Best we can tell, Samuel Taylor Coleridge never visited Lower Manhattan. But if he had experienced this community — surrounded by rivers, but seemingly bereft of opportunities to come in contact with them — he might have recast his most famous lines as, “water, water, everywhere, but none on which to sail.”
He would have been wrong, however. Broadsheet contributor Isabel Tessier weighed, anchored, and sampled some of the options for getting out on the water to cool off and see the city from a whole new perspective. Herewith, her findings:
Pioneer is a beautiful small coastal schooner with a wrought-iron hull — according to the South Street Seaport Museum, that owns the ship, she is the only iron-hulled American merchant sailing vessel still in existence.
Her status as an object of “living history” is central to what makes the sails aboard the Pioneer distinctive from the other sails in the harbor. It has a fairly large crew, made up of a friendly group of volunteers all passionate about sailing, and even has you participate, joining the crew members to hoist up the sails. Once the motor shuts off as you pull out of the dock, you really feel like you could be back in the early 1900s. The two-hour evening cruise leaves from South Street Seaport, heads south along the island of Manhattan, passes Governors Island, Ellis Island, and the Statue of Liberty, and heads a little further south in the harbor before looping back around. Visitors are encouraged to bring food and drinks and chat with crew members. In terms of both its atmosphere and price, this is a great choice for families and children.
From May through October, Pioneer has day and evening cruises several days per week. You can view the ship’s schedule and purchase tickets online at web.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/947114?sitePreference=normal. Adult tickets are $32 and senior/children ages 0-12 tickets are $28. The tickets also include admission to the South Street Seaport Museum.
Sailing yacht Ventura is a Lower Manhattan establishment, having brought New Yorkers and visitors out on its “upscale, yet casual” sails every summer for over 25 years. She is a Federally-documented, national landmark sailing vessel designed in 1919. Today, it still sails on a solid teak and mahogany hull, and original bronze winches and high gloss varnished mast. One of the few remaining large Herreshoff yachts in the world, she has been featured in institutions like Harvard, M.I.T., Mariner’s Museum, and the Smithsonian, and on media like CNN, the BBC and Good Morning America. On 9/11, she was among the first vessels to carry New Yorkers from Lower Manhattan to safety.
Ventura is most often used for private sails, which range from around $100 – $300 per person, depending on the size of the group and the type of sail. Private Evening Cocktail Party Sail (16-20 guests) and Afternoon Gourmet Luncheon Cruise (12-15 guests) are both three hour sails which feature upscale food and beverages menus. However, she also has public sails every Friday evening through September 29, 2017 and on special dates like nights on a full moon or fireworks.
To buy tickets ($60 per person) for a Friday sunset sail, visit: www.smarttix.com and search for “sailing” — Ventura will be the first result. Or, for advance notice on all special, open-to-the-public sails, sign up for the Ventura sailing news at www.sailnewyork.com .
Manhattan Sailing School
“Manhattan Sailing School” is the largest sailing school in the harbor. They started at South Street Seaport in 1987, then moved to North Cove in 1994 and then moved to Liberty Harbor in Jersey City in 2015.
They teach Basic Sailing every weekend and have lots of advanced courses and opportunities for our graduates. And it is sooooo much fun. They also have the largest junior programs in the harbor and the Operation Optimist has grown from 30 to 40 boats this summer. Their website is www.sailmanhattan.com.
The Shearwater sail is perfect for those looking for a more luxurious experience — a night of drinking, eating and socializing aboard a national landmark, classic Newport-style schooner yacht. Unlike most of the other sails on this list, the Shearwater has a bathroom, server, and impressive drinks list for such a small sailboat. The sunset sail leaves North Cove Marina at Brookfield Place at 7pm, and follows a similar route to the Pioneer, heading south along Manhattan and into the harbor where it passes Governors Island, Ellis Island, and the Statue of Liberty. The evening I took their sunset sail, it was dark, cloudy, and windy, a night that could’ve made the experience horrible, had it not been for the lively and raucous atmosphere onboard. Visitors included a couple tourist families and a group of about 10 women who spread out an assortment of snacks and made good use of the bar’s champagne stocks.
