Circumnavigation of Stoney Island, NY

Satellite view of my route.  Total journey was about 15.5 miles.

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.

Stoney Island is about 3-miles wide and is seen on the horizon in the background.  

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

Open CPN allows you to download any NOAA chart and plot routes over it.  Not shown in the image, but you can click on each way point and it provides you distance and bearing information to each.   You can also print (both chart and a route table) from the program.

Carl SanfordComment