Cruising the Magnificent Hudson

May 29, 2012

George Washington Bridge & the lil’ red light house it made obsolete!

Cruising the Hudson River offers a new adventure every time we do it!  From first entering the river by hanging the left just after the Statue of Liberty in the middle of NYC Harbor until making another left some 135 miles north, after the federal lock in Troy, NY to enter the Erie Canal, this amazing body of water provides beauty beyond compare, and when it chooses, weather beyond description as well!  In our earlier trips, we experienced everything from a living Technicolor travel poster to torrential rain, white caps and 20+ mph wind gusts!  And this trip proved to be no different-

West Point guards the Hudson

The Hudson River stretches northward for some 300+ miles, and the lower half of the waterway is a tidal estuary.  Its depths average 25-60 feet, except at a place aptly called “World’s End” just north of West Point, where the depth exceeds 200 ft.  A short day’s cruise north from NYC passes by the NJ Palisades and under the George Washington and Tappen Zee bridges to Haverstraw where at its widest, the river stretches over 3 miles across!  One wonders what Henry Hudson must have thought as he explored this incredible river over 400 years ago!


We left NYC very early to avoid the rush hour ferry and water taxi traffic on the river only to be greeted by an ocean liner returning to port!  The morning overcast skies remained until passing West Point, where the clouds suddenly parted and the sun shone brightly the remainder of the day.  We had stopped at Haverstraw before and decided to try a new marina across the river, at Croton-on-Hudson.  What a find!  About a mile walk from the marina, Croton is a charming little town, with both a classic diner and a gourmet grocery store!  The former served Carolyn’s favorite: rice pudding and the latter was a combination of Fresh Market-Whole Foods-Trader Joe’s, but crammed in about half the typical sized store, and with a definite Italian flair!   What more could boaters want??!!   Rain, cold and fog extended our stay for a couple days, but weather did not keep us from exploring the area.

More than 100 ducks taking flight off the river

Perhaps our MOST favorite marina anywhere on this multi-year journey was the Catskill Marina on a creek of the same name right in the heart of the village of Catskill.  In addition to offering the quintessential small town, NY village setting, the marina staff was terrific, AND the marina put us within a short car ride of our friends Susan and Slade of Sojourner NY whose land base is a beautiful, lakeside home in nearby Athens, NY.  One of the many tragedies of Hurricane Irene’s surprise visit to central NY last year was the flooding and rerouting of Catskill Creek and with that, the total destruction of the marina [see it on YouTube].

Our dockage at Kingston

So our next stop was new as well.  And again, we found a gem:  Kingston, NY, once the termination point of the Delaware and Hudson Canal connecting the coal fields of Pennsylvania and the Hudson River.   We docked at the Hudson River Maritime Museum and found ourselves right in the middle of a restored historical waterfront of a truly historic river community.  Our chosen dockage brought several bonuses:  1) we tied up right next to Mathilda, a massive old tug now preserved on land; 2) a year’s membership in the Museum which, in turn, offered us free rein of a truly fascinating collection of Hudson River artifacts and information; and 3) a front row seat as the mayor of Kingston boarded a kayak and rowed out to greet visiting dignitaries whose river trip was being filmed by the Discovery Channel!

Mathilda, Sojourner’s berth mate for our night at Kingston.

We would have enjoyed staying in Kingston for a couple days but decided to push on while the weather was good.  We left very early the next morning for an extremely windy and long day’s cruise along a gradually narrowing river, leaving the riverside mansions, quaint villages, stunning forests and rich farmland behind and moving on to a more industrial river, especially the crowded commercial Port of Albany just before the Federal Lock at Troy.  By the time the Hudson gets to Albany, it is quite narrow and so, when we had to share it with the Hajin Albany, a massive ocean freighter heading to NYC, the passing was quite “up close and personal”!!

Look at that anchor!!

