It’s June 13 and getting close to 10 a.m., time for the lock to open. The lock signifies the end of our Intracoastal Waterway adventure – at least for now. It’s Lars and Bente’s 2nd week on Capri.
I’ve spent the morning explaining to Lars, who has never been through a lock before, how to handle the boat going in and not least while in the lock. After having passed 48 locks last summer in Scotland, I felt like a bit of an expert. I explained how we almost certainly would be packed in tighter than sardines in the proverbial can. And how the eddy caused by the incoming water was they filled the lock cold become maelstrom, attempting to swing the boats around, smashing them into each other if we weren’t all alert and on our toes. The maelstrom would also throw Capri up against the sides of the lock, so it was more than important to keep a close eye on our fenders and be prepared to move them at a moment’s notice. And finally, how we needed to man the lines so Capri stayed put.
I suspect my credibility with Lars has dropped to next to nothing, because none of what I said came to pass. As I usually say, “everything is bigger in the United States,” yes even the locks are bigger here – at least 5 times bigger than in Scotland, so there was oceans of space for the 7 boats locking down with us. Eddies and maelstrom failed to appear as we were only locking down less than a meter and not 3-4 meters as we did in Scotland. Everything went without a hitch and without any damage whatsoever.
The big motorboats flew out of the lock, accelerating to 10-12 knots, hustling to get to the next bridge in time for the opening. Our top speed is only 6.5 knots and it soon became apparent that we wouldn’t make it and would have to circle for an hour waiting for the next opening. Ah, but sometimes our karma is better than we think. The bridgemaster made the 7 motorboats wait until we showed up before she opened the bridge – thank you bridgemaster. It was really impressive to see a bridge this size being lifted.
An hour later we sailed through Norfolk harbor on our way to the Atlantic. This is a MEGA harbour! “Everything is bigger…………….”, with an enormous industrial harbour, 3-4 huge marinas, and a gigantic Navy shipyard
I’ve never seen an aircraft carrier “alive” before, and my jaw dropped all way down to my knees when we sailed past the first one. Jesus – the thing is gigantic! But later, when we sailed past 5 more – I was stunned. 5 carriers in a row. Finally we reached the channel that would bring us out of the Chesapeake and into the ocean.
We were passing the final green buoy and I was on my way below to make coffee when Carsten says, “What is that?”. I looked and said, “somebody’s beachball or something like that.” Carsten’s eyesight is apparently better than mine, because he starts looking concerned and says, “we better take a closer look,” and turns to starboard. He asks Lars, who has the binoculars, to look. Lars looks but can’t make anything out, so Carsten takes the binoculars. He pales and says, “that’s a lifevest and I can see a head.” Total silence in the cockpit and Carsten calls me up on deck. Everyone is afraid that this will be a “floater.” A body of someone washed overboard.
Fortunately, it turns out to be a mannequin, someone’s “man overboard” test dummy that got away from them. It fooled us until we were right on top of it.
As Carsten already noted in his tale, the US Coastguard wasn’t very concerned about it. They didn’t want to come get the dummy, telling us to pick it up and throw it away in the next harbor. Carsten explained to them that we were on our way to New York and didn‘t have room aboard for the dummy. I certainly hope the Coastguard is more professional when it comes to a real distress situation.
I was also surprised by my own reaction. I didn’t take it very seriously, just assuming it was someone’s beach ball or toy that has floated out to sea and ignoring it an going below to make coffee. UPS – that was irresponsible and careless. But I’m probably not the only one who would have reacted that way and therefore it can’t be said often enough, “stay in the boat – it is forbidden to fall overboard.” We’ll never find you out on the ocean.
Shortly thereafter we set the sails and now we were “blue water sailing”. Lars cracked a smile from ear to ear as he sat at the helm and let the autopilot do the work. Bente apparently does get seasick, so she read a mystery – I’m still not able to read at sea, I get queasy immediately.
“Goddamn, this is great.” Exclaims Lars as he sits on the bathing platform and takes a shower. “I’m in Heaven.”
