Vinni – The Hudson River and south to Cape May

 

We grabbed an extra night at Liberty Landing Marina after Bente and Lars left for Denmark. There’s always something that needs repairing on a boat and Capri is no exception. This time it was our water pump that seemed to be on its last legs. Our skipper, had naturally brought along a spare, which lives in one of the big plastic boxes in the back of the guest cabin, so it was easier to wait until Lars and Bente ha packed and left to get at it. No more excuses now – time to go to work, but before changing the pump, Carsten decided to tighten every single water connection on the boat. This had worked before when our watermaker had problems, so perhaps???

Well – how about that? Problem cured, so no need to change the pump. –skipper decided that this stroke of superior intelligence needed to be rewarded with a cold beer and he immediately grabbed one from the fridge.

Sunday the 25th of june at 6 am, Capri slipped out of the harbor and started the long awaited trip up the Hudson. I never tire of seeing the Manhattan skyline – totally fascinating – no matter what time of day I see it. And I truly enjoyed my cup of tea while I piloted Capri up the Hudson alongside Manhattan’s western edge, while I admired the magnificent view on our starboard side. When we had past Manhattan and were sailing past the industrial Yonkers, we turned and admired the New Jersey side – the Palisades State Park. Cliffs covered with close growing trees in a multitude of green colors. I imagined these cliffsides in the autumn explosion of color – it must be wild. In my next life…………………

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yes there are waterfalls along here

As Carsten has already told you about – 2 hours after leaving, we were stopped by the water police – actually, we were stopped twice. Probably because they had nothing better to do on a Sunday morning. They could easily see us on their chartplotter because of our AIS signal. They explained that they worked in conjunction with the “Customs and Border Protection”, the same authority we call every day to tell them where we are. But we are flying a foreign flag on our stern – so they have to stop us. How hard can this be? They have all our data on their computer, including pictures and fingerprints, so do they really have to stop us using their blue lights (well at least they didn’t use their siren). Made us feel like criminals.

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caught by the coppers

Funny they didn’t just call us on the VHF. Does this sound like I’m ticked off? Yes I was, so skipper told me that it probably was best if I just sat off to one side and let him take care of it. I understood the order, but when they laid their boat alongside, I asked them to wait until I had put out a couple of fenders.  The cop on the boat told me not to worry, their boat was a rubber RIB, but I still made them wait until I had mounted a fender – I didn’t want any black stripes on Capri’s side. After that the “boat-swabbie” (me) went out and sat at the bows – so I wouldn’t get involved in something, while Carsten calmly joked with them and gave them the papers they wanted.

There’s an expression over here, “go with the tide”, meaning you need to be totally aware of the tide, the currents and when they are going in and out. Which we did and man did we move right along. We went much further up the Hudson than we expected. We thought we would need two days to reach West Point, but we were there by mid-afternoon and checked into Newburgh marina 10 nm further up.

In our Pilot book, it says we should check with the harbor personnel about how far into town we can go safely. They said we shouldn’t wander more than 3 blocks from the river. Later we talked with a local couple who said, “don’t go further than 1 block – or you might get shot when someone robs you”. That was a clear message and we stayed on Capri.

We had hoped to be able to take a bus to West Point – but there are no buses – so we were relegated to a taxi. The local taxi knew he could get away with gouging tourists like us and he did – it was much more expensive than the taxi’s in New York. Anyway, we got to West Point in plenty of time, 1.5 hour before our tour started, mainly because the taxi driver thought he was driving at Le Mans – Vinni got a little carsick, but that disappeared, fortunately, when we drank some tea at a local café.

Our guided tour cost $65 per person (!). Was it worth that kind of money? Well, yes and no, to be honest we were a bit disappointed. You’re not really allowed to walk around on your own, so the tour is the only option – remember your passport, you’ll be checked. Terrorism – understandable that they check – we wondered – in Denmark you can freely walk onto military bases during daylight hours – nobody checks – that’s nice – but is it wise?

It was interesting to see the two churches, perhaps 1.5 hours walking around the cemetery is a bit much. But the Americans are proud of their historic generals that rest here in eternity. We did also drive by all the historic buildings where the Plebes live, work and study and we did see a few Plebes exercising in the yard, complete with backpack doing push-ups.

