Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Don’t Do What I Did!

March 1, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Don't Do What I Did

Nuns in the sun drinking beer. That was why we had braved a cranky Rockaway Inlet, venturing farther west than ever before.

Yes, JFK’s mighty jets loomed in the distance, but basically, it was just us and the dear sisters at this pub on the pier. It was not enough. We needed excitement.

I asked John if he wanted to boat into the city. He did.

Can we get gas? Probably, so let’s go!

We did not plan on this path, but when you have weekdays off, you manufacture your adventures. So we left the Reverend Mother and the Rockaways and headed west aboard the Ebbtide.

The skies had a glisten that the water reflected. The mighty Verrazano Bridge rose on the horizon and soon we were upon it and then under it. Just then, an engine roared behind us, and looked to see if we were being overtaken by another boat. But we weren’t — it was an airplane, a loud single engine one, its din nearly deafening as it passed above us but under the bridge. It was close and shocking.

John was a parachutist. He knew aviation. “You’re not supposed to do that.”

Uh huh.

“If anyone saw that he could lose his license.”

Well we saw it, but we pressed on. It took a while until we found an attendant and then we got fuel in Sheepshead Bay. New York Harbor awaited!

I now live in Manhattan, overlooking the East River. The waters are vibrant, churning with fast ferries, barges, personal watercraft, and service vessels. However, the river was not that way then. I steered clear of the mammoth ships and shared the lanes with a few like craft.

The Brooklyn Bridge seemed a suitable initial goal. As we approached, a familiar sight loomed to port. It was the New York Post building, then located adjacent to the Fulton Fish Market. (In my city room office for a rival newspaper, there used to be jokes about the proximity of the two places.)

As we came closer, we detected movement along the shore. There were people, placards, and chants. It was a picket line. The Post was having its own strike, and I flashed back to my paper’s recent war with management, when I had worked at the Post thanks to a sympathetic department head.

Even closer now, familiar faces came into view, but I couldn’t be spotted peeping at suffering picketers from a personal pleasure craft. That would not do!

I spun right, breezed by the bridge, and headed back to the harbor with our eyes on the Statue of Liberty. We came right up to the warning buoys and looked straight up to the torch.

By now, the sun was sinking over New Jersey, so it was time to duck ferries and freighters and head home We spun along. Our gas situation was fine, but the light was fleeing and a chill was coming on.

Soon we returned to the Verrazano, but not its accompanying airplane. The problem at this juncture now was the incoming chop, which was a building force.

The tide was coming in and the wind was blowing out. The forces combined to build breakers, and they were coming right over the windshield of our high profile fishing boat. Walls of sea rose around the boat as we rode up and down chilling waves.

I knew John shared my level of concern when he declined to take the wheel. It was my boat (well, my father’s) and he would leave me to it.

I decided that the Ebbtide was up for it and so was I. I dug in, and so did the boat. After maybe an hour of this pummeling and pounding, we found calmer seas. We exhaled and silently headed back to my father’s yacht club. We each headed to our cars.

I stopped at the first available fast food place. I found a similarly soaked John already on line. We exchanged glances but not words.

Soon after that harrowing city spin, I was reading a boating magazine’s story about transporting a sleek new 40-foot yacht from Connecticut to the Tobay Beach Boat Show.

I knew what was coming. Despite abundant expertise and modern technology, the captain and crew were shocked at the confluence of winds and waves they encountered under the Verrazano. They were bounced and buffeted, but they made it.

And so did we. Maybe it was the beer-drinking nuns that got us through, but that’s a pretty foolhardy way to stay safe at sea. Next time we’ll check the forecast and conditions.

By Bill Sweeney

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