Monday, May 10, 2010

Ship Graveyard

I had read all about this ship graveyard through some website that covered all the abandoned buildings of New York City. Something about it interested me. I was able to find pictures everywhere of these old army boats that were bought to be dismantled for scrap but had sunk into the mud enough for it not to be profitable. Now it was to expensive to tow away so it was an attraction to kayakers since the junk yard wouldn't let pedestrians through the gate.
As long as we stayed in our kayaks we were in the Hudson river and therefore not trespassing. Since this is the closest to legal problems I've ever been for a kayaking trip I wanted to make sure to research everything. I researched the perfect launching site, just across the river where it would be easy to put into the water. I mapped the tide so that it would carry us there as it went out and carry us home as the tide came in. I looked on satellite pictures on Google Maps to get the lay of the land. I looked up all the ships number on wikipedia so that I knew a little history of how each of the ships ended up there.
That day it was pretty windy but I was excited and had paddled on windier so I didn't think to much of it. My co-worker was very much more a beginner paddler. I got blown across river once out in river. The land on the New Jersey side had shielded just how strong the wind really was. At first my friend got stuck in the middle of the river which isn't good because it was only a matter of time before a barge came through. Then when we got blown across the river he didn't know how to keep his distance from a fence surrounding the old landfill and got pinned about against it by the wind. He just used his arms to pull himself along the barrier fence with me yelling (and I guess him not hearing) that he would tire himself out faster that way. When we got to the ships he was exhausted but it was low tide exactly as I had planned. The problem with that was that all the water was gone and the ships were sitting in mud.
We tied off the kayaks to an exposed ship spar and went for a walk across the mud. We took some pictures and found how to tell the difference between soft and hard mud but not before my friend had sunk up to point that his legs no longer showed. He said he was to tired to paddle back across in the wind. so we carried his kayak up through trees and reeds, past the landfill to the road. (I was actually familiar with which road it was because I studied the satellite pictures of it while looking for a launch site.
With him waiting in the woods by the road I headed back out on the other kayak to cross the river. I paddled as hard as I could and when I got to the half way point across I looked up stream and saw a huge barge coming right for me. I knew that if I headed back then I would have a hard time to get enough strength to head back out. So I gave it all I had and got to the other side of the river past the safety of an old pier before the barge passed.
I tied my mud covered kayak to the top of the car and drove across the bridge to staten island and found my friend waiting all from memory of studying the maps. (I had left him with my iPhone since he hadn't brought his phone and his phone in the car didn't have a GPS built in.) On the drive home we disagreed about how much our live were really in perl. I feel like even writing down this story it seems a little over exaggerated, but my friend felt his life was in danger. I just know that no matter how much you plan paying attention to the current weather and tide is more important than what you planned.
The real kicker was that I got sick. I broke out in rashes that I can only guess are from no-see-um bites. I find this more distressing than anything since I really don't find the Hudson river to clean (I made sure to shower well when I got home.) but also we were paddling and walking through the mud next to an old landfill so those bugs had to be carrying to extra chemicals when they bit my legs. The weird part is that my friend didn't get a bite on him but I had splotches all up both my legs. Maybe the mud helped disguise his legs to the insects.

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