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Vinni at West Point

The guide needed to be asked 3 times before he would tell us what the requirements are to get into West Point. First you need to have a really good academic record in high school and you need to document that you have been an active participant in sports – preferably team sports. You should also be able to document that you are a good citizen and preferably have donated some of your time to civic activities.

Ok – so you’ve done all that – now you need a recommendation from either the President, Vice-President or a member of congress. If you happen to be the son or daughter of a Congressional Medal of Honor winner – that also qualifies.

All of the above are sent to the “admittance committee”, that whittle the 15,000+ applicants down to 1500. The 1500 are invited to come to the Point for a 6 week training course. About 300 of the 1500 decide not to finish the course and leave, bringing the total number of new cadets down to 1200, which is approximately 25% of the 4500 cadets at the Point. The term of education at the Point is 4 years for a Bachelors degree.

It really is the crème de la crème of American youth that 4 years later get to line up in the football stadium and throw their hats in the air at graduation. They leave the hats on the ground, it is considered bad luck to pick it up. Instead the kids that attend the ceremonies run out and pick up a hat, always finding a small gift certificate to toys r us or similar from the cadet (now officer).

Taxing back to Capri, we saw that the Point has its own golf course and it is open to the public. Play golf at West Point?  Well, why not? We booked a tee time for the next day but it poured down rain so we cancelled it. Instead we sailed the 16 nm further up the river to Hyde Park Marina, a nice little, and cheap marina, only a couple of miles from Franklin D. Roosevelts home and museum, where he, Eleanor and his Scottish terrier are buried.

 

We took the tour of his home, now a museum. FDR, as he was known by most, has probably been the most charismatic, popular and successful American President. Carsten has written about how FDR guided the country through the Great Depression and the Second World War, so I’ll write a little about what he was like as a person.

FDR was 8th generation American, descended from a Dutch farming family. Their original farm lay exactly where the Empire State Building stands today. It is difficult for me to imagine Manhattan as a farming community when I look at it today. The Roosevelt family accumulated wealth through the generations and just as other wealthy families, lived in the city during the winter and had a summer residence up the Hudson River.

Visiting his home was more interesting than I thought it would be. The stands exactly as it did when he died. His clothes still hang in the closets, his papers are still on his desk. The same for his wheelchair and his steel braces for his legs. The entire family lived here, FDR, Eleanor, five children and his mother, who died three years before he did. The house is beautifully situated with magnificent views over the Hudson.

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Sculpture of FDR and Eleanor

FDR was inspired by his cousin Theodore (President Teddy Roosevelt). FDR took a law degree from Harvard and set his sights on becoming President. At age 39 the catastrophe struck. He contracted polio, apparently he was infected when he visited a Boy Scout Jamboree, and after 3 days he was lame from the waist down. I’m impressed by his willpower and his will to live, after being treated so cruelly by the fates. He lived in an age where handicapped people were hidden away – common belief was that a physical handicap also denoted a mental handicap. FDR was completely aware that he could not be elected President if the voters saw him in a wheelchair.

After 7 years of physical therapy, FDR still had not regained the use of his legs and he remained a wheelchair user for the rest of his life. No one ever heard FDR say he couldn’t walk though. He hid his handicap. Instead of a normal wheelchair, he had a kitchen chair remade with wheels, so people would think he was sitting in a real chair when he was behind a desk. He trained himself to be able to walk 5-6 steps in leg braces, by using his stomach muscles and having a cane in one hand and leaning on a persons arm on the other. This is how the voters saw him “walking” up to a microphone to hold a speech.

At home, with the bedrooms on the first floor, he refused to have an elevator installed. He was terrified of a fire and not being able to get out, but also because visitors would notice his handicap if he had a wheelchair elevator. Instead of an elevator, he had a pulley platform rigged in the servants side of the house where he could pull himself up (or down) from one floor to the next. Completely hidden from the world. A true presentation of willpower and the will to live.

