Two Weeks in the Big Apple - New York, NY.

 1st - 14th June 2005

Stepping out in the Big Apple took some adjustment after spending several months in the relative tranquility of the Bahamas but we soon felt at home and were pleasantly surprised to discover that the friendliness of the city and its cosmopolitan inhabitants far exceeded our expectations.    There was no feeling of claustrophobia and anxiety we'd often experienced in large crowded cities and strolling through the wide streets, where you could pass from the hustle and bustle of Broadway into a quiet residential area and then to the peace of Central Park within minutes, was fascinating in itself.    From our central location at the West 79th Street Boat Basin, we were within easy walking distance of many sights and close to the subway station, allowing us to reach further away venues easily.    Although $180 a week for a mooring buoy seemed expensive, where else would you find a place to stay right in Manhattan with all mod-cons for that price?

Our first day ashore was spent exploring on foot with Kate and David from Troubadour.   After a visit to the excellent NY Visitor Centre, to get ourselves informed and lunch in a deli offering a bewildering choice of snacks, we decided to take a trip to the top of the Empire State Building and get our bearings on the city from above.   Despite his dislike of high places Phil made it out onto the Observation Platform and even managed a smile!    It has to be said that the trip to the top wasn't anything like its representation in the movies, where it seems you can wander to an empty elevator at your leisure to visit the deserted platform.    The reality was queuing for forty minutes, squeezing like sardines into a packed elevator for the 80 floor trip up to join the next queue to ascend the last few floors.    However, the views from the top did justify the effort of getting there.

After joining the throng in Times Square, we decided it was time we acted our age and took a trip to the famous Schwarz toy store, to see their amazing range of soft toys and the giant piano operated by dancing on the keys.   We did find the willpower not to add to our collection of soft toy crew members aboard Anju.

No, we don't have room on the boat for this one.......

.......although this elephant may look good on deck!

On day two of our great adventure, we decided that we were missing the sea already and it was time to visit the Intrepid Maritime Museum.   Walking there wasn't such a good idea as it was 34 blocks from our starting point and by the time we arrived our feet were numb.   We decided it was definitely time to brave the subway system for the return trip.   Despite the weary legs, we did enjoy viewing the Concorde aircraft exhibition and the immense Intrepid Aircraft Carrier with its collection of fighter planes displayed on deck.   Christine's Dad was puzzled when he called on the mobile phone to be told that we couldn't talk for long as we were about to be attacked by Kamikaze, the fascinating re-enactment of a deadly Second World War attack on the Intrepid was just starting!

The Intrepid - if Anju's deck was this big, we could fit that elephant after all!

It was  surreal to see Concorde floating on the river.

On our way to the subway station, when we were taken in tow by an friendly aging rocker we'd asked for directions, we made a wonderful discovery, a shop selling all kinds of sheet music and were able to add to our collection.  After some serious practice, we should be able to increase our repertoire on the piano and guitar we carry aboard to disturb those peaceful anchorages!

Rain was forecast for the following day, so we decided it would be a good time to visit the Museum of Natural History.   The scale of the museum made our legs ache and our brains weary after a while, as we viewed their extensive collections.    After visiting the Smithsonian in Washington, the London Natural History Museum and this one, we decided we'd seen enough dinosaur bones and stuffed animals for the rest of our lives!

After the tragic events of September 11th, 2001, no visit to New York could be complete without a pilgrimage to Ground Zero, the former site of the World Trade Center's twin towers, to pay our respects to the poor souls who perished there.  On seeing the location, with its tightly packed neighbouring skyscrapers in the busy Financial District, we were amazed that the destruction hadn't been even greater.    The plans for the redevelopment of the site were on display nearby, including the permanent memorials to those lost, which will be created on the exact footprint of the destroyed towers. 

We'd hoped to visit the Stock Exchange but since the terrorist attack, the viewing gallery was no longer open, so we had to make do with a stroll along Wall Street, a look at the exterior of the Stock Exchange building with its huge US Flag and a visit to the Museum of Financial History instead.

Ground Zero.

Financial district skyscrapers

Whilst in the south of Manhattan, we visited the Historic Seaport district at Pier 17, now largely redeveloped as a recreation and retail area.    We found they were in the midst of a multi-cultural arts festival and our visit coincided with a Chinese dance display.    Phil chanced his hand at the New York Lottery stall and with the $1 scratch card he purchased, won the princely sum of $15.  He wasn't so lucky with the second scratch card he purchased from his winnings, but all losing cards were placed in a prize draw.    Of course, his name was the first drawn out and the prize was another $20-worth of $1 scratch cards.   Only one small win after scratching off all those cards and a bad case of repetitive strain injury of the card-scratching hand, but it was all in a good cause.

New York's Historic Seaport

Can't see the grass for the bodies!

We were now in the midst of an exceptional heat wave, with temperatures hitting the 90s every day, life in the city became very tiring.   We decided to spend a leisurely Sunday enjoying a Greek-style brunch at the nearby excellent restaurant, "Niko's", before heading to Central Park with our trusty and somewhat rusty bikes.   When we arrived it seemed that the almost the entire population of New York had had the same idea and was seeking out a cool spot to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon!   The more energetic souls were either on roller-blades, running or, like us, cycling.   After about ten minutes we realised that everybody else was cycling the opposite way to us and  we were actually riding the wrong way around the Park's one-way system.   Once we turned to head around the park in the correct direction, life became much less perilous! 
Next day to escape the heat, we took a tour of the United Nations Headquarters on the East River, where we were able to visit all the main assembly rooms and had a very informative tour from our Belo-Russian guide.  Phil found a daily programme of meetings in one of the rooms and it seemed that the first half of some of the meetings must be taken up just by reading out the title of the meeting!   We learnt that the order of seating of the representatives of each country was decided by pulling one country name out of a hat at the beginning of each annual session.   The country selected gets to sit at the front table and the rest are then arranged alphabetically from there.  It was depressing to learn that landmines cost as little at $3 for warring nations to manufacture and up to $1000 and great human risk for the UN to clear, never mind the injuries to unlucky civilians who happen up them.  

