Sunday, March 04, 2007

I Did Not Sail To Tottenville Today.

No, I did not sail to Tottenville today, on the Rosemary Ruth or any other sailing vessel.

But I had sailed there a little over a month ago, and I had had the most marvellous time writing up the trip report as far as the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. I'd closed that with the promise, "Part II To Come!"

Well, sometimes it takes me a while to get back to it - but this seems like a good evening to take a break from all the political stuff & wander back through the rest of my pictures, see how much I can remember!

When last we left the charming schooner, after patiently await the passing of a parade of behemoths, she was crossing the Verrazano Narrows to the Staten Island side.

And now - under we go...

and away...

into the Lower Harbor.

Green "21" to port. Lightly frosted with ice, as the shoreline's been all along. Yes, you're right, it's red-right-return, but there's a fair amount of room between this marker and the end of the deep water, we're fine. LOOK at that current! We're ripping along!

The Verrazano recedes in the distance as we head south into the quiet of the lower harbor. Tugster is our tillerman.

These are Hoffman and Swinburne Islands, two of the many tiny islands scattered around the waterways of New York City. These two are entirely artificial, having been constructed of landfill in the 1870's; like so many of those little islands in the "Manhattan archipelago", these two have their history as a place of quarantine. In that respect, they are linked directly with a far more famous pair of little islands - Liberty (once Bedloe's) and Ellis - this was where immigrants who were denied entrance to the country because of disease - either active or feared to be highly possible due to an immigrant's country of origin - were held. You can read an interesting post on the subject here, on Google Earth.

Here's a slightly closer view of the ruins on Swinburne. Today, the only inhabitants are various birds - these little offshore islands make wonderful nesting areas where they can raise their young well away from all us troublesome human-types. There are some seals who've also come to appreciate that privacy in the last few years, although their basking is sometimes interrupted by fascinated kayakers. I haven't heard of any seal sightings yet this year, though - it seems as though perhaps with the winter being as bizarrely warm as it was up until a couple of weeks ago, the seals may not have travelled as far south as they sometimes do.

And that, by the way, is about as close as we can safely get to those islands in the Rosemary Ruth. I noticed that there's a lovely surf break between the two - that's the shallowest spot in the area - that turns out to be indicative of the entire south shore of Staten Island. I was actually surprised just how far we held a course that was nearly due south - my only other boating experience in this area was the kayak circumnavigation of Staten Island for which I joined the Rustbucket Adventure Squad a couple of years ago. In a kayak, you just don't notice the extent of the shallows that border the southern shore of Staten Island, but in a schooner, even a small one, you have to respect the limits of the Old Orchard Shoals, which extend nearly three nautical miles out from shore at their widest point. For ships like the big freighters and car carriers and tankers we were waiting for at the Narrows, the navigable waters are even more restricted - looking at a chart, you can see them laid out like roads, taking the giant ships straight to the ports. The channels are well marked, but being a harbor pilot for those behemoths has got to be a hair-raising job at times. The chart itself speaks to that. In the shorthand language of charts, "obstns" stands for "obstructions", and "wk" stands for "wreck". I see that and it leaves me wondering - is there a story behind it? It must be written down somewhere - even if only on a page somewhere in the dusty old archives of an insurance company.

At any rate...there's the West Bank Light - and we're close enough that Richard's ready to change our heading & sail for the Old Orchard Shoals light. A freighter or bulk carrier, for example, wouldn't be able to cut the particular corner we're cutting - but the Rosemary Ruth draws little enough water that we can get away with it.

And looking at the clock now, I'm afraid that's all I've got time for tonight.

Part III to come!

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