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post #1 of 15 Old 06-04-2013 Thread Starter
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Hell Gate Transit - Advice Needed

I will be delivering my Sabre 34 from Annapolis to Long Island Sound this weekend. In doing so, I will be going through Lower/Upper NY Harbor, East River, Hell Gate, etc. I'm an experienced sailor and navigator, but I know this is a tricky piece of water and would welcome any advice regarding the timing of currents through Hell Gate especially. I am planning on arriving in NY harbor vicinity @12:00am Monday morning (6/10). My vessel does roughly 5.5 kt under power, single screw.
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post #2 of 15 Old 06-04-2013
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Re: Hell Gate Transit - Advice Needed

You must make the trip with the current as it peaks out above 6 knots in some places

I would NOT do it in the dark as there is always flotsam in the river and mucho commercial traffic that does not have much sailboat patience

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post #3 of 15 Old 06-04-2013
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Re: Hell Gate Transit - Advice Needed

I read and it worked out for me last June that in transiting NYC headed towards LI sound to be at the Venrazarro Narrows Bridge just as the current turns favorable and you ride it all the way thru. It worked for me in my 36' sloop.

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post #4 of 15 Old 06-04-2013
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Re: Hell Gate Transit - Advice Needed

I made the exact same trip about the same time last year. Eldridges is your go to source for info. Don't try to time getting through at slack, go with the flow this way if you are early or late you won't have an issue.

We anchored around Sandy Hook in Horseshoe Cove and timed it from there. Give yourself some time to do a drive by at the Statue of Liberty.

Keep your radio handy and keep a sharp lookout for commercial traffic. Once you into the East River the confusion of tons commercial traffic, choppers, etc starts to ease off and you can enjoy the ride. You might have a tug or something running the current with you but we didn't see much other than that.

The only other issue we had was not noticing any place for fuel. We motored most of the way from Atlantic City and motored all the way through to LIS. We had just enough diesel to get to City Island so it was not an issue. However, if I had noticed a place we would have stopped just to be on the safe side. I'm sure there are places but finding one and pulling in will probably affect your timing.

Have a fun, safe trip.

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post #5 of 15 Old 06-04-2013
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Re: Hell Gate Transit - Advice Needed

The important thing to recognize is that the problem is not just Hell's Gate but the entire transit. The current is significant from the lower end of the East River to the Whitestone/Throgs Neck Bridge. Thus the trick is to enter at slack or near slack when the current is going to turn favorable. At your speed you will make it almost the way before it turns unfavorable again.

Notes -
1) I would not do this at night - lots of anchored vessels, lots of water traffic, a lot of shipping traffic in the East River, lots of lights - easy to get confused.
2) Do not try in adverse winds. Going north when the wind is from the north in the East River gives new meaning to the term mixmaster.
3) When you get to Randal's Island note the sign "Welcome to Randal's Island" on the old ferry dock (they built a bridge.) Randal's Island is the New York City prison. I find "Welcome" ironic."

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post #6 of 15 Old 06-04-2013
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Re: Hell Gate Transit - Advice Needed

Fuel....Cheapest fuel in three states is at Atlantic Highlands, also can stop at Liberty Landing next to the statue of Liberty

If what you wrote is that you are arriving at NY harbor at 12 midnight, Id go down to Atlantic Highlands and await the tide change. Leave there at 6 AM and you will sweep up through the NY Harbor and then East River with the current to the LI Sound by noon. Current starts running against you at 11:30 PM June Ninth

Hell Gate is not as imposing as you think, just want to not run against the tide that's all. The tugs and barges general run 1 hour either side of slack tide so I would avoid that. As you turn the corner from the East River to go through Hell gate just give any other vessels in that turn room.

Looking south through Hell Gate. In the distance is the East River bank

Roosevelt Island close to Hell Gate..note SOG. we have hit speeds as high as 13.4

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post #7 of 15 Old 06-04-2013
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Re: Hell Gate Transit - Advice Needed

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Originally Posted by chef2sail View Post

Hell Gate is not as imposing as you think, just want to not run against the tide that's all.
The danger of Hell Gate is so over rated. Since the OP is an experienced sailor, it would be easy for him with some common sense. I would advise the OP takes his camera and enjoy the sight of NYC skyline. Hell..... if the current is going to right direction, I would motor at night.

We lost our engine 1.5 nm from Hell Gate going south a few years ago. We raised our sails and steered over to the side and dropped the anchor, and called Towboat. We ended up at a Marina in City Island for 2 days. Well.... It is not like driving a 911 at 120 mph with only one or two microsecond to make your decision. No big deal.

East River is the only place I don't mind to motor. Enjoy the view. I know I will never get tired of seeing it over and over again.

Have a safe trip.


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post #8 of 15 Old 06-04-2013
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Hell Gate Transit - Advice Needed

I agree with RockDawg and Chef to sail. We did in our Oday 272LE bringing it from Lindenhurst when we purchased it to our mooring in Setauket Harbor by Port Jefferson. Id plan to motor at least from the battery till u pass Rikers and if i remember correctly time it so you arrive at the battery two hours before the tide. Check Eldriges to be exact or search Hellgate on this forum to be exact.A nice stop after is the Brewers Yard in SeaCliff LI. Cool town with nice pubs and resturants all walking distance. Youll pass one of the Brothers islands. Google it. Fascinating history. The river gets kinda stanky north of the Manhatten bridge and obviously give the commercial traffic a wide berth.
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post #9 of 15 Old 06-04-2013
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Re: Hell Gate Transit - Advice Needed

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Originally Posted by rockDAWG View Post
The danger of Hell Gate is so over rated. Since the OP is an experienced sailor, it would be easy for him with some common sense. I would advise the OP takes his camera and enjoy the sight of NYC skyline. Hell..... if the current is going to right direction, I would motor at night.

We lost our engine 1.5 nm from Hell Gate going south a few years ago. We raised our sails and steered over to the side and dropped the anchor, and called Towboat. We ended up at a Marina in City Island for 2 days. Well.... It is not like driving a 911 at 120 mph with only one or two microsecond to make your decision. No big deal.

East River is the only place I don't mind to motor. Enjoy the view. I know I will never get tired of seeing it over and over again.

Have a safe trip.
I agree with this comment for scenery and that the "Gate" is over rated considering what many of our brethren have to deal with in Seattle and Vancouver.

I have made the trip through here over 50 times and every time has a new photo moment I haven't seen before.

Try and find the spot where you get a picture of the Manhattan, Brooklyn Bridges and the Empire State and Chrysler Buildings all in the same frame.

I have to say as many times as I have traveled I would not go in the complete darkness. Last year we saw a picnic table submerged and a CNG container floating near Hell Gate by the trash transfer station. In the past we have seen many large objects in the water. There are seaplanes landing now after the Manhattan Bridge and the Williamsburg Bridge. Besides you'll miss the sights.

UN and Chrysler Buildings

Lady Liberty

At the confluence of the East and Harlem Rivers ( Hell Gate) looking south down the East River to the Battery

Chrysler Building

Empire State Building


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The android ap "Currents" works fantastic for scoping out currents in places like this.

We like to have 2 vhf radios, one on 16 and one on 13. Make a security call on 13 before Hell Gate. It's a blind corner. The harbor below the battery is more difficult than the Gate, watch for the ferries. Consider going behind governors island to avoid the ferry terminal if you are coming through during weekday rush hour
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