Manhatta Island, NY

Good morning everybody.

Question for you that may sound silly. I am planning to circumnavigate Manhattan Island this month, I read literature (but not enough probably), I have charts, I have tide chats, I am a fit decently experienced kayaker and my boat is in a good shape.

I am sure I am missing something , and that’s why I need your recommendation.

Imagine I wanted to do a counterclockwise trip around the island. My thinking would be to start descending the Hudson river when the tide is retreating, cross Battery during the lack slack and start ascending the East river while the tide rises. This would be easily achievable, just need to plan the timing right. And have good weather with slow or no wind. I live nearby so I know how the boat traffic around Manhattan looks like.

But, reading many messages in different forums, this plan also seems overly simplistic….What am I missing?



From reading
others reports of the trip there is a coordination that must be done between tide time and the required paddling time. This actually means having to stop and wait at the proper areas so that you arrive at critical spots like Hells Gate at slack moments. From what I read the length of the various tides only matches up with the paddling times required once or twice a month.

Sure more experienced people will chime in


– Last Updated: Oct-09-14 12:41 PM EST –

I believe going with a tour group is the right way to do this. Spending time on the Hudson or East River makes this pretty obvious. Both NY Kayak Company and Atlantic Kayak Tours have offered Manhattan circumnavigation trips in the past, there may be others. EDIT Manhattan Kayak Co also offers a circ.

I believe the full circ is about 8 hours and requires careful timing with the tides, obviously. Having many eyes (as in a tour group) for safety is really important. I wouldn't take that trip by myself under any circumstances, and I paddle solo regularly.

What is the approximate distance for this trip?

I paddle on a very large river with considerable tidal currents and I have found currents are not a problem if you are able to take advantage of the shoreline and other features that either reduce the current, or in some cases you can actually get a boost from eddies,etc. Wind and waves can also be taken advantage of.

I don’t think I have to say how much it would help if you have a very fast and very seaworthy kayak, but the right boat can cut the time in half compared to an average craft.

According to NY Kayak

– Last Updated: Oct-09-14 2:17 PM EST –

the distance is 28 miles.

I agree with carldelo. I have paddled out of NY Kayak's venue with Randy Henriksen and did a crossing over to NJ and back. It included playing in the local clapotis around the pier 40. I have a pretty decent skill set and gear, but I would not undertake the circumnavigation solo. One needs their head on a swivel to avoid all the boat traffic, particularly the ferries and water taxis. Put-ins and take-outs are very limited. Lastly the water is pretty textured.

contact these guys

Others have mentioned they do tours. Stiller has been around for years and years, it’d be great if he does tours. I don’t know the water othewise but the recommendation for a tour sounds wise.

Thank you all. I have been considering a tour but either the dates do not fit with my schedule or it’s too much $$$.

Here it almost seems that the main concern is boat traffic rather than tides/ trip planning…I am aware of the risk involving boat traffic (I am from Venice Italy and paddled in the lagoon with very heavy traffic all my teen hood…) but is really that dangerous? Are Newyorkers’ boaters even ruder and more obnoxious than Italians…?


All cited factors are important
for a successful circumnavigation:

  1. Tides and the timing of one’s trip to use them.
  2. Heavy motorized boat traffic. It’s a city of 8 million and many commute to work/home via the water. Boat operators are not going to be looking out for you. You must look out for them. It doesn’t matter if they are Italian or American (said with tongue in cheek).
  3. Rough water, due to tides; boat traffic; and local conditions.
  4. lack of places to take-out in an emergency.

    I am sure it could be done solo, but using my own personal risk assessment I would not make the attempt.

ok, got it.

thanks everyone for the advices!



– Last Updated: Oct-10-14 11:51 AM EST –

I think the timing of the tides is more important than boat traffic.

You will have boat traffic no matter when you go, so that really wouldn't impact when you go. But the tides are only appropriate at certain times.

What throws this off is that it isn't just a flood and ebb. On the Hudson River, it likely is. But on the east River and Harlem River, you get the confusion of water coming in through the Long Island Sound (which has a different times high and low tide than the tides coming in the mouth of NY Harbor). So the current son thee two rivers may not be what you would expect if you just looked at high and low tides for NY harbor.

This may provide some info:

Hopefully you are using a fast boat for this. Not something like a Pungo.

no way
I lived in Manhattan for 17 years and have lived just north of the City for … a few more. Have taken sailboats thru the Hell Gate, can be tricky. Boat traffic can be insane, esp on the East River. No take -outs, filthy water, crazy people everywhere (including on shore) (and I love NYC, and New Yorkers)… jeez, I think I’d rather stick needles in my eyes.

go with a group
I’ve paddled from Liberty State Park, NJ around Manhattan 8 times always with the same local club. I would not go solo. Also days are getting shorter so optimal tide times may not allow enough daylight. Times can vary by amount of headwind encountered and as you know there is always mostly headwind!

