Sunday, October 25, 2009

Hudson River fall foliage

The river that Henry Hudson stumbled on 400 years ago beckons New Yorkers (and New York visitors) at this time of year to board a boat in New York harbor and go north as far as possible. The lure is the changing foliage but the rewards of the trip include traveling along the New Jersey Palisades, created around 200 million years ago, when molten magma forced itself from deep within the Earth through softer layers of sandstone, which later eroded, exposing the steep cliffs.

Then there are the river towns, the tugboats, barges and freighters, the bridges, the three 19th century lighthouses between New York City and Bear Mountain (including the famous Little Red Lighthouse beneath the massive George Washington Bridge), glimpses of estates with vast, manicured lawns, freight trains and passenger trains on both sides of the river, and on some trips, a peek at the United States Military Academy at West Point.

Frequently, Hudson River fall foliage expeditions will pass a very special boat -- the 85-foot-long replica of the "Half Moon" on which Hudson and his crew of 20 crossed the Atlantic Ocean and made their way up the river as far as what is now Albany before they realized that they had not found a route to Asia, and turned back.

Hudson River fall foliage tours usually start in early October and end by mid-November. One, offered by the Circle Line, is all day with a three-hour layover at Bear Mountain State Park. Others such as Circle Line Downtown's Zephyr and Classic Harbor Line's M/V Manhattan are three to five hours long and include a sumptuous spread of food, beverages and cozy lounges from which to watch the passing scene when it gets too cold on deck.

I've tried several of these excursions and recommend them all.


Saturday, July 11, 2009

New York City by Sail

At last. The rain stopped. The sun was warm, but not too warm. A perfect day, a perfect night.

In the late afternoon of July 4, the 160-foot-long Clipper City left Pier 17 in New York City's South Street Seaport and headed for the Hudson River, where she took her place among the flotilla of ships of all sizes waiting to watch the Macy's fireworks. Two bartenders plied the 149 passengers with drinks. A barbecue dinner was served. As day deepened to night, the full moon rose over the spar. The lights outlining the cables and towers of the George Washington Bridge glimmered in the distance.

Shortly before 9:30 p.m., the fireworks began, sending a canopy of plumes and stars over the silhouetted boats and turning the river red and green and gold and lavender. Thirty minutes later, the show was over. Quickly, most of the boats departed, leaving the river to the Clipper City. The wind was up. She hoisted her mainsail, took a few spins and turns between Battery Park City and Jersey City and headed back up the East River, whose bridges beckoned with necklaces of lights.

The holiday is over, but Clipper City gives New York harbor tours every day and evening, sailing from the South Street Seaport. Another historic sailing ship in the Seaport, the 1885 schooner Pioneer, which belongs to the South Street Seaport Museum, goes out every day but Monday. On the Hudson River, the Shearwater and the Ventura sail from North Cove Marina in Battery Park City, and the Imagine and the Adirondack sail from Chelsea Piers.