Manhattan is a mixed grid of strategically, haphazardly, evenly yet oddly spaced pillars and structures with the freedom to choose your flavor of mayhem at their base and in their endless confines. Whereas nature and the sea have a different congruency of patterns throughout, that demand respect. Each affords the enjoyment of a different kind of liberation and reverence. Sailing up and down the E. River seasonally is a highlight and I’m not sure when it’ll stop being so. The tides need to be taken seriously when traversing yet the splendors we get to observe make it all worth it. It’s incredibly liberating to be able to sail from desolate islands to thickly populated cities and explore the in-betweens and twists, secret enclaves and unique treasures while enjoying them from a waterside perspective. The wonders of humanity, culture and nature are there for us to drink in or gaze at from a distance, as we so choose. AND understanding science and cross-contamination fairly well, it’s been at a nice healthy, often mask-faced distance since March 2020.
Coming to the States for the first time after 5 months since COVID ravished this part of the world was an interesting experience. Sailing into Florida, where it seemed no one got the memo, we hightailed it outta there when we saw how disgracefully people were acting. Not surprisingly the infections spiked not but a week after we left. After what we saw, we knew it was simply a matter of time. Then as we moved north, hopping up the coast, we saw people taking precautions more seriously and engaging in basic courtesy and simple safety measures. It seemed like from epi-centered NYC and north, they were the most shell-shocked and took the potential threats of the pandemic much more seriously.
Much of where we decide to go and spend time, depends on how it fits into the seasonal changes, family obligations and overall comfort. August 2017, our first hurricane season, we spent in Grenada. That season afforded us a crash course in this sailing life since the community there is major. The Grenadians also have abundant natural resources and an open heart for Americans. The “spice island” is filled with adventures, things to do, and people are so kind. We look forward to going back. Many sailors simply never leave. The last three hurricane seasons we’ve come back “home” and spent the majority of our time moored at City Island Yacht Club (CIYC) in the Bronx. Since we’re also able to bring a car down and keep it in the parking lot of the CIYC, this makes convenience a huge plus as well. We get all our doctors’ appointments scheduled and land chores done all while visiting friends and family and having them visit us. We can check on the houses and bop up north, or out into the LI Sound whenever we find time to squeeze it in.
Few would expect that our flavor of mayhem or mayhem avoidance, landed us in an enclave in the Boogie Down Bronx, on a mooring ball in Eastchester Bay with the most stunning skyline view of Manhattan and a one-of-a-kind 360 degree July 4th display. Some describe City Island as Martha’s Vineyard with a Bronx Accent. We’d venture to say that’s optimistic but “the Bronx with a New England flare” is a very fair synopsis.
An old oyster bed and fishing village, City Island maintains its nautical roots while in many ways it’s a microcosm of all 5 boroughs with a little something different, mainly stunning waterfront and waterside views. It’s part of an archipelago known as the Pelham Islands and is only 1.5 miles long and .5 miles wide. Documented history shows the original inhabitants being the Siwanoy Indians and was eventually settled by Europeans, the backdrop of plenty of historical figures and events close by, and today settled by “musselsuckers” and “clamdiggers”. If you haven’t seen the movie City Island with Andy Garcia and Julianna Margulies it’s a must. Much of the filming was done along the shores we have a view of from our mooring.
The compact island is home to seasoned generations of history including sail making, yacht building, mafia bosses, actors, politicians, and the usual NYC crew of blue-collar, white collar, and immigrants that passed by Lady Liberty on their way via land or sea. As one old-timer we met told us while he was shining his circa 1985 Mazda Miata in his driveway, “I sailed here form Brooklyn 50 years ago and never left.” It boasts a lovely maritime museum in an historic building and the streets are lined with antique shops, trees, restaurants, parks, and there’s a water view with a bay of moored boats around every corner. This is the island where 5 winning America’s Cup boats were built and sail making was an art. It’s got plenty of open space once you wiggle through narrow back roads to get onto the surrounding, well-kept, winding bike paths.
We’re able to ride our bikes through the paths of the ECG and NYC Greenways as far as our legs will take us. One of these days, we’ll do it right, with a go-pro camera on our heads. Until then, we’ll let s/v Delos be our inspiration. It seems exhausting to film every breathing moment of life, so we just try to make up for it here in blog-bursts of inspiration and the desire to share our gifts with those in the world who may want to read about them. And though there’s plenty to do on a sailboat, we enjoy the gift of just being as this lifestyle allows and not perpetually doing. City Island offers opportunity for both being and doing in a convenient location.
Right across the way on the south side of the Long Island Sound is Manhasset Bay, where Paul learned to sail as a kid with his sister Joanne. Just east of the that is Cow Bay and Half Moon Beach where we’ll sail for the day to swim, grill and play when the offspring visit. This year we decided to tuck into that empty bay with good protection from the south when Hurricane Isaias came to town to do some severe damage to the Eastern Seaboard.
There was nothing exotic or glamorous about weathering out what was a category 1 hurricane with sustained winds in the high 50s (knots). We hope that was a first and last. But now we do have a new “hurricane prep” check list. Number one on the list is SAIL AWAY. We like making checklists. There’s a lot to remember and sticky notes just don’t cut it on a sailboat. But the aftermath of the storm afforded us a few days over on the Long Island side of the Sound and Paul gave me a tour of his hometown where we visited with friends and identified some old haunts of Paul’s. It was special.
Weathering out a storm the size of Isaias on the Rita Kathryn was not the only first this COVID/year-4-hurricane season gifted us. We also sailed the RK in her first race this year. That also was a first and a last. I had a blast, but I thought Paul would melt from his human form into a puddle when we got too close to other boats and buoys during the race. We like to sail fast, but not in the Sound. We prefer the open ocean, where the dangers are fewer, believe it or not.
With a new, now very distant view of the Cement Jungle and its downtown skyline we currently sit staging for the next hop… in Sandy Hook, NJ at the end of the Bay of NY. Looking south and watching/reading weather multiple times a day, we’re grateful for our temporary port home of City Island, where the transient is a part of life, sailing is in the air you breathe, and there is always room for one or two more, in the maritime traditions of yore.