Tuesday, August 25, 2009

West Side Story

NYC 79th Street Boat Basin is run by the ever helpful Pedro. Located on the Upper West Side it’s a great place from which to explore via bus, subway, or to just hang out locally. Outside the marina a wide tarmac path is in constant use by runners and cyclists. James was just missed by several high speed bikes.

And whilst on the subject of high speed, the current through the mooring field is fast- up to 3.6 knots. see the picture of it running past the mooring buoy.

On a windy day it can make boarding Seraphim with the youngsters, extremely tricky, a rock and roll challenge.

Before hitting the city streets we often took a walk along the river in the wooded park, a gentle introduction to the bustle. Having conducted a survey of the playgrounds in southern Spain and the Balearics, the boys conducted a similar quest in New York covering six in Central Park and all those within a 10 minute radius of the 79th Street Yacht Basin.

Plus the Toys R Us Ferris Wheel at Times Square, the Natural History Museum the Planetarium and finger painting at the Manhattan Children’s Museum.

Exploring mixed in with catching up. A friend, Tim, took us to Central Park Zoo and the old fashioned carousel. We also pick-nicked in Central Park with cousin Alexander and Nick near their Upper Eastside apartment. There is a great rivalry between the Upper East and Upper West sides, both presuming superiority.

And the games continued in the Tribeca district in an ultra Vanity Fair loft conversion owned by Devrin and Jane, parents to Ocean and baby Nico. Jane and I worked together, across the Atlantic, for six years at Pearson Television International, it was a great opportunity to re-connect.

Other NYC treats included tours on open top buses, NYC haircuts, breakfast at New Wave and Zabars, outstanding burgers at Nicks (77th and Broadway) and sushi by the ton. All these feastings were paid for in long walks through the city streets.

Big Apples

For groceries we hit Fairway a supermarket boasting itself “like no other." True. It stocks everything packed tightly- as are the customers squeezing through the aisles, not a place for strollers. The Zabars Deli market is another crushed, eclectic shopping experience.

There’s A Place For Us

Dinghy-ing to the dock or sitting with a glass of wine on the aft deck contemplating our Manhattan skyline I mulled over which of the Riverside Drive penthouses, with patio gardens I would like.

On our first morning I heard “Let There Be Love” on the radio. It was rather charming to return to the streets of NYC with that in my ears. A bit less energetic than the pace set by the Jets and the Sharks.
Walking around New York is about walking in and out of film locations: Annie Hall et al Woody Allen, dozens of Scorsese-De Niros and scores of others. Up another block Lisa Minnelli belts out “New York New York“.

Around another corner is the “When Harry Met Sally café in which Meg Ryan performed “that” scene. The Friends café Central Perk was not there for us. It only existed on a set. But it is set in the south of Central Park, near Columbus Circle.

John had his outing to Wall Street, but, saw no slicked back Michael Douglas.

Whilst there we briefly took in the building site which is Ground Zero. It felt a deeply sad place, what with the eighth Anniversary coming up and listening to the radio reports of the on going in fighting about the site. The relatives have been promised that a Reflecting Pool will be ready by the 9th.

Up on the subway from the Financial District to Saks 5th Avenue for Jo Malone scent and cream, my essential luxuries. A little sprits’ of rather special scent sets a girl up for a day on high and low seas with high and low children.

I Feel Pretty Oh So Pretty

As we were preparing to leave NYC, John “lost” the new weather radio so we made an unexpected dash to downtown West Marine. Passing shop after shop of flashy and floaty evening dresses we eventually found roughty toughty West Marine in the centre of the Garment District.

Our plans to head north to Long Island were postponed as the path of Hurricane Bill turned towards New York. The forecast was for it to curve east and away but our previous experiences in Isabel and Ivan dictated safety, so we set off up the Hudson River. Initially I was livid that the first hurricane of the season, our third, should take this northerly path and blow out our plans, but, the trip turned into an unexpected pleasure. It is a beautiful river along which we passed WestPoint, the US Military Academy and further on the Hudson Highlands and several of the great Estates, palatial homes with acres of woodland cut down to provide grand vistas.

For the worst of the thunderstorms we were tucked up safely at Catskill Marina, and even witnessed the Tri-centenary Parade. Catskill is a mixed blessing of two towns. The Haves and Have Nots. Army recruiting posters are out in force, but it’s pretty and full of cat statues, or "catues" which decorate the village and are auctioned for charity at the end of each year.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Hurricane Bill passes well off to the east

Hurricane Bill is passing us well off shore to the East heading towards New England and the Canadian Maritimes. However, although Bill is losing strength. New York City harbour area is on a flood watch from the storm surge.

The Seraphims are safely tucked up in the Catskill Marina, over a hundred miles inland up the Hudson River.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Storm in New York City

Fully laundry-ed and provisioned the Seraphims were ready to explore Long Island Sound. The night before we were due to leave a violent lightning storm hit New York. It was shocking. A bolt crashed down next to Seraphim. It was a strike to a nearby building but the electromagnetic pulse destroyed all the instruments on the brand new yacht anchored next to us. (See picture).
Several other boats dragged anchor in the rain storm. John was prepared for one to be swept onto us by the strong current. Fortunately they were able to re-set their anchors.
The storm was over in twenty minutes moving on at thirty miles an hour to cause damage else-where in the city, knocking down over one hundred trees in Central Park.

