Circumnavigation of Stoney Island, NY
I was able to check off a circumnavigation of Stoney Island on my bucket list. Admittedly, it didn’t rank high, but it was something I had been wanting to knock out before I left upstate New York. It also provided an additional skill building opportunity that I feel is imperative to my kayaking repertoire; and that is tackling long open water crossings.
Let me set the stage for you: its an early morning on November 7th. The temps are hovering in the mid-thirties and the sun is largely hidden by an overcast sky, making the the water that dull grey and brown color. The winds are relatively light out of the north-east creating Sea State 2 conditions. Despite the cold weather, the water temps are still in the mid-to-upper 50s.
These conditions present me with a bit of a "what to wear" conundrum. With conditions being calm, my chances of taking a swim are pretty thin. While air temps started cold, I knew they were expected to rise to the upper thirties and that I would be paddling in moves of a couple hours or more - a process that would be build up significant heat.
While my initial inclination was to dress light, wearing thin-weigh polypros and my NRS dry top and semi-dry bottom, I chose to error on the side of caution and add a mid-weight layer of polypros to the mix. My Chota neoprene gloves, NRS booties, and standard issue fleece beanie complete my paddling ensemble.
I launched from a stoney beach on the Lake Ontario side of Henderson Harbor. The visibility is good and I can see my destination clearly. While it looks close, it requires a 3.5 nautical mile crossing to reach the north-easter tip of the island. The winds are to my back and I am going with a slight current and easily reach a cruising speed of 4-4.5 knots.
I don’t go more then the first mile before I start questioning my decision to wear my set of mid-weights polypros. I quickly start to build heat and sweat, knowing that my outer shell layer will require a pretty good hose down after my journey.
I reached the island in just under an hour. The island itself is a private island owned by the Phillips 66 Corporation who acquired it when they bought out a smaller oil company. The island is used as a retreat with several lake houses. I also believe it is used as a shooting preserve for hunters. Despite this, I decided to stop for a break on one of the out crossings on the southwestern tip of the island where I made some hot chocolate and had a salt bagel.
The journey back to my launch site was largely into the wind and against the current. My cruising speed plummeted to a mere 3-3.5 knots for the journey back. And once again, I started to roast inside my semi-dry set-up.
The entire journey ended up being around 15.5-miles. It was a good workout that proved perfect for my first time paddling in a couple of months.
A couple of learning points that I will spend some time working on over the winter.
- I need a dry-suit. I foresee a Kokatat Goretex drysuit in my future. My current semi-dry setup I think works well for now, but I don’t think its a viable option for spending any real time immersed in the water. Plus my experience with my semi-dry suit has taught me that it will still let some water in which could have affects even after I am out of the water.
- While I love my Chota gloves, I have always thought they are too thick. I loose a lot of dexterity when wearing them and they slide a lot on my paddle. I might need to look at some paddle mitts or a thinner glove and some type of grip tape for my paddle.
- I still need a compass for my kayak. While not a real issue on this paddle, my return leg from the island to my launch site was a bit of an educated guess. The real concern is if there had been a fog that rolled in I could have become disoriented.
- As I venture into longer open water crossings in conditions, it is now time to invest in a marine radio and a stobe light; especially since I do a fair bit of solo paddling.
- I came across a open source nautical chart / gps program that is great for route planning. OPEN CPN is free software that allowed my to plot my route, set waypoints, and determine distances. I am just scraping the surface on it but I am glad to have it my kit bag. It can be found here. (see image below of my plotted route