Sailing into New York on /Ocean Watch/ with my daughter, Maggie, was one of the best moments of our voyage so far.
Arriving in New York City from the vantage point of a relatively teeny cruising boat is always a thrill. I’ve done it a few times now from both directions-coming into the metropolis from the open Atlantic Ocean via Ambrose Channel and the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, and also “the other way,” via Hell Gate and the East River after the trip down Long Island Sound-and it never gets tiresome.
My latest transit, however, was hands down my best, most memorable arrival ever. That’s because my 11-year-old daughter, Maggie, was right by my side.
After putting the Northwest Passage behind us this summer, we sailed our 64-foot cutter, Ocean Watch, down the coast of Labrador to Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, then back to the continental United States for the first time in months, stopping in Boston and my hometown of Newport, Rhode Island. That’s where Maggie was waiting for me.
For most of the year, Maggie lives with her Australian mom outside of the antipodean city of Sydney, which is why I spend increasing amounts of time Down Under. When I signed on for the expedition Around the Americas (www.aroundtheamericas.org), I had only one non-negotiable demand: Maggie had to be at least a small part of it, somewhere along the route.
School vacations and a hundred other little details came together slowly, but they did come together. And when we took off from Newport late one fall afternoon bound for the Big Apple, Mags took the wheel as we passed Castle Hill and sailed into Rhode Island Sound.
It was a gentle night with a southeasterly breeze that never rose above 20 knots, keeping the seas down and the air warm and giving us a nice beam reach for motorsailing with a reefed main. Maggie’s done a fair bit of sailing for me, but I was hoping for gentle conditions just the same, and we had them in spades. As the full moon was rising, she slid next to me at the helm and said, “Dad, this is awesome.”
Man, it sure was.
Coming into the city from Long Island Sound is certainly the more dramatic entry, and Maggie was wide-eyed as we rolled through Hell Gate and into the man-made canyons of New York. The whole thing seemed to agree with her: At one point, she sauntered up to the foredeck and did the Charleston! Rikers Island and the nearby prison barge also made a big impression. I write a daily log on the expedition’s website and later, Maggie, with no prompting from me, sat down to help me out. Here’s what she wrote:
“The trip was fun, and it didn’t seem like 18 hours because I slept most of the time and I liked the fresh air in my face. We’ve successfully made it to New York City, and let me tell you this: It’s one heck of a good place, and I’m glad to be here. Let me also tell you that there are a lot of jails in New York City. We’ve just been past the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building, and they were amazing. On Monday, we’re going back to visit the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty. I’m so excited to be in New York because I haven’t been here before. That’s all for me. Now it is over to Dad.”
Ocean Watch slipped past the United Nations Headquarters, under all the famous bridges, and, yes, right up to the Statue of Liberty before making for her berth at the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum docks along the Hudson River. We took a hundred pictures. We both smiled a lot.
The crew on Ocean Watch have had some memorable landfalls on this voyage thus far, and we’ll certainly have many more, but I’m absolutely sure that none will be better than New York City. The reason, I’m sure, is crystal clear.