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.