Stage 6: Tappan Zee to George Washington Bridge – 15.7 miles

By Liz Morrish

The Metro North train has not just been our constant companion on the east side of the river, it has also provided transport for many of our swimmers. Stops at Poughkeepsie, Beacon, Garrison, Ossining and Tarrytown have coincided with several 8 Bridges embarkation and landing points, including our starting point today, the Washington Irving Boat Club. We have appreciated the reliability of their service. And I should mention they were giving out free coffee, pens and lens cleaner cloths today.

Another constant companion has been the wildlife along the river, changing from upstream river waders like herons, who are now joined by estuary birds like seagulls and cormorants. The improved water quality and environment has secured the habitat of bald eagles who patrol low over the water, snatching fish out of the current. We are occasionally startled by jumping fish, especially the larger 20lb stripers. There are reports of whales as far north as the Tappan Zee Bridge, but none have appeared for us – yet.

Splashtime was just after 10am today, and we turned to take a last look at the Tappan Zee Bridge which is about to be demolished, as the sides of the new one, under construction right next to it, are joined together in the middle.

Today is all about the Palisades – high vertical striated bluffs rising high from the western shore. To city dwellers, the Palisades is the highway north out of the city to New Jersey, but to us, there are new depths to explore. Rondi, who has a PhD in geology, explained the origins of this unique rock formation. It is known as sill, which means it is a volcanic intrusion. Apparently, this arose from within the earth 200 million years ago, co-occurring with the opening up of the Atlantic Ocean, when the Americas broke away from the continents of Europe and Africa. Other geological activity has exposed the columnar basalt stacks, rather similar to the Giants’ Causeway in Ireland. The significance of the Palisades to our swimmers today was the shelter they offered from the wind out of the west. The waters of the Hudson were calm almost all the way down to the George Washington suspension bridge, visible for the entire duration of the swim today.

Among those 1-stagers joining us today were Andy Feldman, a New Yorker who is taking a break from moving house; Jackie Broner who enjoyed Spuyten Duyvil last year, and Marty Healey who at 73 is the oldest swimmer attempting a stage of 8 Bridges. All were to have successful swims today.

It will be no surprise to followers of the 2017 blog that Stephen Rouch led the whole way today. He was followed by Graco Morlan, and Katrin Walter who just keeps getting faster each day, and attributes this to the warmer waters (75F). The favorable current and lighter winds made it a fast stage today, and Flavio Toi, Abby Fairman, Andy Feldman, Marta Izo, Jamie Tout and Ed Riley swiftly followed each other under the girders of the George Washington Bridge. This is an imposing structure which carries two levels of traffic between New Jersey and Manhattan. It offers superb views of the New York City skyline, and also the tiny Little Red Lighthouse which is hidden from just about every vantage point except the river.

The Mighty Hudson can be a capricious mistress, and heavy chop was an impediment to the next wave of swimmers, but none was denied a finish. This means there are still 9 contenders for the 8 Bridges Hall of Fame, and so tomorrow’s swim to the Verrazano Narrows Bridge will be a high-stakes event. But each stage of this marathon of marathons is celebrated in its own right. As we docked at La Marina in Manhattan, Harry Finger turned to relish the skyline. It is his first time in New York. The merely mortal fly to this city – Harry, and all of his companions today, have swum in.