Tuesday, May 28, 2019

A New York state of mind

We are anchored in a familiar spot on the Hudson River, just off Riverside Park and abreast of about 99th Street in Manhattan (map). We've been here a week so far; today it's raining, which is a great opportunity to catch the blog up.

Approaching NY harbor from The Narrows.

Last Sunday after I posted here, seas began to pick up. By the time we were in the Ambrose Channel leading to New York Harbor we were in quartering five footers and had to dog everything down. It was a bouncy ride until we rounded the tip of Coney Island, where we found Coast Guard Cutter Shrike also hunkered down in the anchorage. We dropped the hook as close to Coney Island as we could get.

Our dinner view, the Verrazzano-Narrows bridge.

That was fine for a couple of hours, through dinner, but after the tide change the waves started refracting around the point and things got very rolly. We ended up weighing anchor after sunset and moving over toward Best Buy in Gravesend Bay (map). Still rolling there, but good enough for a single night.

Our neighbor in the anchorage, USCGC Shrike. Tip of Coney Island at left.

We weighed anchor Monday morning after the worst of the morning commute was over and steamed up the Hudson on a fair tide. We had the hook down here before lunch, and were looking forward to going ashore for a nice dinner on the Upper West Side. When the tide changed, however, the 15-20kt wind that had been blowing upriver all morning was now against the stiff current, and whipped the river up into short three footers.

Passing Lady Liberty to port in the distance.

We had wisely splashed the tender at slack water, in fairly high winds. Now it was trailing behind Vector, and surfing down the front of each wave, nearly contacting the swim step. We were pitching a bit through the afternoon, but nothing like the movement of the moored sailboats downriver of us. I took a short video of the motion; sorry the audio is poor in the high winds with the mic facing away from me.

Rough seas on the Hudson, with our tender surfing the waves. Apologies for the poor audio.

As the tide slackened again toward evening the waves attenuated somewhat, and we were able to board the tender by pulling it up alongside on the leeward side and entering from the side boarding gate. The swim step was still submerging every couple of waves so we could not board from the stern. We stopped at the office to pay our landing fees and had a nice dinner at one of our old favorites on Amsterdam. By the time we returned, we were able to board from the swim step.

I had ordered a number of Amazon items which were delivered Monday, and so I spent most of Tuesday on boat projects. To wit, patching the hole in the flybridge top that was caused by the lightning strike, and once again, for the umpteenth time, rewiring all the serial ports on the main plotter. The Siig four-port unit that I bought to replace the lighting-damaged one lost a port somehow, and even though Siig is replacing it, I decided that a four-port USB hub and four individual serial adapters was a better (and cheaper) strategy.

From three miles away, USS New York and a Coast Guard Cutter maneuver into port.

Wednesday morning we awoke to numerous VHF radio calls concerning security zones on the river. It turns out that it was the start of Fleet Week here in NY, and Wednesday morning was the Parade of Ships entering the Hudson. We could not see much from four miles upriver, but the largest ship, the USS New York, docked at Pier 88 just two and a half miles from us, and we watched her enter her berth through binoculars.

Louise on the flight deck of the New York, looking forward toward the radar mast.

Friday we decided to head down to Pier 88 and check out the New York first hand. On our way from the subway to the piers we passed scores of sailors in their dress white crackerjacks, which reminded me of scenes from On The Town, now 70 years old. We enjoyed touring through the ship, even though I lost my sunglasses somehow in the X-ray machine at security.

Looking aft down the vehicle ramp into the massive well deck of New York, with a loaded LCAC embarked.

I couldn't get out of my head Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly dancing atop Rockefeller Center, and so when we finished at the pier we walked up there and headed up to Bar 65 at the Rainbow Room for cocktails. Sadly, there was no seating at all, not even stools at the bar, and we beat a hasty retreat. A quick Internet search found a well-rated pub just a block away, and since it was called Sean's Bar we, of course, had to go. We finished the evening with dinner at casual Italian joint Cielo at the Mayfair before heading home.

Marine Corps Osprey and Viper aircraft on the flight deck.

This weekend was, of course, the Memorial Day holiday, which meant lots of boats (and wakes) on the river, particularly when it was in the 90s here, and a very crowded city. We were glad to have toured the New York before the weekend crowds, and we opted not to brave the crowds in Times Square for the Navy Band concerts or the Drill Team presentations.

These USNA Yard Patrol "YP" boats came up from Annapolis. Concorde and USS Intrepid museum in the background. As seen from USS New York's flight deck. Large shed on Intrepid's flight deck houses the space shuttle Enterprise.

We did encounter a street fair right here in our neighborhood Sunday, where they had closed down the southbound side of Broadway for several blocks and lined it with food and merchandise vendors. It made for a nice stroll, but there was nothing we needed. And we very much enjoyed just watching the holiday weekend crowds in Riverside Park from the comfort of our deck.

Street fair on Broadway.

Yesterday was a picture-perfect day, and I decided it was worth putting up with the crowds to get out and take in some sights. I took the subway down to the newly-reopened Cortlandt Street station, which opens into The Oculus mall and transit center. From there I walked across to the bridge by way of City Hall Park. The bridge was crowded but not jam-packed, and I had a nice walk to Brooklyn.

