The Hook and the Highlands
06 July 2008 | Atlantic Highlands, NJ
It was a day of motoring, napping, playing scrabble, plaiting with some of my Bahamian palm fronds, reading and munching.
We pulled out of Atlantic City on July 4th after Jim took a run in to the marina for diesel, using every ounce of his strength in holding the dinghy steady while I dropped the motor. That maneuver is a real trick when the waves are high. After a very long day, we turned the corner into the Sandy Hook anchorage off the Coast Guard Station about 10pm. During the last hour or so, the fireworks all up and down the shoreline entertained us, and the drizzling rain didn't appear to have caused much trouble. Part of the entertainment for us was listening to the VHF radio too. We found out later that boats flock to the East River to watch the New York City fireworks and that they aren't allowed to anchor - they just mill around. That went a long way to explaining what we were hearing on the radio.
There were numerous reports of boats aground and of fast boats swamping others. A few of the conversations went like this: "You (...expletive deleted but it contains the word mother...) just swamped me and a couple of other boats. SLOW DOWN!" A query about whether "mother...." was a nautical term came back! Someone else reported a boat on the rocks and the Coast Guard asked, "What is the water depth?" The man slowly replied, "They... are...on...the...rocks" whereupon she asked about the depth where he was. Another fellow was reporting boats going aground and colliding, and then with great consternation in his voice, he said, "Something bad is happening here. There's gunfire breaking out!" Another voice broke in to say, "That's fireworks, hammerhead" and the first guy went curiously silent.
After all this, we quietly dropped our anchor and headed below for some rest and blessed quiet from the noisy engine.
On Saturday, we motored the short distance to Atlantic Highlands because we'd decided to bring Alex here and allow him to experience the thrill of sailing into New York City.
Atlantic Highlands is a curious sort of place. We anchored first before checking out the moorings. We wouldn't bother to anchor next time - the mud we brought up was horribly stinky and black and sticky. Moorings cost $45. - on the expensive side, but besides the mud thing, there is a launch service and the transient dinghy dock is really hard to find. (It's down at the end between the last pier and Pier 1) Moorings are handled by the Yacht Club (Pier 4) or call the Launch on VHF. The showers are in the casino building, and the key must be obtained from the launchmaster, meaning that there are no late night or early morning showers. The place is jammed with sport fishing boats, and there was a carnival on while we were there - only in the evenings. We found that a bit strange since most others we've seen have been running in the daytimes for the kids.
A laundromat is just a couple of blocks up the street from the waterfront, with Charlie in charge. "Cholley" - if I try to find my New Jersey accent, was a terrific source of information for us and I teased him that he had "Info" in neon lights on his baseball cap. While we did several loads of wash and dry, he told us about a great restaurant and where the grocery store was (both very easy walking distance)as well as looking up ways of getting to La Guardia without paying an arm and a leg. The fast ferry didn't run to Atlantic Highlands on Sunday, a limo/taxi that we found would cost $120. each way!! and we couldn't find out bus information on the phone. We also couldn't find bus schedules anywhere, and didn't have wifi from the boat. A clerk at the convenience store told us that the buses ran every two hours from 6:45 am onward, and when we finally lugged the computer to town and logged on, we confirmed that.
Accordingly, 8:15 on Sunday morning found us at the bus stop. (We took the dinghy in because the launch service didn't start till 8 but the fellow towed it back to the boat for us rather than leaving it on the dock all day - a no-no in these parts.) The bus took us to the Port Authority in a little over an hour, from where we took the subway to Astoria and picked up a bus to LaGuardia. - a long way and lots of changes of rides, but an experience nonetheless. Despite Alex's flight not showing up on the arrivals board he appeared on time and after feeding the starving fellow, we headed for downtown. If we had hurried, we could have caught the 2 o'clock bus back to Atlantic Highlands, but who wants to hurry the first glimpse of the Big Apple? We took bus and subway back to Times Square, boggled his mind with the size and scope of it, checked out what was playing in the theatres and eventually caught the 4 o'clock bus. Once back in Atlantic Highlands, we tossed his bag on the boat and went to check out that restaurant Charlie mentioned. It was a great find - a fine ribs 'n pulled pork kind of a place - with the pig theme very tastefully carried out all over the walls. We'd put Memphis Pig-out on our dining list anytime.
Then it was back to the boat for more catchup conversation with our turning 21 year old son and some sleep before moving along to NYC on Monday morning.