15-Jun-2001 -- I have been intending to visit 41°N 73°W for some time. It lies just to the north of Long Island, perhaps 2.5 miles off shore in Long Island Sound, and about halfway between New York City and the tip of the island. As I have a 16 foot canoe, climatic conditions are of a deep concern, and I have followed the weather reports, tide predictions, and sea reports. On Friday, 15 June, these all looked promising (wind 8 knots from the south, seas less than a foot, weather hot and hazy with little or no chance of rain, tide flowing toward NYC), as did my available time. After working a half day, I departed around 11:30, heading south towards New York City.
MapQuest predicted that it would take 4 hours to reach the town of Miller Place. I figured provided it took less than 5 1/2 or so, I'd have plenty of time. Sunset isn't until 8:30 p.m., after all. Construction on the Throg's Neck Bridge, the Long Island Expressway, and a few other roads slowed traffic to a crawl. Six hours after I set out I reached Miller Place.
Although it looked like an easy run if I could put my canoe directly into the Sound, there were all sorts of Private Property signs. Rather than spending time finding a better boat launch, I found a turn-out along the Harbor Beach Road that was four or five hundred feet from the water in a small natural harbor. I would need to canoe out of the harbor and out into the Sound. After changing from business attire to a t-shirt and appropriate footwear, I unlashed my canoe from the roof of my car and carried it down to the water.
Although I've done long trips in my canoe before (see my trip report from the Hudson River to Lake Ontario at
http://www.orbitals-.com/self/erie/index.html), this was the first time I have been canoeing in salt water. My canoe, the Dog Sally, is a 16 foot carbon-fiber solo touring boat, and, based on the gentle looking waters, I knew it would behave admirably. My put-in was 2.7 miles from the confluence, but I would have to paddle out of the harbor first. I set out, just a little before 6 p.m.
The harbor was packed solid with boats. Sailboats, motor boats, jet skis, lobster boats, and fishing boats. Nothing larger than 80 feet, but what they lacked in size they more than made up in quantity. I paddled around the moored boats, and, 1.25 miles later, emerged into Long Island Sound. The water was perfect, with the seas having only slight gentle waves. The weather was very hazy. I was now close to four miles from the confluence.
Paddling forward, I passed various boats, and the land gradually became less distinct in the haze. Regretfully, I knew that based on my late start and the distance to the confluence, the only way I would make it there would be if I returned in the darkness. Dusk would drop just as I entered the harbor. While I carry sufficient light to satisfy Coast Guard regulations, I didn't relish the thought of paddling through a crowded harbor at night. Another concern was the haze; I suspect that had I reached the confluence, the land would have been an indistinct smudge along the southern horizon.
When I was 1.4 miles from the confluence, I took some photos, then sheered off to return. The return was uneventful, aside from seeing some pretty sailboats silhouetted against the setting sun. My total distance (via canoe) was 7 miles in about 2 hours. My hands were chapped from the salt water. I carried the canoe back and secured it to my car's roof, then set off to return home. On the return trip, I took the Port Jefferson to Bridgeport ferry, which was much more pleasant than the drive through the Bronx, though still took far longer than I would have liked.
For the next time, I'll remember to double any transit time estimates, and I'll see if it is possible to launch from Scotts Beach (which would eliminate having to paddle through the harbor).