First visits to: Marine Parkway/Gil Hodges Bridge; Cross Bay Veteran’s Memorial Bridge (aka Broad Channel Bridge); South Channel Subway Bridge; Grassy Point Subway Bridge; Joseph P. Addabbo Memorial Bridge; Old Mill Creek Bridge; Hendrix Creek Bridge; Fresh Creek Bridge; Paerdegat Basin Bridge

Route Map – Total miles: 14.8         More Photos on Facebook    (click any photo to enlarge)

We couldn’t have said a more beautiful goodbye to summer than we did on Friday, September 21 when — thanks to Commodore Tony Pignatello and our new friends from Sebago Canoe Club — we did a circumnavigation of Jamaica Bay and logged nine more bridges.

We launched from Jacob Riis Park, at the foot of the Marine Parkway/Gil Hodges Bridge.
Our paddling companions for the day were Leona S (second from left, between me and Rosalba), Larry, Walter (incoming Commodore-elect of Sebago Canoe Club), Tony P (outgoing Commodore of Sebago Canoe Club), Vivian, and Carlos N.  The day was a perfect 75 degrees with a light breeze, though the breeze was in our face most of the day.

The Cross Bay Veteran’s Memorial Bridge (aka Broad Channel Bridge) was our next destination:

As we approached the South Channel Subway Bridge, we watched A trains cross the bridge while overhead planes approached for landing at JFK Airport:

We stopped for lunch at a little beach just alongside the bridge, then it was under the bridge and away. The South Channel Subway Bridge actually has two parts. Here’s Tony getting a photo of Part Two:

From here we had a rather long and challenging paddle past the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge as the current and wind kept trying to turn us to starboard (right) which would have ended us up on a runway at JFK. But this part was also the most rewarding — we saw many egrets, herons, ospreys and other waterbirds, while fish jumped from the water — sometimes entire schools all at once.

Our next bridge was the Grassy Point Subway Bridge:

We stopped again to rest on another small beach before passing under the Joseph P. Addabbo Memorial Bridge. When we arrived, we found coconuts on the beach . . . had we paddled all the way to the tropics?  No, it was the remnants of a Hindu religious ceremony.

Under the bridge and on to the next one . . .

We were well into the afternoon now, with about 3/4 of the mileage covered, but three of the last four bridges — all part of the Belt Parkway — were up on creeks that feed into the bay.  The first was Old Mill Creek Bridge:

With arms, shoulders and camera batteries starting to give out, the rest of the group waited while Carlos accompanied Rosalba and I up to the bridge and back, which took nearly an hour, running against current and wind.

The Hendrix Creek Bridge was not so far from the bay, but we decided just to get close enough for a photograph and keep going.  Unfortunately, that was when my phone/camera battery died.  Tony took this photo for us:

Hendrix Creek Bridge

Thankfully, Fresh Creek Bridge was an easy shot from the bay. Tony again did photography duty and we carried on.

Fresh Creek Bridge

Our last bridge was the Paerdegat Basin Bridge.  At first I didn’t recognize it, because the last time I saw it, on August 30, there was still a construction crane on it.  Right now there are two bridges there — the old one, and a new one which is still under construction. The crane was gone. Until the other side of the new bridge is open the old bridge will serve westbound traffic.  Once the new westbound section of the bridge is complete, the plan is that the old bridge will be demolished.

Paerdegat Basin Bridge

On Paerdegat Basin – almost home!

Paerdegat Basin is the home of the Sebago Canoe Club and we were tired but happy when we reached its dock.  We want to again thank both Commodores and the members of the club who shared their knowledge of Jamaica Bay, their time and even their club equipment to help us accomplish this part of our goal. Also thanks to John Daskalakis at Jacob Riis Park, part of the Gateway National Recreation Area, who lent us two Zest sit-atop double kayaks.


First visits to: Carroll Street Bridge, Union Street Bridge, 3rd Street Bridge, 9th Street Bridge, Hamilton Avenue Bridge & Gowanus Expressway Bridge

Route Map            More Photos on Facebook   (click on any photo to enlarge it)

Canoeing on the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn is promoted by The Gowanus Dredgers.  The Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn is surprising in many ways. It sits as a kind of border between residential neighborhoods and industrial zones. Despite its polluted waters, there are freshwater natural springs that drain clean, drinkable, water into it and schools of fish congregate in these pockets of clean water.  The fish attract birds like the heron we saw along the way. And wait, was that a parrot?  Yes, there is a flock of wild parrots that live in Brooklyn.  The first ones were being shipped into the USA by plane, and their carrier was dropped — and it fell open — at JFK.  Since then, they have multiplied and, to the dismay of Con Edison, they like to build nests on electrical electrical poles, where it is warm.  And where they often start fires.  If you can figure out a way to keep them from nesting on electric poles, I hear ConEd is offering a reward….

