Monday, May 10, 2010

Back in the water

It's a new sailing season, and the dawn came up like thunder a couple of days ago over Eastchester Bay -- well, no, not at all like thunder; that line never made any sense to me, actually. But it came up, anyhow, like nothing but itself, and looked damn pretty doing it, with the somber leaden gleam of the water, and the Rococo pink and gold of the sky, as I took the Scapegrace out of Charlie's boatyard in the Bronx, where she spent the winter, to catch the ebb at Hell Gate and so down the East River to dodge the pouncing Staten Island Ferry at the Battery and thence up the Hudson to my mooring at 79th Street.

(I should really say, of course, that Scapegrace took me, not vice versa.)

A New York hipster like me never goes anywhere, even to sea, without his fixed-gear bike:

... shown above, somewhat indistinctly, riding in the battered but still afloat dinghy (note the missing D ring at the bow). The bike was along for the ride because I had come up to Charlie's the afternoon before, via subway and bike -- this is one of the many charms of Charlie's boatyard -- and spent the night on the boat, in preparation for a crack-o'-dawn departure.

It was very nice to be back on the boat, and very cozy, but what with the excitement and the myriad of noises in the yard and a somewhat apprehensive ear involuntarily turned to the wind -- a bit more brisk and gusty during the night than I really wished for -- it wasn't very restful.

But I awoke, or rather got up, betimes, and made some coffee. The wind had died, which was fine with me; it's a rather tight and twisty path you have to steer to get out of the yard, and hard to negotiate with any wind at all.

(An earlier attempt, two days before, with a nasty crosswind, had led to an undignified debacle, with the boat blown involuntarily back into a slip thirty feet away from the slip it left. No harm done, fortunately, except to my self-regard, and of course to the schedule. But schedules are flimsy things compared to wind and tide.)

Even without the wind, on my second and successful attempt yesterday, I was kept rather busy getting the boat out, and forgot to snap a picture of Charlie's yard until I was well away from it:

I'll have to tell you more about Charlie's boatyard one of these days; it's a wonderful place.

Very little traffic about, and very little wind, so I motored down under the Throgs Neck Bridge and the Whitestone, arriving at Hell Gate after about an hour and a half. There was a good five knots of current running, but fortunately those horrific eddies that suddenly send you shooting off at a right angle to your course were not in evidence, or at least I didn't encounter any -- this time.

The East River was full of whirlpools and upsurges, and for the first half-mile or so gave me a roller-coasterish ride. But then it simmered down and ran smooth, though strong, and I cruised at about seven knots made good -- maybe three through the water -- past the UN, where no stormtroopers descended this time, and got to the Battery in an hour.

Gave the Staten Island ferry terminal a wide berth, and kept an eagle eye on the wicked bloody-minded vessel itself, which usually leaps from its slip like a cheetah and surges straight down upon me at flank speed, blowing its horn like the trump of doom, at the worst possible moment, every time I venture near. This time I was lucky and had completed crossing its track toward the Dismal Borough before it came bounding from its lair, licking its chops and seeking whom it might devour. I'd swear it deviated a little from its usual course just to give me an uneasy moment, but then I've been paranoid about anything connected with Staten Island ever since it put Giuliani in Gracie Mansion.

On the way up the Hudson I passed some of my own trash headed downstream:

Hey! That was a perfectly good plastic bucket! Penelope must have thrown it out when I wasn't looking.

My arrival at the mooring was, as so often occurs, attended with some excitement, but I'll save that for another post.


  1. Even at a distance, Charlie's looks like a wonderful place. I'm glad it's spring and you are out on the water and telling the stories again.

  2. Susan Sawyer pointed me in the direction of your blog earlier today while she was visiting my mom, Julie Levy. It sounded like you knew Susan and my mom in college? Anyway I'm just learning sailing, very exciting, Keep posting so I can keep reading. And if your ever looking for crew my bag is packed...

  3. Hi Hank -- Yes I'm always looking for crew and I remember your mom from our college days very well indeed. Tell her hello for me! Susan can give you my email address (which I'm a little too paranoid to put on the blog) and if you're likely to be in the neighborhood, or if I get to do a longer trip this year, we can get out on the water.