Friday, September 18, 2009
CURSES! Secret Manhattan Circumnavigation Plot FOILED by the 64th General Assembly of the United Nations!
Right, how's that for a good NYC kayaking headline?
Over the last couple of weeks, I have been organizing a small group circumnavigation of Manhattan.
I haven't mentioned it here because I was finding that I was getting very excited about it & I guess I was being a little superstitious.
I was afraid that getting publicly bubbly about it before it happened was somehow going to curse things.
Everything was looking fine. The weather was OK. The tides were OK. I had a great little group of strong paddlers, I'd invited a few old friends from my Hudson days to join us*, I'd done up a trip outline & a pretty silly Google map to share with the Sebago people, I'd bought a waterproof chart I could carry on deck so people could see where we were, & I was just generally getting almost giddy about my first circumnavigation in several years.
My last circumnavigation was a bit of a disaster. As I wrote to one of my friends as I was organizing this new one,
"I'd set up the last one because somebody I had a crush on (who I thought knew I had a crush on him) wanted to go around. Would've worked out a lot better if he had ever bothered to fill me in on the fact that he'd gotten back together with his long-distance girlfriend. I found that out on our lunch break. And then he was annoyed that I was upset because in his view of the world, EVERYBODY knew that!"
And then he got tired on the southbound leg and I had to stay with him and make sure he got home ok.
Boys. Oy gevalt. Can't live with 'em, can't (quite) let the Waterways ferries run 'em down.
It's all water under the bridge now (and it was all long before TQ, too), and I was really looking forward to going under a few bridges myself.
But then the wheels came off the wagon over a few short hours today after John H. found an article about extra East River closures for the UN General Assembly & sent it along. You can read it here. 2 out of the 3 possible closures are pretty standard & my trip planning had already taken them into account.
But then, there was (insert a bar of the darth vader theme here please)
Zone (3): No commercial or recreational traffic in the East River between East 35th Street and the Queensboro/59th Street Bridge except NYC DEP sludge vessels and commercial passenger vessels with USCG Patrol Commander (PATCOM) approval. Commercial passenger vessels will be escorted through the zone along the eastern shoreline at the discretion of PATCOM.
Now, if you happened to look at the article, you may be thinking "What's the problem? That was in 2008."
Problem is, the U.N. does the same thing every year around this time. So I called the local CG sector at Ft. Wadsworth, Staten Island, to see what the plans were for this year. I spoke to a very nice gentleman there who told me exactly what I needed to know (which I appreciated even though it wasn't exactly what I wanted to hear), and then I sent out the following email to all my friends:
In the immortal words of Homer Simpson...
Thank you John H. for bringing this to my attention.
This was totally not mentioned in the most recent Local Notice to Mariners, but of course, every year there's a General Assembly at the UN & the day I have been looking forward to for my first circumnavigation in several years happens to fall during that period.
There's not really any information up on the internet yet but I just went old-fashioned & called Ft. Wadsworth, where I got confirmation that there will be additional security measures in place during that time.
The gentleman I spoke to said that closures will change on a day to day basis based on what dignitaries are in attendance & that vessels wishing to transit the area should contact the Patrol Commander for an update as they approach the area. We probably wouldn't be able to find out the situation until we're already on the water.
Long story short, a circumnavigation during the General Assembly would involve something of a gamble.
There's a reasonable chance we might go through just fine.
There's also a reasonable chance that we'd get to the East River, get turned away, and have to make our way back around the Battery**, past all the #@$!in' ferry terminals & back up to Pier 40.
I'm VERY dissappointed but I just don't know if it's worth the hassle of getting ourselves to Pier 40 when there's a good chance that we might get turned back & from what the Coast Guard said, no real way to confirm until we're actually approaching the zones around the UN.
Really makes me appreciate how completely simple our lives are out in Jamaica Bay.
*note to old friends on the Hudson - if I didn't ask you, I'm so sorry - it's just that I wanted to keep the group at 10 or under & including myself, I had 5 confirmed & 1 tentative from Sebago!
**Just a bit of additional info for those who aren't NYC paddlers & might still be wondering why turning around would be so bad. Manhattan currents are strong enough that you go with them, or you suffer. The average cruising speed of a trained paddler is 3 kts. Manhattan currents can approach or exceed that. Taken into account, those currents make a lot of really fun trips possible, and paddling against 'em for an hour or so makes for great after-work exercise. But if you have planned a trip that involves 4 hours of paddling north, and 1 hour into that you are suddenly forced to turn south & make your way back over the same stretch you just covered (probably at a rollicking 'speed made good' of 4-point-something-odd kts, even though you were only paddling 3), it is Not Going To Be Fun. And waiting for a couple of hours wouldn't work either because Hell Gate would have slammed shut. If I could have come up with one single alternative plan that I thought would actually be fun, I wouldn't have called it off. As it is, I'm calling it a postponement - unfortunately, due to schedules, it's going to be a LONG postponement, but I'll start looking for a date in the spring (sometime after the water's warmed up enough for my non-winterized friends to join us again) pretty soon.