Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Catch-up in the Rye

We are under way in Long Island Sound, proceeding along the north shore. This morning found us anchored just outside the breakwater in Rye, New York, off the pier near the famous Rye Playland (map), after a wonderful three and a half weeks in Manhattan. We finally weighed anchor at 7:45 yesterday morning from our anchorage off 97th Street in the Hudson River, to have a favorable tide for most of the trip.

It's been two and a half weeks since last I posted here, and there's lots to update, even though we spent the entire time in the same spot. I apologize for the length, but there's also plenty of photos, so settle in for a bit of a long read.

Moonrise over Riverside park as seen from our deck.

We had a very nice visit with my folks in New Jersey on Bastille Day, which is also my dad's birthday. We got a fairly early start, tendering ashore and hopping on the subway to Penn Station. We had given ourselves plenty of time and ended up eating breakfast at the station, which sports an extensive array of shops and eateries.

We would have been fine coming back home on the train as well, but my folks insisted on sending us in a car service. The trip that had taken nearly three hours down was not even an hour by car, which dropped us off right at the boat basin. Still, we enjoyed the train ride and the scenery on the way down.

I spent the next couple of days getting some projects done, the first of which was to deal with a leak in our water heater. We assume the unit is as old as the boat, 15 years, and so it does not owe us anything, but still I was hoping it was just a fitting. No such luck; after getting the hot water outlet fitting off I discovered the aluminum threaded boss had been eaten away by galvanic corrosion where the brass fitting had been. I ordered a replacement water heater for delivery to the marina.

Loading the new water heater aboard by crane. It's in a "rubble bag" that we normally use for bicycles.

I also installed the new wireless remote hardware for the windlass control that had arrived earlier in the week. This was to replace the one from Harbor Freight that I installed barely a year ago and which never worked 100% reliably. The new one eliminates an extra set of relays that I needed to adapt a 12v winch control to a 24v windlass, has better rf performance, and a smaller remote. It seems to be an improvement.

Monday evening we came home from dinner to find a sailing catamaran anchored just a couple of boat lengths away. I'm guessing they were further away when they first set the hook, on the ebb, but ended up closer than they planned when we both swung around on the flood. I think Vector was literally above their anchor on the flood. I thought about saying something to them, but we decided to wait to see if the situation just resolved itself.

Vector anchored off 96th, Edgewater, NJ in the background, as seen on my bike ride north.

That resolution came late at night, when Louise was about to retire, as the leading edge of an enormous storm system hit us. Seldom does the Coast Guard ever broadcast weather information, but today they were, with forecast winds to 50kt and 11' seas just outside the harbor. We had already battened everything down and were comfortable and ready, but at some point I looked out the window to see the cat looming large just yards away.

As the tide slackened a bit, the wind had swung the two boats differently and brought them very, very close. They were below decks and perhaps even in their berths, and I was about ready to blast them with the portable air horn when the skipper showed up on deck shirtless, perhaps aroused by my handheld spotlight shining through his portlights.

This was our view downriver most nights.

Louise started deploying fenders and preparing to fend off; by this time seas on the river were three feet, and even with his engines he was having trouble keeping his distance. Fortunately the wind briefly swung us far enough away from where his anchor was set for him to weigh it and beat a hasty retreat upriver, where he re-anchored a good 150 yards from us.

The wind also swung us closer to shore than we had ever been, just a hundred feet from the seawall, and I was very glad we had chosen to come far enough upriver to a point where there was sufficient depth for us the whole way across. Satisfied we would neither be hit by a sailboat nor find ourselves aground on the riverbank, we had a comfortable remainder of the night.

Torrential downpour turned the Hudson River Greenway into a waterfall.

Tuesday the 17th the bulk of the storm continued to pound the river. We hunkered down, with plenty to keep us busy aboard. The torrential rain caused water to cascade over the riverwalk like a waterfall, and gave Vector and Scalar a good rinsing. We had decked the tender Monday evening in anticipation.