Click below to see a short video we took of the storm approaching.

The next morning, Ken Barbour, a meteorologist we met in Palma emailed us a warning that Hurricane Bill was going to cause trouble in the North East in the next few days. John reviewed our plans and saw that in the event of a close hit from a hurricane, Long Island and the New York harbour area is subject to severe storm surge. To be safe we are heading one hundred miles up the Hudson River in company with catamaran “Catacaos.”

Follow Hurricane Bill at the Noaa website here.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

And now for something completely different

We are loving New York and re-adjusting to a faster pace after the solitude and laid back ways of the Bahamas (above) in the Spring.

Staten Island Ferry

Wall St

Times Square

Monday, August 10, 2009

Seraphim takes Manhattan

5am Saturday. Sunrise over Manhattan, New York City.
Pretty impressive.

Early Sunday we headed up Upper Bay, passed Staten Island and Brooklyn, to a fog clad Manhattan.

Gradually the Statue of Liberty and then the tip of Manhattan Island revealed itself.

Sailing past the Statue of Liberty was an amazing moment. Paris was really thrilling. This too. John and I high fived. We were in New York. Way to go, to us.

New York. New York. So good they named it twice. Encore to that.

On up the Hudson River where hundreds of skyscrapers and upmarket apartment blocks put their best facades forward competing for light and status.

At 79th Street Yacht Basin we secured a buoy for just $30 a night.

79th Street, the Upper West Side, the middle of Manhattan.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Washington to Cape May

Capital Capital

Whilst anchored in the Washington Channel we chose the Capital Yacht Club as our dinghy dock. Founded in 1842 it was worth the $15 a day to park our dinghy safely behind a locked gate. The fee secures a key to the dock, and the Club House with facilities such as showers (good), laundry, garbage disposal, internet, television and free soft drinks at the bar when there is no bar man, which after a hot walk home with the temperatures in the 80s is a much needed treat. Also, 10% off Jenny’s, the Asian Fusion restaurant upstairs. Kelvin and Manny the dock masters allowed us to keep our bicycles in the underground garage. On Saturday mornings for $5 there is an excellent breakfast from 8.30.

The Gangplank marina, next door charges, $10 dinghy for parking. Alternatively the Poseidon dock below Whites Seafood is free but not entirely secure.

Walking from the Capital Yacht Club dinghy dock L’Enfant Plaza (the Metro, shopping mall, post office and cafes) is ten minutes away. The Smithonian Castle and the Mall are fifteen minutes. Safeways which is best visited during the day is twenty minutes.

One small step for man …

On 19th July, the 40th Anniversary of the first moon landing, the family Rodriguez headed for the Air and Space Museum where thankfully our new friend Nancy and her sons from Liberty had saved us a place at the front of a long line outside. (Galvanising the Seraphim boys early in the morning is a task.) However, when the doors opened we did well in the stampede and the Smithsonian’s disorganised queuing system, finding ourselves ahead of our outside line position.

The Event? Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, the Apollo 11 astronauts and Alan Bean of Apollo 12 were signing their books. It was fast, furious and momentous. Aldrin (Magnificent Desolation) even ten minutes into the signing was a grinch, still sore he was number two on the moon, he hustled us along. Michael Collins (Carrying the Fire) and Alan Bean (Painting Apollo) were charming even taking the time to shake hands. A Smithonian grandee admonished me for seating my children on the book signing table. This was a one off and I was going to plant my children where I wanted. All the boys swore they would never wash the hands which shook with the history makers.

It was a kick to be in a city where history was literally being made everyday, five blocks from the boat, reported in newspapers, radio and television, worldwide. Judge Sonya Sotomayor was grinding through her confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The first Latino to be voted onto the Supreme Court. And a woman.
Although it is generally agreed that President Obama’s honeymoon is over, the bride (unlike others) is not yet ready for the attic. The President, five blocks from us, was pushing for a huge healthcare reform.

Monuments and Natural History

In between the Smithsonian Natural History Museum and American History Museum we bicycled around the Monuments.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt is a peaceful walk through a series of outdoor “rooms” with waterfalls, sculptures and FDR‘s famous words, e.g. “We have nothing to fear but fear itself“. Then on around the lake to the other Memorials including the one to the Korean War. My father fought in Korea as a young man, it was a haunting experience imagining the fear of ambush as the soldiers emerged from the jungle.

I had been to the Vietnam Monument in my early twenties. In the cold winter light there was almost no one around. I was deeply moved.Now years later, on a hot Sunday, crowds of people slowly moved past the wall on which are inscribed the hundreds of names of those who died in a foreign field. I could only read one small section. The grief emanating from the Memorial was palpable. As a mother of two boys it was too painful. Choked up I turned away and took comfort in my family as we bicycled along the Mall to the White House.

