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This past Sunday Karen and I were married on Governors Island. After a week of wet weather we were pretty worried, but it turns out our fears were groundless: not a drop of rain. Here are some pictures courtesy of Karen’s cousin Steve (click here to visit his website).

The perfect spot for us to get married — the palm trees, the harbor, the skyline:

Lucky for the groom, the bride gave her approval:

Even the Staten Island ferry came by to check out the proceedings:

After the ceremony the bride and groom sat at their table for a festive meal:

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Last Saturday was the fourth annual City of Water Day, sponsored by the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance. Like last year, we took Puffin over to Liberty State Park. But unlike last year, we did not have to tie up to the seawall. This year we had a slip waiting for us in Liberty Landing Marina.

But first we had to get there. We got down to our marina around 8:30 a.m. All systems seemed “go,” except when we tried to start the engine, nothing happened. Well . . . not exactly nothing: There was a click, and then nothing. This swan came over to check us out and see if he could help:

It turns out boat batteries do not last forever, and the ones in Puffin may have been the original ones from when she was launched in 2004. Fortunately, Mike, the marina manager, had a couple of batteries in stock and got them installed for us in about fifteen minutes. With the new batteries, the engine started right up, and we were on our way.

It was a bumpy ride past Coney Island to the Narrows, straight into the wind and waves. New York Harbor was its usual hustle and bustle. I monitor VHF channel 13 when in the harbor so I can know what boats are going where. One of the ones we had to look out for was MSC Bruxelles, loaded with containers and bound for Baltimore:

Photo by Karen

 

I was my usual nervous self when traversing the harbor, but thanks to Karen keeping a sharp lookout we had an uneventful crossing from Bay Ridge over to the Statue of Liberty and the Morris Canal. Michelle, the dockmaster at Liberty Landing Marina, was very helpful directing us to our slip:

We missed the ferry over to Governors Island, so we decided to make the most of our time at Liberty State Park. We got some free ice cream, ate some lunch, and then went kayaking for an hour on the other side of the park (where we tied up last year). The views from Liberty State Park are pretty awesome. Here’s the New York skyline:

And here it looks like you can take a train from the old terminal in New Jersey straight to Manhattan:

We had a good time at our third City of Water Day. We got to spend some time in a part of the harbor that we usually just pass through and visit a new marina. But the highlight of the day was when we were getting ready to leave. A boat came into the marina, and the man at the bow looked over at us and asked — not “What kind of boat is that?” (which we’re used to hearing) — but, “Is that your Nimble?”

Turns out he’s the owner of Dunmaglass, a 1993 Nimble Nomad that he keeps in Alabama. We talked with him a bit, and he came aboard for a look around and pointed out where things are different on his boat. We would have liked to stay longer, but it was time for us to head home. After an exchange of emails, we slipped our lines and made for sea. Waves in the harbor were two to three feet, so we ducked around Governors Island and through the Buttermilk Channel. Once past the Narrows we were broadside to the waves, so we had to tack our way back to Jamaica Bay. About three hours after leaving Liberty Landing we docked back home at Sea Travelers Marina.

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Governors Island opened for the 2011 season on Friday. Yesterday Karen and I biked to Pier 6 at Brooklyn Bridge Park to catch the free ferry over to the island. We were not the only ones who had this idea:

We had to wait about half an hour to get on a ferry, but the boarding process went pretty smoothly. There were three lines: one for bikes, one for people with strollers, and one for pedestrians.

Getting the bikes and people on the ferry is less chaotic than it looks:

Governors Island is only about two miles around, so a circumnavigation by bike does not take very long. It’s a great ride, though, cooled by breezes off the water. And there are lots of interesting things to look at, particularly the former U.S. Coast Guard buildings.

The southwestern tip of the island is now Picnic Point. There are food vendors, benches, hammocks, and great views of the harbor. That’s Jersey City behind the aid to navigation:

Lots of great brick and old, faded signs for those who like that sort of stuff:

And you can poke into all sorts of nooks and off-the-beaten-track places in old Fort Jay:

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New York Harbor is not Puget Sound. We don’t have mountains, and we don’t have as many big ferries.

We also don’t have conditions like this:

(For more pictures from this series, click here.)

