Thursday, September 20, 2018

Marina Report – Capri Marina | A Safe Harbor Marina

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Here's another marina report on the Why Knot Great Lakes Grand Tour. Using the N D S, A A, P P marina analysis model, I'll fill you in on what my experience was. The views expressed are strictly my own.

Big luxury marina at Port Washington, LI NY. We wanted it to be our starting point to go into New York City. It was that and more.

It should be noted that there are two Capri marinas next door to each other: Capri West and Capri East. This is about Capri West.

N: Navigability – Coming from the south, past New York City, past the Throgs Neck Bridge into Long Island Sound, it is in Manhasset Bay on Long Island. The channel into the bay is marked. (Keep a sharp lookout for the no-wake zone markers. They're kind of in the middle of things.) There is shoaling coming out from Plum Point. On charts the marina appears to be in shallow water; depths are very adequate. The marina hosts some very large yachts.

D: Dockage Floating docks of varying lengths and thoroughfare widths. The slips all around the marina seemed to be large in size with plenty of maneuvering room in the thoroughfares. This marina is dominated by yachts and power boats of all shapes and sizes. The docks are large and long. It's a big marina.

S: Services – Capri is a full-service marina. They offer electricity, water, and a complete service department next door at Capri East. They do haul-outs and on-the-hard storage during the off-season. The Port Washington pump-out boat is available to come right to you and your boat. There is a large mooring field in the bay. I used Dockwa to book our stay. Make sure you follow up with a phone call to confirm any changes you may make to your itinerary. They offer diesel and gasoline fuel. Note: the dockhands all hang out at the office up on shore, not at the shack on the fuel dock. When you radio them for assistance when you arrive, they drive a golf cart down to the fuel or transient dock to assist you. Be patient. It takes a couple of minutes.

A: Amenities – As I've said in the past, there are two features that a marina must provide to make a marina eligible to be a 5-star marina in my opinion: a swimming pool and pump out at the slip. Check and check. Overall, the facility is clean and well maintained. It's got a classy, yet not ostentatious vibe. There's a little bistro dockside on the shore with some better than average bar food. (It's a little pricey, but not terrible.) It's comfy. Now, that being said, I've been on a season-long rage about bathrooms that are not very good, particularly about cleanliness (especially showers) and roominess. (Many of us older gents are bigger than when we were younger.) Capri falls a tad short here. The bathrooms are big enough, and they are clean. (Tip for management. Have someone go through them with a mop a couple of times a day. Swimmers track in a lot of water onto the floor of the toilet stalls.) Their problem is that they are not air-conditioned, and when we were there it was, at times, hotter than hell. It doesn't do much good to take a shower then be soaked with sweat within minutes. Aside from that, it's a fine place with lots of good points about it. NOTE TO TRANSIENTS – The transient slips are at what is probably the furthest point away from the shore. It's a hike. But during the days the dockhands will be glad to give you a lift in one of the golf carts. They'll even come down to your boat and pick you up if you hail them on the radio.

A: Accessibility – Our strategy was to use Port Washington as our jumping off point to get to New York City. We wanted to go into full tourist mode and our plans worked to perfection. Well, not perfection; there were a couple of burps, but it worked out just fine. Getting to NYC from Capri West (and Capri East) is not complicated at all. One block down from the marina is a bus stop for the N23 Mineola-Manorhaven route of the Nassau Inter-County Express, or NICE bus service. This stop is called the Orchard Beach Blvd – Park Lane stop. This bus takes you directly to the Long Island Rail Road station in town. Now, THIS IS IMPORTANT – the bus line's schedule is, shall we say, adhered to in a very flexible way. If the schedule tells you that a pickup time is at 8:02 am, be at the stop by 7:30 am. The fare is $2.75 per person per ride. THEY ONLY ACCEPT QUARTERS or one of their pass cards. Once you get to the station all you have to do is buy your ticket for the train (peak and non-peak fares are different), hop on, and get whisked away to Penn Station in Manhattan. Boom! There you are. To get back to the marina just reverse the plan. Now, you can also take the N23 bus to nearby stores such as Target, West Marina and Stop and Shop. Lisa did ride her bike to Target. It was a longish trip but not hard.

P: Provisioning – Like I just said above, there is provisioning possible, but it may be a bit more hassle than you want to put up with. That's your call.

P: Price – Their transient rate was $4.00 per foot according to Active Captain, plus electricity. No discounts. We booked our slip through Dockwa dot com. I need to add here that I changed our schedule several times and they were very accommodating to our needs.