We haven’t been able to keep ourselves from taking pictures, though we probably have many duplicates from our earlier cruises on the Hudson River.  For additional pix from this trip, check out this (hot linked)  Flickr set.  For info on our earlier adventures on the Hudson, see our first Hudson River blog posting:  Let’s take a Kayak… (8/6/09) and related pictures;  as well as paragraph 3 of the Heading back south… 9/20/09 posting and related pix; and finally,  paragraph 6 of From VA to NY 7/17/2010 posting and related pix.

Big and Bigger Water: DE Bay & The Atlantic to NYC

May 24, 2012

A friend on DE Bay

After several days in Delaware City, the winds died down, and we had a great day to cruise the length of Delaware Bay:  sunny, warm and a slight northern breeze at our back.  We feared a sudden storm or fog bank as we had experienced on earlier trips [see: July 24 2009  -and-  pix], but none appeared, and we spent the day using Carolyn’s nifty AIS iPhone app to learn about the BIG ocean freighters and tankers with whom we shared the Bay.

On an earlier trip north, we stayed in Cape May and had an opportunity to get into the town proper [see: Adventures in the Atlantic, Aug. 1 2009  -and-  pix].  This time, we spent just one night there and then began the run up the New Jersey coast, some 2-3 miles out in the Atlantic. The Atlantic City Marina (Farley State Park, fondly called “Trump Marina”) is always a good place to end the first day on the ocean, and we were not disappointed.  In fact, we were pleasantly surprised: The Golden Nugget now operates what was “Trump’s Casino and Marina,” and the many changes made are all for the better.  Unfortunately, the Black Jack tables were no friendlier to Carolyn, though she did get to play several hands before losing her limit ($20.00!!).  We were also weather-bound in Atlantic City once and thus got to see the big ocean racing boats (Hurricane Igor forced the cancellation of Trump’s big race [see: Oct. 2010 -and- pix]).  The second day’s stop when running the Atlantic (at Manasquan, NJ) is the one we always dread…  and with inclement weather approaching, we decided to skip it, to make a BIG run from Atlantic City all the way to New York City-  We cast off at first light, pushed Sojourner faster and farther than she is accustomed to run and passed by the Statue of Liberty some 9 hours later!

NJ Ferris Wheel

Still operating NJ wooden roller coaster!

Running up the Jersey shore is always fun because we can see the old-time amusement parks with the wooden roller coasters and Ferris wheels as well as families soaking up the sun on the beaches.  This year’s Atlantic cruise was basically uneventful though we were surprised to meet a covey of dredging vessels and equipment out in the open ocean just beyond Atlantic City.  And the entrance into New York harbor is always a heart-stopper, partially because of the pure grandeur of it all and partially because of the ferries, water taxis, tour boats, freighters, tankers, tugs and tows going every which way to say nothing of the recreational sail boats and all manner of motorized boats darting in and out among the commercial vessels.  [see: Atlantic Ocean & NYC, August 1, 2009 -and -pix]

Always a breath-taking sight!!

We spent our one night in NYC at Newport Marina on the Jersey side so we had a great view of Manhattan as the city moved into night.  The next morning, we met an ocean liner as we exited the marina and followed it to its berth a couple miles up the Hudson River.  The tug captain maneuvered that behemoth into its narrow slip perpendicular to the river from the stern with no visibility at all!!  That is piloting skill, pure and simple!!

Night comes to Manhattan

The following slide show contains additional sights from our cruise on the Atlantic and into New York city; following it are hot links to blog entries and pictures sets from earlier trips along the Atlantic and in New York City:

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Though our last entry into NYC was just as spell-binding as earlier ones, we probably took more pix on earlier trips through the city. [see:  NYC and Harbor (2009);  NY summer 2010 ; NY and NJ Fall 2010 ].