In the museum alongside his house, I found the exhibits extremely historically interesting. I was also impressed with just how gripping a speaker he was. One of the exhibits was a typical American kitchen, anno 1930/40s with a radio. I sat in one of the chairs and listened as FDR held one of his famous “fireside” chats to the American people. The entire country stopped every week to hear his chats. As a communicator, he was able to make even extremely complicated issued understandable for the average person. I’m reminded of the Danish businessman, Mads Øvilsen from Novo who had the same ability.

I’m also at least as much impressed by Eleanor. She was FDR cousin, 6 times removed, but still a Roosevelt and wealthy herself. She went from being a “trophy-wife” to showing herself to be an intelligent, independent politician who continued her political work for 14 years after FDR’s death. She had her own weekly radio program, the most popular program in the country, where she spoke about FDR and her daily routines and work. She was a strong supporter of her husband’s programs and did all she could to help “sell” and implement them.

I think that very rich people can be divided into two groups. The one group spends all its time gathering more wealth and becoming richer, while the other group accepts its wealth and spends its time working for the society, helping those that need help the most. Certainly FDR and Eleanor belong in the second group. They started the “New Deal” and instituted many programs that helped define modern America and still are in force today. Nasty tongues will say, “sure they did, but they were rich so they could afford to do so”.  Maybe?

It was a really interesting day and on the walk back (3 miles) we passed the Culinary Institute of America (The CIA), the leading chefs school in the US. It has 4 restaurants, but we’re cruising sailors so we could only afford to eat a late lunch in their Trattoria.

From our boat I could see the Catskills and the ever-changing light and colors – a true panorama picture worthy of a painting. The hues changed throughout the day – fascinating. We decided to sail up to these mountains and the next day we turned into Catskill creek and tied up at Catskill marina. This is Small Town America. We walked along tree-lined streets amidst the wooden houses from the late 1800’s, unfortunately not all of them were as well cared for as those in Cape May. The town has been hit by unemployment, the factories have closed. But the cat statues, which Carsten has talked about brought life to Main Street.

We visited the painter Thomas Coles house. American painting began with him. Seeing his pictures inspired us to rent a car and drive around the Catskills to see the images he painted. The trip was no disappointment and we can only hope to do it again someday when the autumn colors are in full bloom.

The 4th of July (Independence Day) was fast approaching and there was a huge fireworks planned for Poughkeepsie so we sailed back to our little marina in  Hyde Park, where we would have front row seats for the fireworks.

Paul, our harbourmaster, came by and invited us over to barbeque with the local boatowners, who were all gathered on a point of land at the end of the harbor, grilling and drinking beer. Everyone in the harbor, boat owner or not, has been really interested in Capri. Here they are generally used to motorboats, not sailboats.

Ever since we have reached the United States, we’ve been asked (by everyone who passes by Capri), “Are you really from Denmark?” “You bought the boat over here though, didn’t you?” “Did you really sail this all the way from Denmark?” “How long did it take?” “Only the two of you????” As Bente said to me when she was on board, “I wish I could take a video of their faces when you tell them that it was just the two of you who sailed Capri across the Atlantic – the look they get tells it all.” We enjoyed the evening, talking with the locals, the good food and the fireworks.

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4th of july

And now for a little confessional – I planted the Danish flag in the Hudson. I hit a rock as I was maneuvering Capri in towards the facedock at this little marina. I still don’t understand how it could happen. Capri has a 7.5 foot keel and we can’t get into the marina – we have to lie on their facedock out to the river. We came in from the north and at the end of the dock, about 3 meters out, there is a little white buoy denoting that there is a rock there.

After the buoy and lying tied to the dock was the local Sheriffs boat. I came in slowly, since I had about 2.5 knots of current pushing me. Actually I had Capri’s engine in idle so I could judge how strong the current was. Carsten was at the side getting ready to jump ashore with the dockline. I’m now 3 meters out from the buoy and 5 meters out from the Sheriffs boat. There are 3 cops standing on the docks but no one says anything-even though they know the water here. I put Capri in reverse to slow her down when suddenly BANG, the keel hits the rock. GOD DAMN (ladies are allowed to curse when things like that happen), I get Capri hard in reverse and back out. Fortunately, nothing happened and the keel is still attached and not leaking.

We managed to land Capri without further mishaps and when I told Paul about it later he looked very surprised when I told him I was 3 meters from the buoy. He admitted that the buoy sat on top of the rock – they  had never bothered to find out how far out the rock went since almost everyone that came in was a motorboat. He promised to set a new buoy further out.