Excitement came in multiple forms, including a number of nearby lightning strikes, the closest perhaps just a few thousand feet from us in New Jersey. We watched a pole-mounted transformer in North Bergen explode, popping a dozen times in showers of sparks while the Hudson County fire department watched from a safe distance. There was the aforementioned catamaran drama. And the usual passel of radio calls to the Coast Guard from boaters who did not heed the advice to seek safe harbor. We ate aboard Tuesday evening.

Puff of smoke and an orange glow from a transformer ablaze.

Wednesday the weather cleared and we splashed the tender. UPS delivered the new water heater, and so after dinner we heaved it into the tender in our "rubble bag," which we normally use to offload the folding bicycles. That let us pluck it out with the crane when we returned to the boat, and the next morning I was able to lower it into the engine room after unboxing it on deck.

Shiny new water heater, still in protective overwrap and styrofoam.

After verifying that it would fit (after rearranging some wiring to accommodate its slightly increased height and enlarging the mounting holes a bit), and that all looked OK, I tore into the replacement project. Not wanting to waste nearly twenty gallons of perfectly good (and mostly hot) water, we emptied it two gallons at a time into a jug and used it to fill the washing machine.

Once I had all the plumbing disconnected, including the connections to the engine cooling loop, and all but perhaps a half gallon or so of water emptied out, I was able to wiggle the old unit out through the rather cramped space between the mounting tray and the main engine exhaust pipe. Then I sanded, cleaned, and applied Ospho to the rust on the mounting tray in preparation for paint. That was as far as I got before we had to leave for an afternoon appointment, and so we had to live without hot water for the night.

The old unit before I started disconnecting plumbing. It's a tight fit.

That appointment was an afternoon coffee meetup with a half dozen of Louise's college chums from the fraternity where she hung out. I enjoyed meeting them and they all had a great time catching up, and when it was over we were in Chelsea at mid-afternoon. We opted to continue downtown to the new World Trade Center complex.

I ordered 5:30 observatory tickets on my phone on the way down, and we headed up to the tri-level One World Observatory on the 102nd floor of the new tower. Like every tourist I snapped a few photos, although reflections in the glass at that hour made for a challenge.

Looking south. From here it's easy to see the myriad wakes of the ferries and other vessels that make such large and confused seas in the harbor.

The views for me were at once familiar and foreign; the lay of the land is just the same, but the array of new skyscrapers is dizzying, and new parkland across the river has changed the landscape. The unobstructed view to the north also had me looking in that direction for quite a while. We spent perhaps an hour, including having an overpriced beer in the bar.

The previously unavailable view due north. Vector is a tiny spec at the end of the red arrow.

After leaving 1 WTC we walked west on Vesey Street to Battery Park City, where we wandered around looking for dinner. We ended up at Del Frisco's, an unremarkable chain, but they had immediate tables and we wanted to sit. Dinner was fine and we enjoyed the people-watching on a lovely summer evening before getting back on the 1 train uptown.

Looking down at the Oculus, left, and the memorial fountains, right.

Friday was another lovely day, but I really needed to get the new water heater installed or we'd be taking cold showers later in the day, so I shot some zinc paint on the mounting tray before breakfast. I ended up test-fitting it three times to get the mounting holes right, and I had to relocate a 4/0 ground jumper on our main DC bus that projected out into the vertical clearance.

New water heater installed and plumbed. Big job, and glad it's behind me.

All of this due to having ordered a Kuuma product (made by Camco) rather than another Seaward (made by Whale)  like the one that failed. They are nearly identical on the outside, with identical performance specs (1500 watts, front heat exchanger, 1/2" plumbing, aluminum tank and stainless skins), but the holes on the Kuuma mounting flanges are 1/4" closer together (measured across from flange to flange) and the unit is two inches taller.

The Kuuma unit was $200 cheaper, but, more importantly, no one had the Seaward in stock, so I had to make do. With the holes in the mounting tray being drilled through 1/4" steel, versus the mounting flanges being 3/16 aluminum, it was a no-brainer which ones to modify. I used a drill bit, a Dremel tool, and a hand file to enlarge the flange holes 1/8" in the outboard direction and added some washers to the 5/16 mounting bolts to make up for it.

