Last Friday we cruised out to Long Island on our friend Drew’s boat Montombi. We motored up the East River, timing our departure so we passed under the Hell Gate Bridge at slack water to avoid having to fight the current, which is notoriously strong in this area.
Once we got out to Long Island Rich pointed to a beautiful home on the waterfront, “That’s Billy Joel’s house.” We were duly impressed. Then we saw another huge mansion. Guess who Rich said lived there too? This quickly became the weekend joke. “Wow, look at that gorgeous place on the hill! Must be Billy Joel’s house…” It never got old. He also claims he saw Martha Stewart’s Hinckley Picnic Boat sail past. After the Billy Joel stunt, Drew and I were a bit dubious, though the boat was Martha Stewart green.
We pulled into Oyster Bay just as the sun was setting and spent the night on a mooring there. It rained a bit, but was otherwise completely gorgeous. In the morning we decided to sail a little further on to Northport and visit the Vanderbilt mansion there. We moored at the Centerport Yacht Club and were treated to a ride into the club (and showers!) before heading up to visit W.K. Vanderbilt II’s “Eagles Nest” mansion. Since we were on foot we were a little daunted by the uphill hike, but our charming companion Drew sweet-talked a passerby into giving us a lift in her shiny new Volvo. Thanks, Theresa!
Built in Spanish colonial style, the mansion was gorgeous (if a little out of place among the more New England–style residences all around) and had a breathtaking view of the harbor. Apparently W.K. was quite a yachtsman and explorer who sailed all over the world collecting specimens of exotic flora and fauna. Some of it was interesting, but the elephant’s feet and stuffed polar bears, were a bit depressing.
After touring the mansion, we got a ride back into town on the launch for lunch. Gregarious Drew befriended a nice fellow on the way there. Judging by the picture below you’d think they’d known each other all their lives.
Later that night we headed back into town to have a drink at Gunther’s, a dive bar that our launch driver Peter told us used to be Jack Kerouac’s favorite spot when he lived in Northport years ago. Gunther’s didn’t disappoint. It was plenty divey and the bartenders and patrons were friendly. Drew was thrilled to be able to order beer by the pitcher, which apparently you can’t do in England. Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve had beer in a pitcher since my college days. Good times!
When we headed back to the dock to get a ride back to the boat, we overheard a guy we’d seen earlier in the day at the yacht club yelling into his radio that the launch had better be here in 10 minutes “or else!” We exchanged wide-eyed glances and then Drew said he had an idea. He walked off down the dock hailing Centerport Y.C. on his radio to request a later pickup because we were having such a marvelous time. The only trouble with this plan was that he’d forgotten that he was on a public channel so we could all hear his conversation echoing back over Mr. Angry’s radio. “I can hear you guys, you know!” Mr. A said as he came over to tell us his tale of woe. Apparently he’d been calling for a launch for over an hour and was pretty frustrated with the launch driver’s ineptitude. Each time he called for the launch Peter said he’d be there to pick him up in 10 minutes. Of course, once Mr. A heard there was a 10-minute wait, he and his date promptly walked back into town for another drink. Hmmm. Doing the math on that one, we could see where the problem was, and it wasn’t the launch. A few minutes later, the launch picked us all up and Mr. A seemed to simmer down a bit. As soon as we dropped him off, everyone else on the boat burst out laughing at what a knucklehead he’d been. Peter confirmed what we’d been thinking when he said he kept cruising over to pick the guy up, but would find no one there when he arrived. He’d get a call for a pick-up from someone else and have to leave, only to receive an angry call from our friend a few minutes later and the cycle would start all over again. You gotta love boat life!
The next morning we set off at around 11 to head back to the city. We had a lovely sail to City Island where we anchored for a few hours to wait for the current to change so we could pass back under the Hell Gate. Sailing this part of the East River at night was challenging, but we managed pretty well between Drew’s paper chart and the chart app on Rich’s phone. Drew even gave me a gold star for my navigating skills, though his one complaint was that I came back up from turning on the kettle for coffee and looked at the upside-down chart he’d handed me and asked “Where are we?” I guess I wasn’t exactly instilling confidence in my comrades with that comment! But somehow we did manage to find our way home again by around 10 o’clock. All in all a pretty perfect weekend!