Monday, October 8, 2007

Sailing the East River Past Roosevelt Island

Bloggers Buds @ Sea describe their recent experience with the Coast Guard, Bridge Operators, Scrap Barges, the NYPD and machine gun boats as they try to sail their way down the East River past Roosevelt Island.

We had to arrive at a famously turbulent spot in the East River called Hell Gate at slack water at 9:12am, when the current is calm for a few minutes and then proceed down with the ebb tide (out going current), admire all the sights of Manhattan's east side and proceed into New York harbor, Statue of Liberty, etc.

Among the sights of course were all those big suspension bridges: the Queensborough, Williamsburg, Manhattan, Brooklyn, etc. No problem for Sogno's 53 foot mast to pass under. HOWEVER, the EASTERN passage of Roosevelt Island. had a lift bridge (a type of draw bridge) that was only 40 above the water in its normal position. Most sailboats normally avoid it by going down the UN side of the island (WESTERN passage), but we didn't have that option this time. But everyone from the Coast Guard to the bridge operator assured all the sailboats that it would duly lift when requested to.

Well you guessed it - when the lift bridge got its moment of glory around 9:15, it wouldn't budge! Now there were around 10 sailboats, and some larger power boats all circling around in the rapidly building current waiting for the bridge or Coast Guard to do something. In the meantime a tug and ugly scrap barge were approaching and the skipper was telling us to be sure to get out of the way, because he was coming through and could get under the bridge in any event. Things then got even more interesting.

We were ordered by the Coast Guard to go around and wait on the WESTERN side. They planned to escort us through soon, but until "plan" was all approved, be sure NOT to go past the Queensborough Bridge. That was easy to figure out since there were USCG boats with 2 machine guns each, clearly blocking that area.

We all then sped off at max speed into the ebbing current to go around the north end of Roosevelt I., and then got out of the way of the tug/barge, which was escorted through the west side after all. The CG then said the lift bridge would be fixed, head back to the EAST. Then the NY PD said, we could go back down the WEST side, but the machine gun boats didn't get the word, and all was a big mess for a while. Finally it was all straightened out (after nearly 2 hours) and we all motored as slow as we could, in a single file past the UN, trying to stay separated by 1000 yards!
The You Tube video is from Island Spirits 35.
Roosevelt Island 360 has post on topic as well.


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I've heard the experience to surf Hell Gate river is somethign great. I would like visit one day or to find a similar one here in Boston.

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