New York City and beyond!

City Island is a treasure. At the very eastern edge of the New York, it is just one and a half miles long and a half mile wide with a population of about 4300; technically part of the Bronx and served by subway and bus service, it is an island both literally and figuratively. The first impression is a place that needs some sprucing up and some TLC, but that’s before looking deeper and getting a sense of the community. It’s a working-class enclave that celebrates its obvious diversity with plenty of ethnic restaurants and a wide variety of music heard inside restaurants and bars, as well as on the streets and on the docks. Being an island, it is ringed with waterfront property – but 95% of the waterfront homes are not mansions or are even particularly large homes, but instead are modest, working-class homes. And the people couldn’t be more friendly and accommodating.

In 1819, the inhabitants of the island narrowly voted to become a part of New York City in exchange for the city building a new bridge to the mainland. But local customs stuck – according to local tradition, anyone born on the island is known as a “clamdigger”, whereas a resident who was not born on the island is a “musselsucker”.

Here are some photos from City Island:

I stopped in to take a picture of this really cool hardware store from days gone by, and met Karl, the owner. It turns out Karl plans to travel the Great Loop himself in a few years on his 40′ boat, so we had a great deal to talk about!
The view of the skyline from City Island

We spent a couple of days in City Island to let some nasty weather pass by, and we used the opportunity to take the subway into Manhattan to visit friends. On Sunday, we made the epic run though the East River and Hell’s Gate into New York Harbor. We were fortunate to have a large contingent to join us for this special part of the journey – my sister Kate, her partner Michael, two of her friends (now actually friends of the family) Anna and Virginia, my college roommate and business partner Dave Luciano, his wife Joan, and some of their family – Christine, Dan, Dan’s wife Nicole, and their two children Frita (3 1/2) and Remy (8 months).

Hell’s Gate is notorious for treacherous water unless the conditions are just right, so we timed our departure from City Island to coincide with slack current turning ebb, and we were fortunate to have a beautiful day with no wind. Here are some images from our trip into New York Harbor:

Part of the NY Harbor contingent riding on the bow of the Joint Adventure (we call it the “front porch”). Clockwise from the middle foreground: Dan Luciano, sister Kate, Dave Luciano, Anna Cody (partially hidden), Nicole Luciano, Joan Luciano, Virginia Thomas, Christine Luciano. Frita is in the chair in the center, and Remy is next to her knapping in his car seat. Anna and Virginia insisted on sitting on the front of each pontoon dangling their legs over the side, hoping I would hit some big waves and splash them! I did my best!
Is this really what the Architect drew?? Or did the Contractor have a few too many drinks each morning, then was fired and replaced halfway through the project??
The Brooklyn Bridge – construction started in 1870, and the bridge finally opened in 1883. Workers dug the two foundations underwater with picks and shovels from inside a huge wooden box with no bottom that was pressurized with compressed air to keep the water out. As it went deeper and the air pressure increased, the workers started to develop a strange disease after emerging from the box, which doctors at the time had never seen before. The “disease” turned out to be the bends, caused by working in a pressurized environment within the box. When the chief engineer/designer died of tetanus after getting injured on the site, his son, also an engineer but with little experience, took over the massive and cutting-edge project as the project engineer. When he came down with the bends partway through construction and became physically disabled and unable to visit the site, his wife, with no engineering training at all, became his eyes and ears and even made some decisions on her own in order to finish the project. It’s a fascinating story, captured by David McCullough in his award-winning book “The Great Bridge” – a book which I highly recommend, which is as much a people story as a bridge story.
Freedom Tower as seen from the water
No caption needed
The Edge – you walk out suspended on a glass floor and look 100 stories down – then lean out against the angled glass walls – you might need their champagne you can sip while you’re out there!
City skyline from NY Harbor
We saw this sign in the lounge area at Liberty Landing Marina where we stayed while in New York. Weren’t sure quite what to make of it….
….then we saw the two rowers who rowed into a slip at the marina – this is the boat in which they will be rowing across the Atlantic. YIKES!! And people think WE’RE crazy!!

We left NY Harbor on Monday morning, after picking up the Luciano clan at a dock near the World Trade Center to start our run up the Hudson River. The Hudson is a spectacularly beautiful river with constantly changing scenery. Technically, it’s not really a river until Troy, a bit north of Albany. 13,000 years ago, the last glacier gouged out the riverbed to below sea level, changing it into a tidal estuary. The native’s name for the river means “river that flows both ways”, since the tides actually change the direction of flow in the river four times each day all the way up to Troy. Henry Hudson, when looking for the elusive Northwest Passage, went nearly all the way to where Albany is now, surmising that it must connect to another ocean because of the tidal flow and brackish water most of the way, before he turned around. Since he could only sail in the narrow river when the wind happened to be directly behind him, the crew would row upriver when the current was flowing in that direction, then anchor and wait for the favorable tied when the current reversed. A great book about Henry Hudson and his voyages of discovery that I highly recommend is “Half Moon – Henry Hudson and the Voyage that Redrew the Map of the New World” by Douglas Hunter.

