The Mighty Hudson

anchorages along the hudson river

I am on the cusp of the Atlantic Ocean. New York Harbor. South of the Battery, the center of the tidal universe. Tomorrow, with the force of the mighty Hudson, the East River and the great Atlantic I will be sucked through the Verrazano Narrows, essentially, into the sea. -October 2

The Hudson River proved to be excellent training grounds for the rest of this trip. However, I feel like a much different person now than I was while traversing that body of water. It was the first time I would sail on tidal waters in years, and have contact with commercial shipping traffic.

Currents on the Hudson are gnarly. So gnarly, in fact, that even in 30 knots my boat would point stern to the wind if the current was opposed. After the third time this happened I stopped freaking out, and accepted it as merely uncomfortable.

I got a slow start and stayed on the Hudson probably longer than I needed to. Hurricanes were still pending and I had visions of the next Hurricane Sandy or Irene pummeling the northeast and decided to stay creekside until I knew the right path.

In Esopus Creek is a beautifully protected anchorage where the light is mesmerizing, A very nice man who worked at the Saugerties Steamboat Company pointed me in the right direction towards the best place to anchor, let me tie up for free at their unused dock the next day so I could meet some of my family. When he asked me my boat name I said, “Vanupied! It’s french for barefoot peasant.”

“But you’re wearing shoes!” He replied.

I never saw him again but had the entire brand new dock to myself that night.

anchoring esopus creek

From there I travelled to Kingston, NY and wound up staying ten long days awaiting a hurricane that never came in Roundout Creek. My only contact with other humans was at the power boat club and campground next to where I anchored. They were kind to me and when I left showered me with gifts like a flare gun (for protection), a bottle of rum, twenty dollars, and fresh gallons of water. Huge shout out to the Anchorage Marina folks in Rondout Creek for treating me as one of their own even though I was on a sailboat.

When I left Roundout Creek it was a fifty mile sail/motor sailing day down to Dundeberg Mountain–which isn’t really an anchorage at all and I had a miserable time pulling up my anchor in the 30 knot winds that morning.

Thanks to some friends ahead of me on an Alberg 30 I learned about the ‘Bowline Pond’ anchorage on the west side of the river across from the northern section of Haverstraw Bay. This place is the shit. Seriously a hurricane hole. Protected 360 degrees. The entrance is tricky and the waves can stack up as it gets shallow. Plenty of depth there, but if you attempt this anchorage make sure you keep the mooring ball in the middle to STARBOARD to avoid an actual stack of bricks on the other side of the entrance. This ‘pond’ is actually man made. My parents and sister visited me there and I illegally tied my dinghy to a public park entrance and we crashed a private party at the park with a live band until the ranger kicked us off. It wasn’t before I could row each one out to my boat, though! I also met some kickass New York sailors on a Westsail 32. The captain, Josh, gave me probably the most integral navigation lesson of my life which in turn saved my ass from being completely lost on the ocean during my offshore passage.

Still waiting for coastal swells to die down from hurricanes I went to Haverstraw Bay where it took me two days to fix my autopilot. All it took was some wood, epoxy, screws, and a sock. Who would have thought? I rode out another gale just south of there where I was convinced I’d drag into the shipping lanes. This was before I learned to sleep through gales.

My final stop on the Hudson before heading through NYC was the Nyack Boat Club. I fucking love this place. It’s an historical gem. I met so many wonderful people who gave me detailed current and tide lessons, anchorage spots all along the east coast, and kisses on the cheek when I left. My dear friends Aaron and Sarah on their Baba 35 where on their way north back to Lake Champlain after a summer sailing in Novia Scotia and they picked up the mooring next to me. It was the last time I might see them for a long while. It was in Nyack that I received a small single side band radio and the WQXR classical music station would become my constant companion.

The hudson continued to widen the further I went. Ferries zoomed past creating monstrous wakes. Helicopters loudly flew through the sky. There were no channel markers but many ships. It was like the wild west. While still much less crowded than NYC by land it was still quite chaotic and the worst was yet to come. I anchored for the night west of the Statue of Liberty.