Days and Days in Delaware City

May 11, 2012

Crabs are the local icon

Several of our cruising friends recommended stopping at Delaware City DE, located near the east end of the C&D Canal and next to two major shipping channels at the north end of Delaware Bay.  Such a stop makes good sense as it shortens the trip down DE Bay to Cape May, NJ by an hour or more than if we were to stay at either of the two places we stopped on previous trips (Summit North, half way through the C&D Canal or Chesapeake City, nearer the western/Chesapeake Bay end of the Canal).  The shortened run to Cape May was good enough reason for us, and so we came to all the way through the C&D Canal from Rock Hall, MD to Delaware City.  We now know other, good reasons for this stop.  As noted at the end of our last posting, we hit a weather delay…we were here 4 days … and finally resumed our journey yesterday!  By the time your read this, we’ll be cruising up the Jersey Shore about 3 miles out in the Atlantic Ocean…. IF the weather window holds!!

Anyway, if one must spend many days at any point along the C&D Canal, DE City is a good place to be!!   The marina is  just a short walk from “historic downtown” Delaware City.  The old historian in Susan often rails at the frequent  mis-use of the word “historic” instead of the usually more accurate  “historical”-  In the case of Delaware City, however, “historic” is accurate!  In the 19th and early 20th centuries, it was a thriving commercial port and way station leading to Wilmington, Philadelphia, and New York.  With two forts within its environs, Delaware City also played a strategic role  in both the War of 1812 and the Civil War.  And it does stand at one end of the very important commercial C&D Canal…. a canal first envisioned in the 1600’s, championed by Ben Franklin in the 1700’s, finally built in the 1800’s, and still carrying some 40% of the commercial traffic between Philadelphia and Baltimore in the 21st century.  Besides, it is simply a charming little town, with many architecturally interesting buildings, several fun shops, some decent restaurants (all with “crab” in their names), and a brick promenade along the waterfront.

Four, very long facing docks running down a straight, narrow canal constitute the Delaware City Marina.  Though not deep, the canal has a wicked current and incredibly large (6 feet) tides.  This was “home” for us for awhile, and we thought you might like a little slide show of the sights we saw during our stay here, one of the many, many places we had not even heard of before we started on our grand cruising adventure:

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The Chesapeake Bay Reprise

May 10, 2012

Industrial Norfolk

Early morning breakfast on the Elizabeth River

Double-barreled floating crane

Cruising through VA offered enjoyable familiar sights and remembered runs to catch bridges with strange (and inconvenient) opening times.  Passing through the first of hundreds of locks on this trip (at Great Bridge) took us on to the industrial outskirts of Norfolk… and after a night at Ocean Marine, very nice (new to us) marina in Portsmouth, we headed out the Elizabeth River, past the naval shipyards, and into Chesapeake Bay.  We have had great weather since leaving Tanya’s, and it continued as we headed northward on the big Bay through our traditional stop at Deltaville and then on to Spring Cove Marina up the Patuxent River in Solomons, MD.  We stopped for two nights to rest and do laundry and arrived just in time for the marina’s annual open house, a festivity filled with people, good food, and friendly company.  We also got Sojourner’s USCG inspection completed so we are officially safe to continue on our journey!

Rock Fish prefer chartreuse!

A decked water wing

Patriotic rock fish water wing

In contrast to earlier trips (July 2009, October 2009, July 2010, October 2010), we encountered no sailing regattas nor any crabber convoys along our Chesapeake cruise.  However, we did meet a new (to us) kind of boater in the waters of Maryland who left a lasting impression.  Evidently, our entry into the Maryland Chesapeake coincided with the first BIG Rock Fish tournament of the season-  and the Bay swarmed with contestants!   Dealing with hundreds of small fishing boats is a reality of Chesapeake cruising, at least on the weekends, so the boats and their numbers weren’t totally unexpected. It was striking, however, that to a boat, all the fishing vessels were decked out with between 5-25 poles, all adorned with BRIGHT chartreuse flies. But what really caught our attention and kept it for two solid days of cruising, were the “wings” all boats dragged some 100-200 yards behind them.  The brightly colored ones popped in the water so we had a chance of seeing them, but many were dingy white or moldy green and thus, virtually invisible.  We came to assume every boat was “draggin,’ ” and then the challenge was to calculate where the wings were hiding in the water and how best to avoid them without having to alter course and/or speed completely.   Despite our diligent and best efforts, we were not totally successful.  Two boats along the way yelled at us!!  For what, we aren’t sure, given they both had meandered directly across our bow without even looking up, much less changing their course or speed to avoid a mishap-  Perhaps when they finally came to, seeing us close and looming startled them…  and that, of course, was our fault!!