UN General Assembly

UN Statue

On our way back from the UN, we stopped to collect our new Red Ensign for the stern of our boat.   We'd been struggling to find one since our return to the US and our existing flag was decidedly jaded (more like a string of holes held together with a holey Union Jack).   We'd finally tracked down a flag company and ordered a new one in New York.   However, on arriving to collect it, something was amiss and on close inspection we found that the flag they'd produced was an historical red ensign, dating from the time before the War of Independence.    The lady at the flag supplier was quite insistent that it was the correct flag until we told her that if we flew that one one Anju's stern, we may have to invade America again!   Our search for a new Ensign had to continue...

For a change to the urban environment, we took a trip by train to the New York Botanical Gardens in the Bronx.  The first stage of our trip was to Grand Central Station, an amazing building, more like a cross between an up-market shopping mall and gourmet food court than a station, with all those nasty, noisy trains safely hidden from view.    It was worth a visit just to eat an exotic meal, anything from Indian food, to Mexican, Chinese, Japanese, French or even plain old North-American style meals were on offer.  It certainly was an improvement on the British station buffet and worth a visit even if you weren't catching a train.  In fact buying a ticket and finding a train were the most tricky parts of the visit.


Part of one floor of Grand Central Station.

Peggy Rockeller Rose Garden

Out in the Bronx at the Botanical Gardens we really suffered from the heat of the baking sun and had to seek refuge in the coolness (!) of the hot house for a tour of the palm garden and desert plants.    The Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden was in full bloom and luckily we were able to get there on the Garden's tram service.   We looked forward to enjoying another visit to the Gardens in cooler weather on our way south later in the year. 

Having blown our budget we'd avoided the City's world-renowned but pricey art museums until we discovered that it you timed your visit right, usually for Friday evening, admission was free for several hours, so we were able to enjoy some culture after all.    During the "Museum Mile" festival, when Fifth Avenue's museums offered an evening of free admission, we visited the National Academy Gallery and the striking spiral gallery at the Guggenheim.    The following Friday evening it was the turn of the Museum of Modern Art. 


Our culture fix, The Guggenheim, A Pretty Sheep Picture and another favourite from the MOMA.

Back on the river, life was never dull and there was always plenty of traffic, ferries, sight-seeing boats, water taxis, tugs and barges.    Now and again our dinner would even slide across the table as the Circle Line tour boat passed by.  

One particular day it seemed that there was an exceptional amount of activity near the marina, even by New York standards.  Police boats, fire trucks, four Police cars and a couple of ambulances were creating plenty of excitement nearby.    We asked the marina dock master what was going on.   "We've got ourselves a floater", he told us.    We looked puzzled so he explained to us that a body had floated down the Hudson and ended up at the marina.  We wondered if that happened often.  "Oh, only once or twice a season," was his reply.  Now New York seemed more like its movie image!   Later a local reporter wanted to interview us about the incident but we had to decline as we'd managed to keep well out of the way.

A couple of days later more excitement of the same kind, Police cars, Police boats, fire trucks, ambulances.   Fearing another floater, we made ourselves scarce but later found out that the excitement this time was a naked man swimming in the Hudson, telling the other yachts' crews that he was Jesus.  Despite the strong current he wouldn't climb out of the river until he was forcibly rescued.   It has to be said that it would be a miracle if he didn't catch a nasty disease swimming in the murky water.  Never a dull moment in the Big Apple.


There was just time to take in another couple of museums before our time in New York was up.   We visited the Museum of the American Indian and the Museum of the City of New York.    As we made our way home from the latter, taking the subway to avoid the rain, we found ourselves in a crowd of thousands of Puerto Ricans.   Chatting to a friendly lady we were squashed beside, we learned that it was a special celebration weekend for locals of Puerto Rican origin and the next day, as she recommended, we headed over to Fifth Avenue to see the parade for ourselves.   We found there were almost as many Police in the parade as policing it.   The crowds lining the street had dressed themselves in many imaginative ways with Puerto Rican flags.

Puerto Rican parade on Fifth Avenue.

Another thing which truly amazed us in the Big Apple was the choice of food available, whether it was in the bustling delis and restaurants, in the supermarkets, where we usually bought our food or even at the street fairs at the weekend.    It seemed that no matter what you wanted to eat and no matter what time of day, you could find it in New York.
All too soon, our permitted two weeks on the mooring in New York were at an end and it was time to pour over the pilot books, to work out the best time to head up the East River and through the notorious Hell Gate.   It was vital to get the timing right, otherwise we could find Anju going backwards as a result of the strong tidal current.   Fortunately our calculations were correct and our trip relatively easy despite the distractions of regular overhead traffic; road and subway traffic on the bridges we passed beneath, including the Brooklyn Bridge, helicopters passing close overhead as they came in to land on the river front heliports, jets only a couple of hundred feet above us as we passed La Guardia airport and even a couple of cable cars crossing the river.    Our timing was lucky for another reason, no sooner had we passed through Hellgate that we heard a Coastguard VHF announcement that a section of the East River was closed as one of those helicopters we'd passed had crashed into the river.   


Passing under Brooklyn Bridge

Anju approaching Hell Gate at eight knots

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