12 January 2014

Flashback: biting through the big apple


I guess everyone has some sort of a bucket list. A list with things one wishes to do, see, accomplish during his/her life. Marco already could tick one thing off of his list:
  • buying a boat and going sailing for an extended period of time. 
And now there was something else, it could be combined with:
  • sailing to and through New York City!
After Block Island we had to decide if we either sail directly to the Chesapeake Bay - an offshore passage that would bring us faster to our final destination in Maryland. But we would miss Long Island Sound and more importantly New York City. After some consideration we decided to take the longer route through Long Island Sound. Yes, we actually had to rush because of our ill family member but it looked like we could risk to make a detour to fulfill a long-term dream!

From Block Island (to the right) we sailed through Long Island Sound to NYC (to the left)

And we quickly understood why this waters are so popular among sailors. It reminded us of sailing on our "home lake" Lake of Constance back in Switzerland. There are countless nice spots to point your bow at just within reach of a couple of hours sailing in perfect conditions.

Habibi on anchor in Oyster Bay

calm conditions on Long Island Sound
beautiful wooden boats everywhere we went
first sight of the Big Apple

Due to lack of time we just hopped along the Northern shore of Long Island, NY and unfortunately missed the coast of Connecticut altogether. First place to drop the hook was in Three Miles Harbor, a huge and protected anchorage just a view miles away from the famous Hamptons and Sag Harbor. We stayed there till the day after 4th of July and what usually ends up with lots of boats battling for a nice anchor spot and noise all night long happened to be the most peaceful place on earth!
We quickly made our way West, with short stops in Port Jefferson (much more boats there!), Oyster Bay (also very nice anchorage but very sleepy town) and finally in Port Washington where we took one of the town moorings, that are 48h for free and after that cost USD 25 including complimentary launch service. It's a safe place to leave the boat while exploring NYC (there's a train station a 20min walk into town) AND it's perfect to time the passage through the East River!

From A we sailed first West and then down South on the East River to Battery Park in Lower Manhattan

So, what's the deal with this East River and timing it right? According to our sailing guides the East River isn't a river! It's actually a tidal strait, connecting Upper New York Bay with Long Island Sound. And as we mentioned in a previous post one thing we had to learn in this waters was to check the tides and currents - and the East River has some very strong current flows that can reach up to 7 knots (cruising speed on our sailboat is max 6 knots)! Just imagine you've got that mess against you... So the plan was to have the current WITH us. There is one spot which needs utmost attention in this planning process (and the name says it all): HELL GATE. It marks somehow the middle of the East River with the strongest tidal current, heavy swirls and boils, a channel dog leg in a narrow section of the river and heavy commercial traffic. In other words: we wanted to time our passage just right!

Off we went to dig our noses into our guides and tidal current tables and decided to time our passage as follows:
To have a fair current all the way we checked the time of 1. "Slack Water – Ebb Begins" at Hell Gate (The tidal current floods North & East and Ebbs South & West in the East River) and 2. "High Tide" at the Battery.
On our designated travel day, 14th July 2013, No. 1 was at 14.51, and No. 2 at 12.24. We untied the mooring lines in Port Washington at 12.50 with the intention to shoot for slack water or starting Ebb at Hell Gate.

Throgs Neck Bridge - First of many

It was a very hot day with almost no breeze. As we did this passage the first time we were a bit nervous and motor-sailed the first stretch. When it got more busy and tight we decided to roll in the sails and to just use the engine. I think we were lucky to travel on a Sunday as we didn't see too many commercial vessels passing by.

all in one: tug boat, airplane, crazy motor-yacht captain

Then Hell Gate came into sight and it looked like we'd timed it just right. When we passed the legendary spot we just saw the water bubbling a little bit and the current kicked right in - flowing WITH us. Phew...

approaching Hell Gate

just a few bubbles...
We were relieved and started to enjoy the ride past Upper East Side, Ed Queensboro Bridge with the Roosevelt Island aerial Tramway, the U.N. Headquarter and the Empire State Building.

Captain on the helm while the Admiral was taking pictures






Between Williamsburg and Brookly Bridge we were flying! Our SOG (Speed over Ground) hit 9.4 knots which means the strongest current we had was approximately 3.4 knots.


Around the Battery it got a bit more busy and choppy because of the water taxis, ferries, Cruise Ships and weekend traffic. 


But soon we were past all that and threw a last glimpse at the skyline of New York City.


But one last highlight was still waiting for us - The Statue of Liberty, standing proud on Liberty Island!




Bye bye New York!


The trip through the Narrows down to Sandy Hook where we dropped the anchor for the night was almost a piece of cake - a quiet, uneventful sail on a calm and hot summer day.

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