Typical ocean freighter sharing the waterway

Carolyn has this nifty new iPhone app that provides all kinds of fascinating information about the commercial ships with whom we share the waterway.  It is the equivalent of an AIS ( automatic [vessel] identification system), without the cost and all that wiring!  AIS is the rage among some sectors of the cruising community, and many boats like ours now have one.  We figure giving the name, size, weight, etc. of Sojourner to every passing freighter just clogs their screen and database, but it is very useful for us to know something about these big boats.  So we now know that freighters like the one in the picture, typical of those we pass on the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays, are about 900 ft. long and 150 ft. wide; they weigh some 155,000 tons, have drafts around 48 ft.; and they cruise at 10-12 knots.  In contrast, Sojourner is 40 ft. long and 15 ft. wide; she weighs less than 20 tons, has a draft of less than 5 ft. and cruises between 7-8 knots.  Being alerted to the presence, name, relative size and perhaps even destination of commercial vessels will be very useful information the inland waterways, especially on the curving rivers where we have encountered big barges and tows unexpectedly as we cruise around corners!

Sunset at Rock Hall MD

From the Solomons, we crossed over the Chesapeake to try out Rock Hall, a well-known recreational and fishing port on Maryland’s eastern shore.  A delightful little spot, we had a good stay and Carolyn had great crab cakes!!  Susan decided to try the Rock Fish given that its existence was new to us, AND it is now seared in our memories.  A nice, firm, mild white fish but perhaps not worth all the stir trying to catch it created on the Bay.

Classic Chesapeake scene

Surprising mobile home park on the Chesapeake

Other than our day on the Mississippi just after the early summer floods of 2008, we experienced our best cruising day ever in terms of water and current on the trip from Rock Hall MD through the Elk River at the head of Chesapeake Bay to the C&D Canal, which, obviously, connects the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays.  We seemed to have the current all day, so we cruised at 10+ knots burning between 4-5 gals/hr.  instead of our usual optimum which is 7-8 knots  @ 4 gals/hr.  That extra speed helped get us to Delaware City, DE at the far end of the C&D Canal at high tide, and we cruised right into the town’s narrow lil’ canal and down to the marina’s 4 long face docks without incident., despite the hefty current on our stern and a 15 kt. wind on our bow.  Once arrived, the dock crew turned Sojourner around and here we sit, 3 days later waiting for a weather window to run the length of Delaware Bay (north to south) and across to Cape May, NJ where we will begin three days of cruising out in the Atlantic Ocean along the Jersey shore to New York City!

5th Time Adventures, con’t.: North Carolina

May 9, 2012

Brunch at Kure Beach

Our stop at friend Tanya’s on the ICW just south of Wrightsville Beach, NC was, as always, a perfect mixture of fun, relaxation and exploration in the company of good friends!  This time we brunched at Kure Beach, an old time beach settlement yet to be ravaged by condos, hotels and planned resorts communities.  And as boaters, we did the obvious, we spent one of our few days on land riding in a boat!!  We took the ferry to Southport, an historic 19th century fishing village at the mouth of the Cape Fear River with shops, restaurants and many preserved/restored original fishing family cottages.

