One Day At A Time

7/15/2010

One year, that’s the amount of time most cruisers who embark on the Great Loop adventure allocate for this trip of a lifetime. That’s 12 months, 52 weeks, 365 one-day-at-a-time experiences to look forward to. Some people actually take less time; we would encourage more rather than less but for most it’s a year long, 6,000 mile cruise through rivers, lakes, canals, bayous, bays, and the Great Lakes and sounds of the United States and Canada. So when some look at the immensity of the geography one must cover to complete the Loop, or the time it will take traveling by boat instead of a vehicle, many become locked into thinking “this is way too much to attempt” and will shy away from taking even the first step. However, if you think of it as you would any large scale endeavor – it begins to seem much more manageable when broken down into sections, and in our case, Lisa and I made a conscious effort to take our Great Loop trip… just one day at a time.

This is the southern tip of New York City’s Battery Park.

We don’t really enjoy spending days on end traveling long distances on Kismet. We actually try not to. I checked our logbook and calculated that on most days we travel only an average of 32 miles. Breaking down our log even further I figured that out of a 365-day/6,000 mile Great Loop trip we spent only 182 days actually cruising. The remainder of time is spent enjoying the towns or anchorages along the way.

We like to boat in the moment, planning only three or four days out and we try NOT to keep to a ridged schedule. We also try not to think too far into the future. It really doesn’t help to wonder or worry about situations too far out, we feel it could affect what we are experiencing NOW. Our philosophy is to enjoy where we are, only tackle and plan the next few days in front of us and try to get as much as we possibly can out of each day. Of course we have a general itinerary and a plan in place. Although we’re aware that, when on the East Coast ICW, we’ll eventually have to deal with the Erie Canal and its locks, crossing Lake Ontario and checking in with Canadian customs, it makes no sense for us to start thinking, planning and worrying too much about this, when it may be a thousand miles away. It’s just not a good use of our energy.

Liberty Park and our night’s anchorage are just to the west of the Statue of Liberty.

When we look at taking a 32-mile boat ride, it’s nothing! So, for us the Great Loop trip is nothing more than stringing a whole bunch of 32-mile boat rides together to make an adventure of a lifetime. The Great Loop trip is a lot easier to digest when broken down into “where are we going tomorrow” rather than the burden of constantly thinking and maybe worrying about traveling 6,000 miles, through 18 states, Canada and possibly the Bahamas. The “Big Picture” is a lot more intimidating mentally than thinking about short one-day trips. Take one day at a time and before you know it you’re up the East Coast ICW, through the Hudson River and ready to navigate the Erie Canal, a piece of cake really.

We spent last summer in the Chesapeake Bay and devoted a number of cruising logs on the BoatUS website to our time spent on the “Bay” so I’m going to skip right up to New York and the Hudson River and take you with us as we try to stay in the moment.

Look at Drake’s huge smile as he pilots Kismet up the Hudson River, I think he was excited!

Manhattan Island started to appear off in the horizon as we approached from the New Jersey Atlantic coastal waters coming up from Manasquan, New Jersey. We had a crystal clear day; no clouds, lots of blue sky and the ocean waters were allowing us a comfortable cruise toward the Big Apple. The city first came into sight as a speck on the distant horizon and grew in front of our eyes as if it was waking up for the first time. The closer we got the more excited we became. Imagine our delight as we approached this famous city from the flybridge of our own boat and entered the harbor, rich in international popularity and history.

Full frontal impact, right in your face, there it was as we passed under the Verrazano Bridge and into the New York Harbor and so close to New York City! We all know that this city is a busy place when on land and the waterway is no exception. While touring the harbor we made a run around Governors Island, took in the sights of the Brooklyn Bridge and Battery Park. With all the container ships, tug and ferry boats, military and coast guard boats, an occasional cruise ship, not to mention more pleasure boats than you could count, plying the waters it seemed a little overwhelming as we made our way up to the Statue of Liberty where we soon settled into an anchorage behind the statue for the night. Staying in our one-day-at-a-time mode, as you can imagine, we were totally in the moment as we digested our surroundings that night.

Nephew Gavin’s first trip to New York City with mom and dad.