Of all the scores of Washington DC centric films, I love “The American President“ in which President Michael Douglas falls for feisty lobbyist Annette Benning. The film spawned Aaron Sorkin’s series “The West Wing“. By chance I have dozens of episodes on board. Whilst anchored in the Washington Channel I watched two of my favourite episodes.

Down Under

When the stress and stickiness were at their height and on a day when we were sleep deprived and were screaming at the boys for crazy-ing on the pontoon, the new stroller started to slip off the side of the dinghy. Handles, wheels, odd edges … none snagged. Inches from John’s outstretched hand it tipped over, slowly, inch by grasp less inch into the Potomac’s greasier waters. To add insult to sinking it sent up bubbles. The air turned blue.

But, Pete and Raewyn on Saliander, our new friends from New Zealand saved our new stroller. After scoping around with his nifty grapple, Pete fished it out.

Elaine Campbell a school friend of mine, made our stay in Washington DC extra special entertaining us at their lovely home. It was a deliciously easy way to do the laundry (!) and connect with friends. A relaxed day of hot tub, first load of washing, swimming pool, second load of washing, hot tub, third load and dryer, swimming pool rounded off by a yumious supper. Some days it’s a treat to indulge in non-competitive laundry where no one else is hogging the machines, and, dream, briefly, if only we could have a huge fridge which opens outwards and stays cold.

Their evening on Seraphim was a jolly riot with the meal simplified by advantage of the excellent seafood dishes sold on the pier near the anchorage.

The Campbells also lent us a car which facilitated an epic shop and an another Space Museum, the Steven F Udvar-Hazy Centre, near Dulles Airport.

Elaine’s husband Preston Campbell’s ground breaking work researching Cystic Fibrosis means the cure is on the horizon. Although he insists it is a team effort I have no doubt that without his dedication and inspiration the cure would still be a long ways off.

Must See Em

While John and the boys hung out in the Sculpture Garden next door to the National Museum of Art I spun around the massive gallery checking my favourites - Monet, Constable (Salisbury Cathedral), Degas, Rodin and the eclectic shop.

Still plenty to see, the Zoo, National Cathedral and Georgetown, but with time against us and museum-ed out the Seraphim’s headed back down the Potomac to the Chesapeake Bay, know as “The Bay” by locals.

Thunderstorms are rolling through regularly. The local weather channel on the VHF radio warns us that a clear, sunny day with blue skies is about to turn into a black sky, lightening and horizontal rain. With winds up to 40 miles an hour, our Sunday afternoon in St Mary’s City spun into a maelstrom in fifteen minutes. Fortunately as the first drops fell we secured ourselves to the dock belonging to the Sailing Academy.

Solomons Island

Friends who have been with us since September 03 may remember that this is where we experienced our first hurricane, Isabel. If intrigued everyone else can read our account in the archives.

On arrival we motored up Back Creek and bowed to D Dock in what was Hospitality Harbour where we came through the hurricane.

In Washington DC there were helicopters. In Solomons Island there is the Patuxent River Naval Air Warfare Centre. The US Navy at play, all day, in the air.

With serious weather forecast we took a buoy for $30 a night at ZAHNISERS known as Zs by the locals. This included the dinghy dock, use of the pool (essential with the heat in the upper 80s, and humidity in the 90s), swings and see-saw, laundry and showers (good).

After a cooling swim we headed for a commemorative Chinese at the China Harbour Restaurant. In 2003 during a lull in the hurricane John had dashed off for a take out. It was an odd nostalgia for a time of fear, high stress and chicken chow mein.

Bill and Greg were the ace team at the Hospitality Harbour who saw us safely through Isabel . Six years on Bill’s niece Katie is the lifeguard at Zahnisers. An evening of wine and reminiscence was spent with Bill and Kay overlooking St Mary’s River.

It’s a five minute walk from the Solomons Harbour Marina dock ($2) to posh grocery shop Woodburns which stocks a wide range of produce, including Lapsang Souchong tea, last found in the English Tea House, Epcot, Florida. The post office and West Marine are close by. Solomon’s is a good place for fixing things. On both visits John was industrious.

Local buses make it an easy ride to Wal-Mart, Target, Kmart, JC Penny, RadioShack - all usual mall suspects. Travelling on community buses can introduce the rider to some colourful characters but on our buses everyone had taken either too much or too little of their kind of medication.

The Calvert Maritime Museum is well worth a visit. An impressive expansion since 03. The boys loved the Otters and the Discovery Room with the sailing boat.

Provisioned and fixed up with new life lines by the workshop at Zahnisers and West Marined from bow to stern, we headed for Annapolis which not surprisingly on the first weekend in August was chocka so we stopped in Mill Creek off Whitehall Bay where the yahoos water-ski.

I’ve always wanted to sail under the Golden Gate Bridge, well, the William Lane Jr bridges did for now. Through the C and D (Chesapeake and Delaware Canal), down the Delaware River (uuuuugly) to Cape May and the Atlantic Ocean. Good to be back. The Chesapeake was charming but becoming claustrophobic. We needed to go down to the sea again.