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!

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