Mostly the name is intimidating. That section of the East River is what passes for a high current area in this region with currents up to 5 knots in confined channels with commercial traffic. The current is not nearly as high as some of your rapids/narrows have. Cape Cod Canal has stronger currents then the East River and up near the Bay of Fundy the currents also have a wild reputation.
If you look up the derivation of the name Hell Gate from the original Dutch name it does not mean anything like the English adopted moniker. It is, however the spot with the highest currents in the narrowest area (2-300 yeards wide) with the most commercial traffic within about a 100 mile radius. It is also a hell of a ride shooting down past Manhattan at nearly 10 knots (boat speed + current) while cars sit in traffic on the FDR drive.
I wonder if there is a Guiness Book of Records entry for the estuary with the highest regular tidal current flow? Fundy may hold the record for the greatest tidal range (~40') but are the current speeds equally large?
The Bene505 boat could probably go against the currents in the East River and still make it with that large diesel engine he has. It would just take a lot longer to transit.
Originally Posted by jackdale
Out of curiosity, what is so intimidating about Hell Gate? I have looked at the current tables and videos. Videos seldom show the true picture.
Out west I will go though a pass at 3 knots or less, although slack is prefered. Our worst is probably Skookumchuk Rapids at 16.5 knots; I have not been through there. Our busiest is Dodd Narrows which runs 8.5 knots; that I do at or near slack. It is about 75 meters wide.