Saturday, July 11, 2009

New York City by Sail

At last. The rain stopped. The sun was warm, but not too warm. A perfect day, a perfect night.

In the late afternoon of July 4, the 160-foot-long Clipper City left Pier 17 in New York City's South Street Seaport and headed for the Hudson River, where she took her place among the flotilla of ships of all sizes waiting to watch the Macy's fireworks. Two bartenders plied the 149 passengers with drinks. A barbecue dinner was served. As day deepened to night, the full moon rose over the spar. The lights outlining the cables and towers of the George Washington Bridge glimmered in the distance.

Shortly before 9:30 p.m., the fireworks began, sending a canopy of plumes and stars over the silhouetted boats and turning the river red and green and gold and lavender. Thirty minutes later, the show was over. Quickly, most of the boats departed, leaving the river to the Clipper City. The wind was up. She hoisted her mainsail, took a few spins and turns between Battery Park City and Jersey City and headed back up the East River, whose bridges beckoned with necklaces of lights.

The holiday is over, but Clipper City gives New York harbor tours every day and evening, sailing from the South Street Seaport. Another historic sailing ship in the Seaport, the 1885 schooner Pioneer, which belongs to the South Street Seaport Museum, goes out every day but Monday. On the Hudson River, the Shearwater and the Ventura sail from North Cove Marina in Battery Park City, and the Imagine and the Adirondack sail from Chelsea Piers.