Safari reaches New York - July 2008
Author: Carmel Kavanagh Posted on: 1/8/08 Print Version

Well, against lots of odds, challenges, difficulties, and at times seemingly insurmountable problems, we have done it, we have crossed the Atlantic and arrived at our destination, New York Harbour!

Who would have thought that way back in 1985 when Ken and I first took up sailing, we would one day sail such a distance? Quite frankly not us or anyone else who knew us at that time.

Our decision to buy our first boat, the wooden Folkboat, Mistral, in 1986 changed the focus of our lives in a most profound way. Thanks to that decision, we have just spent a most wonderful 2 and half years of our lives sailing to many different shores but culminating in the sail past the Statue of Liberty on 29th July 2008.
There was just the two of us on board. The day was clear, the sky blue with a gentle 10-15 knots of wind from the west as we glided past the great Lady.

There was a lot of traffic with the Staten Island ferries, and all the other tourist boats ferrying huge numbers of visitors from Lower Manhatten out to Liberty Island and Ellis Island. There was also a large number of cargo ships at anchor so we had to be vigilant. However, I left the navigating and helming to the skipper and just enjoyed the moment.

Carmel - Passing the Statue of Liberty

Manhatten skyline

Coney Island
Shortly after going under the great Verrazano Bridge, we rounded a corner and there she stood in all her majesty and glory. What an awesome sight with the famous Lower Manhatten skyline in the background. Off course, I remembered all of our fellow countrymen who also feasted their eyes on this very same sight as they made their way full of hope and I am sure, some trepidation, towards a new life in the USA.

The final leg of the journey from Norfolk in the Chesapeake was without incident. After returning to the boat from Ireland on July 3rd, we spent a few weeks just relaxing and exploring the Chesapeake. I became quite ill in Ireland and ended up in Beaumont A & E a few days before our departure. Bacterial gastroenteritius was diagnosed which left me weak and feeling very much below par in the run up to our departure and for a week or so after our return to the Chesapeake. So apologies to all our friends whose calls I never returned simply because I was too ill.

Having physically recovered, we decided to go up to Deltaville to suss out where we planned to leave the boat in October. Deltaville is at the mouth of the Rappahanock river in the Chesapeake. On the way, we got caught out in a most violent storm which had not been forecast. The wind reached 50 knots and the rain was so heavy that it hurt- reducing visibility to nil. We quickly dumped the sails and ran with the wind which brought us way past our destination. The lightening was terrifying. We were not happy campers but had no choice but to deal with it.

When the worst of the storm had passed, we turned back and ploughed our way into 28-30 knots of wind into the sheltered waters of Deltaville. Going against wind and tide, it took forever!

But our adventures were not yet over! On the way in, we ran aground although in the marked channel. A shoal or sandbank had extended out into the channel which proved too much for our deep draught. We called up the boatyard where we were heading. They immediately launched a boat to come to our assistance. However, before they arrived, we had worked our way into deeper water again and proceeded on towards Deltaville. What should have been a 5 hour sail took 11 hours! We were delighted and relieved to get into a safe haven.

Deltaville itself was very disappointing even though the people were really helpful and friendly. Its a very isolated spot and lacks the kind of services one needs when preparing a boat for long-distance sailing so we are currently negotiating with a boatyard on the Solomon Islands which is near the mouth of the Potomac. It has all the services we would need and is just about within budget. We havnít cancelled the boatyard in Deltaville yet- just in case!

I have to admit that although we love the United States, we really donít like the climate here. The constant thunderstorms with really dramatic 'killer' lightening is very off-putting. These thunderstorms hit with alarming frequency - no doubt caused by the intense heat during July and August but we also experienced very unpredictable weather during April and May. So the weather here will play a big role in how long we decide to spend cruising in the United States. Unfortunately, things have not improved on the weather front since we arrived in New York. There was a really nasty, severe thunderstorm last Sunday which caused us to cancel a sail around New York harbour with my brother, Nick and his wife, Anne.

Anyway, back to the matter in hand! On Thursday 17th July, we departed the Chesapeake bound for New York. The trip took 48 hours and thankfully, we encountered no inclement weather. We had to motor all the way because there was no wind. Its really hard to get it right!! Towards 1000 on Saturday, we arrived off Sandy Hook and headed for Rockaway Point Yacht Club where we arranged to anchor. We were made very welcome by the members. This was our first port of call as we wanted to be close to Nick and Anneís summer home in Breezy Point, Long Island.

There was a fierce, unexpected current flowing which we did not like - especially on anchor. As we were going ashore in our dinghy, the outboard motor failed! In the few short moments it took to organise the oars, we were already well out of sight of the Yacht Club where my brother, Nick, was awaiting our arrival. As we were being swept down the inlet towards a major bridge, quite unable to row against the current (but not in any real danger), an NYPD harbour patrol boat miraculously appeared from under the bridge and towed us and the dinghy to safety! Imagine being saved by the NYPD not an hour after our arrival in New York!

Anchoring was now no longer an option. A wonderful, generous member of the Rockaway Point Yacht Club, Ben Paoline, brought us across the Bay in his own speed boat to see if we could be accommodated in a more sheltered marina. Before doing so, he made countless telephone calls on our behalf. Thanks to his contacts, the Miramar Yacht Club in Shepshead Bay offered us a mooring. Even though the club is small (just 100 members), they have a policy of welcoming international sailors to their club. One can enjoy a week of free mooring and after that the charge is at the discretion of the committee. HYC please note!

We are so lucky to have found such a safe, convenient and affordable haven here in Brooklyn. There is a bus stop outside the marina gates which goes directly to the subway. In 45 minutes we can be in 42nd Street. Its just brilliant and the club members are really, really nice. We are attending a Russian night in the club on Sat and we ourselves are going to host an open Irish day on Safari to thank all the members for their kindness and generosity.

New York is fantastic and we feel privileged that we can enjoy it all at our leisure. We intend spending the full month of August here before returning to the Chesapeake and to Washington where we hope to spend some considerable time exploring itís very famous monuments and buildings. We are planning to return to Ireland in mid-October for Christmas and to be on hand to welcome our 2nd grandchild into the world.

So, my dear friends, this first chapter of our adventure is now over. We have no definite plans as yet where we go from here. So I will bid you all 'Adieu' and wish you all the best of health and happiness until you hear from me again sometime in 2009.

P.S We are unable to go online at the Miramar Yacht Club and my Irish cell phone has no signal since I arrived in New York. So you won't be hearing from me too often!

Carmel Kavanagh
Safari of Howth