Daily Archives: September 7, 2012

Something New, Something Old

Rocking peacefully in Port Washington harbor, there were a few discussions, around the dinner table about shooting Hell Gate down the East River past Manhattan. In a slow moving boat you don’t have that many options and we were about to lose our last opportunity for weeks to ride the current past Manhattan to the Hudson River in the daylight, but then the Hudson would have a contrary current, which means finding an anchorage in some of the busiest waters in the world.

We timed the entrance perfectly and
another catamaran followed us in. I guess I’m used to turbulent rivers but this was something new as Escape Velocity would slew one way then dart another. I had to hand steer her but she handled it well.

What a great way to see Manhattan! As we approached the financial district I realized that we are not only in some of the busiest water in the world but it’s rush hour!

Ferries were everywhere, churning up the river with huge wakes and of course the wind began to blow 15-20 kts. Marce seemed to be especially concerned about the Staten Island ferries.

Beautiful schooners were sailing about, water taxis, classic commuter yachts, sea planes, nut jobs on jet skis. Let’s just say we felt Insignificant. Marce had found a small yacht basin to anchor in behind the statue of liberty.

This place allowed us to break up the passage into two days and reach 10kts
through Hell Gate and 7.5 kts. for the whole trip up the Hudson, while running
at a moderate cruising RPM.


Leaving our anchorage.

I felt right at home on the Hudson River. I grew up on Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers. While the scale is larger the point is the same except that the Hudson spends a lot of time flowing backwards.


Tappan Zee bridge, Nyack at night.

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Skyscrapers and everything

We checked and rechecked the tide and current tables. We watched the clock. Today we planned to make the passage from Long Island Sound to the Hudson River via the East River and the famous Hell Gate.

We decided we should leave our mooring at 2pm in order to arrive at the East River at Throgs Neck just before high tide. This, the books assure us, will give us a fair current for the entire 15 mile passage.

Alan joined us for coffee and a last visit for the next couple of weeks until we meet up again somewhere in the Chesapeake Bay. And our mooring neighbors from another Manta catamaran, What If, dinghied over for a quick introduction. All of this took our minds off the impending challenge.


Finally, just before two o’clock we fired up the engines and dropped the mooring, then circled Snow White and waved goodbye for now and headed out of Manhasset Bay and into the Sound.


We reached our official starting point, Throgs Neck Bridge, right on time.


For the next two hours we experienced one of the greatest cities in the world from a new vantage point. I remembered the first time Jack took me out on his little powerboat in Pittsburgh, how different the city looked from the water.

Most of New York City is on islands but you tend to forget that when you’re on land and navigating it by car or subway. By boat, negotiating the twists and turns of the East River, you’re reminded that the city is here because of the water and especially that the water was the primary mode of transportation for much of its history.

Shortly after entering the East River we started to see some of the underpinnings of the city, LaGuardia airport, a waste water treatment plant, Rikers Island.




Some of the bridges were beautiful.


As we approached Hell Gate we got a little nervous because a couple of sailor friends had dire warnings of swirling eddies and swift currents. On the other hand Alan told us it was no big deal, but he’s got that understated Brit thing so we went on high alert anyway.


The turn into Hell Gate went well. We could see some disturbed water, but Escape Velocity is so maneuverable that Jack steered right through it with no problems. It was only as we approached Roosevelt Island that we saw how fast the current was. Our boat speed topped out at 10 knots, but I didn’t get a shot of that.


We were now motoring between Roosevelt Island and Manhattan, and what a thrill it was to see New York from here!




The farther downtown we got the more the water traffic picked up. A float plane landed in front of us. There were helicopters overhead. We could hear the auto traffic thundering along the FDR highway. And suddenly we were surrounded by ferries.





As we passed under the last two beautiful bridges over the East River we were both twisting our heads around tracking the many ferries that seemed to want to converge on where we were. None of the ferry routes were marked on our charts so we kept close to Governor’s Island hoping to stay out of their way. Meanwhile there were a couple of small recreational sailboats blithely tacking back and forth. They obviously had stronger constitutions that we do!






We chose our moment to cross the Hudson and head for Liberty Island and passed a beautiful schooner in full sail, and the ubiquitous Staten Island ferry.



Finally we made it across the Hudson and picked our way behind Miss Liberty to a hidden anchorage that would be our home for the night.


The whole trip from Port Washington to Liberty Island was only 20 miles and took a little over three hours, but we think it was one of the coolest passages we’ve done yet!


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