In the original draft of my memoir, Ready to Come About, I chronicled all the ports we experienced on our year long circumnavigation of the North Atlantic Ocean.
Writing is hard work. And editing is, at times, painful.
For word-count sake, I had to cut out many sections that I cared deeply about. One was of our time in New York City.
In light of the monumental challenges it’s now facing in dealing with Covid-19, I resurrected that outtake. As a tribute to this great city and its courageous citizens, here it is.
New York City – Early May
By the time we entered New York City Harbor, weather conditions were deteriorating at such a rate that we nixed our plan to anchor at the affordable 79th Street Basin and, instead, set our sights on Liberty Landing on the Jersey side as the closest place to run for cover.
While David went below to radio ahead to reserve a slip, with Inia heeling a good twenty degrees, I sailed on between Staten Island and the city’s famous skyline dodging freighters, cruise ships, naval vessels, tug boats, sailboats, and a myriad of ferries going every which way.
It was exhilarating to be part of this distinctly New York City scene, so much so that I temporarily forgot about the impending storm and began to helm with one hand while snapping pictures with the other, until David resurfaced and his jaw hit the deck.
“Sue, do you have any idea where you’re going?” he asked, a hint of panic in his voice.
“Of course. To the Statue of Liberty. Then hang a right,” I responded, spontaneously taking a photo of him while I was at it.
That’s when he requested my undivided attention for just long enough to drop the sails, after which he’d take over the wheel.
Around 1300 we pulled into the congested Liberty Landing marina, and motored by several finger docks loaded with boats all bouncing in the chop. No sooner were we secured then the heavens opened and all hell broke loose.
High winds blew sheets of frigid rain across Inia‘s deck the rest of the day and the whole night through.
When the front passed, a gleaming new morning emerged, and the two of us sat in the cockpit sipping coffee, staring at the iconic landscape. When we had changed our route to head offshore from the Canadian east coast instead of the States way back when, David assured me we would hit New York City on our return trip. And here we were, aboard Inia, only a short shuttle ride from downtown Manhattan. But, we had time and money when he had made that promise, and I was painfully aware that we had long since run out of both. So I wasn’t about to hold him to it. Just as I was going to say so, he began:
“We are so late and so broke—”
“I know. I know. And I understand,” I interrupted, in an effort to spare us both.
“Hear me out,” he persisted. “What I am saying is this. We are so late that a few more days won’t make a difference in the whole scheme of things. And we are so broke that a couple more hundred on the Line of Credit won’t either. All you should worry about right now is finishing your coffee and changing out of PJ’s. We have a water taxi to catch in less than a half hour!”
Over the next few days, we suspended all our cares and we did Manhattan. For one of the most populated regions in North America, it was surprisingly compact and easy to navigate. Every block or two was a recognizable landmark; the Empire State building, Carnegie Hall, the World Trade Center site, Central Park, and the Museum of Modern Art, to name a few. The skyscrapers, department stores, yellow taxis, billboards, right on down to the manhole covers on the sewage system, were fantastically familiar too. Street vendors sold pretzels and hot dogs from their steaming carts, just like I had expected. And everyone was in a mad rush, just like I knew they’d be. What I didn’t expect was the transformative energy that emanated from it all.
These streets were alive with people from all corners of the earth and all walks of life, rushing maybe, but with a sense of belonging and purpose, as if unified and inspired by the pervasive spirit of human endeavour and accomplishment. It was as though the city’s sidewalks were gathering places; its vibrant arts and music scenes, public temples to human creativity; its trade and industry, pillars to aspirations, hard work and dreams come true; and its cultural diversity a monument to the communal urban soul.
I discovered, one didn’t need nature or solitude or an ocean to experience spirituality; it could be found right here in Times Square.