Thursday, November 18, 2010

Manhattan By Sail

Hey, folks! Sorry for the lack of blog entries of late, but I've been spending some quality time away from the city on a fabulous vacation in the Bahamas with my family. It was wonderful and sunny and relaxing. But I'm not going to blog about it. This blog is about things you can do in the New York area. Interestingly enough, though, I did have a wonderful and relaxing sea adventure in the city with Erin H right before I left. Who knew? Here's a little taste of my recent urban nautical adventure on an 80 year old classic Schooner called the Shearwater.

Mostly because of this blog, I get tons of promotional emails about things to buy and do in the city. Lifebooker and NYC Daily Deals are the most frequent inbox jammers, but I do always open them to see if they're offering something "bloggable". A few months ago, Lifebooker offered a reduced rate on a "City Lights" cruise from a company called Manhattan by Sail. This cruise's advertisement was as follows: "See the world’s most famous skyline light up the night. The bustle and noise of the city turns to silence as we slip out onto the Hudson, cut the engines and unfurl our sails for a tranquil 90-minute cruise.". Okay. I can do that. And for a reduced price of $35 (from $45), I would take my wonderful husband and we'd recline on the gently rocking ship in the warm breeze while we sipped complimentary wine and spent a romantic evening on the Hudson. A few months later, Hiatt and I were shivering under relentless gusts of frigid wind, sipping nothing (because someone spilled our wine), and remarkably, still having an overall good time.

First of all, the ship is REALLY small. Like, much smaller than you'd think it should be small. Like, I really was concerned as to the capacity of the ship when we got on alongside at least 20 other strangers small. Second, there were no seats on the ship. Apparently, you were just basically expected to sit on the randomly dispersed cargo and boxes of life jackets (again, isn't there a rule against this stuff?). And third, the complimentary wine was cheap and mine got smashed when an assistant boat pilot (is that what you call them?) opened the cooler on which it was sitting. Not a good start, I must say. Erin, though, was a trooper and uncharacteristically saw the bright side of the situation. "These buildings are beautiful". Yeah, actually, they were. The boat was docked on the west side of the financial district and was surrounded by a horseshoe of tall glowing buildings. It seemed a little surreal to be outside the bustle of the city but to still be surrounded by it. The dock was quiet and peaceful, but I could see people milling about in the lighted windows. I see why they called the cruise peaceful.

We set sail and slowly moved away from the dock and toward the Statue of Liberty. I couldn't help but notice that the boat seemed a little unsafe. There were no railings on the side of the ship, only wires, and we could walk anywhere we wanted, including around and under the sails which, I learned a little later, move. I made a note to keep my head down so as not to take a cool dip in the Hudson. We parked ourselves on a box of life jackets and made conversation with the folks in front of us (we really couldn't help it - their knees were touching ours). They were sweet and young and had been hoping for the romantic time that I had imagined. The young lady shivered in her short skirt and open-toed sandals. "It was a surprise", she said. We joked about the boat's capacity and all went well until they asked the inevitable question I hate more than anything else in the world. "What do you do for a living?". I tried to dodge. They were having none of it. "She's been on Broadway for five years", Hiatt blurted. "Let's just get it out". Now, that was more like my favorite sarcastic friend. Can of worms opened. For the next fifteen minutes, I had to answer questions about every show that had ever been on Broadway, listen to school play anecdotes, and make recommendations for their next date night. Ugh. So much for a relaxing cruise. Hiatt and I managed to politely disengage ourselves and headed up to the front of the ship. The bow of the ship was a narrow plank of wood no wider than six inches that jutted out into the black water. Being the brave young individuals we are, Hiatt and I squeezed ourselves past a few important-looking poles and out to the quiet front of the ship. We took a seat and stared at the growing Statue of Liberty and the spread of city lights behind us. Aaahhhh. This was what we were looking for. Peace, lights, water, perspective. Well worth the price of admission. We relaxed, tried in vain to get an un-blurred picture of Ms. Liberty, and basically enjoyed the ride.

When we couldn't stand the cold wind any more, we headed back to the crowded body of the boat. And back to our new star-struck friends (people seriously don't realize how un-famous musical theatre people really are). I decided to take the only way out: make them talk about themselves. "So, what do YOU do for a living?". "I do cancer research at Mount Sinai". Now it was my turn to be star struck. And our turn to ask dumb questions. It was a fair trade. As we headed back to the city, we had made two new friends, whether we'll see them again or not. The bashful assistant boat guy brought us blankets and we soon quieted down to enjoy the awe-inspiring skyline that is our home and our city. You know, I thought, this cruise is pretty nice. It should definitely happen when it's warmer, but it's beautiful and relaxing. And it truly does give you a little perspective. We live in this, one of the hugest, most competitive cities in the world and I, for one, get upset when things don't always go the way I expect them to. Really? Really, Michelle? In this HUGE city where pretty much everyone is good at everything? Where the best of the best move here to do what I do and I get all cranky because I don't ALWAYS get the parts I want? Really? Apparently, it was about time for me to get a little perspective. I looked at the twenty-something cancer-curing geniuses across from us and realized . . . it's pretty much all about perspective.

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