Friday, October 5, 2007


After some stretching exercises and a short photo session taken from the dock, the gondola departed from the Peekskill Yacht Club at 8:45am with Bepi, Enzo, Chris and Vittorio rowing. The weather was forecasted to resemble the previous day, but we were almost fogged in as we started down-river. Extra care was taken to avoid the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant. We weren’t afraid of being irradiated; we just didn’t want to lose an hour by being flagged down and questioned by security personnel.

Yesterday was hot; 85 Fahrenheit was the figure I heard from many people. When I was in the gondola, the Venetians were saying that it felt like “un giorno d’estate” (a summer day). I was watching to see if some of the orange leaves on the trees would turn back to green. Today had the heavy overcast feeling I had expected when we were speculating weeks ago about the weather in October.

John and I, as always, had great conversations in the chase boat about camping and canoeing and everything controversial (as we passed a nuclear power plant). Once again, he awoke this morning in the gondola, having slept better than any other place on the route. Entering Haverstraw Bay in the fog is really something to see. It’s such a wide piece of water that in foggy conditions you can’t see the other side. We made our crossing from the east shore at Montrose Point, traversing the bay partway and then following the shipping channel alongside. We travelled end to end in order to create a more noticeable radar signature as we flanked the shipping channel.

John replaced Chris at 10:20am; the gondola had gone 6 miles. Shortly after the shift change, with Chris, Nereo, and I on the chase boat, the engine sputtered and died. I went through the same steps that Bepi had on a previous day and got it running, but then it died again. We repeated these steps 3 or 4 times to no avail. It was quite exciting as we were right alongside a shipping channel, and with the fog we were half expecting a giant barge to come plowing through. I got a hold of Captain Walter Garschagen with Sea Tow out of Coldspring, New York; we had spoken the day before because he’d seen the gondola on the river and was curious to know what we were doing. The Sea Tow boat was on her way and arrived at 11:17am. As is common in such situations, the engine finally started running two minutes earlier at 11:15am. Our photographer Nereo Zane showed us that he also knows a thing or two about spark plugs, and he had resolved the situation by tightening the gap between the points on the plugs.

Captain Walter of Sea Tow flanked us in the chase boat as we made sure the engine was going to continue to run strong and not leave us in the shipping channel again. Thank God he was there, because while he didn’t tow us in, he led us through the thick fog to the Westerly Marina in Ossining where we bought new spark plugs and had a great conversation with the owners. We left Ossining at 12:45pm; I talked with John Kershbaum at that point and they had reached the Tappan Zee Bridge (17 miles into the row) and were taking a 10 minute break near the east shore to eat some fruit and drink some water. While I wasn’t there to see it and Nereo wasn’t there to photograph it, the report from the gondola was that conditions were perfect and thus far it was the best day of rowing yet. I had planned on rowing today but clearly it wasn’t meant to be; the gondola was on schedule to reach Yonkers before we did.

The gondola arrived at the Yonkers Paddling & Rowing Club at 2:15pm. The chase boat was at least an hour behind it.

I try to add photos to each of the posts, but unfortunately today our staff photographer was fixing an engine. Rest assured you will see many images from tomorrow, both here and quite likely on the news. Tomorrow is a whole different kind of day for us. Up until now, each day has had a distance goal and a recommended time frame based solely on the tide schedule. The only penalty to arriving late was rowing against the current. Tomorrow I will join the Venetians in what is likely to be an 18-mile sprint to the finish line.

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