After having enjoyed Carsten’s strong chili con carne, the boys hit the sack and Bente and I take the evening watch until 10 p.m. We talk and enjoy the rising of the moon and the resultant moonshine across the waters. Not to mention the stars……………… Bente is a nurse, like I used to be and since we have both worked at Rigshospitalet, we have many common acquaintances that we talk about. Carsten took the watch at 10 and woke Lars at midnight so he could be part of the dogwatch. I was awakened at 2 a.m. and stood watch until 6 a.m. Around 4 a.m. Lars was looking a bit used because it had been a hot evening and therefore he hadn’t gotten any real sleep ahead of time. But he insisted on staying up until sunrise and fortunately he got a sunrise to remember. Something completely special and he went to bed shortly thereafter.
Everyone enjoyed day 2 until midafternoon when the wind picked up to about 20 knots and turned to come from the north – right in our faces. 20 knots doesn’t sound like much, but Lars and Bente had to admit that this wasn’t the Baltic. Here the waves quickly reach 2-3 meters and are powerful. Capri heeled over, the wind increased and soon we were “walking on the walls.”
I felt it was time to reef the sails so we could get a more comfortable sail. I was having a guilty conscience in regards to Bente, because she had said, before they came, that she didn’t like big waves. But I convinced her to come since it was only 2 days at sea and we would have good weather reports and only go to sea if the weather looked clear and good. The report for these two days had been excellent, but as we all know, at sea you can never be completely sure. Now it was beginning to look like heavy weather sailing. I asked Bente to go below while we reefed the sails. The ride got more comfortable but with reefed sails we didn’t have enough “power” to ride through the heavy waves and we could only make 3.5 knots. This isn’t good enough, I said to Carsten, we should make for a harbor, and he agreed.
Just one little problem – we were 45 miles from the coast and it would take us at least 7 hours to make the nearest harbor. We turned towards Cape May, New Jersey and trimmed our sails.
After we reefed, changed course and trimmed the sails, Bente decided to remain below and read. Suddenly there was a crash from below and when Carsten looked down he could see Bente sitting on the floor, looking a bit shocked and helpless. Carsten sends Lars below to see if she is ok and then takes the helm so I also can go below. We got Bente up in a chair and I asked her to show me how much she could move her left arm, which wasn’t much. Those who have tried breaking bones in their lives, generally can tell immediately if they have broken one. Bente is in this group. She tells me that she sure she has broken her shoulder. We’re not sure if it is the shoulder or something inside the shoulder – that will require an x-ray. I give Bente some painkillers and get to start drinking water so she will be fasting when she gets to a hospital – if they need to operate. Lars gets Bente into bed, so she at least can try to relax for the next 7-8 hours until we reach harbor. She is, of course, extremely unhappy at the thought that their sailing holidays are at an end and especially since Lars had be as excited as a little kid at Christmas about sailing into New York harbor.
I got seasick again. If I’m tired, have low bloodsugar, I’m insecure or worried, I get seasick immediately. I feel terrible over having convinced Bente that she didn’t have to worry about open ocean sailing. I feel like I’m the reason she got injured. So I had to hit my seabunk for a couple of hours.
Six hours later, we were at the coast just outside of Cape May. Unfortunately the marina is deep inside the inlet at the back of the harbor. Sailing in took almost an hour in the dark and mist with some wild overfalls and malestroms at the beginning of the inlet. My skipper had to concentrate for all he was worth to get in through the strong currents and then we faced sailing in a very narrow channel with buoys that were barely visible. I stood on deck with our powerful flashlight and spotted the buoys, while Carsten steered and kept checking his chartplotter. The waters here are very shallow and there is no room for error. We felt our way in making only 2-2.5 knots – most of that due to the current carrying us in. Finally, we found the marina at the back of the harbor and got Capri docked, which was damned difficult with that current running. Carsten called a taxi and Bente and Lars got sent to the nearest hospital.
Carsten and I ate some cheese and drank a little red wine. We were totally flat after that sail, especially coming into the harbour. Lars called an hour later and told us that the scanning showed a fractured shoulder – no operation necessary, only painkillers. We went to bed and didn’t hear them come aboard a couple of hours later.
The next we told Bente and Lars that we couldn’t take her back out in open water sailing. So the plan changed to our sailing the boat to New York and them renting a car and driving up to meet us at Sandy Hook – right at the entrance to New York harbor. Lars was clearly disappointed, but then he realized that if they got on at Sandy Hook, he would still catch the sail into New York harbor. Once he realized that – he started smiling again.