If you look closely you can see the huge divot in the threaded area where the metal is eaten away. It went all the way through to make a pinhole leak.

The Seaward might have gone along for another few years, albeit with some build-up of scale, had it not been for the fact that I used brass fittings to connect the PEX water lines. The fittings that had been on it previously, when we got the boat, were galvanized steel just like the rest of the boat's fresh water system, and I have been on a mission to replace it all with PEX instead, since the steel has been rusting. There are no galvanized PEX fittings, and the plastic ones are not rated for the temperatures this water heater can reach.

Not wanting a repeat performance, I spent considerable time trying to find suitable dielectric fittings for the new tank. No conventional plastic plumbing parts (PVC, CPVC, ABS, nylon, or polyethylene) are rated for the 210°F rating of the water heater, and most are rated at just 140°F, far below the 180°F that the heater routinely achieves when the main engine is running. After an extensive search I finally found some high-tech Tefen fittings made for industrial applications and ordered some 1/2" nipples.

That should help, but, of course, the TPV (temperature and pressure relief valve) installed at the factory is brass. When I removed the TPV from the old unit, I could see evidence of galvanic corrosion on that boss as well, although it had not perforated all the way through as it had on the hot water outlet. In any event, we ran the generator an extra hour and had hot water for showers by Friday afternoon.

The crew of Saphira Blue works to free themselves from this metal piece.

Also Friday we watched in some horror as a sailboat anchored just downriver of us hauled up a 15' long piece of steel caught in their anchor chain. From where we were watching it looked like wood, so I grabbed the sawzall and we jumped in the dinghy to help. When we arrived we could see it was going to take more creativity, because there was no way we'd get through it with the saw. It took fifteen minutes of wrangling between us and the crew on deck but eventually the piece came free and fell away, at the expense of a piece of line and a nice snap hook that was entangled and had to be cut away.

Jeffrey's Hook Light under the George Washington Bridge, as seen from Fort Washington Park.

With the critical water heater project behind me I was able to turn my attention to more recreational pursuits. The riverfront bike path has been calling me, and I spent perhaps an hour with a can of WD40 getting my folding bicycle into riding condition. The cheap cover we bought for them disintegrated long ago, and the two bikes have been rusting away on the boat deck ever since; my chain was so rusted it had solidified, and I had to break apart each link.

The plaque describing the light and its starring role in a childrens' book.

Saturday I got out there and braved the weekend throng on the Hudson River Greenway. I rode all the way from the Boat Basin on 79th Street to the George Washington Bridge at 179th Street. I turned around under the bridge just past the east support tower, after first stopping at the Jeffreys Hook Light. Just south of the lighthouse is a spontaneous free-standing art installation called the Sisyphus Stones; you can read about them here and here.

Sisyphus rocks, mirroring the skyline above them.

The Greenway runs the length of the island, spanning multiple parks. At the Boat Basin it's in Riverside Park, which extends up to 158th Street. Along the way it passes the West Harlem Piers, before jogging briefly away from the river on a surface path to re-emerge just north of the city waste treatment plant. From 158th to north of the bridge is Fort Washington Park, and I did not quite make it to Fort Tryon or Innwood Hill parks at the northern end of the island.

Another view that highlights their human form.

I continue to be impressed with just how good the NYC park system is today. On a pleasant weekend I passed thousands of New Yorkers out enjoying the myriad facilities along the way, from tennis courts to playgrounds to fountains to picnic areas. Sports of just about every description were in full swing; of all the facilities, only the handball courts (really) seemed mostly unused.

On my return trip I stopped for lunch from a pushcart near a picnic area, before ascending by elevator to the roof of the sewage treatment plant. Here is located one of only three State Parks in Manhattan, and the largest "green roof" in New York, Riverbank State Park. The park is enormous and well-appointed, with a sit-down restaurant, swimming pool, carousel, roller/ice rink, amphitheater, meeting space, and numerous athletic fields and courts. I remember as a youth the piles and piers being constructed for the plant; the rooftop park opened long after I left the area.

