12 Sept. 2006
SETI League
PriUPS Project

A Nautical Adventure

I had a nautical adventure the other night.  I use the term "adventure" perhaps a little loosely.  There were no wild animals, imminent threats of "serious injury or death," or even the realistic possibility of damage to material possessions.  Yes, I suppose someone could have called me on the cell phone and, in my eagerness to stop its "ringing," whatever that means now, I could have extracted it more violently than necessary from the pocket in which it was residing and accidentally dispatched it to the watery depths.  (Had that occurred, I would definitely refuse a lie-detector test.  Even if it were an "accident" this time, I'm sure my inner thoughts would betray me to the galvanometers.)  No, to me, "adventure" signifies any activity other than the humdrum rhythm of my daily existence, and going sailing is definitely in the adventure category.

New York Harbor is a festive place at night.  There are party boats everywhere.  We saw a couple of Coast Guard patrol boats at the fueling dock.  Initially they were in shadow, but as we got closer it became obvious that those machine-gun-looking things on small stands in the bow and the stern were machine guns on small stands.  Each boat had two Honda outboard motors.  Somehow I never thought of the Coast Guard as an outboard-motor kind of outfit, but then I don't think I had ever seen outboards quite this size, either.  I was guessing 250HP each, and I think I was close, since Honda does have a 225HP model.

The boat is docked on the New Jersey side of the Hudson, across from downtown Manhattan.  We headed south, almost to the Statue of Liberty.  With the wind from the south, it was necessary to zig and zag to head in that direction, and on the zags we got quite the view of the southern tip of Manhattan as well as of the East Side, with the Williamsburg and Brooklyn Bridges.  The wind was adequate but not unduly strong; the sailing wasn't as busy as it can be when the wind is more frisky, and other than a few episodes of releasing or hauling in a rope I wasn't called upon for prodigies of exertion.  At the end of the voyage, I sprung to the bow to fend off a pier stanchion, but it was mostly for effect.  In fact we missed the stanchion handily, and when I say "sprung" I think I may be exaggerating just a bit.

Other than the captain, whom I have known forever, the folks on the boat were new acquaintances and we had the grand old time babbling about this and that.  One guy (who did a lot more springing than I did) was talking about sailing around the world.  I couldn't get anyone to sing sea chanties, which I just now discovered have at least three acceptable spellings. 

When you lift your eyes
and see the sun a-risin'
on the far horizon
early in the mornin' (early in the morning).

See?  That's not so difficult!  But somehow nobody would join in...

There were a few scattered clouds that night.  Occasionally one would intersect the beam of the column of light rising from near the southern tip of Manhattan.  Even without the clouds the entire column was visible due to the usual particulates in the air, and it appeared to have a rectangular aspect and be composed of a number of smaller beams arranged to give it that shape.  I later read that each of the sub-beams was generated by a 7kW xenon lamp.  (This was the Times, not the Journal, or I would have another element sighting.)  The same article asserted that this memorial would run out of money in a couple of years and go dark.

Apparently the area adjacent to our dock is a hot nightspot!  When we returned we saw people lined up to go into a "disco."  There was a bar as well, with no line and no admission charge.  But after all that non-springing I was a bit tired, and I'm neither a disco nor a bar dude in any event.  I headed for the car and drove home before I fell asleep.  That's always the best sequence.  

Richard Factor