Tag Archives: Hudson River

Renewal…

It’s early March. The boatyard is gray and empty, with few signs of life… that is, aside from the raccoon tracks all over my decks. It seems some enterprising creature discovered by climbing the beams in the shed they could step across to my anchor and slip aboard. From there it was a simple matter of pushing in the screen in the forward cabin port, down the bookshelves, across the bunk and up to the galley, where ultimately they discovered that single bag of stale pretzels I’d left aboard as emergency rations. I can’t begrudge my uninvited guest their meal, especially since aside from the pillaged bag of pretzels there was no other damage, though I’ve lowered my anchor a few feet so it no longer provides a convenient gangplank for the four-footed bandit.

There are a few other signs that life is returning to the yard. The ice has receded from the river and crews are prepping the yard boat and the lifts. Docks are going back in. A cover or two has been pulled back and a lone extension cord snakes across the gravel. Next to the office, between melting piles of grungy snow a few crocuses have broken through the soil. Within weeks this place will be bustling with energy as boats shed their cocoons and the warming air is filled with the smell of solvents and fresh paint. The hum of sanders and the whine of the travel lift will drone from morning till night as boats move from the yard to the docks.

It’s a busy time, but a good busy. It’s a time to reconnect with friends you haven’t seen all winter, to catch up on life as you get things in order for those summer days ahead. There are those familiar faces, the ones that return year after year, though often I know them only by the name across their boat’s hull. There’s the older couple on ‘Fairwinds’, working away on that same boat they bought back when the kids, all grown and on their own now, were little. The fishermen with ‘Reel Good’, eager to launch early for the annual striped bass derby. And there will be new faces; there always are. The group of young friends with a scuffed up runabout preparing for a summer of waterskiing and wakeboarding. The retiree, proudly acquainting himself with that dream boat he’d worked years to achieve. A young couple ambitiously tackling a tired old sloop. We watch, realizing they have no clue where to begin, but what they lack in experience and knowledge they more than make up with enthusiasm and energy. And there will be missing faces and boats that sit untended, and talk of who became ill or passed away, and then you realize how little you truly knew about those people you’d known for years. But at least, looking back, there is a sense that the time spent with them was time well spent – laughing, swapping tools and stories, sharing drinks and dreams.

In this age of shopping centers and central air-conditioning, people have grown isolated. Modern life has fallen victim to its own success. A house in the suburbs with a big backyard and a driveway full of cars has created neighborhoods of commuters who rarely see and barely know one another. There was a time when societies flourished on communities working and building together, helping one another out. I suppose this is a big part of what I enjoy around the boatyard: that sense of community has not been lost. While there may be a diverse range of boats and owners, there is a certain unity. Backed to one another, transoms become porches and docks are communal sidewalks as we all pass one another while we come and go. People pause to stop and chat. A lifted engine hatch will immediately draw queries of “Everything all right?” and “Need a hand?” Friendships are forged as we sympathize, commiserate and assist, even if only to offer a cold beer. And I suppose that’s what I enjoy most about spring within this little village of eclectic boats – that promise of another season among friends, both old and new.Indeed it is. At least, in a manner of speaking.

UPDATE: Over the coming days I’ll be doing some updates/housekeeping here on this blog. I know some of my older posts have missing photos, and there are a few things I’ve written in the past for Write on the Water that I’d like to share here. I can only assure you that this is the start of much more. But in my usual cryptic way, I’m not going to elaborate on that just yet.

Stay tuned! (And thanks for hanging around this long — your patience will be rewarded!)

The Eagle has Landed…

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It’s that time of year again. I saw one flying by as I rounded the corner this morning, and now there’s another perched on a tree next to the travel lift. It’s January, ice flows clog the river, and the eagles have returned to the Hudson Valley. If it’s anything like last year, soon there will be seals lounging on the vacant docks.

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In the last week I’ve watched the temperature swing from the mid-60s down to sub-zero, and now it’s on it’s way back up. By Saturday it’s going to be pushing 50 again. I can’t even venture what the thermometer will read in a month, but either way, I’ll be jumping in the Hudson with an ever-growing crowd in the Stony Point Polar Plunge. Why? For a good cause. And because, why not?

