Monday, September 27, 2010

Ultima Thule (this time)

Speaking of odd sights on the upper Hudson: this rather eccentric sculpture adorns the entrance to the Haverstraw Marina, where Lindsay and I were to meet for brunch.

In spite of the sculpture, I recommend the marina. It's very well-run and extensive, and the water is reasonably deep inside -- ten feet or more in most places. It's also very luxe and I suspect fairly pricey, though I don't actually know that for a fact, because when I hailed 'em on Channel 9 and explained that I wanted to tie up for a couple of hours and have brunch at their restaurant, they gave me a slip gratis. I can't be sure this would have happened before Labor Day, but anyway, that's what they did, in the friendliest way imaginable, and it deserves recording.

A helpful chap on the fuel pier directed me into the right finger of the dock, and an amiable open-faced gap-toothed carrot-topped young fella took a stern line as I came scooting into the slip. I was rather priding myself on my boat-handling -- made the turn crisply from the very narrow fairway into the slip, and then shifted the little outboard into reverse at just the right moment to take the way off the boat.

Unfortunately, as soon as I had completed this rather elegant maneuver, I somehow managed to shift the motor into 'forward' rather than 'neutral'. The motor was only just idling, so no serious damage was done, but I found myself very confused, when I hopped off the bow to secure a bow line, to find the boat insistently nuzzling up into the slip like a horny young dog trying to hump your leg.

Turned out the restaurant wasn't going to open for another hour or so. Lindsay and I sat on the riverbank to wait, and had the great pleasure of watching eagles fishing -- I thought they were ospreys at first, but they were just too big and the wrong color. And a kindly birdwatching gent, who was a dead ringer for Vladimir Nabokov, finally set us straight.

It was almost as much of a pleasure to watch him, sitting on his log and staring through his very high-end binoculars, as it was to watch the birds themselves. The look on his face -- sheer bliss.

The eagles were quite something. Made me realize that Tennyson must have actually seen them -- this wasn't just Lit'rachoor:

He clasps the crag with crooked hands;
Close to the sun in lonely lands,
Ringed with the azure world, he stands.

The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls;
He watches from his mountain walls,
And like a thunderbolt he falls.

The 'thunderbolt' part is just right. Though "falls" is an understement. They bide their time, soaring lazily fifty or sixty feet up, and then suddenly drive themselves downwards, and fold their wings, and plummet like a cinderblock into the water, with a spectacular splash.

About half the time they emerge with a struggling silvery fish in their talons, thrashing this way and that. As with most raptors, it seems to be hard work for them to regain altitude, particularly since they have the writhing fish to deal with at the same time. But they manage. They manage admirably.

Lindsay and I finally had our brunch, and gossiped like grigs about all our old schoolfellows. Then it was time to go.

The current had just turned to the ebb, but the wind was from the south. I could tack, though, and as I may have mentioned, the Scapegrace points very well into the wind. So that's what I did for a couple of hours, until I was back in Croton Bay...

And the wind died. A painted ship, upon a painted sea, as the man said.

So I listened to the weather radio. Wind shifting to the north at 11 PM. And by chance, the current would be turning to the ebb again, just about then.


I anchored in Croton Bay again, maybe fifty feet from where I had anchored the night before, and took a nice long nap.

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