It went on for blocks. Like much NY street merchandise, lots of items that "fell off the truck."

I grew up here, and while I've been across the Brooklyn Bridge many times, this is the first time I did so on foot, an activity that "only tourists" do. When I was a kid, one did not want to casually stroll around on the Brooklyn side, but now it's a trendy neighborhood called DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass), full of caf├ęs, restaurants, galleries, and residential properties we can't afford. The riverfront has been turned into a lovely park, complete with 1920's-era carousel.

The canonical shot of the Brooklyn Bridge, looking toward Brooklyn past the Manhattan tower.

I had a lovely time in DUMBO and then made my way to the subway, taking the F train back across the river and making the long walk through the connecting tunnel at 14th street to get back to the #1, Broadway Local, which is "our train" here at the Boat Basin.

Manhattan skyline over the Brooklyn Bridge.

Now that the holiday weekend chaos is over, today we weighed anchor and headed down to the docks to pump out and take on water, doing a couple of much-needed loads of laundry in the process. This should take us all the way up the Hudson and through the canal system, unless we have to wait on locks to open.

Speaking of which, as of this writing, the Erie Canal is open all the way end-to-end. However, the Oswego Canal remains closed, with no projected opening date. We can't go all the way to Buffalo on the Erie Canal, because even with the mast down we are too tall. So we need to divert to the Oswego Canal at Three Rivers junction.

Sunset over the NJ waterfront.

We have a good window starting this Friday to make it all the way to Troy on a fair tide. We'll take that window even if we don't have a date for the Oswego opening. Once through the Troy lock there is no longer a tide to worry about, and if the Oswego has not opened, we will mosey very slowly along the eastern Erie Canal, making all the stops. That will put us near Three Rivers almost two full weeks from now, and we are hoping that's enough time for the waters to recede and the canal to be opened. (Update: I just learned the Oswego is scheduled to open on the 29th.)

Vector's height and draft limit us to a single route from here to the higher of the Great Lakes. While the Champlain, Rideau, and Trent-Severn Canals are all lovely, we can't use them. Our only option is to take the Oswego to Lake Ontario, and then the Welland Canal, which is the ship route that is part of the Saint Lawrence Seaway, to Lake Erie. Once we are in Lake Michigan we again have only a single route to reach the Mississippi, which is to bypass Chicago on the Sag-Calumet Canal.

Who knew I had a bar?

My next post will likely be from under way on the Hudson, after we have left the New York City environs.


  1. Excited to hear that you will be in our neighborhood as you transit north up the Detroit River and then through Lake St Clair.

    There are several marinas along the "Nautical Mile" in St Clair Shores that would have dockage and many local restaurants.

    If you are looking for an anchorage; there is a great spot at Lake St Clair Metropark. The park does not have much around it that would be walkable; but there are groceries, marine supplies and nice restaurants that are accessible by scooter. The township also has a free bus service that will take you anywhere within the township.

    Luigi's is not far and has good Italian food.

    Please email if you have any questions about the area. marie_holmesatoutlookdotcom.

    1. Thank you for the excellent information. We look forward to cruising through that area.

    2. If we are home when you come through; we can offer dinner or drinks....

      We leave June 27 in a one way vehicle rental to Sheboygan, Wi to pick up our new (used) boat. We plan to take two weeks to bring her home around the mitten. Maybe we'll pass North to South.

    3. Sean,

      Thank you for your response to my question about the 79th Street Boat Basin. I suspect your dinghy is considerably bigger and faster than ours (2 horsepower). So we've decided to spend the night in a slip. We're picking up friends who live on 96th and Riverside. Then heading up the Hudson for a week. Thanks again for your email.

      John Lyons

  2. Great post as usual. I would find it nerve-wracking to anchor in NY Harbor -- so many cables, so many old pieces of debris, maybe snag Jimmy Hoffa's cement boots.

    Beware of Lake Erie -- there are some long stretches with no safe havens, and due to the shallowness of the lake the waves get big, steep and close together when it blows. Most harbors are cramped, twisty rivers.

    To offset that some lake Erie ports are picturesque. I don't recall many decent anchorages between Buffalo and Put In Bay.

    1. We often joke whenever the anchor brings anything up here that it was part of Jimmy Hoffa's outfit. We have a piece of string on our chain at about the 50' mark that we picked up here last year which we fondly refer to a Jimmy Hoffa's shoelace.

      This is a well-used anchorage and mooring area (with a special designation) and so the bottom is pretty well cleared at this point. We don't venture too close to shore in other parts of the river; there is a lot of debris on the bottom in the coves and even old pilings from long-abandoned wharves.

      We're aware of the Lake Erie issues. I expect to do the lake in three or four hops, waiting on weather between each. Vector is no stranger to steep, short-period waves, but we try to avoid them if we can.

  3. I hope you had a snubber on that dinghy line. That current/wave shock looked like it would be tough on the line.

    1. The line is 3-strand nylon, which has enough give as to not really need any kind of snubber. The tender only weighs 350 lbs, so despite the jerking you see in this video (very rare), there's not a lot of force on the line. That said, you will notice a second line attached; this is our "safety line" which we always rig when anchored in current, in the event the painter parts for some reason.


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