The Hudson as seen from Riverbank State Park, above the treatment plant over the river. Vector is a speck center-frame. 1WTC at left, Jersey City at right.

From the south end of the park I rode across the bridge to Riverside Drive and then south to Grant's Tomb. Yes, the very subject of that ancient joke "who's buried in Grant's Tomb," the answer to which is self-evident. It is indeed Grant's mausoleum, but I happened by it in between the sporadic visitor hours, so I did not go inside. I admired the exterior along with the mosaic tile benches created as artwork in the late 70s to help stem the tide of crime and vandalism, then walked to the visitor center which is the interior space of what was originally built as an immense public restroom facility.

Who's buried in Grant's Tomb?

I found myself marveling at the fact that I must have passed this place 200 times as a youth but never stopped to see it or the impressive and cathedral-like Riverside Church across the street. Then I had to remember that New York was a very different place in the 70s, and I'm sure this did not seem like a safe spot back then.

This WPA-era rest room structure now houses the visitor center (and a smaller pair of rest rooms). River viewing pavilion above is now mostly obstructed by fully grown trees.

The new TV had arrived on Friday and so I spent a good part of Sunday on installing it. Long-time readers may remember the trials and tribulations of finding a TV to fit this space five years ago, which we happened across in Walmart after many on-line trials and errors. This time around the search was a bit easier, and I ended up with a TCL model on a hot Prime Day deal, that happens to be a Roku set.

The last time around I had to through-bolt the TV to the wall to make it fit. Of course I did not expect the holes to line up, but the new set is enough lighter that it accepts a smaller mount, and after taking the old set down and fiddling around a bit, I settled on ordering a mount for it. I also had to order right-angle adapters for the old-school video connections required for our ancient DirecTV receiver.

Old TV removed. You can see the four holes used to mount it.

Waiting for those parts meant I did not finish until Tuesday, but the new set fits and looks great, and as a bonus I am enjoying the Roku features. I will have to devise a new listening system, because the headphone jack on this model cuts out not just the speakers, but all other audio-out jacks as well.

Wednesday it rained on and off all day, so it was a perfect day to weigh anchor for a round trip to the dock to pump out and take on water. The docks, including the face dock, are in terrible shape, and we had to fender against and dance around a 10" long spike protruding from the dock. But we managed OK and took care of business, and Louise even managed to get two loads of laundry through the washer while we waited for the water tank to fill.

Watch that bolt.

On Thursday I again took the bike for a spin, this time around Central Park. Louise wanted to join me, but she's never been comfortable on the unwieldy folding bikes we carry with us, and so decided to try one of the ubiquitous Citi Bike rental bikes stationed throughout the city. Those proved to be not much better, and worse in some respects, and she had to quit after reaching the park and making one short leg between the History Museum and the Tavern on the Green. She returned the bike and headed over to the library to wait in relative comfort while I finished the entire park loop.

The reservoir, now named for Jackie O, looking west. Vector is behind the twin towers.

This again is something that, despite hundreds of visits to the Central Park neighborhood, I had never done in my youth. And again the reason is simple: Central Park was very different then. This article explains it to some degree. These before and after pictures tell more of the story, and right now there is even an exhibition of photos of NYC parks in the 70s going on at park headquarters.

Lasker pool. Free. It's an ice skating rink in winter.

Here in 2018, however, the park is an absolute joy, and more so since last month, as all motor vehicle traffic is now banned from park roads permanently. Pictures can not capture it so I only have a couple, but I very much enjoyed my ride, and an excursion into the northernmost end of the park, to which I had never been.

Onassis reservoir looking southwest.

Louise also enjoyed her time at the library, where she ended up reading a childrens' book by Roz Chast about the city itself, which sounded quite fun. But one upshot of the park experience is that she is done for good with pedal bicycles. We've been thinking about electric ones lately anyway, in particular the Jupiter, not to relieve the pedaling, but because they fold up smaller for transport by dinghy. All electric bicycles, with pedals or without, are illegal in New York City, as are electric kick scooters, hoverboards, and unicycles, but we've seen them everywhere, from the parks to the streets, and I even passed an electric bike shop. The unicycles are wild (and plentiful), and whenever we see one, we say "there goes Thor."