Anyway, this is about the bridges.  Five of the six bridges on the Gowanus Canal are drawbridges, which can be opened with two hours’ notice.  In case you need to have one opened, here is the number to call.

Here are the bridges:

The Union Street Bridge

The Carroll Street Bridge

The Third Street Bridge

The 9th Street Bridge, with its upper and lower spans

The Gowanus Expressway Bridge (above) with the Hamilton Avenue Bridge (below)

The Hamilton Avenue Bridge

Some of the sights along the way:

A very odd place for a hobby horse . . .

Paddling past a giant barge

Paddling through an oil slick

How much can you love NYC if you let trash and oil pollute its waterways?

After a couple of hours on the canal, we returned the boat and went in search of dinner. We found some cool local art on 2nd Street and a great Middle Eastern restaurant on Smith Street.


Many thanks to Ray Howell and Paul Ryan for their passionate and tireless efforts stewarding the canal and acting as neighborhood environmental activists.  As more residential development comes into the neighborhood around the canal, they are at the forefront of efforts to improve sewage infrastructure and access so that the Gowanus Canal is healthy and enjoyable for everyone.

First visit to: Verazzano Narrows Bridge
Repeat visits to: Williamsburg Bridge, Manhattan Bridge, Brooklyn Bridge

Route Map           More Photos      (click on any image in this post for a larger view)

The Verazzano Narrows Bridge much the way it looked as we floated under it just before dawn. (Photo from

Rosalba and I landing on the beach at Coney Island

Rosalba and I joined a group from Long Island City Community Boathouse led by the intrepid Ted G on a kayaking trip from Long Island City to Coney Island — by night! We left the boathouse at 1:30 a.m. and paddled down the East River with all the lights of New York City glittering around us like a galaxy. There was almost no traffic as we paddled across the very quiet, calm New York Upper Harbor and through the Buttermilk Channel (between Governor’s Island and the Brooklyn waterfront) before landing for a short rest in Red Hook (near where we had key lime pie last weekend). Then it was on again to the Lower Harbor before crossing under the Verazzano Bridge just before dawn. The sea at slack tide was glassy smooth and the same color as the sky; looking out toward the ocean the horizon all but disappeared and we were suspended in this amazing quietude of blue. We rounded Sea Gate as the sun came over the horizon, and landed on the beach just below the Coney Island tower a little before 7:00. The only other people on the beach were a church group performing baptisms.

Rosalba in our kayak on the beach at Coney Island, with the church group in the background

At 9:00 the CIBBOWS – Coney Island Brighton Beach Open Water Swim – began. We participated in swim support, guarding the jetties along the beach and keeping swimmers on course. By 10:00 it was over; we got the boats off the beach then Rosalba and I caught the subway home as we had arranged before the trip with Ted. His plan had been to continue on to Breezy Point before trailering the boats back to LIC later in the afternoon, but once the boats were off the beach everyone else decided they were too tired for that, and as we were leaving the rest of them were preparing to load up the boats and leave as well. We were home by noon.

Our only glitch of the trip was that while beaching the kayaks after swim support we got caught in the surf at the last minute and rolled onto the beach. I felt a bit stupid, but then woman in the next kayak rolled hers too so I didn’t feel quite so bad! No damage done, just a LOT of sand in my ears!

We calculated that we traveled about 17 miles, and it was only our second significant kayaking expedition. All in all, another legen . . . DARY experience!

It all began on July 14th, 2012. I (RaNae M) took Rosalba F, the Italian engineering graduate student living with me for the summer, on what was supposed to be an afternoon excursion to Governor’s Island that we thought would include about half an hour in a kayak. The tide of events turned (as it were) on the spur of the moment, and suddenly we were on a 2-day overnight camping and kayaking trip, thanks to our friends at Long Island City Community Boathouse. We camped with them overnight on Governor’s Island, and the next day paddled south for a swim at Red Hook and then northward — in a rainstorm — home to Long Island City. Along the way we passed under the Brooklyn Bridge, the Manhattan Bridge and the Williamsburg Bridge, and that’s when I learned that Rosalba’s engineering specialty is bridges. Somewhere during the course of the next week we cooked up the idea of visiting all the bridges in New York City — by water as much as possible — before she goes back home to Italy in December.

We could not even begin to accomplish this goal without generous encouragement and assistance from Victoria O, Steve E and Ted G of the Long Island City Community Boathouse, as well as many others who are assisting us and becoming friends along the way.  Our sincere gratitude goes out to them and to the many, many waterway enthusiasts who share their time and efforts to help make New York City’s waterways accessible and enjoyable for everyone.

This blog is the story of our adventures.