After four days in the marina and a folk festival, it was time to economise with a night or two at anchor, and Ian thought he had identified a peaceful and sheltered anchorage at Cornwall-on-Hudson, about 20 miles north of Half Moon Bay.
As we headed north towards Albany, the landscape became more hilly and rugged. Trains run close to the shore on both banks of the river.
There are still plenty of working boats on the Hudson River.
We passed the US Military Academy at West Point, founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1802.
The anchorage turned out to be neither peaceful nor particularly sheltered. Goods trains trundled past at frequent intervals throughout the day and night, hooting for no apparent reason as they went, and in the middle of the night we were woken more than once by Carina rocking quite violently, and could only conclude that a vessel of some size had passed close to us on the river, going at speed.
The next day we stayed on the anchorage waiting out the strong winds and thunderstorms, while many parts of the north-eastern USA suffered tornadoes and violent storms.
By Wednesday things had calmed down sufficiently to move on to Poughkeepsie Yacht Club. The imposing building on the east bank of the river was the Culinary Institute of America, where would-be chefs study their art.
The Walkway over the Hudson is the world’s longest footbridge and opened in 2009 – it started life as the Poughkeepsie-Highland Railroad Bridge, but was taken out of service after being damaged by fire in 1974.
Poughkeepsie Yacht Club, like our own Tynemouth Sailing Club, is run entirely by volunteers and three of them were very kindly there to help us dock.
Franklin D Roosevelt’s lifelong home, Springwood, is a few miles away and the Presidential Library is on the same site. You can also visit Val-Kills, the small house to which Eleanor Roosevelt used to retreat from her mother-in-law Sara, who actually owned Springwood and lived there with Eleanor and FDR and their five children, until her death in 1941, only four years before FDR himself died at the age of 63.
We saw the study in which Roosevelt, Churchill, and rather surprisingly, King George VI, had conferred in 1939 and hatched a plot to enable America to assist the British and French in the coming, inevitable, war against Germany, without Congress and the rest of isolationist America realising what was going on.
What came through the exhibition in the Presidential Library was not only FDR’s extraordinary courage in overcoming his physical disabilities, and his determination to implement his policies, but also his great humanity.
“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”
FDR espoused Four Freedoms – freedom of speech, freedom from want, freedom of worship and freedom from fear.
Towards the end of the war, he and Churchill discussed their vision and hopes of freedom and democracy for the future, hopes that were dashed by the division of Europe and the Iron Curtain, repression embodied in the Berlin Wall in 1961.
Behind the Presidential Library stands Freedom Court. It contains busts of Churchill and FDR, and ‘Breakfree’, a sculpture created from sections of the Berlin Wall by Edwina Sandys, Churchill’s granddaughter.
We couldn’t leave the Poughkeepsie area without a visit to the Culinary Institute, which has three different restaurants where the students practise not only their cooking skills but their waiting skills too. The main building has a fantastic view over the river, and is surrounded by landscaped gardens and fountains.
We chose the Italian restaurant, the Catherine d’Medici, which is housed in a separate Italianate building with an authentic interior and a pleasant ambience. Our Chinese waitress seemed a little nervous but managed to explain the menu to us, and the only downside was the presence of some enthusiastic photographers who clearly had some sort of project to fulfil on a couple of nearby tables, and the almost continuous flash photography was quite disturbing for a time.
In true British style we didn’t complain, though I did mention it on the feedback form which also explained that the servers shouldn’t be tipped, because the optional service charge was ploughed back into providing facilities for the students. The food was excellent, which was what we had gone for.
Our next stop was Roundout Yacht Basin – Roundout was the port for the town of Kingston, which was the first state capital of New York. Its celebrity was short-lived however, as six weeks after the Constitution was agreed at the Senate House, the British burnt Kingston to the ground in the Revolutionary War.
We’ve seen several of the Hudson River Lighthouses, and on the way to Rondout had our first view of the lovely Catskill Mountains.
Roundout Lighthouse, at the mouth of the Rondout Creek, was manned for 50 years by Catherine A. Murdock who took over from her husband after he died in 1857.
We’re still on a learning curve when it comes to taxis in America. We’ve learned that in many places there just aren’t that many of them, so you might have to wait for an hour for one to come and pick you up, and they tend to underestimate how long they’re going to be too. So we were pleased when we were told we could have one in fifteen minutes to take us to the Senate House in downtown Kingston, and the driver was only ten minutes late.
She already had a passenger in the front seat, who was smartly told to get out and go right in the back of the taxi, so we could sit in the middle row of seats. Limited though our knowledge of the geography was, we soon realised that we weren’t going on a direct route to Kingston, but fortunately Ian had already checked the price of the trip. We zoomed along various rural roads before coming back into a built up area and stopping outside a block of flats, the driver muttering crossly because whoever we were supposed to be picking up wasn’t there.
Eventually a young woman sautered out, smoking a cigarette which she did have the grace to put out before getting into the car. We then resumed our breakneck journey up the expressway, clearly going nowhere near the Senate House in downtown Kingston. Affecting nonchalance, out of the corner of my eye I could see Ian get his phone out and check where we were on Google maps. Eventually he suggested to the driver, as diplomatically as possible, that there might have been some confusion about where we wanted to go.
There hadn’t been. It was just that we had to take the young woman to work first, and she was already late. And she had booked the cab before we had.
Go figure, as they say. I switched off slight-panic mode and eventually we arrived in downtown Kingston, having taken 35 minutes to cover a direct distance of about 3 miles. We didn’t complain, but that wasn’t anything to do with being British.
The house now known as the Senate House was originally built in 1676 by Wessel Ten Broeck, an immigrant from Westphalia. It passed through marriage to the Van Gaasbeek family, being rebuilt after the Revolutionary Wars and having various additions over the decades, and was used as a family home until 1887, when it was acquired by New York State.
After a weekend of miserable weather, we left Rondout on a bright sunny morning for our next stop, Catskill.