The Big Apple isn’t just for landlubbers, as these crews attest. From our March 2012 issue.
"You’re taking too many pictures!” Nicky, my 7-year-old son, protested. But it’s not every day that you approach Manhattan at sunrise on the deck of your own sailboat. As a child growing up in a suburb of that superlative city, I had always found New York a little overwhelming. Now, behind the wheel of Namani, my 1981 Dufour 35, I found it even more overwhelming—and unexpectedly thrilling to see familiar sights from a new perspective. My husband, Markus Schweitzer, and Nicky were equally impressed by the cityscape sliding past.
New York is a city that has it all: culture and crime, poetry and pollution, glamour and grit. That was nothing new to me, but as a first-time visitor under sail, I was surprised to discover how manageable New York is, despite horror stories of killer currents and full-tilt ferries. Arriving after an overnight passage from Rhode Island’s Block Island via Long Island Sound, I gained a new appreciation for the city that never sleeps—and for my well-thumbed copy of the Eldridge Tide and Pilot Book. Timing our dawn arrival carefully, we passed through notorious Hell Gate without mishap and used a favorable three-knot current to glide past East River landmarks like the United Nations, the Brooklyn Bridge, and South Street Seaport. Soon we were rounding Battery Park and heading up the Hudson to a mooring at the 79th Street Boat Basin. There, we were just a dinghy ride away from the subway and supermarkets, with million-dollar skyline views day and night.
We’d been tipped off about the Boat Basin by cruising friends Sven Nguyen-Northcott, Sara Lennox, and their sons, Dante and Amory, ages 6 and 4. The family had recently wrapped up a three-year transatlantic cruise aboard Arearea, a 2005 Hallberg-Rassy 40, in their home port of New York. They’d even lived aboard in the city for six months before moving into an apartment for Sven to take up work as a software engineer. Now the family enjoys weekend sailing. “Getting out on the water is like taking a trip. You get removed from the city, and everything calms down,” says Sara. “There are a lot of interesting things to see. We’ll quiz the kids. What river are we on? What bridge is that?” The Statue of Liberty is a no-brainer for the boys, who enjoy building forts out of settee cushions as much as taking in city sights.
An annual highlight for all is the incredible Fourth of July firework show. “It’s peaceful out on the water,” Sven says, thanks to designated viewing areas in the harbor. Still, he has to keep an eye on the water rather than the sky. “As a captain, you’re more focused on the boats around you, but as a passenger, it’s more oohs and ahhs.”