22 June 2013 | Atlantic Highlands, NJ, USA 40’25.08N 74’01.30W – Port Washington, NY, USA 40’49.03N 73’42.46W
The New York Times is a much respected paper. It breaks stories from around the world and has been responsible for shaping the way that the nation thinks. It was the New York Times that first ran the story of the Pentagon Papers and exposed Nixon in the Watergate affair. The editor this week however seems to have gone off the boil as he missed the biggest story to ever hit the city. Ruffian has arrived in New York City.
The present that was Manhattan had stood over us all night just waiting to be opened and so when the day dawned with clear blue skies there was no hesitation in making the decision to sail our home through all the sights, under the skyscrapers and navigate around such lovely sounding obstacles as Hell Gate and Throgs Neck. We were going through the Big Apple. Iain was beside himself with excitement while Fiona was apprehensive after reading stories of standing waves and mental commercial shipping.
The ‘sail’ through one of the busiest harbours in the world was everything we hoped it would be and more. The Statue of Liberty guided us in whilst the financial district towered over us. Water based traffic flowed in every direction at every speed making the Solent on a race weekend look like an organised quiet piece of water. Above helicopters, carrying the rich and famous buzzed around us like bees and were put in their place as the queen bee, President Obama, flew overhead in his chopper complete with 2 escorts. We pondered if he knew that Ruffian was sailing in and cleared his diary to greet us?
The tide turned right on time squirting us under the BMW bridges, Brooklyn, Manhattan and Williamsburg and this is where Fiona started to get excited. As we sped past skyscrapers she was on the lookout for her old flat. “It’s that one. That one there.” She’d say. Then seconds later it would be “No It’s that one.” Again and again we flew bay skyscrapers where she could have lived. This just goes to show how darn big this city is.
With the bridges successfully negotiated the tide really started to rip and next up was the aptly named Hell Gate. Hell Gate is not as bad as it sounds. It’s actually a Dutch name that translates as “Sweet Passage” and sweetly we were swept through it and out into the east river. In the East River things changed in an instant from the rich manicured blocks of granite towering over us to the most industrial waterfront complete with the high security prison at Rikers Island. It was then out into Long Island Sound where we could have been sailing in Devon with rolling green landscapes.
If all the money is made in Manhattan then it is spent in Port Washington where we had heard about some free mooring balls. The shoreline is filled with mansions that retail for over $30M and these houses are just the summertime homes of the super rich. With this sort of backdrop and having had such a great introduction to NYC we thought that it was only right to go ashore for a sundowner at the ‘local sailing club’.
Like the rest of our experiences of the day there was no normal and this was not your normal ‘local sailing club’. The pool shimmered, the dock boys were better dressed than we have ever been and the 150 year old club oozed history and class. To say that we didn’t fit in is an understatement, but even so the commodore, Dan Brown, took us under his wing and bought us a Bombay Sapphire G &T in celebration of our day. Many thanks Dan.
The word epic is often overused but this day certainly deserves to be proceeded by the word epic. It really was an epic day and we still had the big apple to explore by land.
There were a lot of things on ‘must see’ list in NYC. There were the usuals of the Empire State building, Wall St, Central Park and the 9/11 memorial along with Grand Central Station and Times Square, there were also of course Fiona’s old haunts. Right at the top of Iain’s list however, much to Fiona’s despair, was to find someone to use some of the classic Crocodile Dundee lines on. Unfortunately Iain never got to tell anyone ‘I’m in town for a couple of days so I’ll see you around’ or ‘That’s not a knife. This is a knife.’, but to make up for it he wandered around wide eyed and amazed that NYC is like London Town having taken a good dose of steroids and speed.
As the day drew on and the sights were being ticked off the list we had to find a spot for lunch. Now NYC is renowned for its culinary expertise and has some of the finest restaurants in the world, but that’s not the taste of NYC. The taste of NYC can only be obtained from the little grimy vans that set up each lunchtime which produce the most amazing succulent fresh food. We watched as chickpeas were prepared, turned into the most succulent of falafel and then coated with the magic white and red sauces. As we sat on the steps of the NYC post office and watched the world go by this was the true taste of NYC and took Fiona right back to her time here.
The final big see in the afternoon was the 9/11 memorial. In the spot where the twin towers fell a small park has been constructed and in the footprints of the towers there are now cascading waterfalls surrounded by the names of the victims. There was certainly an air of solemnity as we took in the scene but we could help but wonder what the everyday American takes away from this place. In the UK we have been used to a troubled recent past that has ended in reconciliation and understanding, without the need for permanent memorials. We wondered how this memorial helps the populace gain tolerance to those who attacked them, does it say ‘We remember’ or ‘We are under attack. Our way of life is at risk?’ After witnessing all those in the park we fear it is the second.
As the afternoon drew into evening and with feet aching after walking 100’s of blocks and braving the simple subway system (it’s no wonder Americans get confused on the tube) we felt it was time for a beer. In London you can’t walk more than about 4 feet without seeing a pub full of people kicking back from work. Bars in NYC however are seriously thin on the ground, but when we did find one, wow, what a sweet little gem we happened across. The bar was not of the cheers type, all open and bright, it was dingy dark and full of history from the 150 years of being at the heart of a city that constantly reinvents itself.
Finally after a full day of sailing through NYC and another one pounding the streets, with our snot having turned grey from the pollution and our eye’s opened to the hectic way of life we returned to our own little oasis of calm bobbing on the ocean wave. NYC has been a massive adventure. NYC has been epic.
About to unwrap a present. The Statue of Liberty and the delights of Manhattan just in front of Ruffian. EPIC!
The Statue of Liberty welcomes us to New York harbour.
The skyscrapers tower above our little boat.
Hello there Mr President. How did you know that we were going to be in town?
Swishing through the city through the aptly named Hell Gate.
Phew we’ve made it successfully through.
Rikers Island. Home to lots of famous people.
If the money is made in downtown in Manhattan then it’s spent in Port Washington.
Time to dine out for dinner in a diner.
Look at all the little ants.
The Empire State building certainly gives a view.
Grand Central Station. The star of many films. oh and some people catch trains from here too.
Central park offers an oasis of calm in a sea of city craziness.
Times Square. Need we say more?
Classy dining in NYC.
The subway swoops into the station.
Classic American security. An impenetrable wooden barrier and a policeman who’s eaten too many doughnuts.
The 9/11 memorial. We’re not sure what to make of it. Does it say “We remember.” or “We are under attack.” to all the American visitors?