One of the shortest (if not the shortest) ferry trips you can take in New York City is from the Battery to Governors Island. It takes about ten minutes, but it’s totally worth it. You get to see the water side of the recently restored Governors Island ferry terminal:

 

You get to ride on a vessel with all sorts of nice details that show the captain runs a tight ship, like this line, neatly coiled and ready for use:

 

And even if it’s raining you get a view of the East River and its bridges:

 

For a close-up view of another New York City ferry, click here.

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The Urban Assembly New York Harbor School is one of New York City’s public high schools, dedicated to using the harbor as an instructional tool. It used to be located in Bushwick, Brooklyn, about as far from the harbor as one can get and still be in New York City. Today was the official opening of the school’s new Governors Island facility, a former Coast Guard building that has been beautifully renovated—an opening complete with the ceremonial cutting of, not a ribbon, but a fishnet.

It was chilly and rainy, but the ceremony was held outdoors. As Harbor School founder Murray Fisher explained, since the ninth-graders were at that moment out on the water on the schooner Pioneer, we should also be outside. The SUNY Maritime band played the anthems of the U.S. armed forces while we waited for the ceremony to begin:

The flags didn’t mind the rain:

Nor did the plants in the school’s garden, a joint project of the art and science classes:

The Sustainable NYC class at Fordham University worked with the Harbor School students to plant the garden and procured most of the plants.

Various dignitaries attended, including New York State Senate Majority Leader John Sampson, State Senator Daniel Squadron, Congressman Jerrold Nadler, New York City Council Member Margaret Chin, Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, and Mayor Mike Bloomberg. Here Nathan Dudley, the school’s principal, addresses the attendees (with Murray Fisher on the right):

Chancellor Klein spoke:

Students listened, some in the rain:

And some from their classrooms:

Finally, Mayor Bloomberg came to the podium as the rain got serious about falling:

The fishnet was cut with golden scissors:

We were rewarded with “light refreshments” for standing in the rain. This being the Harbor School, the refreshments included oysters:

One project of the school is the reintroduction of oysters to New York Harbor, a necessary step for cleaning up the harbor. These oysters did not come from their project (we think).

The Harbor School is the only school in New York with this view from its cafeteria:

And it’s also the only school in New York whose students get to see this every day on their way home from school, as they ride the schoolferry:

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Here’s an upcoming event for those of you in the New York Harbor area: City of Water Day. On July 24, under the auspices of the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, water lovers will converge on Liberty State Park, Governors Island, Atlantic Basin, and Brooklyn Bridge Park to celebrate the harbor. Activities will include music, movies, free boat tours, and paddling and rowing.

Click here for more information.

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Governors Island is host to many events. Last night’s was not the quietest (or driest). Water Taxi Beach was the venue for a late summer beach party with the B-52s.

The evening started off hot and muggy and clear. Here are Karen and the kids enjoying a picnic in front of the stage:

picnic

We had about an hour and a half to kill before the opening act, Meta and the Cornerstones (a Brooklyn-based reggae band). It was hot with very little breeze, but there were all sorts of craft plying the waters off the Battery.  Here’s Pioneer:

pioneer

Finally, the B-52s took the stage:

b-52s

They were putting on an amazing show and were about halfway through their set when the skies over New Jersey began to glow with flashes and occasional bolts of lightning. I turned to Karen and said they should move “Love Shack” up on their set list if they wanted to be sure they got the chance to play it. Nearing the end of “Roam” the music and singing stopped abruptly, followed by an announcement that they were going to take a break while the weather passed over.

Well, it passed right over us: bolts of lightning all around, heavy rain, and big winds. We stuck it out under umbrellas and towels and hoped it would clear quickly, but, alas, it was not to be. The rest of the set was canceled, and we marched our wet selves back to the ferry. By the time we got back to Manhattan, the rain had stopped.

Here are the bedraggled survivors waiting for their train home (Karen with the kids and her sister, Dina):

survivors

And we never did get to hear “Love Shack.”

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On August 1 Karen and I made a triumphal (okay, maybe it wasn’t triumphal) return to Governors Island, this time with the kids in tow. Unfortunately, we were not able to take Puffin, so we joined the huddled masses on the ferry from the Battery Maritime Building, all yearning to breathe free on the lawns and promenade of the island.