As the sun receded, the lights of Manhattan electrified our view. We were nestled in a very protected, man-made anchorage behind the shadows of Lady Liberty next to Liberty Park. The darker it got the brighter the statue’s torch and crown became and the thought of being on our boat tethered to our anchor for the night, within sight of our country’s beacon of freedom became one of our most cherished Great Loop experiences.

After a comfortable night on the hook we made our way four miles up river to Newport Marina so we could stop for a few days to take in the sights of the city. It was only a short walk to the Holland Tunnel terminal from the marina and access to public transportation into the Big Apple. So shortly after docking we caught the subway and headed into the city. We were taken aback with raw emotions as we emerged from the subway right at the former sight of the World Trade Center. After paying our respects we continued our exploration of Manhattan by visiting the Financial District, Times Square, Broadway and Central Park. It was a fun filled day capped off by a nap on a bench in Central Park before meeting Tara, a family friend from Michigan, for dinner at a small Italian restaurant. It was a lot to take in for one day, but what a day it was.

Chris and Drake taking in the sights as we cruise towards the Statue of Liberty.

It’s nice to have guests visit, especially when they can come to a place like New York City and take a boat ride on the Hudson River. My sister Denise and her husband Mark brought their son Gavin up from Philadelphia and our good friend Chris and her son Drake also joined us. The afternoon their visits overlapped, we took them all out for a thrilling cruise up the Hudson, capping it off with a drive by the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. I mentioned that the ride was thrilling because not only did we have the skyline of the city to take in but during the cruise we also had to negotiate the heavy water traffic, which does not thin out until you go north of the George Washington Bridge. Another grand day with a total of eight miles travelled.

We left New York City with a four-day itinerary plan to make it to the Erie Canal. Never having cruised the Hudson River before we had no idea how wonderful it would be and were pleasantly surprised by what many call America’s “Rhine.” As you make your way past the city and bridge after bridge you soon become aware of the natural beauty that starts to take shape as the buildings slowly fade, the bridges are farther apart here and the Catskill and Adirondack Mountains start to develop off into the distance. By the time we made our anchorage in Haverstraw Bay we were at the doorsteps of what we think is the best part of the Hudson River Valley.

We left the Haverstraw area surrounded by parts of the Hudson Highlands, Taconic and Catskill Mountains. The river continued to narrow the further we traveled, coming to its narrowest just north of the U.S. Military Academy, West Point. This is where the hills seem to start at the waters edge, therefore making the voyage seem much like a trip up a fjord. Along the way we met up with other Loopers and developed a plan to stop together at Rondout Marina in Kingston, New York for a few days.

Here you see the side porch entrance to the Vanderbilt Mansion, imagine how grand the main entrance is? Check out www.nps.gov/vama/

Paul and Mary on River Quest, Rick and Mary from Kismet and Lisa and I (on our Kismet) rented a van for a daylong road trip to visit nearby attractions. We couldn’t see everything so we decided on a trio of Hudson River bluff side attractions in the Poughkeepsie/Hyde Park area, just south of Kingston. Our first road trip stop was the Frederick and Louise Vanderbilt Mansion built in 1895 as a seasonal country residence. This exquisite estate, when built, sat on 600 acres and graced one mile of waterfront. Not your average summer home!

Students hard at work in one of CIA’s kitchens.

By the time we finished our tour of the Vanderbilt Estate it was time for lunch and as luck would have it our next stop was the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), considered one of the world’s premier culinary colleges. Within the school they have five award winning, student staffed, restaurants. We chose Ristorante Caterina de’Medici and were treated to a fabulous Italian meal at a very reasonable price and to think the day was just half over.

Our last stop was a tour of President FDR’s lifelong home and a National Historic Site called Hyde Park. The home was donated to the Federal Government when FDR passed away in 1945 along with the entire contents of the home. It sits much as it did in 1945, which includes (among other things) the baby crib that was used by FDR at his birth in 1882. If this was not enough education, culture and culinary delight for one day, as a bonus treat, we were also able to visit the FDR Presidential Library that sits adjacent to the Hyde Park Estate.

These lifelike statues of the Roosevelts, next to the Presidential Library, made you feel as though you’d like to sit down with them for a friendly chat.