With a week now being back home in Germany after my 14 day-vacation in New York City, I guess I have enough distance to look on this trip in retrospect. It was a gorgeous holiday, as expected, New York simply delivers. This city is a safe bet when it comes to spending a wonderful time, being entertained, being excited and overwhelmed. New York simply is the coolest city in the world, the capital of the world and the mother of what we call “supercity”. Period. Of course, not everything that shines is gold and like erverything, New York as well is ambivalent, having its grey and darker sides too.
I tried to dedicate a large part of my vacation to the maritime heritage of this city, as I wrote in one of the first articles. As the center of focus for so many people since 200 years, New York´s worldwide branding campaign has managed to burn a clear and uniform image into our collective minds. Even if we aren’t immigrants at all, even if we do not have any wish or connection to immigrating to the States, the image of a ship entering New York harbor and passing by the Statue of Liberty is a collective one, being the same in all of our minds worldwide. I wanted to dive deeper into the history of New Amsterdam, as it was called before renamed “New York” and I tried hard.
A City like no second in the world
You may have read my article on the sailing trip with AMERICA 2.0 operated by Classic Harbor Line out of Chelsea Piers. This 3-hours sailing experience sums up and beautifully re-enacts what I mean. Sailing by past the impressive skyline of downtown Manhattan, passing Battery Park and heading out to Ellis Island and finally gybing in front of Lady Liberty is an unforgettable experience.
It is also the concentrated essence of this “New York feel”: My girlfriend – as I said, in no way connected to the USA or immigration – had tears in her eyes and many of my fellow passenger mates from all over the world aboard AMERICA 2.0 felt the same. It touches you in a very special way, makes a connection to what those millions of people must have felt, their hopes, their dreams, their feelings after an ordeal of leaving their home countries, before the next ordeal of building up a new life here.
Sailing into New York harbor is indeed something very, very special! Unfortunately we haven´t done the whole trip, which is passing Verrazzano Narrows and coming around Bay Ridge, leaving Fort Hamilton to starboard side and slowing getting the impressive skyline of Southern Manhattan into sight, but cruising effortlessly and silently in front of Manhattan was more than an appetizer for me. This indeed must be one of the big magic moments in sailing, downwind past the Statue of Liberty! Exactly as I have dreamed of when I planned my “Atlantic Loop”-journey two years ago.
Marinas and berths in New York
And of course I used our holiday to check and visit some marinas in New York, maybe in search for a future berth to land my boat when I happen to return here under sails. The city has a number of little and mid-sized harbors offering guest berths for sailing boats visiting the city.
I was checking out two marinas by foot on the New Jersey side and I must say it felt very familiar. The pontoons, the shore power plug units, even the scent and feel. I don´t know what I have been expecting but I immediately felt at home. What was a bit shocking had been the – in my eyes – crazy prices but I guess, as with everything, New York stays true to its image of being the world´s most expensive city (together with Singapore). Nevertheless, appaently it´s true that the anchorage around Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty can be used by sailing yachts. How great must that be?!
I was also surprised had I been when I discovered by chance that there are indeed “pirate” moorings where there is apparently no demurrage to pay. I´ve checked out such a place on Brooklyn side of the city right after one enters the Newtown Creek on the North side at Pulaski bridge. A number of boats from 30 to well over 40 feet had been mooring here, in packs of two and three. No visible installations like bathrooms or shore “official” power but those were real boats, not hulks being left alone to rot.
This is a nice thing to see, kind of reminds me of “my” old Berlin at a time some 20 years ago when illegal or half-legal under clubs were still run by the real DJs and a vivid “off-scene” was pulsating. It´s kind of refreshing to see that a city that is so focused on making money out of everything still have these loopholes and underground things going on.
New York´s maritime heritage
If you have read my first article on the New York trip, a kind of epilogue or wish list of what I planned to do, you might have understood that I wanted to use those two weeks not just for indulging myself into the pleasures of this wonderful city but to also dive into the rich maritime heritage of New York, the former “Big Oyster” or New Amsterdam. Well, my efforts had been crowned, I´d say, only half as good as I had imagined.
Take for example the Brooklyn Navy Yard Museum “Building 92”, about which I wrote in length in a dedicated article. This place is the most important shipyard of New York City and for sure one of the defining locations for the naval history of the United Stated. The MONITOR has been built here as well as the ARIZONA. Aircraft carriers had been built in the shadows of mighty Brooklyn Bridge – yet, the museum dealing with that history is – as much as I appreciate and admire the efforts of its makers – this museum isn´t living up to this history. Same with South Street Seaport Museum – so much potential! Comparing the maritime museums of Hamburg for example lets New York fade away with a tail lamp.
I also did not manage to leave the city limits. Originally wanting to drive with a rental or maybe by Amtrak to the town of Mystic or other places, I had to scrap that plan. Even a trip to another legendary “off-site”, the Staten Island Graveyard full of hulks, half sunken ships and even some historically relevant wrecks wasn´t possible. One might just need more time here …
One location I really would have loved to see was the clubhouse of renowned New York Yacht Club. Hundreds of half models and models, other memorabilia and cups from all sorts of legendary regattas, the house alone, would have certainly made for a formidable and fascinating article. Yet, my formal application for a press-visit was declined. Indeed, apparently a truly elitist place!
I´ll for sure return!
So, here´s the thing: I will return for sure. When I was young and started to earn enough money, I came here every 5 years or so, my last visit being 10 years ago. I really hope that it will not take another 10 years for me to manage to return. Thinking of my plans 2 years ago to do the “Atlantic Loop”, finishing the second leg from the Caribbean was New York. Now that I have the right boat being built for me to do such a trip making this dream come true and sail into New York harbor is many steps closer. To conclude my ode to NYC, let me finish with this little story:
Just as I arrived back, a couple of days ago, I saw the video of a sailor named Malina. She apparently had received her boat just a couple of days ago and her Beneteau dealer did produce this short little lovely piece with her. I wrote to the yard stating that this would have been awesome to meet her – apparently she was sailing out of Jersey City (where I used to live during my holiday) and it would have been so cool meeting her, my fellow dealer colleagues and maybe enjoy the Oceanis 30.1 with her sailing along this wonderful and impressive skyline … well, that´s New York, I guess. Maybe next time.
You might as well be interested in these articles:
Atlantic Loop: My initial plan for the big sailing trip
Why I had to postpone the Atlantic Loop
First time crossing the Atlantic Ocean