<Update: Why not?  Doctor’s orders, apparently. *Sigh.*>

Shall We Dance?

My kind of entertainment!

Shall We Dance?.

Sunday morning down on the Hudson…

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Stony Point Polar Plunge 2013

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The weather was bright and sunny, though the thermometer read 23 degrees. A bit brisk, to say the least.

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A closer look (below) and you can see some smaller bits of ice on the river. All in all, a great day for a motorcycle ride.

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Not too many other bikes on the road… at least not until we got down to the river. (And yes, I’m following in the ‘support’ vehicle, with warm clothes and dry towels.)

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On one end of town, other motorcycles were gathering…
(photo by Dana BatGirl Carroll)

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…while down at the river the crowd enjoyed all sorts of entertainment.

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I didn’t catch the name of the band, and I hope the drummer, sporting only a pair of swim trunks, didn’t catch a cold, but I suspect he was just acclimating himself for an upcoming dunk. The four-footed audience, though, didn’t seem to mind the cold.

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Plenty of emergency vehicles on hand, though no emergencies arose.

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles… are they native to the Hudson?

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And then it was Plunge time! Unfortunately I can’t seem to upload my own video (0r embed this one on Youtube) but someone else had a better angle and caught the excitement of the main event. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2pIQtySF_C4

I like the guy at the end, with the souvenier block of river ice.

And for more pictures and stories, check out the Stony Point Seals on Facebook.

And here’s some more pics…

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Freezin’ for a reezin’

There has to a good reason a large crowd of people will be gathering along the shore of the Hudson on a bitter day in February to watch various brave souls strip to their bathing suits and jump into the river. And there is. It’s time for the annual Stony Point Seals Polar Plunge, which takes place on a quiet stretch of road in Stony Point, NY. Each year a huge crowd gathers for the event, which normally benefits a local family or child in need.

In last year’s Plunge, you can see a whole lot of crazy people having a whole lot of fun for a good cause.


Every year, the families that live along this quiet road welcome this invasion of happy insanity. But this year, the neighborhood of Grassy Point looks more like a ghost town, with vacant and boarded up homes. Sadly, the homes lining that road, along with so many others in the area, had been devasted by Sandy. So for 2013, the Stony Point Seals are holding the Plunge to benefit these very people, along with many other North Rockland Hurricane Sandy Victims. And this year, my husband will be among those hardy souls making that fridgid leap.

Below, some of these homes, shortly after Sandy. If you’re in the area on February 3rd, come on down and lend your support. And even if you can’t stop by, you can still donate online and help our local families recover.

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There’s a tide HERE?

For much of my life, my home waters have been up the Hudson, roughly 33 nautical miles north of Manhattan’s Battery Point. From some approaches, I suppose there’s not much evidence that Sandy had passed through this neck of the river. Various boats still remain in the water for the winter, though most are hauled, blocked, and covered, and the majority of slips sit vacant. And if visitors arrive along the south approach, they reach the marina without passing by gutted, collapsing homes, boarded up buildings, and the neighboring marinas, all of which were devastated by the storm.

These days the Hudson is seeing an influx of refugees, so to speak. They come from the surrounding region; the Jersey shore. Staten Island, Long Island. In most cases the marinas where they kept their boats were destroyed, occasionally their boats as well. They’re seeking somewhere to tie up, and safe haven from the next storm. And one of the questions I hear from many of these visitors, “There’s a tide up here?” surprises me as much as my answer does to them.