The final section of New York Harbor was insanely crowded with commercial traffic. I felt like a needle in a haystack. I approached the Verrezano Narrows only to second guess my navigation and tried to hail some fisherman to ask them which way to go to avoid the ships. “That way,” they said. But I couldn’t see where they pointed since I was fucking around with the engine.

I managed not to get run down by a ship and I was shit out in the Atlantic Ocean.

Where am I?

Well, if you were wondering, my last post should have cleared that up. I’m in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay. Now, you might be wondering, what the hell happened in between from when I left my hear on the Champlain Canal and now?!

Good question. One I’ve been trying to answer myself. While I know every place I’ve dropped the hook, can describe every person I’ve met, and can recall the conditions of nearly every passage–I’ve been having a hard time putting it into words. The only thing I know is I seem to keep leaving my heart everywhere. Yelling terms like “SEE YOU OUT THERE,” and “STAY SALTY, MATES,” as I depart each lovely harbor and its inhabitants. I catch myself saying things (to myself) like, “I’ll be back,” and, “I don’t want it to end.”

But it isn’t just the people that have had such a profound effect on me. Voyaging on my boat day  has brought me closer to her as a spiritual entity, as a sailboat, as a way of life. There is magic in these waters. There is magic in boats. How is it possible, I often wonder, for something so simple as fiberglass, metal, wood, canvas and rope to be possible of propelling one on such an adventure? A sailboat is greater than the sum of its parts.

“You’re living the dream!” People often say. And it’s true. I am. I came up with this idea, poured my energy into it and poof, like a magician, the dream came true. Here I am. The thing is, the dream sucks sometimes. I’m confronted daily by the elements, things out of my control, financial issues and my own personal demons. One cannot hide from themselves on a 26-foot-boat. Doing this trip on such a thin shoe string has made me realize I want to earn a few more shekels to be more comfortable, safer. That’s why I decided I won’t aim for the Bahamas and Caribbean this year. It’s simple, really. The boat needs more work, and I need more time to earn the money and do the work to her. By the time I do all that, I’ll most likely have missed my window for the tropics.

There just simply isn’t enough time in the day (plus I’m a naturally unproductive human AND the man just forced me to set my clocks back) to sail my boat, fix what needs fixing, stay fed AND take over the world as a sailing media mogul. So, the blog has laid dormant. Until I earn a cash injection wherever it is that will be my temporary ‘home port,’ the boat won’t be set up for blogging from onboard. As far as going to shore and finding wifi and somewhere to plug in, it hasn’t always been easy let alone a priority. Until a week ago I didn’t even have a working dinghy (huge shout out to Rich on the Rhode River for hooking me up with another dink, free dock, hacksaw blades, stories as a submariner, and more). The only writing I’ve managed to get done, besides log entries that border coherence and incoherence, is a short burst that was published on Sailing Anarchy.

You may also be wondering, what’s taking me so long. I left Lake Champlain September 2, and I’m not even technically half way yet from my unspoken stopping point.

Well, the answer is, I’m sailing. While many chose to motor on (friends are motoring 30 miles today, and another boat 60 miles), I’m choosing to sail. I still use my motor, and have used it quite a bit but there are also certain conditions my motor simply won’t go into. If it’s a light headwind, or too strong of a headwind, often times I won’t be able make enough progress to get somewhere before dark under sail. On days like these I do short hops, from one Chesapeake tributary to another, or chose not to go at all. Now that I’m further south and the bay has widened, safe harbors are further apart.

I know there are long days of ICW motoring ahead of me, and hopefully some sailing on the outside when weather permits, so I’m taking my time under sail. Shaking out and putting in reefs, dodging ships, convening with pelicans, marveling at the ridiculous shit I hear and contribute to on the VHF, watching my boat’s interactions in her natural element–salt water.

On top of this, in regard to my slow pace, this year has been tempestuous with gales and dead calms. Seriously. Ask anyone out here. You can’t make this shit up.

If my scattered updates haven’t put you off thus far, stay tuned. There will soon be detailed posts recounting my journey down the Hudson River, New Jersey Atlantic Coast, and Delaware Bay. Well, as detailed as possible, it is me we are talking about. The sailing world’s most unreliable blogger.