I’d Echo
others’ recommendations to try and go with a group. I’ve raced the distance a number of times in the now defunct Mayor’s Cup Race, circumnavigating under 4 hours. We always went clockwise, timed with the tides up the Hudson.

Each time, Hell Gate was the least of our worries. The current on the Hudson rips; if you time it wrong, you’ll be going nowhere fast. The East River was always a main concern. The current here builds, and large boat and barge traffic causes rebounding waves off the sea walls. Few, if any, spots to take out if you get into trouble. The heliport and Staten Island Ferry terminal down by the Battery are caveats, as are all the water taxis. I’d not want to attempt it solo-there is quite a bit that can go wrong. One year, we bore the brunt of an impromptu cigarette boat poker run. Not even the Coast Guard escort could keep them off of us-they were moving too quickly-the chop created was 5’-6’.

That said, what a paddle. I wish the race was still ongoing, as I’d do it again and again.

Complex activity

– Last Updated: Oct-09-14 11:54 PM EST –

Magooch, remember my misunderstanding of the Columbia from only paddling at max flood and dam release ?

The Hudson at NYC is more a canyon river, maybe twice as fast as my Columbia at Skamokawa .

NOAA seems a bit slow for snow melt:

Traffic would be a very very heavy day on the Columbia but not up an down; across, up and down with a tight schedule an unlike Columbia traffic, not all have their act together.

Imagine if NYC kayakers had the free opportunity for 3 days at Skamo...they'd all leave tomorrow !

from englewood boat basin…

– Last Updated: Oct-11-14 6:38 AM EST –

...,which is directly across from the Spuyten Duyvil (the mouth of the Harlem River), launch one hour after low water at the Battery and head South (counter clockwise). I've done this trip 5 times and have never had a problem, you will have about two hours of current going south and a nice strong current going north on the East River. Stay on the east side of Roosevelt Island and stop at Hallets Cove, the current on the Harlem River will still be south at this point and take an hour or so to change, so the longer you wait at Hallets cove the better, but even you start against the current it's not so bad and the current will turn in your favor. This will spit you out the Spuyten Duyvil, head straight across the river to the launch.

A good resting place is under the Brooklyn Bridge on the Manhattan side, there is a small beach, this where my wife will climb the fence and use the bathroom at the South Street Seaport.

Further details from Englewood;

Details from Liberty State Park:

The trip is about 30 miles withe the 2 crossings of the Hudson.

The trip will take 7 - 8 hours which includes 1-2 hours of rest

This is not a trip for beginners, however it is not very strenuous because the current does most of the work.

One of, if not my favorite day trip.

Have fun!

Boat traffic

– Last Updated: Oct-10-14 11:23 AM EST –

Venice is one thing, mostly small boat traffic. NYC has all kinds, loaded fuel-oil barges, cruise ships, high-speed catamaran ferries, day sailers, fishermen, wackos on jet skis, etc.

I teach at a Maritime College with a lot of professional mariners, and to a person they all think the idea of kayakers in the city is sheer lunacy. We're just invisible to these guys in a crowded harbor. The last thing they want to do is kill some kayakers while going about their daily business. Imagine trying to luge through midtown traffic.

Venice vs NYC

allow me to disagree on the difference between Venice and NYC in term of boat traffic. We got all of the above but the wackos on Jetskis…our wackos use small, superfast boats originally meant for fishing…you hear quite often than some of these boats crash onto those poles we use to delimit canals causing all sort of drama.

One thing that Venice has and NYC has not is availability of safe “land” to pull your boat onto in case something happens…and I am telling you this because I sank 3 times there because of waves and I had to swim to shore: twice in a Olympic-style K2 (forgot our spray skirt…) and once in a gondola type of row boat. Not so fun…

Anyway, I’ll be giving some thoughts…I know I don’t have much time so this project may be delayed until next year. We’ll see.

so just keep your head up
I’ve paddled in some pretty busy places, including the busiest sportfishing lake in the country, city ports, Chicago river. I wouldn’t call traffic a deal-breaker. I agree a tour would be best, for visibility as well as the safety of a group and the knowledge of the guide.

Mayor’s Cup Website Still Available
Check it out on your favorite browser and read all the tip articles posted there. There are even old Joe Glickman video interviews available too.

Spuyten Duyvil
Is there a favorite time of year for your circumnavigation ?

Winds, weather fronts coming or going ?