Boating the Hudson River to the Erie Canal

Cruising from Manhattan to West Point with NJ Palisades as a backdrop

Rested and ready for the next leg of our Great Loop Cruise, we left the calm waters of Sandy Hook Bay to enter the fray of Ambrose Channel, with Lady Liberty standing proud in the background. It was an emotional moment to once again see the impressive Manhattan skyscrapers from the water, but this time without the World Trade Center in the skyline. But there was little time to sightsee amid the hustle and bustle of one of the world’s busiest harbors. Cruise boats going to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty crossed our path; a constant parade of freighters headed out to sea and into port; and tugs with barges seemed to be going every which way. We were on our way boating the Hudson River to the Erie Canal and Lake Ontrio

We heard a sobering “We got a floater here!” on the VHF radio. This wasn’t a rerun from Law and Order; it was the real deal, and we listened intently to the conversation between a NYC controller and a pilot boat coordinating with NYPD Aviation about the location of the body.

We took note of Piermont Pier, from where more than one million soldiers were shipped to the Normandy Invasion during WWII. Farther north, on the New York side, the Rockefeller estate stood proudly in Sleepy Hollow. The high shoulders of the shoreline were lush green and sprinkled with houses perched on cliffs overlooking the river. The scenery changed often boating from the Hudson River to the Erie Canal.

George Washington Bridge, New York side of the Hudson River

Although we had met some other Loopers we met many more reading the postings of the AGLCA email group and postings that gave us current advice about marinas, fuel prices, and restaurants. In fact, these daily updates were more useful than any cruising guide we had on board.After the frenzied activity of the river in Manhattan, the Hudson River underwent a personality adjustment as we passed under the George Washington Bridge: Skyscrapers gave way to the lush New Jersey Palisades and to high bluffs on the New York side. As we trekked upriver against the two-knot current, we heard the rumble of trains carrying freight on the river’s Jersey shore and commuters on its east side. A squadron of twenty muscle boats on a Poker Run blasted past us toward the city. Then boat traffic thinned, and we used a Hudson River Waterfront Map as a guide to the interesting sights along the way.

We called it a day at Haverstraw Bay, rounding Croton Point and dropping the hook with a fleet of other boaters who were enjoying the annual Clearwater Festival ashore, celebrating the continuing role of the famed sloop in restoring the health of the Hudson.

The next day, we were treated to a visual feast as we continued north past the impressive stone structure of West Point, which still seem poised to defend the narrow stretch of the river. We marveled at the high shoulders of Storm King Mountain and realized that it’s no wonder the beauty of the region gave rise to the Hudson River School of landscape art. This place seemed so remote, despite it being so close to New York City.

West Point, an impressive site on the Hudson River

Many Loopers lay over in this area to rent cars and visit West Point, FDR’s house, and the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, a must-see for gourmands, but we continued.

Farther north, at Kingston, we anchored off the harbor entrance in the lee of Rondout Lighthouse. Then, after a night at Catskill, which is Rip Van Winkle territory, we were headed to the Erie Canal.

Approaching OswegoLock before entering Lake Ontrio on our way to Canadian waters

When we arrived at the Oswego Lock the next day, the heavy lock doors opened onto our initial glimpse of Lake Ontario, the first Great Lake on our cruise. We passed by the lock wall, where cruisers are free to stay, and instead headed for the city marina just off the lake. Oswego was the busiest city we’d been to in upstate New York, and we found time to explore it following the Riverwalk Trail around town. We went to Fort Ontario, which is perched high above the lake. The restored historic site has been fortified since 1755 by British, French, and American troops, and it offers a spectacular view.

Local kids helping boaters at Oswego Lock

 Later that day Inevitable Too, Island Fever, Suzie QII, and Irish Rose arrived and told us how lucky we were. Had we arrived in the region three days later we would have been among the numerous cruising boats that were stuck in the Erie Canal for weeks when heavy flooding damaged some of the locks. It seems the same heavy rain that had kept us on the west end of Oneida Lake had stranded boaters between the locks, some in the locks, and had created millions of dollars of damage to homes and businesses along the canal.

We marveled that we had traveled 564 miles in 18 days since leaving home on the Chesapeake Bay, yet it seemed that we had been on board for months. That night, our little fleet combined social hour with a skippers’ meeting to discuss crossing Lake Ontario on route to Collins Bay Marina, just west of Kingston. We were all ready to head into a foreign albeit neighboring country (Canada) and anxious to cruise the Trent-Severn Waterway, Georgian Bay and the North Channel.

You might also be interested in:
Great Loop Primer
Boating Chesapeake Bay, NJ Shore to New York Harbor
Cruising Lake Champlain
Choosing Binoculars for Boating
Gene and Katie

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