The Shearwater sunset sail is a two-hour trip.
Tickets must be reserved two weeks in advance, and are available for purchase online at https://www.manhattanbysail.com/sails/view-sails/Shearwater/Sunset-Sail/30/. Tickets are $55 for adults, $44 for seniors 65+, $25 for children 3-12, $15 for infants. The Shearwater also has several other special sails, including the Champagne Brunch Sail, Wine Tasting Sail, City Lights Sail, Happy Hour Sail, and Late Night Rendezvous Sail.
Clipper City, managed by Manhattan by Sail like Shearwater, has the same luxurious vibe as Shearwater on a much larger scale. This sail is for anyone afraid of getting seasick; on a boat this big, you’ll hardly feel the waves rocking you back and forth at all. Because of its size, it’s fun to explore and wander around, or just sit up on the raised quarter deck and relax under the sun. There’s a full bar on-deck and visitors are also welcome to bring their own food and drink for the sail. Clipper City leaves from Battery Park, and gives a dramatic view of Lower Manhattan and the harbor as it sets off. It heads south along the shoreline of Brooklyn, and then circles around to pass by Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty, and Lower Manhattan once again.
Clipper City has a variety of sails available, including a Daytime Statue Sail, Twilight Sail, Harbor Lights Sail, and more. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit https://www.manhattanbysail.com/sails/sails-by-vessel/Clipper%20City/3/.
NY Media Boat:
Not up for a slow, meandering sail by some of New York’s most famous, and therefore most touristy, sites? This is for the New Yorker who thinks they’ve seen it all in the Harbor, and who’s sick to death of circling the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and Governors Island.
They have a fleet of US Navy built Rigid Inflatable Boats (RIBs) that, as their name suggests, have also been used for years by reporters from media groups like CNN, Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, and more. It’s an exhilarating experience. “Hold onto your hats!” our captain, Eric, said before we took off at 25 knots. Instead of heading south from North Cove Marina, Eric took us north along Manhattan, stopping occasionally to point out historical buildings, interesting new developments, and more. We stopped by the pier where the Titanic survivors were dropped off, watched a helicopter take off from the 34th street helicopter port, and saw Manhattan from a completely different perspective.
As we headed back down the Hudson to loop around to the East River and the Brooklyn Bridge, Eric pointed out other interesting sites on the other side of the river, in Hoboken and Jersey City. At $85 per person for a 90-minute tour, this is definitely on the pricier side — but if you have the money and are looking for a unique harbor experience that goes above and beyond the usual, this tour is completely worth it.
NY Media Boat’s Adventure Sightseeing Tour is 90 minutes and $85 per person. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit http://www.nymediaboat.com/tours/ .
North Cove Sailing:
Some may want to get on a sailboat simply to escape the heat of the city and have a relaxing few hours feeling the rocking of the boat. But others actually want to learn to sail. If you fall in the latter group, North Cove Sailing is the way to go. This is no majestic sail-boat; you’ll board a small, simple, but sturdy boat that seats only 6-7 people. You’ll have to help out throughout the entire sail, (from North Cove Marina to the Statue of Liberty and back) and in the process will end up asking the crew members lots of questions and learning a fair amount about the basics of sailing. The volunteers who lead my sail were friendly, enthusiastic, and completely in love with sailing. At 9:30 am, the air was clear, the sun shining bright, and Manhattan looked completely different from the water than it did on the sunset sails I’d taken. There was no cushy seating, no food or drinks allowed onboard-just good, plain devotion to the art of sailing.
North Cove Sailing offers free sails for community members in Lower Manhattan. For more information or to reserve a spot on a free sail, visit http://northcovesailing.com/project/free-sail/.
Whichever of these options you choose, we wager that you will come back with a smile on your face, and these words of Shakespeare’s on your mind:
“Behold the threaden sails
Borne with the invisible and creeping wind,
Draw the huge bottoms through the furrow’d sea,
Breasting the lofty surge.”