In 1809 Washington Irving, in A History of New-York, from the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty; Containing, among Many Surprising and Curious Matters, the Unutterable Ponderings of Walter the Doubter, the Disastrous Projects of William the Testy, and the Chivalric Achievements of Peter the Headstrong—The Three Dutch Governors of New Amsterdam: Being the Only Authentic History of the Times that Ever Hath Been or Ever Will Be Published, bemoaned the fact that Governors Island, “once a smiling garden . . . was now covered with fortifications” so that it “resembled a fierce little warrior in a big cocked hat, breathing gunpowder and defiance to the world!”

I’m happy to report that, although the fortifications remain, the gunpowder and defiance seem to be gone.

fort_jay

The island is aswarm with peaceful New Yorkers and visitors who roam everywhere by foot, bike, scooter, and other human-powered wheeled transport. In fact, it was the bicycles that lured us to Governors Island this time. We were hoping to rent one of Bike and Roll‘s quadcycles, but we were much too late, and there weren’t any available. Instead, we each got a bicycle—mountain bikes for the kids, and fancy, orange Dutch bikes for Karen and me.

gi_bikes

Riding the complete perimeter of the island is easy due to the lack of hills and the lovely breezes off the water.

gi_promenade

There are plenty of places to stop and lots of grass to rest on. If you go on Fridays, you can get a bike for an hour for free, and Bike and Roll has just added 50 more bicycles to its fleet. (Here’s a question, though: How come they get to charge for the orange bikes? They were donated to New York City by the Dutch government.)

At any rate, it was another thoroughly enjoyable afternoon on Governors Island. Next time we’ll bring our own bikes, though.

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Here’s a pictorial review of City of Water Day.

This is the tug Pegasus, heading toward Erie Basin or Gowanus Bay on a tour:

pegasus

Karen got this dramatic shot of the Mary A. Whalen and one of American Stevedoring‘s gantry cranes:

whalen

They’re one of the companies keeping the working waterfront working.

Here’s another shot of Puffin, secure at Pier 101. That’s Karen standing in the stern:

puffin_101

There was an exhibit on Governors Island discussing the role of the oyster in the ecological and commercial history of New York City. It also explained the efforts to bring the oyster back to New York Harbor. Accompanying the exhibit was a small oyster shell midden:

midden

To learn more about oysters and New York City I highly recommend Mark Kurlansky‘s The Big Oyster: History on the Half Shell. (Yes, I know. That’s the second time I’ve recommended a Kurlansky book. I’m not on his payroll; I just really like his stuff.)

The scene at the boat landing:

kayaks

This plaque commemorates the purchase of Governors Island by Wouter van Twiller in 1637. The remarkable thing about the plaque is that it mentions the names of the two Manahatas from whom the island was purchased:

plaque

Here’s good old Wouter (second from left, I’m guessing):

Wouter_van_Twiller

I wonder what “two axe heads, a string of beads and a handful of nails” would buy today.

The tug Cornell passes the Brooklyn waterfront:

cornell

Governors Island is also hosting various art installations. This is one—made up of light and smoke—inside the chapel:

art

For a lot more information about Governors Island, and particularly for some fantastic historic maps and images (including one of Wilbur Wright taking off), go to the Web site of the Governors Island Preservation and Education Corporation (GIPEC).

And if you, like us, would like docking for recreational boaters to be part of Governors Island’s future, please let GIPEC know.

For more pictures from me and Karen, visit my web gallery.

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Today was City of Water Day in New York, sponsored by the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance. Hundreds (thousands?) of people came to Governors Island just off the Battery by ferry, canoe, kayak, rowing gigs, and one lone private powerboat.

Karen and I arrived at Pier 101 in Puffin around 1:00 p.m. We tied up at one dock but had to move to make way for bunches of kayakers. The next spot was too close to some beautiful wooden rowing boats, so we moved to a third spot. This one was a bit bumpy as the ferries came and went, but we put out all our fenders, and the boat is secure:

IMG_5123_sm

City of Water Day looked to be a tremendous success. Tons of people were on Governors Island, listening to music, fishing, seeing art installations, and visiting with representatives of local water access advocacy, educational, and environmental groups.

We are now camping on the ballfields with a couple hundred paddlers and rowers. The view of Jersey City is very nice. (We’re too far south on the island to see Manhattan.)

When I first came ashore this afternoon I planted my flag and announced, “I claim this land in the name of recreational boaters.” GIPEC, are you listening?

photo 071809 001

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