Down through Hell Gate

Phil May and Andrea Twigg
Mon 23 Sep 2013 22:16
It is important, when transiting the East River around Manhattan, to approach Hell Gate at the right time.  If you time it wrongly then there will be a strong current against you (4 or 5 knots) and you will end up spending several hours just burning through a lot of fuel. 
There is a convenient anchorage just before the East River where you can wait for the right tide.  However, when planning the leg from the Norwalk islands I realized that the tides were such that we could leave Norwalk at 9am, with the flood pushing us along Long Island Sound, and then catch the Hell Gate ebb at 3pm to suck us through, doing the trip to Manhattan without stopping.
And that is pretty much how it worked out.  We had an excellent breeze on the beam so we could sail all the way to the mouth of the East River and then we cruised along it at 9 knots (5 knots through the water and 4 knots of current).
The East River is a just a couple of hundred metres wide in parts, and with dozens of large boats heading both ways we kept well over to the starboard side.  It was Sunday and so there were a lot of joggers and pedestrians on the bank.  With Anastasia’s high freeboard we were up on a level with the sidewalk, passing within about 20 yards of the people on the shore.  Many would smile and wave as we passed by.
The only slight hiccup was that I was not aware of the new security regulations which enforce a 150 yard security zone around the UN building and so we got sternly escorted to the port side of the river by a coastguard launch (with a big gun mounted on the front).  We then had to play chicken with all the oncoming traffic, giving them enough room to get by but not so much we violated the exclusion zone.  All good fun.
Passing under the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges
Past the South Street Seaport
Around Battery Park
And finally up to the Statue of Liberty