Yankee stadium.  We had one more quick stop at a small beach, then it was out of the Harlem River and across the Hudson to where we started.  The weather was great all day.  It was a little on the hot side, in the 80s, but there was a fairly consistent breeze and a layer of cool air just on top of the water because the water was still quite cold.  
Leaving the Harlem River, entering the Hudson

I checked my GPS at the end of the trip and we had covered 31.5 miles at a moving average of 5 mph.  This worked out to an actual paddling time of six and half hours.  Now that I have completed the trip, I guess I can refer to it as the “Circ.”  Now that you’ve read this, you can be “in the know” too and impress all your friends when you complete the “Circ.”

Monday, June 10, 2013

Paddle Length

This post is a follow up to How to Choose a Paddle.  Please read that post as well.
I found this handy chart on paddle length and it looks pretty good.  You still have to figure out whether you are a high angle or low angle paddler.  It came out of a brochure from AT Paddles, so please visit their website at for more information.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Infinity 17'9" by Current Designs: Review

Infinity 17’9” by Current Designs

After paddling down the Hudson a second time, I got fed up with trying to cram 6 days’ worth of gear into my Romany.  I did some research and the kayak with the most storage volume that I could still fit in was the Infinity by Current Designs, so I bought one.   
My Infinity Kayak
The CD website promised that this kayak would be fast and would hold all of my gear, and they were spot on.  This kayak is a rocket.  Even though it is made for bigger paddlers and lots of gear, I still felt very comfortable in the cockpit.  It moves effortlessly through the water and just cruises with amazing speed.  You could easily fit 1-2 week’s gear in the hatches.  It is fiberglass with fiberglass bulkheads so no worry about the bulkheads leaking.  At 52 lbs. it is fairly light for its size.  
The Day Hatch is easily accessible on the water
 The initial stability is moderate (this is not a boat for beginners), and the secondary stability is excellent, but only when you get it down into the water.  The problem I had with it is that I only weigh 150 lbs. so it sat very high on the water, which significantly reduced the stability of the boat.  With a paddler of 180 lbs. or more this would be a sweet boat.  I had trouble edging it for turns because I was just too high out of the water.  It doesn’t have much rocker so you need to be able to edge it for turns.  

Paddling the Infinity kayak around Manhattan
 I paddled it 30+ miles around Manhattan and it performed very well in the confused seas of NY Harbor.  We got slammed with waves from every direction and the Infinity just shrugged them off.  (I put lots of gear in the boat to lower the water line a bit).  Despite the many cross-currents, wind and waves, I hardly used the skeg at all on that trip.  The Infinity tracks very well without it.  I used the skeg a few times just to see how it worked and with the skeg deployed the Infinity tracked like it was on rails.   
Infinity Kayak
What impresses me most about this kayak is the speed and the ease with which is just chews up the miles.  I know if I had paddled my Romany around Manhattan, I would have been exhausted.  But with the Infinity, after 30 miles, I was ready for more.  In the end, I decided to sell it because it was just a little bit too big for me.  I replaced it with a Cetus from P&H.  The Cetus sits lower in the water, but I believe the Infinity is still faster.    

Length :

17'9"  (541.02 cm)

Form :


Width :

22"  (55.88 cm)

Depth :

13.5"  (34.29 cm)

Chine :


Hull :

Shallow Arch

Cockpit size:

31.75" x 16.5"  (80.645 cm x 41.91 cm)

Cockpit type:


Forward Hatch:

9.5" x 9.5"  (24.13 cm x 24.13 cm)

Day Hatch:

8" x 8"  (20.32 cm x 20.32 cm)

Rear Hatch:

16.5" x 11"  (41.91 cm x 27.94 cm)

Front Hatch Volume:

20 gal.  (76 L)

Day Hatch Volume:

13 gal.  (49.4 L)

Rear Hatch Volume:

22 gal.  (83.6 L)

Max. load*:

400 lb.  (180 kg)



Fiberglass:  52 lb.  (23.4 kg)  w/ Standard Equipment  $ 3199.00

Monday, June 3, 2013

Erie Canal - Fonda to Amsterdam

Fonda/Fultonville to Amsterdam

July 7, 2012.  We had to launch behind the abandoned motel in Fultonville because it was the weekend and the Canal Corp. yard where we had taken out the day before was closed.  The launch was about a ½ mile down canal and a group of us paddled back to the Canal Corp. then turned around just so we wouldn’t miss paddling that section of the canal.  The weather was a  bit threatening this day, but we paddled on.  Our lunch stop for the day was at the Schoharie Aqueduct and we did get rained on before heading through lock 12.  
Schoharie Aqueduct

Everyone knew we were getting near the end of this year’s trip, but I had devised a new method to keep them guessing just how far we were from the take out.  In year’s past, whenever someone asked how far it was to the next take out, I always answered that it was about a quarter of a mile.  Pretty soon, the regular group of paddlers caught on that my ¼ mile could be anywhere from ¼ mile to 5 miles.  This year, I just explained how far it was on the chart.  The canal is too big to put on one chart, so you have to make copies of the pages you need for leg of the journey.  Throughout the trip, I was constantly shuffling pages to get to the next section of canal.  So now when someone asked how far it was, I would reply, “About one and a half pages.”  

Eventually, I ran out of pages for this section and we arrived in Amsterdam, the end of this year’s journey.  The towns we went through, the people we met, and the beautiful scenery made this section of the canal an unexpected surprise.
Amsterdam was the end of this kayak trip