Monday, August 12, 2019

Hell's Gate Into Long Island Sound

August 12
Long Island Sound

Yesterday morning we sailed goodbye to Christina, Nate and Maddie and hello to my sister Alison and nephew Griffin, then cast off to sail up the East River and into Long Island Sound.

It was a bumpy start, with wakes from heavy marine traffic bounced us, reflected off the seawalls on each side of the river, to come back and bounce us again, and then the reflections reflecting to hit us again, all while new wakes were being generated. It was a relief to enter a wider portion of the river with much less traffic north of the Williamsburg Bridge.

The day was unusually cool for August, sunny with puff ball clouds and variable winds. The river was blue-green, much cleaner than I remember it being when I was a kid. People now jet ski in the East River; when I was young I think you might have dissolved if you fell into it and if that didn’t happen, struck a multitude of horrible looking floating objects. I am so grateful for the Clean Water Act, now a generation old. The waters all along the US coast have been remarkably clean, very little trash, lots of fish and wildlife, the wetlands looking healthy, even if they are still being encroached upon. The implementation of that law has been a remarkable environmental success that I have witnessed firsthand. We should never forget that or allow it to be compromised in the name of “de-regulation”. It has made our part of the world healthier and more beautiful, and set an example for other countries.

As we sailed north, pushed along by a fair current, the tall congestion of buildings of Manhattan’s Battery gave way to plain, brown nondescript mid-rise apartments. The Brooklyn shore shifted from gentrified residential neighborhoods to old industrial areas that are just beginning to gentrify.  It’s time to accept that manufacturing is not coming back to Brooklyn for those that hope that protective tariffs will drive such a renaissance.

To get to the Long Island Sound, we needed to pass through Hell’s Gate, where the East River narrows just pass its junction with the Harlem River at Wards Island. Hell’s Gate. On par with Dismal Swamp as a place name in my book, but offering potentially even more moral drama. As we approached our entry portal to Hell, we were shaken by a deep, growling rumble from the Triborough Bridge above, an ominous warning of what lay ahead. Hell’s gate was a swirling maelstrom of strong currents, whirlpools and tidal waves. Well, strong currents and some eddies, at least. Then our noses were assaulted by the putrid odor of rotting souls, which might have actually been the septic odor of an upwind sewage treatment plant. As we exited the gate of Hell, which should be a relief to those who have been taught it’s a one-way trip, we breathed a sigh of relief and some welcome fresh air as we left the sewage treatment plant downwind behind us.

The wind started to build as the East River opened up into the Long Island Sound and we soon had the sails up. There were several other sail boats near us, which to me is the definition of sailing race. I was soon hopping about the boat, checking sail trim, winching in sheets, tweaking the traveler, considering tactics as my crew and passengers looked on in admiration and amazement at my sailing prowess. I beat every boat that I raced, whether they knew they were racing me or not. I figured there might be a trophy waiting for me at the Port Washington Yacht Club as I turned into Manhasset Bay.

We dropped anchor just outside the mooring field off of Port Washington and took the dingy to the town dock. Alison treated us to a nice dinner and then we walked with her and Griffin the the train station where they caught a train back to Manhattan where there car was parked, to drive back home to Connecticut on the other side of the Sound.

Another great day with family on the water, a chance to share a tiny bit of The Voyage with them before it comes to an end soon.

We’re now heading to Setauket, about halfway to our final destination. We’ll anchor there and probably stay through tomorrow as bad weather, rain and thunderstorms, is in the forecast.

Old Brooklyn industry, new Brooklyn residence 
I like that they preserved these old Brooklyn dockside cranes and painted them such a nice color

Hell's Gate! 
Still water in the morning, Manhasset Bay

Execution Rock on Long Island Sound.  Not far from Hell's Gate.