As we idled out of Liberty Landing Marina in New Jersey, the whole crew was on the flying bridge of the Altima 60 Pilothouse, eager to take in the sights of the Manhattan waterfront as we started our two-day cruise up the Hudson. We didn't have to wait long to see it-the towers and canyons of the city loomed large, some with tops obscured by low-scudding clouds, directly across from the harbor entrance. Waves of rain blowing in from the southeast and patchy fog also greeted us, but nothing could dampen our enthusiasm for the journey north. With me on the bridge, very nicely protected and dry inside an isinglass enclosure, were Frank and Adele Sciortino, owners of the 60 and founders of Altima Yachts, and their friends Pierre and Elaine Morin, owners of a 55 Pilothouse constructed under Frank's watchful guidance.
The lower Hudson was a beehive of furious activity. We had to traverse a minefield of wakes and swells created by numerous ferry boats zipping back and forth between The Battery, at the lower end of Manhattan, and Jersey City, as well as a few tugboats pushing or pulling heavily laden barges up and down the river. These conditions only served to establish the Altima 60's excellent ability to handle sloppy conditions and produce a comfortable ride. We kept an active watch for traffic and focused on the passing waterfront. But it wasn't all scenes of the days of industrial glory passed. Chelsea Piers slipped by, with its restaurants and athletic facilities and marine services. The fabled aircraft carrier Intrepid, decked out as a floating museum with military aircraft of every stripe on her flight deck, was the next major Manhattan waterfront landmark, hard to miss and large enough to jump-start the imagination about the ships that must have docked here over the centuries.
Too soon we passed under the double-decked George Washington Bridge and left lower and central Manhattan behind. As New Jersey's Palisades passed abeam to port, I took the wheel on the bridge and set our speed at 17 knots, then settled into one of the two deeply padded Devine helm chairs. Two large Big Bay displays dominated the wide instrument console, showing raster charts processed through Nobeltec nav software and Si-Tex radar. A Simrad AP25 autopilot and two VHF radios were within easy reach, along with ISIS tridata and wind instruments. Even with the addition of two CAT electronic engine management readouts, the console was easy to navigate visually. A duplicate set of electronics, gauges and controls in the pilothouse below would have made navigation equally functional if the weather proved truly lousy. We spent the morning taking in the beautiful countryside and small riverfront towns, slowing down as we passed unprotected marinas.
As the rain began to diminish and the male crew fixated on safe navigation in narrowing waters filled with shoals, Adele and Elaine slipped below and made hearty Italian sandwiches. We sat at the table and comfortably upholstered L-shaped bench seat directly behind the helm chairs, eating and taking in the scenery as the sun began to poke out. With occasional rays of sunlight painting the steep, green sides of Dunderberg Mountain, we entered a section of the Hudson River known as the Highlands. The channel is deep and wide enough for two tugs with tows to pass safely, but our main navigational concern was keeping watch for flotsam moving downriver. Soon West Point came into view on the port side and, just beyond, the soaring heights of Storm King Mountain.
Clouds thickened once again as we passed Pollepel Island to starboard, home to the ruins of an impressive castle built by a turn-of-the-20th-century arms dealer named Bannerman. Several small boats fished the shoreline, but no one went ashore because the structure is considered dangerous by New York State, which owns the island.
Our home for the night was Rondout Creek and Kingston, N.Y., a historical riverside community once burned by the British but blessed these days with fine private and municipal marine facilities. Kingston's city docks are conveniently located at the base of a hill, with several restaurants, numerous shops and the Hudson River Maritime Center Museum all within walking distance.
We passed a quiet evening on Rondout Creek, which gave me a chance to inspect the Altima 60. On the flying bridge, the layout is open enough to entertain lavishly, with space left over for a large boat deck surrounded by a high safety rail aft. Two weatherproof hatches, one leading into the pilothouse, the other leading to the aft cockpit, make traffic flow simpler. The boat deck provides shelter for walking the wide side decks on both sides of the deckhouse, as well as for relaxing or dining in the aft cockpit. Grand views await those who go forward to the bow and take a seat on a wide upholstered bench found there. A large Maxwell rope and chain windlass with foot switches will make anchoring duties less strenuous.
Inside, flawlessly finished and joined warm cherry enhances bulkheads and built-in furniture alike. Electrical blinds add privacy at a touch of the finger, or hide away behind wooden valances. A day head is found on the starboard side just inside the sliding glass door. The interior is open from the sliding glass door all the way to the raised-pilothouse helm, and overhead cabinets in the galley to starboard, just behind the lower helm, are purposefully kept high to continue the open, airy feeling. Two pantograph doors serve the pilothouse, which is also equipped with a small dinette.
Teak and holly soles grace the saloon, the stairs leading down to the lower deck and most of the staterooms on that level. The three-stateroom layout was modified on the Altima 60 to include an office in lieu of the portside guest stateroom, but I slept in that cabin on a pullout double. The full-beam master is luxuriously spacious, finely finished with built-in drawer and hanging locker storage.
We made an early start the following day and were in Albany before noon. I spent the day helping Frank and Pierre strike the convertible canvas top and lower the hinged radar arch, in preparation for their passage through a series of canals that would eventually lead them to Lake Champlain.
Regrettably, I had to leave Frank and Adele and their friends at Albany. I had a great cruise up the Hudson, was comfortable all along the way, and could not have had better shipmates. If this is the kind of lifestyle on the water that appeals to you, don't hesitate to see the Altima 60 at this year's boat shows.
Contact: Altima Yachts, (866) 925-8462; www.altimayacht.com.