It is a sailing superstition that one should not put “To” the place but only “Towards”- the equivalent of not counting one’s chickens I suppose. However, there’s definitely something magical about a log entry which says “Towards New York” even if it really means get me to New York as soon as possible please.
Despite the magnet of the Big Apple there had to be a detour to Mystic and a day, 25th September, spent at the Mystic Seaport learning about ship restoration and preservation in the flesh as it were. In one of the many working sheds four not so young artisans were gathered around the bow of a whaler where repairs were in progress. It could have been a scene from a movie and I swear that one of them looked like Robert Redford. In fact the whole place has a surreal quality.
A bit down river from this preservation centre of excellence, the town of Mystic, is guarded by a substantial rail swing bridge over the river and access is via a tortuous river passage from the open sea. The numbered buoys are numerous and need to be counted off with some care. Once through the swing bridge ( a magnificent piece of engineering) the little marina awaits and its large associated restaurant is called “Red 31”. How else would you know that you have arrived!
So much for the detour. Pushing on down Long Island Sound we anchored off Stamford for the night but did not go ashore. And so to the passage down the East River into New York. Swirling currents of Hell gate, La Guardia, bridge after amazing bridge, a landscape that moves from decrepit old industrial to skyscraper in a matter of moments and suddenly there you are – Manhattan; armed coastguard cutters demark some event or other; the world’s supply of helicopters rising and falling like a plague of sycamore wings; and everywhere the sun creating moving images on the steel and glass backdrop. It is just one of the greatest shows anywhere.
Then, round the corner and into the mighty Hudson river. “River” is something of a misnomer. It’s a sea way that joins New York to the St Laurence. It is massive. Think three River Thames at least. We moored bows to the river in the Lincoln Harbor Marina on the New Jersey shore; on the other side, Midtown, the liner Queen Mary 2 was moored in her marina. And there the comparison ends! Our log reads – “Tied up to a ramshackle, splintery, nail infested, creaking, excuse for a pontoon”. At an eye watering $192 US per night mind you. Most amusingly we were joined shortly after arrival by a 100 foot private motor yacht whose paid crew immediately set about repairing the pontoon to make it safe for the owner and his wife. But never mind the pontoon (or the price!) feel the view! From Central Park through Midtown to Manhattan, it’s all laid out in front of you. As night creeps in, an out of this world “son et lumiere” is enacted as millions of lights go on, topped off on our first night by a massive fire work display from a barge in the Hudson. Our neighbour explained somewhat laconically that this was the finale of a Russian Wedding. Never mind; it had Madeleine’s vote!
We were lucky to be able to hook up with Andrew Broadbent and his two boys on Sunday 28th September. We had not seen Andrew for at least 20 years; in fact his boys looked much like the Andrew that I remembered. Scary! A fun afternoon sailing up and down the Hudson with the boys variously on the helm or sunning themselves on the foredeck.
Two days into New York by ferry followed. We walked variously from Midtown to Central Park and back taking in Maceys, Broadway, Times Square, 5 th Avenue and a selection of eateries, museums and shops.
But the outstanding event was our visit to the New York Yacht Club arranged for us by Robin (see previous Blog). We were met by Alice, the curator of collections who gave us a tour of this landmark building, from outside to in, though its library, halls and into the Model Room. Please note the capital letters. The Model Room is perhaps 80 feet long by 40 feet wide. Its walls are festooned by half models of members sailing boats, all donated almost from the first day that this famous institution was formed. In fact there are some 1230 models of which 147 are whole hull, fully rigged models including of course the majority of the great entrants to the Americas Cup – at least until it went elsewhere. It was interesting, and rather sad, to note how the great designs of the past have given way in more recent years to the modern form, a blend of new materials and computer design which have not only lost in my eyes the inherent beauty of the great yachts of the 19th and early 20th century but the ability to go to sea in any kind of bad weather! Over the years the Club has also sponsored a number of one designs for close racing. Amongst the model collection is the one design “40” designed by Doug Peterson. A year or so later he designed our remarkably similar looking 41, “Tarragon”, in which we completed the AZAB – our only claim to yacht racing fame! Not that we mentioned this minor effort in such hallowed halls but it was amusing to feel a connection - however slight!
We can’t leave the NYYC without mentioning two further items. In the Library there is a very large model of a British Second Rater, a two gun deck ship of the line complete in every detail. Certainly the best historic ship model I have ever seen. Its provenance seems to be a little uncertain as it is unnamed. Intriguing. And then there is the basement dining room with its enveloping, dark, ships timbers and “atmosphere”!
I know the Americans struggle a bit with the English language but they have the right word for this place.
Awesome! Thank you, Robin.