Friday, July 25, 2014

New York, New York

We are anchored in Gravesend Bay, part of lower New York Bay, just north of Coney Island and southeast of The Narrows (map).  We have a fantastic view of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, and the upper half of the new World Trade Center tower, with the very tops of other lower Manhattan buildings just visible above the much lower roofs of Brooklyn.  Closer to us is the greenway along the Belt Parkway, and the top half of the Coney Island Parachute Jump, which is colorfully lit at night.  We have WiFi here courtesy of the nearby Mercedes dealer.

Verrazano-Narrows bridge at night.  Hard to get a good shot from a moving platform.  Sunset over the bridge was spectacular (above).

Yesterday was something of an adventure getting away from the dock.  There are no current-reporting stations on the Manasquan River, and I made a key strategic error in figuring that the current would slacken considerably coming in to low tide.  Apparently, slack at the railroad bridge follows the tidal maxima by a good hour or so.  We shoved off right at low tide, half past noon, and there was still enough ebb current to make it a mighty struggle to get out into the channel without being swept into the bridge.  It would have been much easier had we been facing upriver; maneuvering a single-screw powering astern is challenging.

Nevertheless we managed to get away unscathed, and I shot through the railroad bridge at six knots under full power to maintain steerage and keep the boat straight in the narrow opening.  Once east of the bridge it was all a piece of cake, and, as I had hoped, we then had a fair tide all the way to New York.

Sensing the anxiety of the departure, George comforts mommy by holding her hand under way.

The bottom drops off rapidly east of the beach in this part of the coast, and we spent the first half of the trip just a couple of miles offshore, affording a good view of the various beach communities, and letting us use the Internet for the whole trip.  The coastline is convex here, and I plotted the inflection of our course to be just outside the three-mile limit so we could discharge our waste before turning back towards Sandy Hook Light, on a straight-line course for the tip of Romer Shoal, just south of Ambrose Channel green buoy 9.  Salvage operations in the channel east of there had both directions using the green half of the channel, with no meeting and no overtaking allowed, so we made sure to pass west of the buoy before entering the channel.

Ambrose Channel is the main shipping entrance to New York Harbor.  While we were only in it for a few minutes -- small pleasure craft such as ours are well-advised to keep outside the channel as much as possible -- we were following in the wake of some of our ancestors, who passed this way along with some eight million other immigrants.  Though I've been this way twice before (on the QE2), it's different in your own boat.

A light haze obscured our view of the New York skyline for the first part of our cruise, with the skyscrapers of Manhattan eventually emerging from the haze as we passed Sandy Hook.  I grew up with, and in the shadow of, the twin towers of the World Trade Center; their absence from the skyline brought me to tears the first time I saw it, and the "replacement" is, for me, no replacement at all.  It seems not unlike any other modern tall building in any other city.  While Yamasaki's twin towers were often roundly criticized as ugly, they were uniquely New York, and became iconic.

The rest of the skyline is at once familiar and foreign to me.  For several years I worked at Citibank headquarters, across the street from the flawed and controversial angled-roof tower that bore their name.  That tower is still prominent and allows me to quickly calibrate the location of any other building on the island.  There are only perhaps a half dozen of that height that I don't recognize as having been here when I left over three decades ago.  We'll get a better view of the skyline as we continue north up the river.

Coney Island amusement parks, from sea.  The Wonder Wheel almost disappears against the backdrop of housing projects.

As we got closer to the city we could make out the amusement parks, or what remains of them, on Coney Island, with the landmark Parachute Jump prominent.  The amusements are on the south (ocean) side of the "island", which is no longer a separate island at all, the creek dividing it from Long Island proper having been filled in long ago.  We are now on the north side of the western portion of the old island, and from here we can see only the top of the parachute jump, endless rows of Robert Moses housing projects, and the small community of Sea Gate with its Coney Island Light.

After the tide turns here in an hour or so, we will weigh anchor and continue north through New York Harbor and into the Hudson River.  I'd like to spend a couple of nights in Hoboken, where I attended engineering school for four years, but the sole marina in town has not answered my phone messages.  Hoboken was just beginning an urban renewal when I was a student; now I can't afford to live there.  If we can't raise the marina, we will continue north, and visit Hoboken by train instead.

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