Somewhere in the middle

November 4, 2017. Solomon’s Island, MD

cruising the chesapeake bay, pearson ariel 26

I’m getting closer to the ‘conch dock.’ I can feel it. There are pelicans. I don’t want it to end, sailing the Chesapeake, but it’s getting cold. Today, the water grey and glistening, had sloppy, choppy waves with little crests that broke and disappeared under my boat’s keel. Sometimes a rogue set would send Vanupied careening into their troughs, knocking the wind out of her sails. But there wasn’t much wind to fill them anyway. As the remaining gusts from the cold front dissipated not much was left, but the leftover seas never did really settle. I should have flown the big genoa only. Could have made better time.

singlehanding the chesapeake bay, cruising the chesapeake bay, solo sailor girl

As it was 20 miles took nine hours and I arrived after dark to an empty anchorage in front of a tiki bars, piers, and buildings on stilts. One restaurant was playing some golden oldies and the free entertainment was welcome aboard. While squaring things away on deck another boat came in and I heard her captain call to his crew,”We’ll anchor just behind this guy.”

“Hey!” I yelled friendlily. “I’m a GIRL.” Sometimes I want to shout it from the rooftops.

single handing atlantic coast, single handing the chesapeake, single handing ICW, pearson ariel 26

Turns out it was the sailor on the Grampian 30 I met in Annapolis. He’s cruising with his wife and two daughters. They invited me over for a feast of Dahl, spinach and fried paneer for which I was much obliged. Despite being horrifically lactose intolerant, I devoured the cheese dish and yogurt sauce with vengeance. It was the most food I’d eaten in a single setting in ages. Their eight year old daughter, while only in third grade, could probably write a thesis and it turns out she gives excellent back massages. Her hands did a good job kneading the knots in my back from days in the cockpit and crouching around inside my boat’s little cabin–but her endurance was a bit lacking. Oh well, she’s only eight. She’ll get there.

sailing families, cruising with kids, grampian 30

Upon arriving I really wished I’d had an extra $20 to go ashore for a burger and a beer at the restaurant playing the oldies–this, however, turned out to be much better.

I left my heart on the Champlain Canal

americas great loop, cruising the champlain canal

History. Industry. Wildlife. That’s how I would describe the miles logged traversing the historic Champlain Canal. Built in the 1800’s and birthed from the brain of Gov. George Clinton of New York, well, all I can say is hats off to you, Sir Clinton.

cruising america's canal

For every ounce of sun we had there were equal parts rain, which were made increasingly miserable due to the large boom and mainsail taking up most of my cabin, and the breath/sweat condensing from two 20-something women. My crew was my best friend, Whitney. Not a sailor, but born on a boat. She sailed with me last year in a steep chop out of Burlington Harbor where I turned to her and said, “Okay, this is the point of no return–do you want to go back?”

To which she replied, “I trust you, Cap.”

champlain canal, US canal system, NYS canal

If only she could be onboard forever, as her mere presence helps me to solve the problems of the world. But she has her own adventure to build, her own “boat” to find. She will be back onboard Vanupied when we reach southern latitudes. This much is certain.

NYS Canal System

For the first few locks we were nervous and scared. By the final we were entering the great big chambers of water playing the harmonica. We tied on and off docks and wharf walls like it were a game. We docked next to the actual remnants of the USS Ticonderoga and, naturally, saluted it when we left. I could’ve lived there amongst those lock walls and slimy lines with Whit as a canal rat forever but, alas, we finally reached tidal waters.

cruising the hudson river

Whitney traveled with me another several miles on the Hudson River to Catskill, NY where I became a sailboat again. Luckily, her friend came to pick her up and return her back home for work on Monday—because even though I promised her I’d get her somewhere accessible to mass transit to get back in time, I really had no idea if I’d be able to deliver on that.

Huge shout out to Hop-O-Nose marina on Catskill Creek for a doing a dope job stepping my mast, for a free night at the dock and supporting the adventure. My favorite question I received from the owner there was, “WHAT DO YOU EAT?!”