Southport cottage

Friend Sandy Ihly, the renowned Wilmington painter and mixed media artist, joined us for the trip, and she regaled us with stories of her studio and art being commissioned to star in a feature film entitled “The Writers”. Sandy’s assemblage pieces employ intriguing, beautiful works of art created from everyday domestic objects to communicate strong, thought-provoking feminist messages.  We feel very fortunate to have one of them in our Lexington condo.

Camp Lejeune warning

All the cruising guides warn travelers on the NC ICW that Camp Lejeune is a working Marine training facility, and it is possible the ICW may close while the boys shoot their guns across the waterway.  On our first trip, we called to be certain there would be no “live fire exercises” near the time we wanted to transit through the Camp Lejeune section of the ICW…  the second time, we asked at the marina before we cast off for the day’s cruise that would take us there…  the next two times, we did nothing to check and simply cruised through, again commenting on the burned out tanks on the beach and taking pictures of the warning signs…  Yep, 5th time’s the charm!!!  We arrived at the Enslow Beach Bridge entrance to the “live fire” range 20 minutes after it opened for the last time before a 4 ½ hour exercise began!!  It was 12:30 in the afternoon and what’s a boat to do??  The closest marina was 10 miles in the wrong direction, and no one can hold a boat in place for hours, especially in the narrow canal-like stretch of water before the bridge-  So, we followed the bridge tender’s advice and dropped an anchor, right there in the middle of the channel!  During the course of the afternoon, 3 other motor yachts, 6 good size sail boats, and a handful of small, weekend/afternoon power boats joined us-  all at anchor, spaced out nicely for about a mile along the channel…  precisely at 4:30 the bridge opened, even though the firing exercises weren’t over-  Wel-l-l…  anchors were rapidly pulled, and at 4:35, the same dozen plus boats are now maneuvering frantically in a space smaller than a football field between the training side of the bridge and the imaginary line drawn and protected by “The Navy Guard Boat,” a hard-bottomed inflatable boat with machine guns mounted on its bow, and a radio man who so garbled his words that every time he said “The Navy Guard Boat…”  we thought he was saying “Greta Garbo”…”This is Greta Garbo calling the motor boat approaching the prohibited zone…”  We find our humor where we can…

Proud of his Pungo RIver catch

On each trip through NC, we’ve enjoyed cruising the Neuse River–  it took us to Oriental, the famous sailing center and to New Bern, the 300-year old, first state capitol. This year, the Neuse gave us a new adventure:  contrary to all weather predictions, the wind kicked up; the waves responded in kind, and suddenly we were reenacting a 1 ½ hour-long episode of  “Deadliest Catch” !!!  If we had not laid a track on the chart plotter leading off the river to the creek and then the marina, we might never have found it!!  And with the possible exception of tying up at St. Simons after our Cumberland Sound adventure, we’ve never been so glad to see a marina as we were to turn in the canal leading to River Dunes, one of favorite marinas and a safe haven for us from earlier storms.  Not to worry-  we were perfectly safe!!  Sojourner is truly an ocean trawler and handles 4-5 ft. waves splashing up over the top of the fly bridge with aplomb-  we just don’t like the ride and its not fun for us to watch the bow, first dip deep into the water and then fly back skyward, before dipping again and she surfed the waves!

Beautiful Belhaven sunset

We cruised uneventfully through the very rural and extremely isolated northern section of the state, with the remote and desolate, yet beautiful Pungo River and Pungo-Alligator River canal…  At “Ms. Wanda’s”, the infamous Alligator River marina behind a Shell gas station, we renewed acquaintances with a couple we first met in St. Augustine, another from River Dunes, and two others, from Belhaven.  “Ms Wanda’s” is obviously the only game in town-  the last marina before entering the Albemarle Sound.  The next evening, we saw and dined with most of them at Coinjock’s Marina, after an uneventful crossing of the Sound.

Dangers in the Alligator-Pungo River Canal

Striking sights in remote rural NC