We made two stops along the Connecticut coast without going ashore, and then we were finally ready to make the jump across Long Island Sound. Our destination was Port Jefferson, which has a very large protected harbor, making it a good place for us to wait out bad weather or poor wind direction, which unfortunately lasted a week.
Going ashore, it was immediately clear that we weren’t in New England any more, as stores and restaurants stretched out in all directions. We had seen towns full of touristy knickknack shops before, but not the same sort of continual shopping plaza landscape. Since it didn’t seem like a tourist destination, and was pretty far from New York City (over an hour drive), I wasn’t really sure who it was all for.
Still, we managed to have a few things of interest happen. One evening we attended a trivia night at a cheese store/café, but unfortunately the high-value bonus round was visual identification of reality TV “stars,” so we didn’t stand a chance. A couple of days later some other cruisers dropped by. It turned out they were also headed for the Caribbean, and told us stories of creating and competing in several Boston-area women’s college sailing programs.
While in Port Jefferson, we had a visit from Diane, a friend of Bev’s, who came by car using the ferry from Bridgeport, Connecticut. Somehow, none of the countless stores ashore were selling anything useful, such as groceries or hardware, so Diane having her car was a big help in restocking our supplies. We enjoyed a hearty meal of homemade chili together before she had to head back.
We were all happy to finally be heading out at sunrise on 10/21 (and in particular to leave behind the power plant that would blare a siren sounding like an air-raid drill twice a day). The next stop along Long Island was Port Washington, just on the edge of New York City’s sphere of influence.
Port Washington was the original home of Koukla, where due to failing health her original owner was unable to keep up with maintainace. Koukla was slowly disintegrating at the dock until being discovered, purchased, refurbished, and sailed up to Rockland by Danica’s family. In this case it was just a convenient stopping place and we left the next morning.
Just an hour or two out of Port Washington, suddenly we were in the industrial fringes of the greater New York metro as factories, power plants, and barges lined the shores. We slowed down to time our passage through the notorious tidal confluence called Hell Gate, where Long Island Sound becomes the East River. Despite the ominous name and reputation, we passed through without much problem and were soon rounding into the New York cityscape.
Massive skyscrapers lined the shore for miles, grouped into clusters that could each have represented a city in its own right. The passage thinned down around Roosevelt Island and barges barreling through left behind chaos of ricocheting wakes. Highways full of cars zipped by just feet away right at the water’s edge. Streams of helicopters passed overhead. Fenced school children many stories off the ground hollered and waved. It was New York City.
We rounded Manhattan for a long four mile chug up the Hudson to our anchorage at the 79th Street Boat Basin Marina. From there it was an easy walk up to Central Park. I was surprised at how isolated you could feel from the surrounding metro within its wooded paths and sheltered glades. We happened upon a variety of interesting landmarks, including a castle with an great view, a “Shakespeare garden” (meaning small signs with Shakespeare quotes dotted the ground), and a cabin in the woods style Swedish Cottage that housed a marionette puppetry theater. And this was just from a very small segment of the park!
Following our walk through the park and lunch, we went to the American Natural History Museum. This is an enourmous museum, and even though some sections of it were shut off for an event, it was still too big to see it all in one day. In addition to enjoying several great permanent exhibits, we really liked the special exhibit Natural Histories, a gallery of scientific illustrations from their collection. Meanwhile, our other crew members headed to the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum, which houses one of the four space shuttles and is right on the water just down from the marina. Capping off the day, Danica and I got a visit from several college friends in the area, who came to see the boat and see us off.
However, though the Boat Basin’s location was good, the facilities were poor, with just one mediocre shower and a broken dryer. They also forced us to anchor nearly a mile away, resulting in a long challenging dingy ride fighting the Hudson River current and barge wakes to get ashore. So our stay in New York was just a short one-day visit, and the next morning we were off sailing past the Statue of Liberty out towards our first overnight passage around the coast of New Jersey.