Leaving Lake Champlain

sailing lake champlain, cruising lake champlain, solo sailor girl, spinnaker watches

September 2, 2017

Well, I left. I’d have cut the proverbial dock lines but I sold my mooring bridle to a mate to pay my debt to the marina. It all worked out. I feel like it’s my birthday or something. So many well wishes as I prepared to and left the mooring field. “Bye,” I yelled to my neighbors who I hadn’t seen in a couple of weeks. “I’m not coming back!”

So, yes, while I technically left I’m only five miles away. And I’m okay with that.

September 3

cruising the ICW, cruising lake champlain, pearson ariel 26 live aboard

I left at 9 AM with a single reef in the main and was glad I did. I wanted to make it to crown point but it took two hours just to make it this far. I was cold, wet. My foul weather gear sucks. The rain, remnants of hurricane harvey, was tempestuous. Busted my depth sounder. I knew something electronic would fry I’m just glad it wasn’t Jane (my autopilot) or my GPS. Guna make me a lead line. No other boats I’ve ever owned or sailed on had depth finders anyway.

I figured why not ditch out while I still can. Soon there will be long passages with nothing in between. I’m anchored off the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum which is fitting. I’m slightly exposed to the south because mooring balls are taking up most of the anchorage. If no one claims them by tonight I’ll move onto one. I fought with the alcohol heater for a while but finally got it to work. Everything is damp but it’s beautiful in the rain.

basin harbor yacht club, cruising lake champlain

I hope to reach Chipman Point in time for my mast unstepping appointment but I’m behind. I’ll have to leave crown point very early and should probably motor if I want to get there on time. Wind forecast 25 kts from the south but this part of the lake is very narrow, meandering, full of eagles I’ve been told.

September  4

live aboard pearson ariel 26, cruising lake champlain

Day three. Depth finder definitely broken. Crown point. I’ve re-anchored for the third, maybe fourth time trying to get as close to shore as possible but the gusts kept pushing me back. I’m scared for tonight. I’ve been in blows before but this spot is unknown to me. 

I left early to avoid increasing wind prediction and motored into a dead calm until a light wind filled in for about an hour. Becalmed for another hour I started to motor until I hit more wind with soon became 20 kts with gusts higher. After some miles tacking one gust hit that almost knocked us down. It was time to go on deck to either shorten sail or motor. I motored. Heeling over hard in 20 kts, solo, on my boat for miles is…difficult. I kept kicking the autopilot out of its socket I was sure I’d break it. It’s hard to look at charts or do damn near anything when I have to sail the boat so closely. Crew would make all the difference in the world in that situation. But at the same time, fuck going to weather. Everyone avoids it whenever they can, right? I don’t have anything to prove to anyone or to myself. 

September 5

cruising the champlain canal

Exhausted! Starving! No time to eat much today. Wiring catastrophe. Tried to drill hole out in bulkhead to pass running light wires and connectors through. Would up drilling into the wires and have to re splice now anyway, so hole drilling was useless and destructive. Wound up lashing the mast to the rails instead of using wood supports. It’s sturdy. Got pretty pissed though when one of the marina employees was insisting on untying my boat from the crane area in the middle of huge thunderstorm. Finally the owner came over and told him to stop. I was pissed, but the owner made it right by giving me free dockage. 

Two cruising families here heading south. One I met last year in the Champlain Islands. 

September 5

cruising family, cruising with kids, sailing mom

Approximately eighteen snaky miles through the creek like, final miles of Lake Champlain. Eagles. White and blue herons. Train tracks. Trees and cliffs. Misty and fjord like. 

Crew: Amber. Off the boat of cruising family. We buddy boated with her son and husband onboard their vessel and passed through Lock 12 of the Champlain Canal. Emerged triumphant. Excellent crew. Tied to the high cement wall in Whitehall, NY now awaiting the arrival of my crew for the next four days who will travel with me the next sixty miles of the Champlain Canal and to the entry of the Hudson River where, shortly after that, I’ll become a sailboat again.