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JohnManzano 10-06-2009 10:37 AM

Sailing down the East River N.Y.C.
Okay, you've timed the tide through Hellgate through the Narrows, heading down to Virginia. You are traveling south on the East River. Other than watching out for the commercial traffic and not getting caught up in the sights and sounds, what other advice would you give someone who has never made this trip from Port Washington to Sandy Hook?

Your comments are welcomed,

Hudsonian 10-06-2009 11:18 AM

Normally if your air draft exceeds 32' you must transit west of Roosevelt Island. The lift bridge on on the east channel will not open if the west channel is open.

The west channel may be closed based upon security threats to the UN. These closures may or may not be in the Notice to Mariners. Recently the port officer has been announcing scheduled closings of the west channel on VHF 16. Further,when the west channel is closed security forces are highly visible at both the north and south ends of Roosevelt Island. They will hail you on Ch. 16. and direct you into the east channel. Failure to respond ensures an imminent visit from armed patrol boats.

If you are directed to the east channel you will need to hail the lift bridge operator. The operator listens to 13, as I recall. The bridge opens on demand but there is a thirthy minute wait as they go through their signal sequence so hail for the opening as soon as you pass the northern end of Roosevelt Island.

There may be whirpools and standing waves -- particularly near Randalls Island. They will be similar those at Plum Gut or The Race. Keep your head up as you round the Battery for brisk ferry traffic. Otherwise the commercial traffic has in my esperince always been very courteous and their behavior highly predictible.

It's a beautiful trip. I always enjoy it.

JohnManzano 10-06-2009 12:38 PM

Thank you, Hudsonian for your response.
Could you clarify a couple of points?

1. I failed to mention that I was transporting a sailboat; 36 footer with a 40 hp diesel. If I have to wait for the lift bridge on the east side of Roosevelt, are the currents too strong to maintain position?
2. Where are the "Plum Gut" and the "Race". You may know that sailboats are not known for their steering capabilities in strong currents. Any suggestions about the whirlpools? How strong are those currents, 3-5 knots?
3. Is the closure of the west channel common? I spoke with the Coast Guard for N.Y. Harbor and they just cautioned that I stay 175 yards away from the bank of the East River between 59th and 35th streets.
Thanks for the local knowledge, it's vital.

tommays 10-06-2009 01:02 PM

As long as your motor is running we had no issues even in the narrow sections were the current gets up in the 6 knot range

The plum gut and race thing are on eastern LI ?

JohnManzano 10-06-2009 01:13 PM

Tommays, is the 12.8 kts the speed on the East River? Did you maintain your steering or did you feel like a downhill skier?
Thanks for the pictures,

tommays 10-06-2009 01:36 PM

We had no problems steering a C&C 35 with a 13.5 HP diesel with the current in full flood :)

We were doing about 6.5 and the river was the other 6+

Hudsonian 10-06-2009 01:57 PM

1. You know how fast your boat is. Check the predicted currents in Eldredge, online, or on your chartplotter. I have had to wait for the lift bridge on the east side of Roosevelt on several occassions and never had a problem maintaining position on a variety of sailboats.
2. I have never experienced any significant steering problems in strong currents. My most recent rips through was on a Colgate 26; we didn't get bounced around much. Pay attention and you'll see the whirpools even at night. Although it's fun to pass the cars on the FDR, select a point in the current cycle when the current is milder if you're apprehensive.
3. Whether or not the west channel is closed depends upon the prevailing security concerns. The two most recent times that I transited the East River the West Channel was closed because Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was speaking at the UN. Most of the time he's raising hell in in Iran not the UN.
I reiterate it's a beautiful trip. I always enjoy it you should too.

JohnManzano 10-06-2009 02:28 PM

Hey guys,
thanks again.
Great help,

mrwuffles 10-06-2009 02:51 PM

one other reccomendation if you want your boat out in one piece dont forget to keep a sharp look out for debris, i went through the harlem river and saw 6 tires and went through the east river and saw a few railroad ties which you do not want through your hull and ya the race and plum gut are out east

JohnManzano 10-06-2009 03:43 PM

I used to live on F.D.R. Drive and remember seeing the debris floating down the East River in the 50's, I thought that would have been resolved by now.
Guess not. Thanks for the heads up.

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