|From RMR 2015|
At 645am on the morning of Saturday Aug 1, seven rowing gigs packed with provisions and eager, sunblock slathered oars(wo)men set out for the Village Community Boathouse annual 30-mile circumnavigation of the Island of Manhattan. Normally we conduct this rowing event later in the year but due to this year’s tides our Row Around Manhattan had to be undertaken in the middle of summer. Eyeing the weather forecasts regularly for a week prior to the event, there was growing concern. The temperatures were going to be in the 90s with little to no cloud cover. Further, as is typical at this time of year, 12-15 mph winds were predicted out of the south and west, thanks to the afternoon sea breeze coming off New York Bay. The 6:20am briefing iterated the need for constant hydration of oarspeople, generous use of sunblock, and an easy pace with regular switching out of extra rowers so as to keep crews fresh and avoid heat exhaustion. Further, we reminded the respective coxswains about the appropriate navigation rules of the road, to keep main shipping channels clear, especially in the East and Harlem Rivers, and to avoid the ocean liners leaving their births on the Hudson.
Volunteers had begun arriving at the Boathouse at 4:30am (thx Pablo!) to launch boats so upon conclusion of the briefing we loaded our boats and left Pier 40 on schedule to take advantage of the slack tide down to the Battery. The morning was cool with a nice breeze. The towers of lower Manhattan were quiet and shimmered pale silver. Assembling at the Battery the flotilla awaited the arrival of incoming ferries from Staten and Governor’s Island before proceeding. As the morning sun rose over Brooklyn we were swept up the East River by the cool serene early morning flood tide. We quickly moved north between Long Island City and Roosevelt Island until reaching our first objective, the Socrates Sculpture Park in Astoria, near Hell Gate. Our early arrival there (830am) provided ample time to wander the park, use facilities, shop for coffee at local bodegas, and admire the sculptures.
At 10:45 we pushed off the quickly disappearing Hallet’s Beach and headed across past Mill Rock into the mouth of the Harlem, keeping Randall and Ward Islands to starboard. We caught the tides just right and enjoyed a nice push up this relatively narrow passage. Along the way we encountered numerous chase boats protecting a handful of swimmers who were also stroking their way around Gotham. The sun was beginning to beat down now. The case of 24 water bottles in our bow was being consumed at a good pace. We also encountered a group of kayakers from Long Island City along the Harlem led by VCB friend Ted Gruber. All seven crews remained more or less together as a group as we approached our second destination, Swindler’s Cove at Harlem River Park. Arriving there at Noon, we enjoyed a 90 minute break for lunch and general espirit de corps.
A gig with a few of our seasoned journeyman felt the beach was too crowded so they continued on to stop near Spuyten Duyvil. Though the tides in the Hudson were still at slack, a few of our younger crews at Swindler’s decided they’d like to get a move on to brave the mighty Hudson. The rest followed shortly thereafter awaiting the start of the ebb tide. Ours (The King Tide) was the final boat to leave Swindler’s Cove, assisting the other crews first in shoving off through the thickening mud flat left by the exiting tide. As we crossed beneath the railroad bridge at the exit of the Harlem into the Hudson we were met with a stiff gust which almost stopped our intrepid crew in its tracks. The Hudson was taking no prisoners on this day. We fought the gusty but sustained headwind down past the GW Bridge. It was going to be a long haul. Most other gigs had crossed to the Jersey side to avoid the ocean liners and as we began the same we noticed their large births were empty so we remained on the NY side, eventually running a slalom course through the mooring field at the 79th Street Basin.
The home stretch was grueling against the wind under the searing sun but as we reached midtown the tides began sweeping us more quickly down river. Our crew of tired proud rowers entered the Pier 40 embayment with a relieved chant. All other gigs were home except for the one we saw trailing on the NJ side. There was a great welcome on the dock by friends, family, and fellow rowers. Libation and a feast ensued. Our goal of raising $7000 fell just shy. Sally, our president, thanked all for participating. A great vibe permeated the boathouse. Other volunteers cleaned and stowed boats, and with weeping, cramped hands and big smiles we understood that THIS was a great day.
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