Editor’s Note: In 1996, our intrepid writer, Muddy Paddle, built a historic wooden bateau and took it and a group of kids down the Hudson River. Accompanied by a war canoe and a modern sailboat, the three vessels had many adventures along the way. Check back next Friday for the final installment!
Friday. Verplank to Yonkers.
Sailing down the Tappan Zee.
The morning was overcast and cool. I got up early and shaped and installed a new tiller for the sailboat with the help of our host and his well-equipped shop. The older boys arrived in time for a breakfast of cold cereal and hot cocoa. We made lunches on a picnic table assembly line and provisioned each boat with sandwiches and three gallons of Tang.
We sailed south with the wind and tide at 9:00 AM. The canoe took an early lead into Haverstraw Bay, the crew supplementing the sail with vigorous paddling. As we entered the broad Tappan Zee with even better wind, the bateau made up most of that ground due to her larger sail. The boats were close together when sailing beneath the Tappan Zee bridge. We stopped at the end of the Erie Pier in Piermont for lunch. After this rest, we continued south and drifted over to the east shore to find our overnight destination in an old canoe club on the Yonkers waterfront. The clubhouse was built in 1938 and still had large barn doors for taking war canoes out for races and excursions. By itself, the clubhouse would be difficult to identify against the backdrop of Yonkers’ urban waterfront. However, there was a very distinctive chimney or tower with an encircling gallery near its top that rises high above the cityscape nearby that served as a convenient landmark.
After resting, we made plans to conclude our trip. Some of the boys wanted to see a Yankees game the next day. Others, including Garth’s sister Gretchen, wanted to paddle to the Statue of Liberty. We sorted all of this out and decided that the war canoe and the sailboat would go on to take the victory lap at the Statue, concluding the final leg of the trip at Liberty State Park in Jersey City. The bateau was no longer needed, so we hauled her out that afternoon in Yonkers and sent her home on a snowmobile trailer with old red shirts nailed to her overhanging stern. We ordered pizza and went out to see a movie.
Saturday. New York Harbor.
Saluting the Statue of Liberty
In the morning, we bought groceries for breakfast and lunch and got the two boats ready for the final leg. It was warm and steamy. All extra gear was removed to lighten the boats. The sprint crews left with the tide at 9:00 AM. The boats passed beneath the George Washington Bridge a few hours later and reached the Statue of Liberty a little before 2:00 PM. The crew of the canoe unfurled a large American flag and raised it on the mast as they sailed by. The two boats braved a rough chop to reach the ramp at the south end of the park a few minutes later.
Muddy Paddle grew up near several small muddy streams that lead to the Hudson River near Albany. He developed an affinity for small wooden boats as he explored the river's backwaters with oars and paddles. Muddy aspired to build a wooden boat for long trips but lacked the requisite skills, tools and space to tackle most types. However, building a bateau of the type used in the eighteenth century appeared to him to be a feasible backyard carpentry project. With the help and advice of several friends and teenagers, he built a sturdy and seaworthy open boat for rowing and sailing.
The final installment of Muddy Paddle's Bateau will return next Friday! To read other adventures by Muddy Paddle, see: Muddle Paddle on the Erie Canal, Muddy Paddle: Able Seaman, about Muddy Paddle's adventures on the replica Half Moon, Muddy Paddle's Excellent Adventure on the Hudson, about his first canoe trip down the Hudson River.
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