On most of the classic cruising grounds of America a family is hardly the ideal crew. First of all, the father has to know something about boats. Second, in places like the Alaska passage or the north shore of Lake Superior, even the best-natured of children is likely to get a touch of cabin fever. But there is one cruise—known prosaically as the Triangle—that has a tremendous advantage over all the other waterways of this continent: near by runs the New York Thruway, plus a network of other highways, and the opportunity for a quick, dry ride home. Last summer, with the pioneer spirit that carried our family in one generation from Texas to Long Island, we decided to tackle the Triangle.
For more than 1,000 miles the course winds from Manhattan to Montreal and back, past meadow and mountain and ports, along rivers, lakes and canals. Around each bend is a reminder that history was made here, often violently, but the old forts and ruins do not look that way now, only peaceful and serene, a part of the lovely countryside. The fishing, camping and swimming are superb. The entire trip, in fact, is twice as delightful—but not nearly so easy—as it sounds.
For one thing, no boat trip is ever so easy as it sounds, especially if it is your first one and you have to do all the driving yourself. The boat we used was a 25-foot Skee-Craft cabin cruiser, built in Intercourse, Pa. and equipped with twin 80-horsepower Volvo-Penta inboard-outboard motors. There were sleeping accommodations for four adults and, converting this into my own particular crew of large and small bodies—two adults, three children and a 6-month-old poodle—I decided that the floor plan would do. However, an old law of the sea was overlooked: three children on shipboard are equal in displacement to six adults any day. As for the dog, everyone knows that a poodle is intelligent, trustworthy, loyal and no more trouble than a Percheron.
Still, it was a nice boat. We loaded up, and at 8:30 one August morning sailed on an outgoing tide. Or maybe it was an incoming tide. We never did find out.
At Hell Gate we turned right into the Harlem River and at 9:40 came abreast of Yankee Stadium, WHITE SOX HERE TODAY, the sign said. Scot's 11-year-old eyes gleamed. "Daddy, can we?" "No," I said. "But Maris may hit No. 60 before we get back." "No, he won't," I said. " Ford Frick won't let him."
Across Spuyten Duyvil Creek, where the Harlem flows into the Hudson, stands a swing bridge over which New York Central freight trains clatter. The bridge was closed. From 100 yards it seemed certain that we could pass underneath; at 60 yards it was less certain; at 20 yards the first mate yelled "Stop!" Since the first mate was my wife, Charlyne, I stopped. We all stared at the bridge.
"Are we going to turn around and go home now?" asked Tracy, who is 8. "We're going to the ball game," said Scot. Suddenly David, 13, reached over and pressed the horn button. "Beeep," said the horn. "Squeeek," said the bridge and began to open. We slipped through and shoved the throttles forward.
The Hudson has been called the Rhine of America, probably by someone who never got closer to Ludwigshafen than Teaneck, N.J. It is not the Rhine but it is good enough, a great canyon of a river bordered by steep, wooded hills. It is an unusually deep river, with more than 100 feet of water sometimes extending right up against shore, enabling cowards to cruise within a few yards of dry land.
Past Yonkers we ran and Dobbs Ferry and under the magnificent Tappan Zee Bridge. Sing Sing arose on the hills over Ossining, and the children searched through binoculars for an escaped convict. No luck. We roared through Haverstraw Bay, past Jones Point, where the mothball fleet rusts away, and into a small cove for lunch just beyond the Bear Mountain Bridge. There, attempting to go forward while peeling a hard-boiled egg, David went overboard. He swam back to the cockpit, egg in hand, and we helped him clamber aboard. The two younger children still consider this the high point of the trip.