Cruising

Valley Boy Page 2

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The next morning I motored on into a series of bends winding between bluffs and mountains. The Bear Mountain Bridge, part of the Appalachian Trail, loomed above me and then fell astern. The U.S. Military Academy at West Point hove into view on the western shore right in the heart of the Hudson Highlands. It has been in operation since 1802. I found the 22-nautical-mile stretch of river between Croton Point and Newburgh Bay particularly spectacular.

The river widened beyond West Point, gradually at first and then in a more pronounced way. Dead ahead off the eastern shore was my next anchorage, southeast of legendary Pollepel Island. The island is also called Bannerman after the family that purchased it in 1900 and used it to store ammunition and other war surplus goods that represented the backbone of a prosperous business. The family built a castle which is in ruins today but remains an impressive sight (landing a dinghy on the island is prohibited). Sitting at anchor in Newburgh Bay, I found myself falling into river time and felt happy to be traveling slowly through some of the most picturesque waters I’d ever encountered.

Rising a bit later the next morning to catch the flood tide, I continued north 32 miles to Rondout Creek and Kingston, New York. Gone was the wide water of the Tappan Zee. The channel narrowed and the tree-lined shores closed in, giving the river an unmistakable rural feel. Since the wind tends to blow north or south up and down the valley, I sailed when I could, hoping to catch a favorable tide for an extra boost, and when wind and tide were foul, I motored.

Later in the afternoon, I spotted Rondout Creek Lighthouse, turned west into the mouth of the creek, and passed under the first fixed bridge (56-foot vertical clearance). Just to starboard, I noted Kingston’s revitalized waterfront and the Hudson River Maritime Museum. The museum’s collection of historic vessels, artifacts, paintings and photographs celebrate the rich history of the Hudson. A number of marinas are on the creek, and there’s an anchorage as well. Kingston City Marina offers hourly dockage, overnight transient dockage and dinghy dockage for a fee.

Kingston marked a turning point in my Hudson River voyage. The next stop would be Catskill, New York, so it was time to unstep the mast in preparation for transiting the low bridges ahead both on the river and in the canals; the mast would stay down until I reached Oswego, New York, a town perched on the shores of Lake Ontario, a vast inland sea I longed to explore. My small boat had opened to me a world of adventure I never imagined I might enjoy firsthand. I was living the cruising dream, at last.

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