I’ll Take Manhattan–by Circumnavigation

     Every summer, the Yonkers Paddling and Rowing Club (YPRC) organizes a Manhattan circumnavigation. The trip has grown from 17 paddlers in 2004 to more than 100 in 2014. Many Turtles participated in the event last year as paddlers. Others helped paddlers launch from ICC’s boathouse early that morning and rocked the dock to celebrate successful completion of the long day’s journey late into the night. 
     The athleticism itself of the event is a lure, but so is the remarkable camaraderie. Even the terminology is big-hearted. The “most meditative” paddlers (Really? I’m not just slow?) start the trek so that everyone finishes together.
     The event is carefully planned to enable paddlers to travel with the current rather than fight it. There is safety in the numbers of paddlers. Kayakers should have marine radios, as well as a light because the journey ends at dusk. The flotilla is led by a powerboat and jet-ski escort. There are landing points along the way in Tribeca, Brooklyn, Hallet’s Cove, and the Peter Jay Sharp Boathouse on the Harlem River. I could still hear the relief in one Turtle’s voice as he recalled these opportunities to stretch his limbs. Another disembarked to stroll through the sculpture garden at Hallet’s Cove.
     Turtles described paddling through a changing landscape. Kayaks paddling past mammoth cruise ships are relatively the size of a matchstick next to a skyscraper. Further south, at the 30th Street heliport, paddlers felt the vibrations on the water from the choppers. Then it was on to the tourist traffic of the Battery and a jaw-dropping navigation past thehulking orange Staten Island Ferries. Brooklyn offered post-industrial hints of New York’s former manufacturing might, along with bucolic new waterfront parks. From the beach at Hallet’s Cove in Astoria, paddlers gazed across the water to the glass tower of the United Nations. But no vision was as welcome as the view from the finish line of Inwood Canoe Club’s dock and the Palisades at sunset, framed by 
the George Washington and Tappan Zee bridges.
     ICC members have good opportunities to build the required skills for a circumnavigation. Turtles who have made the loop suggest planning paddles of successively longer distances: around Spuyten Duyvil to the Peter Sharp Boathouse and back, north to Yonkers and back, south to Riverbank State Park and then 72nd Street and back, and a round trip to the Battery or Randall’s Island. The summer will offer plenty of opportunities for these excursions and for Turtles to become comfortable and confident in their favorite boats.
     The 2015 Manhattan Circumnavigation will take place on Saturday, August 22, 2015 (rain date: 8/23). YPRC is the lead sponsor and Sebago Canoe Club, New York City Water Trail Association, and ICC are cosponsors. If you would like to participate, more details and the registration form are available.