Drakka had scarcely come out of her two year coma before we slapped her ass and set off on our first sail. We were wary of taking our sea dragon straight into open waters without even buying her dinner first, but Brooklyn was waiting. We amassed a petite but stalwart crew for our inaugural voyage:
C: Salty and full-hearted with a double jet-pack of energy & enthusiasm ever-strapped to his adrenaline-seeking back. Ready to unleash her wings and see her fly.
Me: Freshly turned 33 the day before and still sick (loyal readers will recall the launch episode). 120 lbs of sniffly, stuffy grog with a cough like a foghorn and no knowledge of sailing whatsoever.
S: My dear friend; secretly a cuddly hobbit inside a sexy librarian body and one whom I'd entrust to adopt my as-yet-unborn children should I perish. Also slightly narcoleptic, we discovered.
Last but not least, Captain Ripley: our Fairy Godsister.
With all ducks in a row it would be a two-day affair from Groton to the south end of Brooklyn, or roughly 140 nautical miles. We planned to anchor around New Haven overnight, and glide through New York City to our marina the second day.
A satiny gray morning saw us off from the coast of Connecticut in high spirits. Little Penny awoke without a hiccough and chugged out into Long Island Sound where the wind blew directly into Drakka's face. Because we can not sail directly into the wind (it is called Irons, I found out), the route bid us to tack back and forth. Tacking is more or less zig-zagging. After one zig of diesel guts, we readied for a zag, and unleashed Drakka's wings. At long last she could fly! What a whole different, organic animal; this soaring sea creature flying on her own wings, sliding through the water as natural as any self-respecting fish. In many ways I'm glad to be such a novice, so that I can be dazzled into a stupor over the smallest developments.
By midday the seas had roused themselves, and the sea zest sprayed over our faces and foulies as we cut through the choppy waves (foulies are my new favorite thing. They are magical oversized elephant skins that keep the foul weather out and your warm body in. I have red bottoms and a green top, so I look like a Christmas hippopotamus). It induces an odd combination of thrill and wanting to take a nap, that endless rocking rhythm. We discovered that S has the ability to fall asleep sitting up, like some bizarre sequel to Weekend at Bernie's 2. After noon the seas really started to kick, so C and Ripley leapt up like boat acrobats to reef the sail while S steered the tiller and I took on a queerly yellow tint. Reefing the sail is when you take a big wing and make it a smaller by scrunching it up a bit and tying it off. Drakka was really having herself a shimmy, frolicking in the waves like a rocking horse. Soon I was vividly chartreuse, and by the time C took over the tiller I was green as an olive and hugging the edge of the cockpit while I gave the sea everything I'd ever eaten in the last month. Meanwhile C, guiding her through wave after wave, hooted happier than a cowboy on a bronco while Drakka tipped so far over with the wind in her wings I could nearly lick the water with my head hung over the rim. None of this came as a surprise. Last summer when C proclaimed his vision of a grand romantic sea adventure I forthwith told him I was prone to seasickness, but after a long pause I assured him that was I adamant about toughing it out, and here we are.
Down below, Ripley cheerfully navigated our course in Drakka's cockeyed belly. All was well as we seesawed on towards our destination.
Apparently Neptune thought we were getting off too easy.
As we neared New Haven in the dusky afternoon, an overpassionate sail trim (trim just means adjustment) tugged and tugged and RriiiiiiiiiiiiPPP! One of Drakka's wings! Torn a torso's length and through to one edge. Damn! We knew they were old wings but still, Damn! Sorry, Drakka. C & Ripley hastily rolled the broken pinion to the boom and we carried on with her remaining forward wing (also known as the headsail). We started up her guts in anticipation of the approaching harbor, but had gone less than the length of a blue whale before a wailing arose from below. "Is that radio static?" "No..." "Is the bilge pump kicking in?" "No..." Crap in a clamshell, that's Little Penny! Screeching like the devil was in her throat! C hopped into Drakka's belly to a billow of smoke and hollered up, "Cut her off, cut her off!" Ripley pulled the choke and the four of us froze in synchronized grimace. There we were, soaring into New Haven channel with one wing and no engine as the sun threatened to set.
