Thursday, May 26, 2011

A collision, you don't need

My mooring was supposed to be NE-14, at about the latitude of 89th Street, a big improvement from previous years when the boat was a half-mile or more farther up the choppy churning Hudson. When I arrived, however, NE-14 was maybe 20 feet from NE-13, and the Cap'n on NE-13 was watching my approach with very worried eyes.

I was worried too. There just wasn't enough space between the two moorings. Slack water, cross wind -- the boats would have tangled. No doubt about it.

I circled and circled, trying to make up my mind -- to the point that the Boat Basin guys called my cell phone, wondering what I was up to. (Of course I didn't have the VHF on. Of course. Idiot.)

I finally decided to grab unoccupied NE-15, at least for the time being. The handy-dandy snap hook, discussed here before, did its job flawlessly, and I was able to button up the boat and dinghy back down to the dock, against a fairly strong upstream current, in reasonably short order -- though the mooring pennants, as usual, were tangled up in a nightmarish knot under the water, and I had to half-immerse myself again, sorting them out beneath the buoy. But this sort of thing keeps one's joints limber and one's mind alert, so it's all good, as they say.

At the dock, I encountered NE-13's Cap'n, Hector, a very amiable chap, who definitely thought I did the right thing by avoiding NE-14. The Boat Basin guys thought I was a bit of a wuss -- you can tell -- but they were very forgiving and what-the-hell about it.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Surrounded by the kewl kidz

Turned out my little anchorage was quite close to a little regatta course, with a bunch of very new and obviously very expensive J boats -- each with a crew of six or seven -- rounding marks and yelling "starboard tack" at each other. (I didn't take the picture above; it's from a J one-design site.)

They are handsome boats, no doubt about it. But I can't love that bowsprit. For one thing, it retracts and extrudes -- tucks itself back into the hull when the spinnaker is dowsed, and then bones up again when it's time to re-pop the chute, five minutes later. It made me think of some exotic insect's intromittent organ -- a praying mantis', maybe. Is there some poor drudge under hatches, up in the bow, who works it in and out? Or is it done from the cockpit?

All these boats also had sails made of some exotic material that made a distinctly unpleasant metallic rattle when the boat luffed up. It was this very un-nautical sound that awoke me from my nap.

They all pretended I wasn't there, but at least they didn't yell at me, "starboard tack" or anything else.

Slack water in the early afternoon, and the obliging south breeze still blowing steadily. After the usual struggle with the mucilaginous and malodorous muck of New York harbor, I recovered the anchor and took a nice leisurely sail up the Hudson.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Back into the Hudson

That's the ruins of the sanatorium, on North Brother Island, where Typhoid Mary lived out the last of her days. (If you click on the image you'll get a higher-res version). North Brother is also the island where the ill-fated General Slocum grounded after it caught fire, a terrible, terrible story. Quite a haunted place, North Brother Island.

My path from Charlie's yard, on Eastchester Bay at the western extremity of Long Island Sound, leads under the Throgs Neck and Whitestone bridges, past Riker's Island, another Mordor-like fastness of the Incarceration Sector, and between the two Brothers, North and South. I left Charlie's yard about 6:30 AM, and motored against a steady but mild south wind out of Eastchester Bay. Once I made the right turn to head west under the Throg's Neck, I was able to shut down the outboard and sail, at least as far as Riker's. But the currents get crazy in those waters, and the winds get fluky, so I fired up the motor again to negotiate the narrow passage between the Brothers and thence on to Hell Gate and the East River.

Foreground, the Hell Gate railroad bridge, a very handsome structure if you ask me; and behind it, the Triborough Bridge, like the Whitestone and Throgs Neck a cheesy, shoddy Robert Moses monstrosity. If you ask me.

The Triborough has recently been renamed after that creepy little runt Robert Kennedy, just to show us all that the Kennedy family still has some clout. Although there's a certain suitability -- crummy bridge, opportunist politician -- I resent renamings and will continue to call it the Triborough, as will most New Yorkers, I expect. Only out-of-towners refer to Sixth Avenue as Avenue Of The Americas, and that's been, what, seventy years now?

Caught the current at Hell Gate just about at maximum ebb, about 9:30 AM. I'd say the current was running about four knots. Just ran the motor enough to be able to steer, which you need to do a lot in Hell Gate; there are weird cross-currents and back-currents that can send you shooting fifty feet sideways in ten seconds, or spin you around and send you back the way you came. On this particular occasion there was a very odd series of stationary swells -- standing waves of some kind, it seemed -- about seven feet crest-to-trough, which the Scapegrace shouldered her way through in her usual unfazed don't-fuck-with-me manner, sending rather spectacular sprays of water to either side of the bow.

A Coast Guard cutter came roaring up the other way, and though the Coasties are usually pretty considerate of small-boat traffic -- unlike the NYC boat cops -- this particular skipper didn't touch his throttle, and left a nasty wake which I had to cross at a shallow angle. Perhaps the ongoing campaign to turn the Coast Guard into yet another overgunned police force is working all too well.

Down the East River on the ebb, still running the motor just for steerageway.

Foreground, the Manhattan Bridge; background, the Brooklyn Bridge. Both a big improvement over Robert Moses, and the Brooklyn Bridge, of course, a thing of real beauty. You can just see the Statue of Liberty under the bridge spans, out in the harbor, particularly if you click on the image and get the big version.

Made it around the Battery, for once, without being scared shitless by the Staten Island Ferry. Of course it was a Saturday, so the ferry wasn't running as often; and I had brought along a timetable. As it happened a ferry arrived at the Manhattan terminus about fifteen minutes before I got there, and departed again ten minutes later. So I followed it out of the narrow stretch between the Battery and Governor's Island.

Since the wind was still from the south, I tried sailing up the Hudson, though the current was still against me. Found I was getting nowhere fast, so I scooted across the river and dropped the hook in about ten feet of water just north of Ellis Island and waited for the current to change direction. Nap time!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Back in the water

The Scapegrace weathered a dire winter of undeserved neglect this last year; but she weathered it awfully well. I was so happy when I finally went to see her, back in February, and found her stoutly unaffected by a winter that may have aged me ten years, but left her looking very much like her sturdy indomitable self.

There she is, above, after I touched up the paint on her hull and Charlie, with his amazing gingerly touch on the crane, dropped her gently into the water again, like an Easter egg. How I love that boat.

I took the subway out to Charlie's on Friday the 13th, with a bottle -- or maybe two -- of cheap boat wine in my knapsack. I strolled through Pelham Park and stopped off at Barino's -- I have to tell you more about Barino's, some day -- and bought a wonderful sandwich, prosciutto and mozzarella (pronounced brozhiutt' e moddzarell', in The Bronx).

Climbed on board. When she's in the water and you step on the gunnel, she gives you a little nod. A living thing again. What joy.

Lit the oil lamps -- yes, they're smelly and smoky, and Penelope hates them. But they seem very homey to me. Slept on the boat happily that night, and then -- at the crack o' dawn -- took off for Hell Gate and the Battery and the Hudson.