I Washed My Hands in Filthy Water

Swimming the Hudson River

I am none of the bodies, airborne or paddling, pictured above: I’m the one stationed on top of the boat and behind the camera, where the Hudson River is not.

Sunday’s sail on the Ventura is splendid in every way. Sunday is the kind of day that promises heat the way autumn promises winter; you can feel the stuff trembling in the air, wavering behind the trees, turning over in the cover of mute buildings. The call of the harbor is easy to answer — “Yes! Yes! Take me, take me!” — and we are at capacity on the dock, abuzz on board the boat.

Sky Captain laid in a handy stock of Aventinus, a dark and gorgeous wheat doppel-bock that turns lethal in relentless sun. Fortunately, I’m a professional, and kids don’t try this at home. Aventinus comes in creamy and layered, lively in the mouth with a forward wash of caramel and a thin raspberry trail in the finish. So does the next one. The one after that comes in like maybe you should turn off your cell phone. Otherwise you might go making 11 minute 42 second phone calls to cute girls you should probably leave alone after belting those in the sun and chasing with a pomegranate slushy margarita.

Oops. Well, what can I say. It’s summer.

The trick to swimming in the Hudson is to watch your tides, and Captain Pat has this game down. New York Harbor is a huge estuary basin, which means that it is actually an extension of the ocean that has powerful tides and mingles salt water with fresh. The tidal pulse runs 150 miles up the river, nearly half of the way along its full length. What this means if you’re not a naturalist is that right after high tide, down by the mouth of the harbor, the water around the boat is pretty much ocean water, which hardly ever dissolves the skin off your bones right before your eyes or turns anyone into The Toxic Avenger. So in you go.

I’m not much of a swimmer and the current is perky, so I stay aboard to, you know, man the guns and flog the loblolly boys and that. When I go swimming in deep water it’s more a matter of concerted not-drowning than easy enjoyment. But I’ll take my plunge on the next trip anyway, as I do every year. Taking those few panicked strokes in the Hudson River, anchored off Liberty State Park between Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, gives a guy some decent bragging rights.

Note to self about pomegranate slushy margaritas: yuk. What were you thinking?

EDIT: An under-appreciated feature of this blog, by the way, is our “Last Year” tag in the right menu column — clicking that will bring you to whatever was happening around now in the summer of 2004. Sometimes this is not very interesting, but often it’s fun. Today the link is to this post, which does a pretty fair job of catching up to what last year felt like. This year’s summerhead is like last year’s summerhead, but with a five in it. And that changes the flavor.

About Linus

The man behind the curtain. But couldn't we get a nicer curtain?
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