Friday, August 8, 2014

Last stop on the Hudson

We are at the free municipal dock in Yonkers, New York (map).  It was a short run yesterday of just three hours, but the next leg is tricky and requires precise timing, so we had to stop either here or at an anchorage across the river.  From here we can see the Tappan Zee bridge upriver and the George Washington Bridge, with the Manhattan skyline behind it, downriver, and both bridges sparkle at night.

We are actually adjacent to the century-old historic "Yonkers Recreational Pier," which was renovated a couple of decades ago to include a fine dining restaurant on a second level with the pavilion below it.  The river end of the pier has several fixed wooden pilings to which a boat can be tied.  Just south of the pier and connected by gangway is a heavy-duty floating dock which looks to have been constructed as a ferry landing.  We're tied to the floating dock, making fender placement and boarding easier.

The pier and Vector just after sunset.

We tied up around 1:30 in over two knots of current, but these are the heaviest cleats we've seen in a while and they are welded to the float, which is basically a steel barge.  Before fully securing the boat I wandered up the gangway to make sure we could get ashore.

We had a lovely dinner al fresco at the Dolphin restaurant across the street -- more casual and far less expensive than the Peter Kelly affair above the pier, "X2O" (also called Xaviar's on the Hudson).  There are perhaps four or five more places in walking distance, making this a great stop.  We did have to climb over a low rail once we were on the pier, as the gates were locked.

After dinner we wandered around the renovated waterfront area and stopped in the small convenience store before heading back to the boat. As we arrived at the entrance to the pier just past eight, we were stopped by a city employee telling us the pier was closed -- they were trying to clear everyone out so they could lock the tall gates at the entrance.  When she realize we were going to our boat she waved us through and even sent someone to unlock the low gate at the end of the pier for us.  That individual explained to us how to get off and on the pier if we needed to after-hours (just as I had scoped out earlier, it involves a little mountaineering).

That interaction put to rest any concerns we had about the propriety of spending the night.  One review in the guide had said it was OK, but I had been unable to confirm that independently.  We asked if we could use the water spigot and were given permission, so this morning we will add some water to our tank.

Yesterday we had a lovely but unremarkable cruise.  I did not take any scenic photos (well, none that came out, anyway).  However, we did pass the lovely 58 Moonen that was refit at Deltaville Boatyard and whose christening party we attended while we were there last month.  She is being delivered to Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, coincidentally where Vector spent her early years.  The delivery skipper was surprised to hear us hailing them on the radio, but we had been tipped off by a friend at the boatyard that they were on their way up the Hudson, and we recognized the silhouette from a long way off.  She is a beautiful boat under way.

Today we will tackle the Spuyten Duyvil, a phrase of Dutch origin that loosely means "Devil's Spout," and for good reason.  The current there can be treacherous, made more so in modern times by the addition of a railroad swing bridge across the creek.

While a prudent mariner might suggest waiting for slack tide, it's not that simple.  For one thing, slack in the Hudson and slack in Spuyten Duyvil creek do not coincide, being instead offset by about a quarter of a cycle.  We downloaded and printed a Manhattan "tide wheel" to help sort it all out, a must for anyone boating in this area.  (The link explains a little about the complex currents here.)  So if we chose slack on the Hudson, we'd still have plenty of current in the creek, and vice-versa.

A bigger issue is what happens once we are past the entrance.  We'll need to negotiate three narrow swing bridges on the Harlem River which will not open for us and so can only be transited close to low tide.  The bridges are 25' MHW and we are 27' tall; fortunately, the tide swing is nearly five feet, thus we can clear anywhere from low to just under mid-tide.

Because the current in the Harlem River is swift in both directions (it's not really a river, but rather a tidal strait), and the bridges are very narrow, it's advisable to transit them at slack or against the current -- a following current can send an unwary skipper crashing into the fenders.  It will take us over an hour to transit from the Spuyten Duyvil entrance to Hell Gate, another aptly name confluence where the Harlem River tees into the East River.

In order to make the last narrow bridge just before slack, with some current still against us, and be in Hell Gate more or less at slack, we'll be entering Spuyten Duyvil at max ebb on the Hudson of some 2.3 knots, and almost two knots against us coming out the creek.  That's better than a following current, but I will still need to power through the railroad bridge with alacrity and I expect we will crab sideways until well beyond the start of the fenders.

I have to keep reminding myself that the Circle Line tour boats make this transit several times a day in every conceivable configuration of current -- my handicap is approaching it without that level of experience.  In any case, we are planning a short day -- we'll transit Spuyten Duyvil Creek (and Canal), the Harlem River, and the East River and then drop the hook somewhere around Throgs Neck.


  1. Given the difficulty I'm curious why you guys decided to transit the Spuyten Duyvil, rather than taking the long route around the doth end of Manhattan island.

  2. Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
    I took the one less traveled by,
    And that has made all the difference.

    Also, it's 12 nm longer (two hours, and about $25 in running expense).

    Seriously, we actually enjoy seeing the gritty industrial side of the city, and, having lived here for the first 20+ years of my life, I wanted to see it -- when I was growing up, the Harlem River was foul and everything along it run-down. I'm glad we did it (more in the next post).

    We'll likely see the part of the East river south of Hell Gate on the return trip, and then we'll have made the full circle of Manhattan.


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