I wasn’t sure about going back to the yacht club to try to talk to the sailors. The one sailor who had been recommended to us was not going to be there. Most of my efforts at research on Wednesday had been only partially successful at best, and we were both tired from staying up so late in Manhattan the night before. Besides, it is a little nerve-wracking to just walk into a place, clear your throat, and say, “I’m a writer from northern Indiana and I have some questions about sailing.”
Before I tell you about Wednesday night at the yacht club, let me recap and clean up a little debris. My blog app was working badly most of the week. My Sunday picture of the adorable “Indians” at my cousin’s house did not go through. My Tuesday blog got cut in half.
Sunday we stayed at my cousin’s Luke and Laura Martin and attended Fairview Mennonite Church in Reading, Pennsylvania. We received wonderful hospitality at Curt and Judith Nolt’s house and got to meet new friends.
MONDAY: Escapades at Nisky Hill Cemetery in the rain and travel to Staten Island New York. Eating at Cole’s Dockyard Cafe and asking where we could find a sailor to help me with some sailing questions. Told to check the Richmond County Yacht Club. Went there and found no one.
TUESDAY: A lovely tour of restored 1700’s Dutch homes by Carlotta, our fun and informed tour guide, and the finding of a little account book carried by the captain’s nephew in 1740. (The blog I wrote about this got cut in half.) A visit to St. Andrew’s church, where I saw the King James Bible that Queen Anne gave to the church around 1708. I also saw “Lambert Garrison” on a bronze plaque on the wall. Captain Garrison’s father Lambert helped to found the church. I then attempted to climb a hill to see out over Staten Island. With the help of two tennis players, I found the top, only to see that it was overgrown by trees and we could see almost nothing but woods, with a little misty ocean in the distance. We visited the yacht club but were told to come back the next night because there would be a race and more people would be present. We then went on a personal trip to Manhattan by ferry, and visited the World Trade Center memorials on September 11, 2018.
WEDNESDAY: A long day fighting Staten Island traffic and moving between places with mixed success. Marnell was working remotely at our AirBnb. The Staten Island Museum was a bit of a disappointment, and the archives had nothing conclusively related to Captain Garrison. I couldn’t find a parking spot for the ferry, and I decided to skip going to Manhattan to the South Street Seaport Museum. I drove around most of the afternoon, searching for a good view of the water on the west side of the island, which apparently is a resource that tourists are not supposed to look at since all roads end before they get there. Since I was driving around so much in the afternoon, I ended up completely missing the Old Richmondtown Museum which made me quite sad.
So yes, I barely had the motivation to try the yacht club again. Marnell thought if there was a race that the sailors would likely rather talk about the race than to talk to scholars. We hadn’t seen the sun since we left Indiana, and a warm rain was settling over the island. But we packed our umbrellas and headed resolutely to the yacht club. I really needed to hear from a few people who knew what they were doing with sailboats.
I grabbed my pirate ship, a miniature model a few inches high which I had assembled from a kit. I was hoping the yacht men wouldn’t think my paper sails and thin wooden masts were absurd, but I thought it might be useful for me to understand. I also took the drawing of the ship that Captain Garrison’s son had made, which I shared on this blog not long ago.
The main yacht building was under construction, so the sailors were meeting in a greenhouse like structure. We crept in, seeing nobody, but hearing voices. Marnell was probably wondering what he had gotten himself into by marrying me. We looked to the section of the tent on the right, and there were some people, behind a glass door which had somehow been fitted into the structure.
“Do we just go in?” I asked Marnell. “Do we wait until that guy gets off the phone?”
The man behind the counter was talking on his cell phone. Two other men sat on stools at the far end of U-shaped bar. Nervously, we crept inside.
“Oh, sure you can hang out here,” he said. “More sailors will be coming in soon.”
Sure enough, a couple of men entered behind us. One, a man with a friendly face, was talking to the men on the other side of the bar about being fourth place in the races. We advanced on this unsuspecting character and sat down beside him. I placed my wood and paper ship on the bar, along with my drawing of the Irene.
“That is a square-rigger,” the kind-faced sailor said with a glance at my model, after I explained my mission. “That’s not the same as what we sail.”
“You can’t go into the wind with that,” said an energetic man with a large watch who walked up.
The man with the watch slipped behind the bar and picked up my ship and began to demonstrate with it.
“If this is the wind,” he said, positioning a plastic ice scoop a few inches farther down the bar, “then this ship can go this way, or this way, or maybe this way.”
The first man showed me how the square-rigged ships would go back and forth to go toward the wind.
“Tacking,” I said.
“Ah!” said the man with the watch. “You know some words.”
We took the ship apart and made it into a one-masted boat similar to the boats they used and the two men showed me how the triangular sail was similar to an airplane wing. The man with the watch began to wax eloquent, using a folded brochure to demonstrate after the first man told him he probably shouldn’t be touching the ice scoop.
“I love your ship,” the man with the watch said. “You should put it in a bottle.”
“If it’s really bad and really windy, you turn like this,” the man with the watch said, having taken over the lesson from the first guy, “and you turn your sails like this–“
“Or take them down,” said the first man.
“–or take them down,” agreed the man with the watch.
The man with the watch continued to expand his presentation, making elaborate demonstrations with my ship. More people trickled into the room, and someone called him “professor”, making fun of his sudden teaching career. The boat lecture became a bit of a sensation, with other sailors walking up and listening in to the conversation.
“Now where are you from?” someone asked.
“Indiana,” I said.
“There’s no ocean in Indiana,” he said.
I lifted up my binder with the boat picture.
“This is a picture of the boat drawn by the captain’s son,” I said, handing it over to the man with the watch.
He looked at it for a moment.
“Okay, this is all wrong,” he said, only he didn’t say all like we do in the Midwest. He said “oool wrong”, like they do, apparently, in New York.
“Look,” he said to the first man.
“It’s backwards,” the first man said.
“It’s backwards,” the watch man agreed. “These sails need to be the other way. He’s going to hit those rocks. Let’s show it to Doug.”
He lifted the picture high in the air and showed it to someone across the room. “How would you rate this ship?”
“Wasn’t this a time when they almost lost the boat?” Marnell suggested.
“That would be it,” the first man said.
“I’m surprised, since he was the captain’s son,” I said.
“He might have never been out on a boat,” Marnell said.
“Was he from Indiana?” one of the bystanders suggested.
What a good laugh.
We finally excused ourselves.
“That’s the most fun I had all week,” Marnell said, saying “all” the proper way.
It was certainly the most success I had all day.
Did I tell you that there’s never enough time for research?
“How long are you in New York?” the professor man asked before we left. “We could set up a sail and take you out.”
Alas for schedules! But I don’t think I’ve ever gone on a research trip when I had enough time.
We are just thanking God for a safe and successful trip!