Voyage to Newtown Creek

By Marcel Dejean and Paul Caviano
Photos by Michael Anton

From Voyage to Newtown Creek

The Queens shore of Newtown Creek — relics of an industrial past provide a scenic backdrop for boaters

Newtown Creek Row
by Marcel Dejean

Yesterday VCB rowed out to Newtown Creek between Brooklyn and Queens. We left Pier 40 at 11:45am with Paul, Robert, Pat, Deborah, and me in the Bird, Frank, Michael, Nancy, Margaret, and Hans in the GML, and Joe in the sliding-seat wherry. We arrived at the creek at 1:15pm, 45 minutes *ahead* of schedule. That’s an average of almost 4 knots!

On Newton Creek we visited the North Brooklyn Boat Club, which has a cool, DIY-oriented space by the Pulaski Bridge. We rowed the length of the creek, all the way down the twisty English Kills. Nancy and Deborah got a chance to try the wherry, then when Joe got back in it, he rocketed down the creek and down to the Navy Yard against the flooding East River, an hour and a half faster than the rest of us.

After rowing the length of the creek, we went down to the Navy Yard, where we dropped off the Bird for Rob to use for the Banneker High School rowing program. Frank, Michael, Margaret, Hans, Robert, and me got in the GML to row back to Pier 40 down the East River and against a weakly ebbing Hudson. We arrived back at Pier 40 at 7:25pm.

Huge shoutout to Rob Kellerman, whose arms may fall off tomorrow from all the rowing he did.

Did anyone get any pictures of the flourescent yellow-green water?

Until next time,



“An awesome day on the water, and total kudos to Marcel for his meticulous planning.”
Michael Anton

“I’d like to second mike’s kudos to Marcel and pass along my thanks for a great day on the water. I’ve been showing off my blisters to co-workers all week.”
Paul Caviano

Newtown Creek Row
by Paul Caviano

On Sunday, April 26th VCB went on an early-season extended row to Newtown Creek, which separates Brooklyn and Queens on the East River. The nominal reason was to visit a fellow boating organization, the North Brooklyn Boat Club, on the occasion of their “SHORE: Feast” community outreach event, but the participants may also have been looking for an excuse to log some miles and shake off the winter rust.

We left Pier 40 at 11:45 A.M. under Marcel Dejean’s able leadership. The eleven rowers were split between two gigs — Paul, Robert, Pat, Deborah, and Marcel in Bird; Frank, Michael, Nancy, Margaret, and Hans in the GML; and Joe, free spirit that he is, rowing solo in the wherry. Conditions were near-perfect: clear skies, mid-60s temperature, the gentlest of breezes, and virtually chop-free water. With such great conditions and eager crews, we arrived at the creek at 1:15 P.M.

Once in Newton Creek we made a stop at the North Brooklyn Boat Club, located on the south shore just under the Pulaski Bridge. The club members were setting up for their event, but took time to help their VCB visitors get securely docked and show us around their facility. The club occupies a long rectangle of space running adjacent to a commercial building. Amenities include a fire pit, an area with picnic tables, and a number of shipping containers repurposed for equipment storage, on-going water quality testing areas, and so on. Overall, the club has a funky and functional space that proves once again what can be done with sweat equity and imagination.

Our group broke into ones and twos to explore the site and pursue their particular focus areas of interest. Examples: Mike quickly introduced himself to most of the club members, no doubt sharing a pirate story or two and a bit of the underappreciated history of trash management in NYC; Frank carefuly examined the cleverly home-made floating dock, with below-water access for the club’s water quality experiments; and Pat scored a glass of red wine.

After the tour the mini fleet continued upstream. We rowed the full length of the creek for the next two hours, all the way down the English Kills and back. Along the way we took in the sights: old warehouses, beer distributors (closed, unfortunately), scrap metal yards, commercial vehicle storage yards (discovering where all those Fresh Direct delivery trucks sleep when they’re off-duty), and the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant, the city’s largest, marked by eight huge stainless-steel digester “eggs” and thankfully odor-free today. The sanitation department’s website notes the structure has won awards for its design, proving once again that in New York it always pays to look good, no matter your purpose in life. And we took stock of the bridges above: Pulaski, Greenpoint Avenue, Kosciusko, Metropolitan Avenue, and Grand Avenue. Other than some waves and hellos from pedestrians and bikers crossing the smaller bridges, we didn’t pass many people, since much of the creek is walled off from the city by the commercial properties that surround it. Hopefully that changes over time.

After exploring the creek end to end, the group made a second brief stop at North Brooklyn Boat Club where the party was in full-swing — wine and seafood on the menu, lots of kids running around having fun, and community paddling in full swing on two very large canoes carrying twelve people at a time. One canoe tried to overtake the Bird but the VCB boat was the faster vessel — at least for today.

At about 5 P.M. it was time to head for home with the ebbing current. The gigs went down to the Navy Yard where we dropped off the Bird for it’s spring assignment with Rob’s Banneker High School rowing program. After securing the Bird and sending half of the group off to the nearby “F” train, the “A” team of Frank, Michael, Margaret, Hans, Robert, and Marcel pushed off to row back to Pier 40. They needed to hustle to beat an ebbing Hudson and a sinking sun, and as Marcel notes in his post they did so in good form, getting back just at sundown. Well done

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