Circumnavigating Manhattan with a 3D printed kayak

TL;DR - 10ish hours and no leaks!

Last month (May) the water was warm enough around here that I decided to go for it and see if my 3D printed kayak could survive a Manhattan circumnavigation. I learned from last summer that the ideal launch time is around one hour after low tide at the battery. With that in mind, I was leaving the 69th Street Transfer Bridge and making my way down the Hudson by 11am. Although it was pretty hot out, it remained overcast all day making it much more manageable. Other than a gallon jug of water, I didn’t do much planning. I have a pretty good idea of how large Manhattan is from biking so I was hoping I would be back within 12 hours or so. With the currents doing all of the work, I was within sight of Battery Park in an hour.

Taking a break under the Brooklyn Bridge

MILE: 7.4 - After passing through all the boat traffic around Battery Park, I took my first break under the shadow of the Brooklyn bridge. Being my first time on the East River, I didn't really know what to expect. The views were great and passing under the Brooklyn/Williamsburg/Manhattan bridges was kind of surreal. It was also way faster than then Hudson. At one point I looked over at John Finley Walk and noticed that I was coasting faster than they were running.

Taking a break on one of Randall's Island beach

MILE: 15.6 - Since I had put zero thought into the ergonomic design of this kayak, my back was now beginning to pay for it. Eager to stop and stretch, I crossed over towards Randall's Island and began searching for a place to relax. It didn't take long before I came across a pretty nice beach with plenty of shade. I also needed to kill some time while the currents on the Harlem River became a little more favorable.

Kayaking on the Harlem River was the highlight of the trip

MILE: 18.7 - With beautiful weather and a spectacular trip in progress, my impatience got the best of me and I really didn't wait as long as I should have back on Randall's Island. So now I was fighting a decent current moving North on the Harlem River. All things considered though, it was pretty tranquil. The water was smooth, and there was enough dense vegetation on both sides that almost all the traffic noise was masked. In fact, with the exception of a few towers off in the distance, you could lose all visual proof that you were kayaking through one of the largest cities in the world. Looking back, I think the Harlem River segment was probably my favorite.

Paddling my kayak at the top of Manhattan

MILE: 21.9 - Although it was the northern apogee of my trip, I was still going against the current and the sun was beginning to set. I was about to merge back into the Hudson and I was eager not to get stuck out in the dark. I knew I only had about 10 miles left but with the river still working against me I was getting a little nervous. This was the only part of the trip that seemed like actual "work". Constant paddling and minimal progress. The one annoying thing about kayaking compared to biking is that when you stop to take a break on your bike, you lose time, but you don't lose any distance. Kayaking though, when you stop, you lose both time and distance. The last 10 miles were a slog. I can't really complain though, the first 20 were basically effortless.

circumnavigation map

Finish - Well, I ended up arriving in the dark but overall, the ride was great. The kayak, although not ideal, held up well. Seeing the city from this perspective was incredible. In fact, I'm so far behind on posting these updates that I've actually circumnavigated Manhattan a second time and plan on doing a third this weekend. Updates on those coming in many weeks, possibly this winter. Who honestly knows...