We chose to spend a couple of days in Cape May, which is a wonderful beach town (America’s first beach resort). While Bente relaxed at the boat, we went exploring in town where we saw hundreds of beautiful houses in the “Southern Style” from the 1860’s. They brought Charleston, SC and “Gone with the wind” to mind.
It felt strange to set sail from the dock June 17, with Lars and Bente standing on the dock waving. Since it was Vinni and Carsten sailing, there was heavy fog (naturally). Fortunately, we had our track from coming in on our chartplotter so we could follow that out – but it was a tense time. A few hours later the fog began to lift, but we spent the night navigating through the fog (which had come back again) with our AIS and our radar (nothing better than not being able to see anything except on radar). Sailing like that is tiring, so after a 4 hour watch you are beat………..
The fog continued into the morning and we made land at Sandy Hook in light fog. I had been following a blip on our radar for a while which was nearing Capri. When it was about 100 yards away a sailboat materialized out of the fog. We blew in our foghorn to let him know we were there, he mistook that to be a call for help and charged over. We got him on the VHF and told him we didn’t have any problems, we were just letting him know we were there and he disappeared into the fog again. He had been watching us on his AIS – but he only had a receiver, not a transmitter so we couldn’t see him except on radar.
One and a half hours later, we reached the little marina where we had reserved a space. Lars and Bente were there, but unfortunately, we were a day early so they had no room for us. We ate a quick breakfast and then shoved off for NYC. A Canadian we had met in our travels had told us about a marina on the New Jersey side of the Hudson right across from Freedom Tower that he said actually wasn’t terribly expensive. We called and they had a space for us for the next 5 days.
Lars smile turned into a frown – now they had to drive the car to NYC and drop it there, which meant he wouldn’t get to sail into NY harbor with us. We told him that with the heavy fog, he probably wouldn’t be able to see anything anyway – but still………………..
Then we promised him that one of the next days, we would sail out, drop anchor in front of the Statue of Liberty and eat lunch and the smile came back to his face.
We sailed a couple of hours and neared the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, which is a huge construction that connects Staten Island and Brooklyn and marks the entrance to New York harbor, the Hudson River and is the gateway to the city. The fog has begun to lift and my tiredness from the last one and a half days sailing lifts with it, and there come the skyscrapers marching out of the fog and materializing into solids. WHAT IS HAPPENING? What is happening with me? Suddenly the tears are flowing down my cheeks, which surprises both Carsten and me. I’ve heard and read that sailing into NY harbor on your own keel is an exceptional experience. Yes, I’ve been in NYC twice before – I mean how special can it be for me? Very Special. I simply can’t describe the feelings that whelmed up in me when I saw the skyline and the green of the Statue of Liberty. I was moved far beyond words and it was incomprehensible to me that Carsten and I had sailed Capri here all alone, across the “pond” and almost 10,000 nautical miles (almost equal to half the distance around the world at the equator).
Nu ligger vi i Liberty Landing Marina, som lever helt op til det, den unge canadier havde sagt. Med udsigt til finansdistriktet på den sydlige del af Manhattan og ikke mindst Freedom Tower, der får alle tankerne tilbage til 9/11. Gys, gys. Forenden af vores kaj lige overfor Freedom Tower, er der opstillet Empty Skys to minde-vægge, hvor alle navnene på ofrene fra New Jersey er nedskrevet.
Efter at have nydt aftensmaden og et par glas vin går Lars, Carsten og jeg ned forenden af kajen, hvor vi kan se hele Manhattan Skyline by Night 2 sømil på den anden side af floden. Selv fra Capri kan vi se den sydlige del af Skyline, hvis der ikke ligger en trawler ved siden af og skærmer for udsigten. WOW det er helt uvirkeligt, det er som om, de har sat en kulisse op lige udenfor marinaen. Nu skal vi nyde NY de næste dage.
Now we are in Liberty marina and it is everything the Canadian told us. We have an unobstructed view (well if there isn’t a boat alongside us in the next slip) of the southern end of Manhattan and Freedom tower (which brings back all the memories of 9/11). At the end of our pier, there is a monument, Empty Skies, two walls that are set so you look across to where the twin towers were and see only empty sky. The names of those from New Jersey that perished that day are inscribed on the walls.
We enjoy our dinner and some wine and later we walk down to the end of the pier where we can see the entire Manhattan skyline by night, 2 nautical miles over on the other side of the river. WOW – it looks like a Hollywood set – painted against the sky.