Yes. There is a tide. In fact, the ocean’s daily ebbs and flows affect over 150 of the river’s 315 miles, reaching as far as the Troy Federal Lock. Along the Hudson, tides are part of the rhythm of what was once called Muh-he-kun-ne-tuk, the river that flows two ways. Through the day the waters rise and fall, and the current switches back and forth. In the days of commerce by sail, northbound traffic moved with the incoming tide, then dropped anchor while the southbound vessels traveled with the outgoing current. That’s one reason most of the major towns that rose along the shores all fall roughly one tide’s sail apart. And why Sleepy Hollow, one tide’s sail north of Manhattan, was a popular stop-over. It’s said there were numerous taverns and many friendly ladies who would happily pass the evening with recently paid sailors. As a result, many vessels were known to tarry for more than one tide in what came to be known as Tarrytown.

So for the millions of people passing over the bridges and through the tunnels that cross the Hudson, who never pause to consider, there is a tide. And it is a tide that has shaped the history of the region, and still does to this day.

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water…

Once this burns off, we’re in for a hazy, hot, icky, sticky day.

You’ll all forgive me but with far too busy of a schedule today, I’m reposting a previous post from Write on the Water. I was discussing this very topic with a friend only yesterday, how, as the thermometer climbs to unpleasant heights, more than anything, I’d love to take a nice, refreshing dive into the Hudson.Yes, the Hudson River.

I know. People hear ‘Hudson River’ and they immediately imagine a stew of sewage and toxic waste, with mobster disposals, tires and God only knows what else floating in on the tide. But thanks to the efforts of the kind folks at Clearwater and Riverkeeper, along with countless other grass-roots environmental groups, the Hudson is a vibrant and healthy river, alive with blue crabs, record-setting striped bass, sturgeon, eels, and even sharks. During the winter it’s not unusual to see seals frolicking and basking on the vacant docks while bald eagles nest on the cliffs, osprey plunge down for fish, cormorants crowd the rocks and night herons patrol the shores. Occasionally deer decide the grass is greener on the other bank and you’ll see them swimming across. Foxes and coyotes are not uncommon, and Bear Mountain lives up to its name. But those unfamiliar with the area look at the brownish water, murky with natural silt in the same way as the Mississippi, and assume the coloration equals pollution. But I’ve long known, it’s some of the best swimming water you could imagine.

We have cool prehistoric fish!
Photo from Hudsonriverkeeper Blog

Bear swimming at Bear Mountain – Image from http://hudsonriverkeeper.blogspot.com

First off, that silty water has many wonderful qualities. For one, it holds warmth, so the water reaches a pleasant bath-like temperature much earlier than the Atlantic, and retains it well into fall. It’s brackish, not quite as harsh as pure salt water, but still retains those wonderful buoyancy-enhancing abilities. And that silt seems to have a ‘clay bath’ quality; a nice soak in the river leaves skin feeling soft and rejuvenated. After a lifetime of swimming in that opaque water, I’ll admit I’m almost suspicious of any water I can’t see. But I still get odd looks from those who don’t ‘get it.’ I still recall the time a transient boater at our boatyard, heading up the brown river, regarded my daughter and I in horror when they discovered we’d actually been swimming. I told them we’d both been swimming in the Hudson for our entire lives with no ill effects, though they regarded us strangely and looked far convinced. It wasn’t until later that I realized why they might have been a bit skeptical. My daughter was in her teens, at a point where she had been dying her hair a lovely shade of vivid blue, and I even sported a few cobalt streaks for fun. We still laugh about that.

But the funniest ‘swimming in the Hudson’ story will always be the ‘dead baby’. Trust me, it’s not as bad as it sounds, in fact it has gone on to be a family joke. Just stay with me on this one — I can assure you no infants were harmed in any way. We had dropped the hook at Croton Point, one of the most popular anchorages in the area, and we had some guests aboard. It took some coaxing to convince them the water was indeed safe for swimming – they were certain it lived up to every horror story they’d ever heard. Finally they went below, changed into swim suits, then proceeded tentatively to the swim platform… and that’s when the screams of horror erupted. One of our guests was incoherent, she couldn’t even relay what had set her off, it was so unspeakable. But her companion pointed overboard to the oblong ten pound shape, clothed in sodden white fabric and gently bobbing, half submerged, a few feet astern of the boat. “Dead baby…” he stammered, clasping the transom to steady himself. “There’s a dead baby in the water!” At which point, my entire family began laughing.

