Timing Your Passage - Slack Water or a Fair Current?

Fair Current

We will start by covering the fair current passage since this is the easiest to resolve. Basically we need to figure out the best times to depart either The Battery if north bound or Throgs Neck if south bound in order to have a fair current push along the entire route of the East River.

North Bound NYC to LIS

The Battery to Long Island Sound:

Current Tables
  1. If you have access to the tidal current data then you will only need the time of "Slack Water – Flood Begins" at Hell Gate for the day in question. Enter the East River at The Battery at that time.

    As an example on the 3rd of April 2011 the first "Slack Water – Flood" is at 0444, if you depart The Battery at 0444 you will carry a fair current for the entire distance to Throgs Neck.

Hell Gate (off Mill Rock) Tidal Current Tables

Predicted Tidal Current April, 2011
Flood Direction, 050 True. Ebb (-)Direction, 230 True.
NOAA, National Ocean Service
  Maximum
Current
Slack
Water
Maximum
Current
Slack
Water
Maximum
Current
Slack
Water
Maximum
Current
Slack
Water
Day Time
h.m.
Veloc
knots
Time
h.m.
Time
h.m.
Veloc
knots
Time
h.m.
Time
h.m.
Veloc
knots
Time
h.m.
Time
h.m.
Veloc
knots
Veloc
knots
1 0017 -4.4 0330 0638 +3.5 0934 1235 -4.4 1549 1853 +3.4 2148
2 0048 -4.6 0408 0712 +3.6 1012 1305 -4.5 1625 1926 +3.5 2226
3 0119 -4.7 0444 0745 +3.6 1050 1336 -4.6 1700 1959 +3.6 2302
4 0152 -4.8 0520 0819 +3.6 1127 1410 -4.7 1735 2032 +3.6 2339

April - The Battery @ New York City (Tide Tables)

Date Day Time Height Time Height Time Height
04/01/2011 Friday 0142 Local 0.3 L 0749 Local 4.7 H 1357 Local 0.1 L
04/02/2011 Saturday 0225 Local 0.1 L 0828 Local 4.7 H 1436 Local 0.1 L
04/03/2011 Sunday 0306 Local 0.1 L 0904 Local 4.7 H 1512 Local 0.1 L
Rule of Thumb
  1. If you do not have access to the tidal current data, you will want to enter the East River 1 hour and 45 minutes after low water at The Battery. With low water at The Battery occurring at 0306 on the 3rd of April and adding the 1 hour 45 minute correction, you get a departure time of 0451. As can be seen, this is within 7 minutes of the predicted slack water time of 0444.

South Bound LIS to NYC

Long Island Sound to The Battery:

Current Tables
  1. Again, using the tidal current tables above, you will only need the time of "Slack Water – Ebb Begins" at Hell Gate for the day in question. Enter the East River at Throgs Neck at that time.

    As an example on the 3rd of April 2011 the first "Slack Water – Ebb" is at 1050, if you depart Throgs Neck at 1050 you will carry a fair current for the entire distance to The Battery.

Rule of Thumb
  1. Should you not have access to the tidal current tables, you will enter the East River 1 hour and 45 minutes after high water at The Battery. High water at The Battery is 0904 on the 3rd of April and adding the 1 hour 45 minute correction factor gives you a time of 1049 which is within 1 minute of the predicted slack water time of 1050 at Hell Gate.

Fair Current Rules Summary

North Bound NYC to LIS

1.) Enter at The Battery at the time of "Slack Water – Flood Begins" at Hell Gate.

or

2.) Enter at The Battery, 1 hour and 45 minutes after Low Water at The Battery.

South Bound LIS to NYC

1.) Enter at Throgs Neck at the time of "Slack Water – Ebb Begins" at Hell Gate.

or

2.) Enter at Throgs Neck at 1 hour and 45 minutes after High Water at The Battery.

Some Additional Notes

  1. The times above reflect the earliest times that you will have a fair current. In actuality, a window of time is available to make your passage. In a 7 knot boat you will have an approximate 3 hour window after the times above to take advantage of a fair current for the entire passage. Higher speed vessels will have an increased window of opportunity depending on their speeds.

  2. Higher speed vessels departing too early within the fair current window, may out run the fair current.

  3. If south bound in the East River and your ultimate destination is south of NYC, an added benefit to departing at the time above, is a fair current out of New York's Upper Bay through the Narrows, and on to Sandy Hook, NJ.

  4. To take the best possible advantage of a fair current in the East River; northbound depart 4 ½ hours after low water at The Battery or if south bound depart 4 hours after high water at The Battery.

  5. Caution: Unlike Eldridge's, the NOAA printed Tide or Current tables do not correct for Daylight Savings Time. You will have to remember to make the corrections when necessary. The NOAA on line versions of both tables however have the DST corrections done for you.

Slack Water at Hell Gate

When timing your transit of the East River for slack water at Hell Gate, the tradeoff will be an increase in the time required to make the passage. However, since we can solve this problem using either high or low tides at The Battery, you will probably shorten your wait for the best departure time.

We have already gotten the times of high and low water at The Battery and also the times of slack water at Hell Gate. So now we must figure the best time to enter the East river at The Battery if north bound or Throgs Neck if south bound, to arrive at Hell Gate around the time of slack water. The computations below are for a 7 knot boat.

North Bound NYC to Hell Gate

We will give both high water and low water examples:

  1. Using the 0749 high water at The Battery, the time of the following slack water at Hell Gate is 0934. Choosing a departure time of 45 minutes after high water gives you a time adjusted average SOG of 7.3 knots requiring 54 minutes to reach Hell Gate, arriving at approximately 0928 or within 6 minutes of slack water.
  2. Using the 1357 low water at The Battery, the time of the following slack water at Hell Gate is 1549. Choosing a departure time of 45 minutes after low water gives you a time adjusted average SOG of 6.24 knots requiring 1 hour and 04 minutes to reach Hell Gate, arriving at approximately 1546 or within 3 minutes of slack water..
South Bound LIS to NYC

As above we will offer both high and low water examples:

  1. Using the 0749 high water at The Battery, the time of the following slack water at Hell Gate remains 0934. Choosing a departure time of 30 minutes after low water gives you an average SOG of 7.5 knots requiring 1 hour and 10 minutes to reach Hell Gate, arriving at approximately 0929 or within 5 minutes of slack water.
  2. Using the 1357 low water at The Battery, the time of the following slack water at Hell Gate is 1549. Choosing a departure time of 45 minutes after low water gives you an average SOG of 6.9 knots requiring 1 hour and 01 minutes to reach Hell Gate, arriving at approximately 1544 or within 5 minutes of slack water.

Some Thoughts

Unfortunately, finding a simple rule, both reliable and accurate, to determine the best time to depart either end of the East River to make Hell Gate at slack water has eluded me. This is primarily due to the variations in current velocity from tide to tide and day to day. The best method is to do the calculations yourself for the specific date and time. With that said, I offer some close estimates, these are only for a typical 7 knot boat and arrival within 8 minutes of slack water:

  1. North Bound - depart 45 minutes after high water at The Battery. (92% accuracy)
  2. North Bound - depart 40 minutes after low water at The Battery. (77% accuracy)
  3. South Bound - depart 35 minutes after high water at The Battery. (80% accuracy)
  4. South Bound - depart 45 minutes after low water at The Battery. (96% accuracy)

Have a Great Passage!


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