Hackensack River Canoe & Kayak Club

paddling for over a third of a century

Sea Kayak Trip Report: Western Long Island Sound
by Jim More

Saturday, April 24, 2010

After hearing of an unfavorable weather forecast for Sunday our already rescheduled trip (due to the flooding Nor'easter in March) was re-re-scheduled again at the last minute to Saturday. Five sea kayakers, all paddling NDK kayaks: Bill B., new members Joe M. and Jeanette and guest Tony F. met me at the launch site on Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx. Yup, sea kayaking in da Bronx!

We launched into the lagoon among a group of competing rowing shells from the local rowing club and a pair of very well equipped local kayak fisherman. We then made our way around into Long Island Sound and headed southwest along the coastline paddling in mild conditions with a light breeze at our backs. The water was uncharacteristically______ flat and clear. Typically at this time of year, there would be wind and wave....but not on this day.

Our first stop was for a brief break on a rocky beach on the spooky shoreline of Hart Island. Most of the out islands in the NYC metro area all seem to have a colorful history that involves either hospitals, cemeteries, prisons or the military. Hart Island has been involved in all four. It still serves as NYC's Potters Field and for over 150 years it has accumulated over 850,000 graves. It's also been a prison, an asylum and a NIKE missile launch site. The beach we stopped on had collected piles of marine artifacts ranging from lobster buoys to shipwrecked pleasure boats resembling "Gilligan's Island".

We then crossed LIS over to the Nassau county shoreline and followed it southwest to the 1876 Stepping Stone Lighthouse. Continuing on, we passed the US Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point. After a lunch stop, we passed Fort Totten. Starting way back in 1776, the colonial army had built a series of these harbor forts to guard NYC from a marine attack . This particular fort was built in 1862 to guard the city from an attack via the East River. After crossing the eastern end of the East River and passing the mighty Throgs Neck bridge we then came upon Fort Schuyler, which is now part of the campus of SUNY Maritime College. Fort Schuyler operated jointly with Fort Totten. None of the many NYC waterfront fortifications ever fired a shot in anger.

After an open crossing of Eastchester Bay we encountered a Fire Dept NY boat putting on a colorful water display near City island. Then on past the NYPD Firing Range on Rodman's Neck and under the City Island bridge. Typical on a sunny afternoon on LIS, the south-west sea breeze then picked up.

A few more miles and passing the swimming beach at Orchard Beach and we were back at the launch site.

This was one of those very rare trips where we had a favorable current that took us all the way to the Throgs Neck bridge and it switched as we arrived to help push us back to the launch site and the wind cooperated as well. We had a light breeze at our backs until we got back to the "Loggia Lagoon" where predictably, it was in our face.

We were on the water about six hours and covered about seventeen miles. No shots were fired, no one was arrested and we were not chased off any of the beaches. We all survived da Bronx!

Yet another interesting paddle with some great company on an beautiful day!