Selling contraband.

We ended the day in midtown where we met up for dinner with fellow Red Crosser Jose. Jose and I worked together in the Virgin Islands, and we caught up again in Dallas, but Louise was meeting him for the first time. He is on staff at the New York chapter, and we very much enjoyed dinner and conversation with him.

By Friday it was time to contemplate weighing anchor and heading east, however the intricacies of the hydraulic tides around Manhattan meant a Friday departure would mean either a night departure, a night arrival, or splitting the trip into to days if we did not want to be fighting four knots of current in the East River and through Hell Gate. With no particular rush, we opted instead to delay departure to Monday, when a leisurely 7:30 departure would get us mostly favorable tide nearly the whole way, in the daylight.

Thus with another three days in the city, we headed to our favorite bagel shop on Amsterdam in the morning, on our way downtown to catch the Big Bus double-decker tour, a quintessentially cheesy-tourist thing to do in NYC. This being NY, while we were eating our bagels on a cafe table, a film crew was on the sidewalk filming some kind of show at the ice cream shop next door. We'd previously come across another crew filming a different show on Broadway and 79th.

Filming for some kind of children's programming. These are all crew.

The bus tour was just as cheesy as you might imagine, but we enjoyed it and I even learned a thing or two. Although this was a "hop on, hop off" tour, the only times we hopped off were to take a break from the relentless sun, in SoHo, and to change buses from the Red downtown tour to the Blue uptown tour. We finished this latter tour in light rain, wearing the free handout ponchos that are little more than garbage bags with arm-holes, and we disembarked at Columbus Circle for a casual dinner and a quick subway ride home.

Open-top Big Bus tour, with our guide narrating.

For the second Saturday in a row I again took my bike out, this time riding south on the Greenway all the way to the Battery and around the corner to the heliport, past the old Staten Island Ferry Terminal. Again I very much enjoyed seeing all the people making great use of the parks. Most of the piers along the lower west side, abandoned and rotting in my youth, have been redeveloped into parkland of one sort or another. I rode down the west side of Battery Park City, and came up the east side, where I paused at the World Trade Center.

Looking downriver from one of the numerous piers that is now parkland. Battery Park City is dead ahead, World Trade Center on the left and Jersey City on the right.

Even today, nearly 17 years later, I still cried at the memorial fountains where the towers once stood. These towers were an integral part of my youth and young adulthood, and I had friends whose names are inscribed here. And I descended into the mega-mall complex that houses the PATH transportation hub, known as The Oculus for the swoopy architectural statement that covers it.

Looking up through The Oculus at 1 World Trade Center, seen through the skylight.

A slow leak in the forward chamber of the dingy has been getting worse, necessitating pumping it up for every trip. A week or so ago I patched up all the seams and the failing rub rail with high-strength marine adhesive, to no avail, and so Sunday I headed downtown on the subway to the lone West Marine store in the city to pick up a quart of sealant that you put inside the tube and slosh around. It costs a fortune ($60 for the quart), so I hope it helps, though I am not counting on anything. We gooped the tube up while decking the tender Sunday night after dinner. Sloshing the goop around in a ~600-lb dinghy is a challenge.

Inside it's really just a Westfield Shoppingtown, with a fancy roof and a train platform.

As long as I was midtown for West Marine, I walked around a bit, having lunch in Bryant Park and wandering through Grand Central Terminal. "Vanderbilt Hall," which used to be the main waiting room back when you were actually allowed to sit down in the terminal, has been cleaned out and redeveloped into another food service area. In the empty half of the room I could see the spot where I distinctly remember waiting for my first long-distance train, circa 1975.

The "Great Northern" food court. Ironically, this room is on the south side of the terminal.

In the three-plus weeks we spent in Manhattan we ate dinner aboard just a handful of nights. Restaurant apps kept reminding me there were 31,000 other restaurants in Manhattan alone from which to choose, a stark contrast to even such foodie cities as San Francisco. It would take a year to even exhaust the offerings within walking distance of the Boat Basin.

