Known for its shimmering blue waters and lush green hills, the lower Hudson River presents cruising sailors with panoramic beauty that would make Thomas Cole proud. Cole, in case you haven’t heard of him, was a 19th-century landscape artist renowned for capturing the incredible scenery of the Hudson Valley. And scenic it is, particularly north of the Tappan Zee Bridge to the southern edge of the Hudson Highlands in Haverstraw Bay, about 40 miles upriver from the Battery in Manhattan.
At three miles wide, Haverstraw Bay is the broadest section of the Hudson. It’s no surprise that sailing is popular there. The number of marinas and yacht clubs attest to that. A favorite weekend hangout in the bay is the anchorage on the north side of Croton Point. It’s a place I got to know while traveling to and from Lake Ontario aboard my Bristol 24, and then later as an alternative cruising destination to Long Island Sound or Barnegat Bay, New Jersey.
Sailing to Croton Point you’ll generally have a fair southerly wind from astern, and if you time it right, a real boost from a flood tide. The return trip typically entails some short tacking or motorsailing, unless you’re blessed with a north wind. Native Americans dubbed the Hudson River Mahicantuck, which loosely translated means “river that flows two ways.” Tides run to 2 knots at the Battery, and you’ll feel the strong influence of the ebb and flood in Haverstraw and beyond. In fact, the Hudson is a tidal estuary for about 150 miles to Troy, the head of navigation before you enter canal country.
Sometimes referred to as the Crown Jewel of the Hudson (a bit hyperbolic to be sure), Croton Point Park sits at the northwest end of the Croton Point peninsula, which juts from the eastern shore about a mile and a half into the river. The park occupies approximately 500 acres and has hiking trails, campsites, a public beach, the Croton Point Nature Center, picnic areas, a playground and other features that make it a fun place to spend time with your family.
Whenever I go ashore here, I can’t help but think of the Native American tribes that called Croton Point home. Ancient oyster middens, the oldest on the East Coast, date back 7,000 years. In the 19th century, the point was known for two thriving brickworks that employed several hundred men. The hills and ponds in the park were the result of brick excavations. The intact vaults of the oldest wine cellars in New York were part of a once world-famous winery that occupied the site.
While it may not sound too inviting, a visit to the landfill is something I always enjoy. Well, it’s not exactly a landfill now. In 1995, the former trash dump on the point was permanently capped and made into a 113-acre hilltop park called The Meadow. The views from the top are worth the walk. Other trails lead through woodlands of maple, oak, white pine, Norway spruce and other species. The pretty tidal marshes on the south side of the point are home to a plethora of wildlife.
Croton Point isn’t off the beaten track by any stretch of the imagination, but it has its distinct charmseven on busy summer weekends. If you haven’t yet enjoyed the pleasures of sailing on the Mahicantuck, plan a weekend cruise to the Hudson’s most scenic peninsula.
Photo by Thaddeaus Kubis