Saturday, September 19, 2009

on the river

In the past couple of posts I wrote about my affection for the Hudson River and as it turns out this month 400 years ago Henry Hudson's Half Moon first sailed up the river on an expedition sponsored by the Dutch East India Company. At bottom, I've put some links to events related to this event.

I was raised in one of six look-alike old farm houses on a shady village road paralleling the river a couple miles east of it.* We lived in the second from the south and the head of the family in the north-most house was a sailor. He owned and raced a Lightning at the Nyack Boat Club located across the Tappan Zee Bridge maybe 15 minutes drive from home.

When I was old enough to sail but not yet old enough to drive, this neighbor had me crew his boat as spinnaker man. I liked the responsibility and did the job pretty well, but didn't enjoy the pre- and post-race club socializing (grown-up stuff) and came to realize that the Hudson's breezes were unreliable in the extreme. After a few drifters on hot summer days I grew increasingly ready to beg off when he called and by the time I could drive pretty much gave up that little adventure.

Though a bit disillusioned about racing my appreciation of the river and its familiar landmarks remained strong. As I said yesterday, it was a privilege to have been brought up right then, right there.

This image via Google Terrain shows the wide Tappan Zee section of the Hudson (after which the bridge got its name). The boat club is located in South Nyack just north of the west landing of the bridge.

View Tappan Zee in a larger map

Here are some relevant photos and other images:

{A depiction of the Half Moon on the Hudson near Tappan Zee in September 1609; of this scene, Robert Juet, Hudson's first mate wrote: The eighteenth, in the morning was faire weather, and we rode still. In the after-noone our Masters Mate went on land with an old Savage, a Governour of the Countrey; who carried him to his house, and made him good cheere. The nineteenth, was faire and hot weather; at the floud being neere eleven of the clocke, wee weighed, and ran higher up two leagues above the Shoalds, and had no lesse water then five fathoms: wee anchored, and rode in eight fathomes. The people of the Countrie came flocking aboord, and brought us Grapes, and Pompions, which wee bought for trifles. And many brought vs Bevers skinnes, and Otters skinnes, which wee bought for Beades, Knives, and Hatchets. So we rode there all night. source: wikipedia}

{This photo shows five of the six houses from side and back; ours is second from the end; I took this when I was 12 in 1954; as usual, click to view full size.}

{A Lightning race. The skipper is on the left, jib man in the middle and spinnaker man on right with pole in hand, ready to raise the unwieldy thing; source: }

{On the spinnaker leg of the race; this Lightning is either out front or somewhat behind the rest; the photographer is facing west and the highlands in the background are just north of Nyack; same source}

{The spinnaker comes down as the Lightnings prepare to pass the downwind race mark (the orange float); same source}

{Racing Lightnings on the broad reach which might come right after the downwind one; same source

{This race photo, taken facing north, shows Hook Mountain to the left, upriver; Hook is in Rockland State Park opposite Scarborough and just north of Upper Nyack; same source}

{Another upriver view in another race, with wind out of the north; same source}

{This painting shows Hook Mountain from a hill on the west side of the village where I lived; the location is just about at the end point of the paper route I biked on weekdays when I was 14; the scene was described by Robert Juet aboard Hudson's Half Moon on September 14, 1609: "The fourteenth, in the morning being very faire weather, the wind South-east, we sayled vp the Riuer twelue leagues, and had fiue fathoms, and fiue fathoms and a quarter lesse; and came to a Streight betweene two Points, and had eight, nine, and ten fathoms and it trended Northeast by North, one league and wee had twelue, thirteene and fourtene fathomes. The Riuer is a mile broad there is very high Land on both sides;" source:}

{The photographer was standing on Hook Mountain when he took this; bottom-left it shows the many moored sailboats in the Nyack Boat Club and the west side of the Tappan Zee Bridge is center; source: carl derrick's photostream on flickr}

{This painting shows the north side of Hook Mountain; painted in 1867, it's Hook Mountain on the Hudson River by Sanford Robinson Gifford; source:}

Hudson 400 links
* I made a brief history of our experience of the village for a family reunion a few years back: see Briarcliff History for some old photos and a few maps.

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