The other half of the hall. One of the original benches is in the corner. I remember waiting right here in the foreground for The Adirondack.

Yesterday's trip to Rye was pleasant, and it felt good to be under way after three weeks in one spot. We did have a full four knots of current behind us approaching Hell Gate, but the river is wide and we have lots more experience now than our first time through. I opted to just enjoy the scenery this time, while I had to hand-steer the boat, rather than take any pictures. But there are plenty in the posts that cover our previous trips; this post covers from Hell Gate out to Long Island Sound (and the Harlem River, which we skipped this time), and this post covers the East River from Hell Gate down to the Battery.

Playland is closed on Mondays so we had a quiet evening and night. We did go ashore for dinner at the Pier Restaurant and Tiki Bar, which provides free mooring balls for customers and where dockmaster Charlie would have come for us in the launch. Instead he merely had to let us on and off the locked dinghy dock. After dinner we walked along the boardwalk, which Louise instantly recognized from its appearance in the movie Big. A swim meet was in progress at the Spanish-revival community pool.

One of many sunsets over New Jersey from our anchorage.

It was blissfully quiet last night. After three weeks on the Hudson, with endless noise from the current and the Parkway and activity in general, we had almost forgotten what quiet is like. A handful of gong buoys hundreds of yards away chimed softly through the night; very relaxing.

Today's cruise has also been pleasant, with the Sound flat calm the whole way. In a short while we will make our turn to New Haven Harbor, where we will drop the hook and tender ashore for dinner with our friend Eric, another of Louise's college chums who had to miss the NYC gathering. Tomorrow morning we will weigh anchor for Sag Harbor, near the Hamptons.

Vector at the face dock for water and a pumpout. The sloop Clearwater is at the other dock; we cross paths with her often.


  1. I am enjoying your New York posts Sean. This one especially which whisked me back to the 70s. Specifically the last picture of the Clearwater sloop. I had a girlfriend,we lived in Toronto back then, who had applied and got accepted to sail with Pete Seeger, and others, on the sloop for a weeks excursion on the Hudson helping/learning about the PCB pollution and other thing effecting the river and environs going on then. Cutting edge stuff back then. Anyway I didn't get it at the time as I was busy fixing/souping up cars with my buddies. She had a hippy streak going and I did not and we eventually sought other paths. She was a wonderful girl and I haven't thought about her in years so thanks for that memory hit.
    On a second note I am doing some rust remediation on our motorhome chassis and my ears perked up when you mentioned the Ospho Rust Inhibitor, and zinc paint. I located a nearby source for the Ospho and will pick some up tomorrow but can I ask what kind of zinc paint are you refering too?
    I was just going to use Tremclad but I know there has got to be something better out there for this application.
    Good sailing.

    1. Thanks for your comments and I am glad you are enjoying the blog.

      Regarding the zinc paint, I should say here that I chose it simply because I had an open spray can of it (we use it to coat the running gear when we are hauled out). In a perfect world, I would instead have used a two-part epoxy primer/paint made for steel, such as PPG's Amerlock 2, which is what we have coating the bilges. But I did not want to mix paint or wait another whole day for it to dry, so this was quick and dirty, so to speak, and the area does not show so zinc gray was fine.

      If you are interested in this coating it is from Rustoleum who calls it Cold Galvanizing Spray. Available at Home Depot (but not Lowes, oddly). It is basically 99% pure zinc in a carrier base with propellant.

      The crucial part here was the application of the phosphoric acid (Ospho). You really need to get all the loose scale and rust off, then let this stuff work until what remains is a hard black coating. Then you can prime and paint.

    2. The West Marine sealant does work, for me it lasted a little over a year but is now back to about the same amount of leakage. I think the key is to keep "flipping and rolling" once or twice an hour for as long as you can. The immediate results were amazing.

      I am moving a power cat for a friend from Maine to Virginia beginning yesterday. I will keep an eye out for Vector.

      Fair winds,



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