As always after ocean sailing, the first day is spent washing and cleaning Capri, washing clothes and shopping. After we are done, we can play tourists, which we do. Lars and Bente show us Highline, which is an obsolete elevated subway that has been turned into a park. We walk at the second story level of the buildings from 14th to 34th street – what an amazing idea. We really got a feel for New York’s pulse.
Thereafter we visited ground zero. There, where the towers were is today two square holes with waterfalls. The names of the all that perished are inscribed on the low wall around them. There were many visitors, remembering. It was so terribly sad to think back to 9/11.
I think we all remember what we were doing that day. We lived in Holland and I was working from home when Carsten called and said, “Turn on CNN”. I didn’t understand what I was seeing, there was smoke coming from one of the towers and suddenly we saw the plane fly into the other tower. The towers collapsed. I wasn’t able to comprehend what I was seeing. There has been a lot of discussion about what should be done with the space that the towers were on and what should be built there. I think it is the right solution to leave the tower spaces empty except for the gaping holes and the waterfalls and building Freedom Tower alongside. Nothing can replace the twin towers.
Of course, we had to go up in Freedom Tower. 102 floors, 47 seconds in a turbo elevator. As Carsten has written about, the walls show a film of New York City’s development as you go up. But with only 47 seconds, I couldn’t follow the years (centuries). I had hoped to see it again on the way down, but there the elevator was suddenly outside the building and corkscrewing its way down so we saw the tower from all sides. I felt as if the elevator was swinging and I actually got a bit faint. Wow, great to get out in the fresh air. Carsten got a bit vertigo when we were at the top and had to turn and look into the building for a few seconds to get over it. But what a view from up there – the building look like Lego blocks.
Carsten has spoken many times about the Cloisters on the northern end of Manhattan. Even though Bente and Lars have been there before, we took the subway and a picnic lunch up there. And there we were, amidst the New Yorkers and their children, taking a day off from the city. In the middle of the park are the Cloisters, built from four different monasteries, each in their own building style. A wonderful cacophony of styles, ranging from Arabian to roman to art deco(?). Massive confusion and now the buildings house a part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. We ate our lunch with a view over the Hudson, a river Carsten and I soon would be sailing up. I suddenly thought about the Boeing airplane that made an emergency landing on the Hudson a few years ago without hitting any bridges, houses or ship – my hat is off to you Mr. airline pilot!
For something different, we took the bus back instead of the subway. I wanted to see, Washington Heights, Harlem and Yonkers, areas I’ve heard about but never seen. It is Manhattan’s backyard and all went well until we got to Central Park, where the traffic was so heavy that we realized we were in danger of not catching the last ferry across the river. So we got off the bus and took the subway the rest of the way. We also had a dinner reservation at the restaurant in Liberty Landing, a restaurant with what undoubtedly is one of the best views in the world.
It was our next to last evening with Lars and Bente and Lars had reserved the table for 8:30 p.m. right in the middle of the terrace with the view directly over at the Manhattan skyline. Great dinner and drinks afterward in their garden by the outdoor fireplace. Super. Thank you Lars and Bente.
The next day was the day to make Lars dream come true. Wonderful sunshine and clear skies. A great day to sail up the Hudson and into New York. The weather gods were smiling on us, Lars was at the helm and ecstatic.
Some of what he said:
“Wow, I never thought I’d experience this.”
“Shit, this is big.”
“The experience of a lifetime.”
“I never thought I’d get so close to the Statue of Liberty.”
“To think that here we are, at anchor right in front of the Statue, eating lunch.”
“Man are they going to be jealous back home when they see these pictures”
We had sailed down to the Verranzano Narrows Bridge, turned and sailed back up and anchored in front of the Statue of Liberty, watching the skyline the entire way. Here we sat and ate our salmon and drank white wine in front row seats, while hundreds of tourists lined up on the statue to get inside. We normally don’t drink alcohol when we’re sailing, but we made an exception on this day.
Lars and Bente’s duffelbags are packed and waiting on the pier. It is sad to see them get on the ferry and wave good-bye. We’ve had 2 ½ weeks together and had a wonderful time, despite Bente having broken her shoulder. Strange to think that they are going home to their regular jobs in Denmark while our lives as “boat bums” will continue. I’m still getting used to being a “boat bum” (a title I bear with a certain amount of pride). But we are both enjoying this new to us lifestyle, every single day.