Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Sailing the East River Past Hell's Gate and Roosevelt Island

You Tube video of Sailing the East River Past Hell Gate and Roosevelt Island from Island Spirit 35

Are you planning a New York City sailing adventure that includes the East River, Hell Gate and Roosevelt Island? The Trip Sailor blog has some advice from a recent late October trip:
.. Passing through New York City on the East River on a week-day is recommended because most of the traffic will be commercial boats who are experienced with the conditions there. For boats such as ours with a low maximum motoring speed (about 7 knots), there is some debate as to the best time to get to Hell Gate, an infamous section of the passage where 7 knot and shifting currents are not unusual. The most conservative approach is to aim to reach the Gate at the slack of high-tide just before the current starts to ebb out into New York Harbor. This requires motoring for an hour against the current to get to Hell Gate at slack water. We had studied the hallowed "Eldridge Tide and Pilot Book" and read numerous online sailing discussions and settled on a plan that should be a bit more exciting, getting us to Hell Gate an hour after stack water when about a 4 knot current would carry us through. Thus, our Monday morning objective was to get to Throg’s Neck two hours after high tide at The Battery (the southernmost tip of Manhattan Island) which that day was at 7:47 am.

A large barge and two local sailboats passed us on our way to the bridge but otherwise we saw remarkably little boat traffic which allowed us to thoroughly enjoy the ride through the city. It was another beautifully sunny day, although hazy at water level, and we swung through Hell Gate at an impressive 10.6 knots (speed over ground) although we were probably only motoring through the water at 6 knots. As we zoomed past we studied: LaGuardia Airport, the partly dismantled Shea Stadium, (but we couldn’t identify the World’s Fair site beyond), Rikers Island (a huge prison complex), Hell Gate (where the Harlem River joins the East River), Roosevelt Island (a narrow island that divides the East River into an east and west channels for about a mile), the high-rises of the Upper East Side, the United Nations Building, the gleaming pinnacle of the Chrysler Building, the familiar Empire State Building, the lower buildings of mid-town and the East Village, the high-rises of the Financial District (including the hyperactive Wall Street – the NY Stock Exchange gained 900 points that day), The Battery, the Statue of Liberty, and around into the Hudson River on the west side of Manhattan Island. We passed under about 10 bridges including the Queensboro (59th St) Bridge over Roosevelt Island, and the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges. By taking the western channel around Roosevelt Island we avoided the only bridge that we would have needed to have opened for us (at 110-130 ft the rest are easily high enough) which is just as well because it would have been interesting trying to hold against the current to wait for a bridge to open. With the buildings gleaming in the sunshine it was an excellent ride and we were very glad to have been encouraged back in Newport to make this passage. In addition to the constant buzz of small commercial and sight-seeing helicopters around the harbor, as we started up the Hudson River a formation of six miliary helicopters flew low past us....
Don't forget to give a friendly wave to any Roosevelt Islander you see walking on the promenade. We'll wave back.