Verdict – A nice marina with lots of good, solid, positive points about it. Access to NYC is spot on. It is expensive, that's true, but it feels as if the money is being put back into it. The hot, wet bathrooms were a downer, though.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Navigating The Harlem River – Hell! (Not really)

NOTE: Entries are going to be a bit jumbled and out of order. Adequate internet access has been, at best, inconsistent when available at all.

We heard all the rumors. We had heard that there were hoards of wild, evil, out of control youths all lined up waiting for some poor, unsuspecting recreational boater to have made a wrong turn at Hell Gate. They stood in battle lines on the overpasses armed with bowling balls, rock, couches, and household appliances waiting to pounce and shower those dead-weight bombs onto the decks below. (Seriously, we heard they heaved couches and appliances.) The Harlem River was their wild frontier, and boaters were trespassers subject to the full gamut of punishment that the inhabitants could muster.

We also heard that navigating the river itself was “tortuous”. (That's in the Active Captain description.) The Harlem River was a convoluted mess, with a seemingly infinite number of commercial boats that wound up and down and side to side, and that they were a direct threat to the lives of anyone who thought of traversing the river in a recreational vessel. And the river itself, with its bridges and turns, was nothing short of a hellish horror. Oh, and the stench from the pollution and trash would make you ill on the spot.

Stay away! There be monsters there!

Eh, hold on a moment. That's not what we found.

The main reason to go up or down the Harlem River would be to avoid the East River and having to go around the southern tip of Manhattan to get to the Hudson River from Long Island Sound. And that's what we did. After three weeks in the sound, it was time for us to get back on our main course and get on up to the Erie Canal to finally reach the end of our 2018 cruising season.

Now, after our rough and tumble transit of the East River past Roosevelt Island when we came up, I wasn't altogether excited about heading back down it, then contend with all the heavy traffic around The Battery to get northbound on the Hudson. Nope, not at all. Fortunately, boating friends of our in Mystic, CT suggested the shortcut up the Harlem River. We hadn't considered it. But, after checking the charts, and taking all the hysterical tirades into consideration, we decided it was the right choice for us. (By the way, all those negative tirades? Funny that they're all 2nd or 3rd hand accounts, never first-hand. “I knew a guy who knew a guy who knew a guy who had a half-size replica of the Statue of Liberty dropped on them.”)

Technically, from R-14 at Hell Gate to just past the Spuyten Dyvil Bridge, it's 8.0 statute miles on the Harlem River. From and to the same points, the route around Manhattan on the East River is 21.5 sm. That's 13.5 sm saved right there. (You can do the math of how much time that would save you based on your speed.) There is a current, but it wasn't terrible at all when we went through. I would suggest hitting it at or near slack current anyway – no need to tempt fate. They do tell you to run at idle speed. We ran it at about 6.5 smph. If you're a sailboater, unless you have dropped your mast, go on down the East River. The swing, lift, and bascule bridges all have big signs on them that say you have to give the powers-that-be four hours notice of needing a bridge opened. In other words, they don't want to open them for nobody. Sorry, sailors. Otherwise, the lowest vertical bridge clearance is 24 feet. I didn't see anything about the water's depth to be alarmed about at all – all double-digit in the teens or deeper.

What about boat traffic? We ran the river from about 1100 hours to 1300 hours on a Monday. We saw only one working boat on the water – only one, and that was a small tug pinning a barge against the shore at a construction site. And except for a couple of kids on a PWC further up the river, that was all the boat traffic there was. Period. Not a skiff, not a fishing boat, not a water taxi … nothin'.

The complexion of the river is that it is more industrial at the southern end. No doubt about that. But we were surprised at how clean it was. I swear, there was very little debris on the water. I expected some kind of sludgey, oilish sheen on the surface, but there wasn't. I wouldn't go swimming in it, but it wasn't noxious. It didn't smell. It's not a scenic, beautiful, marine wonderland, but really, it wasn't all that bad. Though I must admit, we had cool weather; I wonder what it would be like on a hot calm day. (For you loopers out there, the Calumet River and Chicago Sanitary Canal are muuuuuch worse. Hell, portions of the St. Johns River in Florida make my eyes water.)

And what about the hoards of heathens waiting to pounce on us? I swear on my mother's grave, we saw a total of three pedestrians on one bridge. And, again, except for the two youths on the PWC, that was all we saw – three. And they were walking across the bridge (behind a tall chain-link barrier) going about their business, living their lives.

Maybe we were lucky. Maybe all the work boats were broken. Maybe all the savages were taking a coffee break. Or maybe the hype of how dangerous and “tortuous” the Harlem River is is just that, hype. You have to decide for yourself. As for us, we found it to be fascinating. It was a unique opportunity to see things from a different perspective. Water is everywhere, including the inner cities of America. Taking the Harlem River as a useful shortcut is a way to see that side of it.