Some images from our journey up the Hudson:

The GW Bridge, looking south with the NY skyline in the background.
The Palisades – the rock cliffs continue a long way on the western shore of the river
The new, 3.1 mile long, cable-stayed Mario Cuomo Bridge replaced the old Tappan Zee bridge at a cost of $4 billion.
West Point, as viewed from the Hudson River
Originally established in 1778 as a fort to defend against invaders sailing up the Hudson, the Academy was established in 1802 under an order by Thomas Jefferson.
On our way north up the Hudson

Our first stop on our way up the Hudson was Ossining, the home of Sing Sing prison. The Luciano clan debarked for the train in Ossining to take them back to the city – it was such a pleasure having them aboard! A bicycle tour through Ossining revealed a city reeling from economic decline as it struggles to re-birth itself. However, there is a beautiful riverfront park through which Jim and I took a long bike ride. After our obligatory ice cream cone, we happened upon a hawk along the trail that had just taken a rabbit for its afternoon meal. It seemed to have difficulty taking off with the weight of the dead rabbit, but it wasn’t about to abandon it either. Here is a close-up image that I managed to capture:

Our next stop was Poughkeepsie. A bike ride through the city confirmed that it is also struggling to reverse a half century of economic decline. A bright spot, however, is the recent conversion of the historic railroad bridge into a thriving pedestrian attraction:

Now known as “Walkway Over the Hudson”, this railroad bridge was built in 1889. It was taken out of service in 1974 and later damaged by fire, and it seemed doomed for demolition. After a checkered period in which several parties acquired ownership then essentially abandoned the bridge, it was deeded for the sum of $1 to a non-profit organization which worked with a host of government agencies to convert it into a pedestrian walkway. Construction began in 2009, and today it is a major tourist attraction; at 1.28 miles long, it is the second longest pedestrian bridge in the world. Despite 95 degree weather and the 225 foot climb, we rode our bikes up to the top and across the bridge. Although it’s impossible to sense the height from pictures, below is an image taken from the walkway:
The view from atop the Walkway Over the Hudson – The Joint Adventure is the outermost boat at the docks; the mast is on a sailboat behind the Joint Adventure
There are numerous lighthouses along the length of the Hudson; some are traditional stand-alone towers, but others incorporate the light keeper’s house into the structure like this one. Several are located on islands within the river.

Our next stop on our way north was a town called New Baltimore. On our way, we encountered our first major storm while underway. Very heavy rain was accompanied by thunder and lightning. We have a full canvass and flexible-glass enclosure on the bridge, so we stayed dry, but the storm certainly got our attention! The rain had stopped by the time we arrived around mid-afternoon, but the village was a long uphill ride and the weather was threatening, so we didn’t get to do our usual exploring by bike. However, the marina had a free courtesy car, so Jim drove to the supermarket to re-provision. The break gave us a chance to catch up on laundry as well.

When cruising, damage to the propellers or other underwater components is aways a threat. We had met the couple aboard “Compass Rose” in New York; when we encountered them at New Baltimore, we learned that they were experiencing a mild vibration when underway. As a result, they had their boat hauled to check their running gear:

The couple on Compass Rose didn’t remember hitting anything, but they knew something wasn’t right. As the suspected, they found some weeds had fouled their propeller. It was easily removed, but their wallet took a hit. The other option to check the running gear and clear it if it’s fouled but not damaged is to swim under the boat to do so. Paul and I volunteered Jim for the job if needed, and in a weak moment, he agreed. He has a wet suit and mask, if needed!
Continuing to head north, we passed under the NY State Thruway/Massachusetts connector bridge – I couldn’t resist including this image, because every time I cross the bridge, I think about being under it rather than over it, and this time, I was!
Passing through Albany. The recently renovated historic train station is in the foreground.

We arrived in Troy on Thursday afternoon, which marks the end of our trip up the free-flowing Hudson River. On Friday, we’ll pass through our first lock; known as the Federal Lock, it’s the only lock on the Hudson River or the Erie Canal that’s operated by the federal government rather than New York State. We learned that it only opened in early May after being closed for two years during Covid. As a result, we were advised to get fuel if we need it prior to going through the Federal Lock since outlets on the other side were able to sell very little fuel for two years – therefore, the fuel in their tanks could be contaminated with water of bio-growth. We therefore filled both tanks in Troy.

The next chapter of our journey begins on the other side of the lock!

As always, I welcome any feedback you might have!!

7 responses to “New York City and beyond!”

  1. Did you catch any Stripers! πŸ˜€πŸ˜€

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  2. steven coates Avatar
    steven coates

    Appreciate the history, very interesting!

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  3. As always Jim, your inclusion of historical and anecdotal information makes the column something I always look forward to in my email.
    Looking forward to chapter 3.

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  4. Great start to your journey. A lot of it is familiar to me. I was born in Poughkeepsie and grew in the Hudson River Valley of Dutchess County.

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  5. This is incredibly interesting. I have added the David McCullough book to my summer reading list.

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  6. Hi Jim! Wow, the history and your photography is amazing! Thank you from the heart for the chance to spend an afternoon on your “porch”!

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  7. Hi Jim,
    Just starting to read your blog this morning, Thursday, October 6th, 2022! You are probably home by now. I read your blog during (as opposed to after) your Great Loop adventure and as a former boater, enjoyed your travels.

    I grew up, in The Bronx, near City Island, in a working class neighborhood post WWII, and enjoyed your descriptions. When we took our boat into NYCity, as you did, I could not take my eyes off the changed waterfront (particularly on the west side of Manhattan.) You captured an updated version well.

    Finally, we too stopped at the same great marina I think you did in New Baltimore, NY. Although we did not need the courtesy car to go shopping or fortunately the mechanic’s assistance, we used the inviting pool in the middle of a heat wave.

    Looking forward to continuing my blog reading!

    OH, we are friends of the Goldberg family of Westport, CT. I did notice Gabe i one of the pics too!

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