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The approach to the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, looks close, but still a few hours from home

With our sights set on Sandy Hook, NJ, we woke at the luxuriously late hour of 6AM. We moved a little slower, knowing that we had less distance to cover in great conditions.

We made quick work of getting the boat ready to vacate our slip in AC. Once again, I was thankful Gerry was at the helm. The marina was tightly-packed, and moving about in an unfamiliar, heavy sailboat was scary. For one tense moment, the stern of our boat practically kissed the bow of a powerboat behind us. I sucked in my breath, bracing for the jolt of collision, but our boat turned just in the nick of time. I officially hate everything having to do with docking and leaving the dock.

Finally out on the ocean, we got the sails up and began to enjoy another lovely day on a fast beam reach. Gerry started bragging about how we’d made incredible time so far, and how Atlantic City was supposed to be our destination later that night, not the place we were leaving in our wake. The good-spirited one-upping and trash-talking commenced, and soon enough,  Brian had challenged Gerry to a big reach – to bypass Sandy Hook and pushing on through to New York Harbor that very night. So naturally, that’s what we decided to do.

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Grabbing some Zs in the cockpit

It worked out to be a great idea. We’d never sailed after sunset before, since our bareboat charter contracts had prohibited it. I loved the idea of getting some practical experience after dark with a trustworthy captain. And so, we settled in for a long day’s ride to the Big Apple.

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The Verrazano Narrows Bridge at sunset

At around 6PM, we were heartened to glimpse the outline of the city ahead. Even though our navigation told us that in reality, we were still many hours away, it felt good to have a beacon. As we watched our home city slowly grow before us, we tempered our excitement with an otherwise monotonous passage. The sun began to set and the wind became less steady, so we doubled up our warm layers and turned the engine on.

The sky was turning purple and red as we passed the boardwalk and Coney Island ferris wheel all lit up, and we fixed our eyes on the looming Verrazano Bridge – the gateway to New York Harbor. As we approached the city where we’d been living for eleven years on land, it felt pretty amazing returning with our new boat home.

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New York City, getting bigger by the second

I was mesmerized by the city lights growing up out of the water, but quickly shifted focus on work to be done. Once we’d crossed the Verrazano, we noticed the dark outline of enormous, looming tankers anchored in front of us, smack in the center of the channel. Also, tons of floating garbage in the water, abandoned pilings, buoys that were impossible to spot, ferries, barges and other small craft crisscrossing our path. Chaos. Those of us who were not driving focused directly on the path ahead, guiding the person at the wheel to avoid disaster. And suddenly, we saw the Statue of Liberty, fully illuminated, and then the lights of the Colgate Clock, signifying the entrance to our new home in the Morris Canal. Our terrific boat buds, Kelley and Jason from Sailing Chance, had been texting with us and ran out to grab some camera phone snapshots of our boat as we turned into the channel (thanks guys!). I was a ball of nerves anticipating how we’d dock the boat, but we managed to dock without causing damage to ourselves or others. Success!

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Coming into the channel, about two minutes from our slip (photo credit: Kelley Gudahl of Sailing Chance)

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Glamour shot in front of the Freedom Tower (photo credit: Kelley Gudahl of Sailing Chance)

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Fireworks, just for us

Even though it was 10PM and we were tired, Captain Gerry insisted that we celebrate. So, we got Gerry acquainted with the Jersey City way of doing things – stiff rum runners, fried foods, and Journey on the stereo of the quintessentially Jerz bar in the marina next door. I can’t remember when burgers and booze ever tasted better. And somehow, as if they knew, fireworks popped in the wee hours as we fell asleep.