Yes, I come from a warped background. Shocking, I know. But we’re not *that* bad! (Okay, maybe we are, but let’s stay on topic.) We reassured our guests it wasn’t a deceased infant floating on the tide – it was dessert. Let me rephrase that – it was a watermelon. With limited room in the icebox and no air conditioning aboard, we’d found the best way to keep the watermelon fresh and chilled (or at least somewhat cooler) was to place it in a laundry bag, secured by line to the boat, and float it in the river while at anchor. We’d done it for years, and never once thought about how it might appear to someone unfamiliar with the process. But from that day forward, that ritual was referred to as ‘floating the dead baby.’

The real places are real…

There’s one comment I’ve heard on occasion from readers: they love the locations I created in Last Exit In New Jersey. Most of these remarks are from beyond the Garden State borders, though even a few natives think I’ve made up some of these towns and places. I’ve even been asked how do I come up with this stuff. I mean, seriously… Bivalve? Cheesequake? Really?

Yes, really. Every location in my story actually exists, pretty much as described. There is in fact a Bivalve, New Jersey, a Maurice River, a place called Cheesequake. There is indeed a Holy Sepulcher Cemetery and it is in fact divided in two by the Parkway. The numbers in the chapter headings are the actual latitude and longitude for each specific location; if you plug them into Google Earth or any GPS navigation you’ll find yourself at the Route 9 White Castle or an empty stretch of beach… or twenty-three miles offshore. Or one of these places:

Bivalve NJ
Brielle NJ
Point Pleasant NJ
Piermont NY
Paramus NJ
Parlin NJ
Millville NJ
Trenton NJ
Rumson NJ
Elizabeth NJ
Camden NJ
Little Ferry NJ
Hillsdale NJ
Maurice River
Hudson River
Harlem River
Spuyten Duyvil Creek Bridge
East River
Hackensack River
Cheesequake Creek
The Pinelands
The Meadowlands
Sandy Hook
Vince Lombardi Service Area
Cheesequake Service Area
Montvale Service Area
White Castle
Great Adventure
Newark Airport (Okay, now they call it Liberty.)
Teterboro Airport
Raceway Park
Route 9
Route 46
Route 4
Route 17
Route 80
Route 9W
Route 1 and 9 (NOT Route 19!)
New Jersey Turnpike
Garden State Parkway
Holy Sepulcher Cemetery
Nike Missile Base (located on Sandy Hook)
Paramus Park Mall
Garden State Plaza
…and so much more.

Yes, I may have added a dock here, a building there, I may have fictionalized specific boatyards and homes, but other than that every town, highway, tackle shop and shopping mall I featured exists as described, both in appearance and any history mentioned. Even the nautical headings, speed and distance are correct and accurate and the specific buoys are the very ones currently rocking and gonging away along the coastline. There’s only one geographic detail I took a writer’s liberty with: the water depth in Piermont, New York. Sadly, Piermont has shoaled in further and further over the years, so docking a boat with any significant draft at anything other a high moon-tide is nerve-wracking at best.

In the coming weeks I plan to post details, pictures and the history of some of these places, as well as some of the locations I’ll be featuring in No Wake Zone. Get ready… you’re going on a tour of the REAL New Jersey! (And it’s not what you see on MTV.)

UPDATE 1/26/11: Check out Highlands Blog; it’s a highly enjoyable hyperlocal blog about Highlands, NJ and its surrounding areas.

All in good time…

If I recall, months ago I said I’d put on some pictures from the summer as soon as I had some free time. How optimistic of me! Free time. HA! If only.

All the same, here’s a few long overdue shots of the crew on warmer days past.

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Up the river a bit… Rules are, all small children and such must wear their PFDs (and leashes) while underway. The dogs have run of the cockpit and salon, though we have to leave the lockers open so they don’t step up to the side decks or go forward.

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Once we’re docked, jackets come off and everyone gets a walk ashore. Then Moxy naps in her favorite spot.
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