Grounding – well it only gets worse – this time it was Carsten at the helm. I’ll tell that story down below, but first I’ll tell about another challenge we had. Our little marina didn’t have “pump-out” facilities so we would empty our holding tank. In Denmark, we usually empty the tank when we are at sea, but here in the US that is forbidden and involves large fines if caught.

When we were stopped by the water police, they told us that we should be sure to have our holding tank handle locked, at least with a plastic strip, so the Coast Guard will  not think we are emptying into the water. Not sure what that is supposed to accomplish – we can just cut the strip, empty and put a new strip on. But we don’t cheat and we have put a strip on to lock the handle. Most marinas offer “pump-out” services, but not the little one we’ve been at so we need to stop at a bigger marina in Newburgh.

At the dock were replicas of Columbus’s ships, the Nina and the Pinta (these are built like “kogger” for those who know sailing ships). They filled the entire dock so we had to dock on another pier.

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Nina and Pinta

We emptied the holding tank and got ready to leave, with a 16 knot wind blowing and a 2 knot current, both holding pressed up against the pier. We’ve done tis many times before so we fendered Capri heavily on the dock side and prepared to “sail” her out over a spring (don’t want to get too technical here for all you non-sailing types). I mean, how hard can it be? Very hard. The combination of wind and current kept us ocked on the face of the pier. Normally we can leverage Capri out to 90 degrees angle to the dock and then just back out, but here we simply couldn’t get her stern more than a meter from the dock.

Ok – nothing to be done – we have to wait for the tide to turn – so we went and had lunch at the local rib-house. Four hours and a couple of “crab-cakes” later, Capri turned right out when we tried the same maneuver. I guess we still have a lot to learn about the effects of currents – sigh.

On our way to the next marina, we had an unpleasant experience. I was at the helm an as we neared the Bear Mountain bridge, I could see 2 boats on my AIS (the river makes a sharp turn here), one of them a big freighter and the other a police boat. I went well out to starboard to give everyone lots of room as we passed right at the bend. The police boat came full blast and stopped at the bridge, lights flashing.  Oh sheeeet, I thought, now he’s going to stop us after the freighter has passed. But he stayed by the bridge. So he wasn’t interested in us. Ok – no problem.

Suddenly another policeboat flashed by. Then another. Then a rescue boat. Then another rescue boat and then a helicopter. We had the VHF open the whole time but hadn’t heard anything. We were getting more and more worried when we heard then talking about a “jumper” from the bridge we had just passed. The body must have been floating in the water as we passed by, but we didn’t see it since we were busy keeping our eyes on the freighter and the first police boat that we thought was after us. This time it wasn’t a mannequin, and our thoughts went out to the poor soul who felt that life was so hard it was better to end it.

Carsten has told about our very unpleasant experience in Half Moon Bay marina – so I won’t go into it here – suffice to say that when we left a 3 am, we had a beautiful night sail down the Hudson. Believe it or not, right as we docked in NYC, we heard a Mayday on the radio of a person in the water right outside the harbor – maybe we again had missed seeing a body.

Good-bye New York for now. We’re sailing to Cape May, where we have booked an appointment with the US immigration to try to get our visa’s extended. The problems with that are a long story that I won’t bore you with. Our cruising license has been extended by CBP’s Officer Segal, who was very nice and very friendly to do that for us over the telephone. Thank you again Officer Segal. I hope the Immigration authorities are just as nice next week.

Predictwind is our weather forecaster and I’m beginning to think we can’t trust them here in the US. Remember how they got it wrong when we sailed up the coast from Norfolk? They promised quiet weather and we got heavy weather and Bente broke her collarbone. We’re sailing out of New York and the forecast is for little to no wind. Whatever wind there is, will come from the west. So we’re planning a beam reach, supplementing with the iron jenny (our engine). Well the best laid plans of mice and men…………………..

The wind is from the east and fresh for the first few hours, then it dies. Suddenly, the VHF squawks and issues a severe thunderstorm watch for the Sandy Hook area. Now just where do you think we are?  Right – the Sandy Hook area. It is hot as hell and terribly humid, neither of us can sleep and we are both in the cockpit.

