Saturday, July 26, 2014

Upper West Side

We are anchored in the Hudson River, just north of Pier "i" off W. 70th and south of a set of abandoned dolphins off W. 72nd (map).  We are actually at the south end of a designated "special" anchorage, and north of the dolphins are fixed moorings for the 79th Street Boat Basin.  The anchorage continues north of the basin all the way to 110th, with more fixed moorings a good part of that distance.

The "special anchorage" designation, which I've mentioned briefly before, just means we do not need to display a day shape or an anchor light here.  While I've opted to leave the day shape stowed -- many recreational boats never show them anyway, despite it being compulsory -- we are nevertheless turning on the anchor light at night, out of an excess of caution.  Not that it's at all dark here -- this is New York City.

The special designation, one of only a handful around the country, is really here, as is often the case, at the request of the city, to accommodate their mooring balls.  Outside of a special anchorage, a fixed mooring does not confer any exemption to the rule to display anchor lights and day shapes while moored, and boaters who take a seasonal mooring, in many cases in absentia, prefer not to hassle with having to have an anchor light.

We're here because the marina in Hoboken was unable to accommodate us.  It's a tiny marina, still recovering from Sandy, with only one T-head that could fit us, which is occupied.  I next called the 79th Street Boat Basin here, to see what was available.  As a municipal facility (another Robert Moses public works project, back in the 30s), all transient space here is first-come, first served.

Moorings are $30 per day, and include the use of the dinghy dock and some limited shore-side facilities.  Unfortunately, there is a strict 40' limit on moorings.  The staffer who answered the phone told me we were free to anchor, and just pay the daily $26 fee for dinghy landing and facility access.  She informed me that the north moorings were for sailboats and the south ones for power vessels, and suggested we drop the hook closer to the powerboat moorings for a shorter dinghy ride.

We found no room for us between the moorings and the dolphins, but reasoned we could just fit in this spot.  It took us three tries to get the anchor to set exactly where we wanted it, so that we could swing all the way around without running aground, hitting a dolphin, or hitting the city's shiny new Pier-i public facility.  As it is, when we are at max ebb with a current of over two knots, we are just a hundred feet from the pier.  It's a great spot for people watching, as the park is very popular.

Just north of the dolphins is a free kayak rental dock, run by the city's "Downtown Boathouse."  The kayaks were locked when we dropped the hook, but they opened at 10 this morning and almost immediately had every boat in the water.  Many paddled out to look Vector over, until one of the employees paddled out to clarify to customers that we were actually out past the limit of where they wanted the boats to go.  Mike-the-kayak-guy paddled over to us to apologize for the intrusion, but it was really not an issue.  He was very nice, and even offered to tow a kayak out to us if we wanted to go for a spin.  This after I admitted we envied their little dock, close to Vector and also close to the well-rated Pier-i Cafe.

Free kayak rental, with Riverside Park's greenway, baseball backstop, and pedestrian/bicycle path in the background.  The dolphins are just a few of the many ruins of wharves gone by that dot the waterfront on both sides of the river.

We thought about dropping the tender last night and heading ashore, and seeing the crowd at the aforementioned cafe enjoying the weather with al fresco dining added to the temptation.  We decided instead to save the $26 dinghy fee for the evening and just eat on deck, with only a slightly different view.  In part, that's because we had something of a late arrival.

World Trade Center, the Battery, and the Financial District from New York Harbor. Today's cover photo is from a bit further out, with a Staten Island Ferry inbound.

Yesterday's cruise was magnificent.  We weighed anchor around 3pm, shortly after finally hearing back from the Hoboken marina and speaking to the folks here at 79th Street.  I had figured, being on a rising tide from 2:30 onward, to have some help upriver, but I actually fought the current the whole way, adding some delay to our late start.  That actually made for a much slower cruise, though, which gave us more time to take in all the sights.

"Liberty Lighting the World"

Main immigration building on Ellis Island.

After leaving Gravesend Bay we passed beneath the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, the unofficial gateway to New York Harbor.  While dodging and weaving a bit around the anchored ships and barges (we opted to stay out of the main channel), we passed in succession the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Governors Island, the East River (with a view of the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges), lower Manhattan and the financial district, Jersey City, Hoboken (with my Alma Mater, Stevens Tech), the Intrepid Sea and Air museum, and the cruise terminal, which was vacant when we passed but sported an enormous NCL liner today.

Castle Williams on Governors Island.  I could only look down on this island from the top of the World Trade Center in my youth, when it was restricted to Coast Guard personnel.  Now it's a park and historic monument.

The Brooklyn Bridge, and, behind it, the Manhattan Bridge.

My alma mater, Stevens Institute of Technology, on Castle Point, Hoboken.

We also passed more ferries than I could count (there was not a single operating ferry when I left this area save one, the Staten Island Ferry, and now there are dozens of lines going every possible direction), a number of sailboats out for a day sail, plenty of law enforcement, and lots of commercial traffic.  What struck me the most, having lived here for two decades, is how vibrant the riverfront is now on both sides of the Hudson.  It's a stark contrast to the unappealing, run-down, industrial wasteland that lined both banks three decades ago.

