Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Ship’s Log 9/25/2010
Baby Dee came out on the boat with me last Saturday, the day before she played Joe’s Pub with Little Annie. There were several inches of water in the boat (there’d been a hurricane and a tornado since I last saw it), so I took off my sandals, climbed in, and bailed. Dee watched. So did some guys who had been sitting outside the office/trailer. For some reason, it amuses people to watch a lady bail out a boat. One of the guys was big, with a beat-up nose; his sidekick was small and dark. “You know, they sell electric pumps,” the big guy said. He told me, in all seriousness, that once I was out on the bay, with the motor going, I could pull out “that plug next to the motor” and the motor would draw out the rest of the water. What? That plug is the main thing standing between me and certain disaster! This is not a method of bailing I'm going to be testing anytime soon.
Before setting off across Jamaica Bay, I went to see the Boss, to find out what I owed him for getting the outboard fixed and also to ask exactly what had needed fixing. He was resting on the dock, with a tall glass of either iced tea or Captain Morgan’s on-the-rocks. "A hundred," he said. “My price.” (I think that means they would have charged me more.) I was ready to pay up, but he said I should wait till the end of the season, “when we’ll need the money to keep us in kibble for the winter.” He said that the pump had melted, and then he teased me about trying to go boating in sand. I’ve actually never run aground—one of the few mistakes I have NOT made in my boating career—but the awful truth is that I forgot to check for the cooling jet of water before setting off on this year's maiden voyage. When I realized it, I knew I should have turned the motor off instantly and rowed back to the marina, but I didn't. It was a relief to know that I had not completely cooked the motor, only lightly sauteed it.
Dee and I needed a destination, and I always like to go someplace I’ve never been before. I was thinking of Howard Beach. The guy with the beat-up nose recommended Vetro, a new place associated with Russo's-on-the-Bay, the big catering hall on Cross Bay Boulevard. "It's on the left as soon as you enter the channel," he said. "They got new docks and a lot of tables outside." We motored across the bay, between Broad Channel and J.F.K., concentrating on spotting the buoys and not getting swamped by the wakes of bigger boats. On the trestle bridge, an A train from Manhattan passed an A train from Far Rockaway: a pas de deux chevaux de fer. There was a good breeze, so it was a little choppy and we both got splashed. The tide was low.
We passed Bergen Basin (which you can't enter anymore, because of Homeland Security) and Hawtree Basin (which, at high tide, takes you all the way to the terminus of the Air Train at Howard Beach, through what looks like "Deliverance" country) and made a wide turn into the channel at Howard Beach. I would have liked to go up to the end of the channel, very slowly, like Cleopatra on the Nile, but the first mate wanted to go to the first place she saw, Vetro, which was exactly where our informant had said it would be. There was hardly anyone there, but whoever was there was certainly watching as I blundered around, shifting from forward to reverse and finally cutting the motor and using the oar to get the back half of the boat closer to the dock while Dee clung to a cleat from the prow. Such seamanship!
Dee had steak and wine, I had grilled octopus and beer, and the waiter admired my boat, which he called a dinghy. Yachts passed as we dined. On the return voyage, the motor started knocking in an alarming way, and I don't know what that was about. But I slowed down until it was under control, and we reached home without incident.
"Now we will return to the Isle of Manhattan," Dee said. So we went back through Howard Beach by car, and there it was again, this time on our right, our new landmark: Vetro. All in all, it was an eccentric itinerary.
(Photo pirated from Vetro's Web site.)