Thursday, September 24, 2009

Maine-bound, Day 1: Escape from New York

Caught the ebb tide from my mooring on the Hudson at 11 pm, an hour after slack water. My mooring buoy is semi-submerged, and absolutely submerged when the current is strong, bounding around three or four feet underwater like a Rhinemaiden on methedrine. Left a note for Joe the harbormaster and buoyed the mooring lines so I could pick them up more easily (we shall see what became of that ingenious scheme).

Had to motor down the Hudson -- wind versus current, bumpy and disagreeable -- in that weird still wee-hours world, when the city isn't asleep but it's a little groggy and its eyelids are half-shut.

So much light. A big fish jumped out of the water and splashed back with a startling explosive noise and nearly startled me out of my skin.

Naturally the southerly wind died as soon as I rounded the Battery, so I also had to motor up the East River. Got through Hell Gate without any hair-raising encounters with barge traffic -- a first, actually -- at about 3 AM.

I've always loved the Hell Gate railway bridge:

There was a passenger train going across it as I approached. It looked like the Polar Express in the Chris van Allsburg book -- all lit-up with warm yellowish lights shining from the windows, snug and cozy-looking, the headlight from the engine illuminating the girders of the bridge from the sides and below, an angle of lighting you never see otherwise. Very beautiful, very poignant and evocative, I couldn't tell you why. Not just a mechanical vehicle passing over a dead piece of architecture -- more like the intertwined bone and sinew of some vast living thing.

Got to sail a bit after the Triborough -- if I ever call it the RFK Bridge, may all the gods simultaneously strike me dead -- and tacked twice between the Whitestone and Throgs Neck. Then the wind died and a grim steady cold depressing rain settled in, like Noah's flood come again, and I ran into dear old familiar New Rochelle and begged a transient slip off the harbormaster.

"Shall I settle up now?" I asked.

"Naah, tomorrow morning," said the harbormaster.

"I might be leaving early -- maybe I won't see you."

"If I don't see you, forget about it."

I love Boat Dudes. This will be a persistent theme.

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