Sunday, August 24, 2014
Posted by Sean
Ten years ago today, we closed the door of our condominium unit in downtown San Jose, California behind us for the last time, and drove off into a life of nomadic adventure in our newly converted, forty-foot motor coach. It is fitting that, on the anniversary of that event, we are anchored in New York harbor (map), not far from where I grew up, and enjoyed anniversary cocktails and dinner on our aft deck with the glimmering skyscrapers of lower Manhattan as a backdrop.
It being the end of a pleasant weekend, we were also treated to quite a bit of activity on the water, with day sailers aplenty, Liberty and Ellis Island ferries running to and fro, and even a giant Norweigan Cruise Lines ship gliding past. How we came to be in this spot is something of a story in itself, which I will get to in a minute.
The Norweigan Breakaway heading past us to sea.
When I wrote about our ninth anniversary on the road at this time last year, we were still living on the bus while extensive work was progressing on Vector. I described how we stole the very apt term "nomadiversary" from our friends and that we'd driven over 150,000 miles in that time, across 48 US states and six Mexican ones. Sadly, I have yet to make good on my promise to summarize some of our road travels and touch upon the highlights. Even more sadly, the first three months of the adventure are lost to history, as I did not start blogging everything until November of that year.
That said, this will be post number 1,995 on this blog, and if you ascribe any importance to whole multiples of powers of 10, that's just five posts away from another milestone. The same sort of calculus makes ten years of roaming with no fixed address a milestone of its own, and tonight we raised a glass to the next ten years.
Speaking of milestones, our odometer here on the boat turned past 4,000 nautical miles just a few days ago; we're now at 4,143 nm in 763 engine hours. Not bad for just over a year's cruising. I am about a third of the way towards the 300 "sea days" I need for my masters license. (We've moved the boat more than that, but it only counts as a "day" if we are under way four hours or more.)
Today's cruise definitely goes in my log book, as we were under way for five hours, going an hour or so past our planned stop. It was a lovely day on the water, even though we once again found ourselves in the crowded western end of the Sound on a busy weekend day. I only had to dodge a small handful of sailboats, and our plot line took us past the giant fishing tournament at a respectable distance. Our stabilizers nulled the effects of the enormous wakes from the several 80' go-fast yachts whose skippers just didn't give a hoot.
Stepping Stones Light with the Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point in the background.
I set a rhumb line course from the last turn past Stamford harbor all the way to Huckleberry Island, then we hugged the north shore past Hart Island, where millions are buried, and City Island, before heading through the Throgs Neck into the East River. Once in the river we picked up a favorable current of nearly two knots, which increased steadily all the way to Hell Gate.
Part of Hart Island. No longer a prison here, but Rikers inmates conduct all the interments. Still not a good place to land.
We opted to go around the north side of North Brother Island, having passed between the Brothers on the way out, and it was about there that I had to start hand steering due to the current. As we approached Hell Gate Bridge and the Triborough Bridge, tide rips were evident in several places, and driving through them had water splashing up over the bow. It was all quite spectacular, but the boat handled it with ease.
By the time we reached the north end of Roosevelt Island, just past Hell Gate, we had nearly four knots behind us, and we were ripping down the river at 11 knots turning only 1,400 RPM. I had to overshoot my turn a bit to avoid crossing in front of a giant tour boat chugging his way upriver against the current. After making a U-turn I gave the Roosevelt Light a wide berth to starboard as I crossed over into the east channel -- four knots of cross-current can have an eight-knot boat on the rocks in no time. Things were calmer in the east channel, and as I turned into Hallets Cove I found almost completely slack water.
This cove is a protected spot on an otherwise fast-running channel, silted to a depth in the teens (the river itself is 60' deep). It's the only anchorage along this section, designated as unrestricted anchorage #14. After getting in out of the current, we took stock of the place, and decided it was not for us. The east side of the cove was abandoned industrial works, subjected to years of unremediated malfeasance, and on the north side was a city housing project, which are just as bleak and uninspiring as I remembered.
After catching our breath from Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, we opted to continue on down the river, at breakneck speed with all that current behind us. I had originally planned to take the east channel, but that would have been closer to slack, and with four knots of current we instead went back around to the west side, which is both deeper and wider.
The UN, looking much as I remember it.
In due time we passed the United Nations, the Williamsburg, Manhattan, and Brooklyn bridges, and the South Street Seaport Museum, which I could not photograph because I was busy avoiding two ferries and a tour boat. We caught a break in between Staten Island Ferries and squirted out into the Hudson, which I had to crab across at nearly a 20-degree angle just to come straight across to this spot, tucked between Ellis Island to the south and the old NJ Central Depot (now part of Liberty State Park) in Jersey City to the north.
Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges.
The Brooklyn Bridge with the financial district in the background.
There's just barely enough room for us here, bounded as we are by a rock, a wreck, and a permanently moored tiki barge that is the clubhouse for the Manhattan Sailing Club, known locally as the Willy Wall. There are a couple of other spots we might have tried, between Liberty and Ellis islands in designated anchorage #20, but those spots are even more exposed to river traffic.
The view from our aft deck earlier today.
The sheer volume of weekend river traffic made for quite the chop during the day, but it was very short-period stuff that didn't really move us much. As I am typing here late in the evening, it is nearly glass-smooth, and I can see the reflection of the city lights in the river. It's a shame my camera can not capture it.
The best my camera could do with city lights, at twilight.
Our reward for squeezing in here and enduring a few wakes during the day is a spectacular view nearly all around. We have lower Manhattan right across the river, of course, but the aforementioned historic train depot with the vibrant new Jersey City skyline behind it is also pleasing. In the other direction we have a nice view of the north end of Ellis Island, and we can see two thirds of Lady Liberty rising above it, beautifully lit at this hour. A great way to spend the first day of our eleventh year of this grand adventure.
Can't really focus in this light, but you get the idea what our view is like. That's Ellis in the foreground (with the flag), with Liberty Lighting the World behind it.
Tomorrow we will continue upriver to our old anchorage at 79th street, but with a favorable tide. It should be less than an hour's run.