Two tugboats passed us on their way to a mammoth island monster that was slowly approaching the same harbor. Ripley deftly edged us out of their way as S and I frantically consulted charts to figure out where the heck we were going. "Is that a green buoy?" "A red channel marker?" "What's the depth?" "Shit that's shallow!" We knew there was a marina nearby, but in the charcoal light of pre-night and the terror of such a narrow side channel we were willing to dock anywhere. The towering glass facade of a schmantzy yacht club soon loomed before us, and we headed for its arms. "That's a dock there, isn't it?" Closer... closer... yikes! "It's a sea wall, turn, TURN!!!" We spun at the last second and found ourselves in a mooring field. Buoys and boats abounded, and there was our poor wounded sea beast, zigging and zagging as Ripley tried to harness what little wind there was to see us safely through. On the other side of the mooring field we spied and headed for another dock, anxiously eyeing our remaining wing to see if she would lead us there. Closer... closer... yes! It's a dock! Our four hearts dropped from our throats to the bottoms of our soggy toes as we tied her off and collapsed with relief.
A brief smattering of what ensued: Mysterious man in a blazer turns out to be Commander Garret. "Go see Scoops." We see Scoops. Welcome. Shower passes, jackpot! Pasta for all in Drakka's belly. Engine troubleshooting. She starts. Okay... okay... Chug, chug, chug, screeeeEEECH! C smacks her ribcage, "It's the fresh water pump!" Alright, so her tear ducts are seized up, poor thing can't cry! We've got to find her some replacement tear ducts, but hell we're exhausted. ZzzzZzzzZzzz. Good morning, do you have a fresh water pump for a universal diesel? You? How about you? You? For the love of Poseidon! Ohhh. Here we go. There's one in New Jersey. Nothing like a rental car and rush hour traffic to piss on the perfection of a sea saga. The worst of it was we had to let S go, clearly being over our two day trajectory. I returned with the replacement tear duct at sunfall, which C swapped out like a pro. Ripley and I went to get come celebratory beers (we only drink beer with boats on the logo now) and a Pepe's apizza. In all the excitement, though, Little Penny's tachometer had gotten all whacked out and she was revving like an overheating bumblebee. Oh NO! We ate, collapsed again, and woke at dawn with trepidation. Sayyy... that doesn't sound so bad anymore. Should we go for it? Yeah! And so day three commenced, as we humbly coasted out on a glassy morning stretch of the narrowing Long Island Sound. Grateful were our hearts as we made it safely to anchorage near City Island. We had a fleeting moment of glory, eating canned chili in the cockpit, bathed in the passionfruit colored light of the setting sun before going to bed in preparation for our final (we hope?) day.
Day four we stormed Manhattan.
The thing about passing through the East River to the side of Manhattan is that it's a bottle neck with a broken neck. Not only does it funnel down into a narrow channel notorious for it's squirrelly currents, it's also got a crook in the middle of it where little underwater tornadoes like to suck on unsuspecting floaters like us. They call it Hells Gate. No hyperbole. Though I may occasionally dramatize (I assume you're comfortable with this, otherwise you'd be reading someone else's boring boat blog full of facts and digital photographs), I jest not about Hells Gate! Blessings were ours in the form of fairy godsister Ripley who knew just how to time the tides to scoot us in and thrust us out swiftly.
Day four was also bridge day. 7 bridges in one day! Look at all those suckers stuck in traffic up there! Whitestone. Throg's Neck. Queensboro. Williamsburg. Manhattan. Brooklyn. Verrazano. We saw every borough from the water. Not to mention my old neighborhood of Greenpoint where I moved nearly 11 years ago and never intended to stick (whoops). Not to mention Lady Liberty herself. Not to mention Riker's Island which is a prison and is large enough it ought to be it's own borough. Aside from a few smokey warnings, Little Penny trustily trotted us through, and Drakka was in fine form as she glided through the fashion-money-power-glam capital of the country. If, ten and two-thirds years ago some late-night subway crazy-eye had told me I'd be sailing through this city on MY OWN boat a DECADE later I would've laughed so hard I'd have fallen on the tracks. Glad that didn't happen. Then there would be no story! Whew!