May 29, 2003
Sailing North on the Hudson River was such a simple pleasure that it instantly reminded me of my favorite sailing quote:
“Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats…” – Kenneth Grahame (The Wind in the Willows)
Our maiden voyage behind us, we set forth on our first sail North on the Hudson River – North to World’s End! It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon, when we set sail with our first victims, I mean passengers; my mom and step-dad. As we motored north, we were once again reminded of the true beauty of a sailing vessel; even under power, the pace allows, no, forces you to take in all that the area has to offer. The only thing missing was a breeze and so we continued our trek north under power past the Indian Point Energy Center; a nuclear power plant on the east bank of the river just about 38 miles north of New York City… a bit scary, but beautiful in its own right.
We sailed past riverside homes sitting high above the azure waters on green hillsides; each one nicer than the next. Yes, azure! Even the Hudson River is a lovely shade of blue under the right conditions. So far so good; the voyage was going well, the folks were having a grand ol’ time, as were Maria and I… simply sliding up the Hudson River past the various bays and inlets enjoying the scenes that unfolded before us.
Slowly but surely, the next bridge to join my photo collection came into view… Bear Mountain Bridge! I had spent many great days exploring Bear Mountain state park as a kid, teenager and young adult, but never had I seen it from this vantage point… a whole new world to explore!
But Bear Mountain was not our destination on this day, and so onward we went; further and further north up the Hudson River.
As we approached the great citadel, you couldn’t help but be awe struck. West Point is the oldest continuously occupied military post in America and was also the location of one of the most notable of the “Hudson River Chains”.
The Hudson River Chains were intended to prevent British naval vessels from proceeding up the river during the American Revolutionary War. In this particular case, a heavy chain, supported by huge logs, was stretched across the Hudson river from West Point to Constitution Island.
Still not our intended destination, we continued North to World’s End; the deepest point in the Hudson River! The tension was palpable as I read off the numbers on the depth sounder; 100… 107… 115… 145… 99… whoops! I was determined to find “the” spot, so round and round we went weaving in and out, winding to and fro like a drunken sailor. To make a long story short, the magic number (216 ft) never actually showed up, but I did manage to log 170 before the “crew” threatened mutiny.
Even a novice captain knows better than to push his luck, so I pointed the ship south and prepared to head home…
Now, just so you don’t walk away thinking this was as idyllic as I’ve made it out to be, let me continue the saga, oh yea… saga! As we headed South, the breeze finally showed up, we shut down the engine and hoisted the sails for a lively trip down the River…
Not so fast; here is where Murphy steps in. The breeze drops to nothing again and I’m sure you can guess what wouldn’t start up… yep, that’s right! So here we are drifting down the river on a 10,000 lb vessel with no engine and no breeze!
With Maria at the helm, I shot down the companionway like a bat out of hell to see if I could find a way to get the darn “Iron Genny” started. After a bit of futzing around, it was clear that it just wasn’t going to start. I dashed back up the companionway stairs and tried to calmly assess the situation.
Fortunately, “no breeze” was a wee bit of an exaggeration and I somehow managed to ever so slooowly tack my way back and forth across the Hudson to the Garrison yacht club and tie up. To give you a sense of the speed, It took us over 90 minutes to get there and the yacht club was only a bit over 200ft off our port bow when we started! But hey, I got us there and yep, this was my first time docking under sail alone!
OK, now what?
We’re still miles away from our home port, for all intents and purposes, there is simply no wind, I can’t get our engine started and Oh, that’s right, there’s no one at this darn Yacht Club!
I continue trying to trouble shoot the problem, but I’m getting absolutely no where. Right about now, plan “C” is running through my head… or was it plan “D” in either case, it was getting late and I was running out of options. Suddenly it became clear that the old adage “I’d rather be lucky than smart” was dead on… out of nowhere, this guy appeared and offered to help. I explained what was going on and what I had tried so far. He paused for a sec and rather than go below and check the engine, he opened up the locker on the port side, reached his hand inside and sure enough, it kicked right over… loose @#$%& wire!
We thanked him, tidied up the sails, untied Rocinante and went on our way… bringing yet another adventure aboard the Sailing Vessel Rocinante to a close.
All our best,
Carlos & Maria