A half hour later we see the darkest squall clouds we have yet seen. They are blacker than the earl of hell’s waistcoat and coming right at us. We think we are gaining a bit on it and might get away, when it turns northward. It is now close enough that we can begin to feel the wind and we quickly douse our sails preparing for the hit. An hour later, we agree that we’ve been lucky. We only got moderately hard winds and a little rain. The wind has died down again and is running 12 knots so everything indicates that the squall has passed us. I’m at the helm and Carsten sets the genua. He has just managed to trim the genua when we get hit with 35 knots winds that came out of nowhere.  Carsten fights to take in the genua while fight to keep Capri facing up into the wind. This is the first time we have experienced such strong gust on the back side of a squall.

The next morning we arrived in Cape May and dropped anchor in the outer harbor, right in front of the Coast Guard Academy. That evening, we are again hit by 35 knot squalls. Two of the boats anchored alongside of us drag their anchors and go aground. Both were single-handers. We were unable to assist them because we hadn’t inflated our dinghy. Both managed to get free when the winds died down and anchored again. It took then 2-3 tries before they could get their anchors to hold. Our motto on board is “In Mantus (our brand of anchor) We Trust”. We sat and had dinner and drank wine while the others were trying to reset their anchors. And they sat up most of the night while we slept.

We also spent a coupe of nights in the marina, since we drove up to Carsten’s old childhood friend, Wayne. He invited us to come see the US Ladies Open, which coincidentally was being played Trump National golf course, very near where Wayne and Carsten grew up. Trump National is owned by none other than Donald Trump. We spent the day seeing great golf. The humidity was hell and it was hot – we had a lot of sympathy for the players and not least for the caddies that had to carry the 30+ pound golf bags. We finished the day with grilled American steaks at Waynes house, good wine and Carsten homemade béarnaise sauce (yum!). While we ate, two deer grazed on the back lawn. The week before we came, they spotted a black bear and a skunk in the backyard. Carsten has told me that this was normal also at his house when he was growing up, but I’ve never really believed him – now I do.

Oh – I almost forgot – who do you think waved to me when we were out watching golf? Why the Donald of course – Trump was there watching the golf and spotted me and a couple of others and waved to us. Ok, I’m not a fan of The Donald, but then again, it is not every day The President of the United States waves to me.

And I think my husband is a closet fan of Trump. On our way to the golf course we asked Wayne to drive by Carsten’s childhood home – to see the old homestead again. Look at the picture I took of him in front! A Trump flag dominates the house. But there is also as “Don’t Tread on me” flag showing that motto and a rattlesnake. The motto stems from the revolutionary war and denotes that the colonists wouldn’t accept taxation without representation in the British parliament. Seeing those two flags, Carsten was not completely relaxed about what the owner would think of someone taking pictures of his house and told me to hurry up.

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House where Carsten grew up – now inhabited by a Trump suporter

Today I’m writing while Carsten, Wayne and Christopher (Wayne’s son) play golf. It is strange to see these two old friends together. They act like they saw each other just last week – what a fantastic friendship – after 59 years. They laugh, tease each other and talk about the old times. I feel completely left out – but it doesn’t matter. I enjoy listening.

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Watermill at Clinton, town where Wayne and Carsten went to school

Tomorrow is the big day – US Immigration. I hope we can get some results.

We didn’t. We got nothing out of the trip – just the expense of renting a car. We have to send our extension request via the mail to Washington and wait for them to answer. We need to have an extension until at least new years. We can’t sail south until the hurricane season ends – our insurance won’t cover us.

Damn.

 

One thought on “Vinni – The Hudson River and south to Cape May

  1. Vinni, a great write up. I forget you send it across the pond. Unfortunately many on this side haven’t got a clue on American history. Hyde Park what the hell it that? 🙂
    Does Carsten birth certificate not buy you anything. I guess the US goes not allow dual citizenship. I can’t see them stopping Danes.
    I was hoping Carsten would get back to his old homestead.
    Glad Carsten my be expat. Closet Trumper. I don’t want to get into political discussion.
    Keep the fine write-ups coming.
    Roger

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