Classic Manhattan skyline, with people enjoying the waterfront.

On a pleasant Friday afternoon, the waterfront was full of people, dining or drinking at many outdoor venues, strolling the nice promenades, or availing themselves of tourist attractions such as the Jet Boat tour, the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and the Intrepid.  On such a lovely day, I could even see myself coming back someday.

Today our plan was to drop the tender, go ashore, and maybe walk around the neighborhood a little  Growing up here, it's a bit of a busman's holiday to try to see, say, the American Museum of Natural History, the Hayden Planetarium, or any of a half dozen other points of interest an easy walk from here.  About the middle of my second cup of coffee, though, just before Mike paddled over to chat us up, my shoulder went into a spasm that had me writhing on the floor in pain.  It's an old problem -- I've been doing battle with this shoulder for years -- but it was an inopportune time.  For one, I had my mouth all set for a classic New York bagel for breakfast, but that was now out of the question.

I've been popping ibuprofen all day, and between ice, massage, and a heating pad I can now sit up straight, and walk, and have recovered a good deal of my range of motion.  But I've been confined to the boat all day, mostly in my chair, and even typing is an effort.  By 5pm I was in good enough shape to get the tender in the water, so at least we could go to dinner.

This is a very tony area -- just inshore of us are a quartet of Trump luxury condo towers, and even in the older brownstone buildings to the north, this is the kind of neighborhood where many buildings have a doorman.  So, unsurprisingly, excellent restaurants abound just a block or two east of Riverside Drive.  Riverside park, once a bleak and graffiti-laden war zone, is again the lively and well-appreciated recreational space it was in its heyday.  We walked to a nice local Italian place on Amsterdam at 83rd -- I felt right at home.  On the way back we walked right through the Boat Basin Cafe, which was packed on a pleasant Saturday evening.

Trump Place condos overlooking our snug spot.  That's Pier-i to the right, just 100' away when I snapped this, with the Pier-i Cafe at the landward end, amidst Riverside Park south.  The elevated road is Henry Hudson Parkway, whose road surface is quite noisy.

To our north is the George Washington Bridge, which has a majestic look, especially at night, that belies the traffic nightmare it really is.  Across the river, skyscraper development along the riverside has all but obscured the majestic Palisades  The Palisades (Amusement) Park of song fame was bulldozed when I was still here to make way for luxury towers (which are still here 40 years later), and now similar towers extend all along the Palisades from Fort Lee to Gutenberg.  Plentiful ferries across the river now make what was once a backwater into highly coveted Manhattan-view real estate.

It pleases me greatly to see all this.  I remember wandering the forlorn halls of the abandoned ferry landing attached to the classic Erie-Lackawana rail terminal in Hoboken, which I passed through twice daily for four years, thinking what a shame it was the ferries no longer ran.  Now that terminal is again buzzing with activity.

Tomorrow we will have visitors aboard from, of all places, California.  While we were in NJ, our friend Lisa contacted me out of the blue to say she saw where we were on the blog, and that she and her husband were coming to New York to connect with their two college-age children, who have been on a whirlwind cross-country road trip with two of their friends.  We've been following their road trip sporadically -- we've known these kids their whole lives -- and had suggested we try to connect if they came close in their travels, but we were not expecting to also meet up with the parents.  It is a pleasant surprise.

I'm glad they saw our post from New Jersey and contacted us when they did, or else we'd likely have already left here for points north.  This is a great spot to connect, even though we will have to make two shuttle trips each way in the tender to get the whole crew here and back, because their hotel is just 20 blocks south of us, a nice walk in this weather, or a quick cab or subway ride.  It's easy enough for us to stay another night or two in this anchorage -- the $26 dinghy fee pales in comparison to the $2.75 per foot and upwards for dockage at any of the nearby marinas (one Manhattan marina charges $7.50 per foot, the most we have ever seen; it looked nice when we passed it, but not that nice).

In fact, we are thinking about extending our stay another day or two, so we can spend a bit more time in the city.  Today was a write-off, owing to the shoulder problems, and I am guessing I will be house-bound again most of tomorrow until our visitors arrive in the afternoon.  Just as well, because summer weekends are probably the worst time to try to see anything in New York; we will likely find everything much less crowded by Monday.

When we are done here, we will continue upriver to Haverstraw for another family visit, with my aunt and uncle who live a short drive from there.  After that the plan is less clear, although we'd like to cruise some more of the Hudson before making our way across the city to Long Island Sound mid-August.


  1. "the $26 dinghy fee pales in comparison to the $2.75 per foot and upwards for dockage at any of the nearby marinas"

    It also pales in comparison to any decent hotel room in the city.

    1. That's for sure, which is why we were happy to pay it, even though some days it amounted to a $26 surcharge on dinner...

  2. Isn't this spot precisely where the Miracle on the Hudson occurred?

    1. Pretty close, about 20-30 blocks north of touchdown. We kept a sharp lookout for low-flying jetliners coming in over the George Washington Bridge.


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