Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Yacht Clubs of Brooklyn: Sheepshead Bay Yacht Club

More Ralph Cramden than Judge Smales, Brooklyn's yacht clubs have provided waterfront facilities for sailors and fishermen for well over a century. Throughout the summer, we'll take a deeper look at some of Kings County's yacht clubs.

Established in 1908, Sheepshead Bay Yacht Club is located on Emmons Avenue, right on Sheepshead Bay. The club has a good mix of powerboaters, sailors and fishermen. The club offers 7 day-a-week launch service, has an in-ground pool a large Victorian with a dining room and fully stocked and attended bar.

For sailors looking to cruise the waters of New York, its a great location that is only a few hours sail from ports in New Jersey, Staten Island and Manhattan; and it takes about 24 hours to sail to Montauk. If fishing is more to your liking the club is located minutes from blue water in the Atlantic Ocean, or you can fish in the Rockaway Outlet for Bluefish, Bass, Porgies, Fluke, Flounder among other fish.

You don't need a to be a Vanderbilt to join, and you can take the subway to the club.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Sailing Along the Gowanus Canal

The Gowanus Canal is perhaps one of the most infamous bodies of water in New York City. Along its banks, where factories and warehouses comprised one of Brooklyn's maritime hubs, now sits artist lofts, auto body shops, machines shops and industrial waste zones. The water, which stood stagnant for more than 30 years, now shows signs of life, as is the surrounding Gowanus neighborhood, which is on the verge of some major development. Unfortunately, the water that flows thought the Gowanus Canal still has an unexplainable toxic smell and its color is blue green.

Sitting just north of the Union Street Bridge sits the sailboat Fat Cat. While I can't make out what particular type of boat she is, its quite impressive that a sailboat makes its home port here. In particular, because the skipper must clear four bridges, including the historic Carroll Street Bridge to get to open water. That must be one dedicated sailor or crazy Brooklynite. In either case, we're giving props to the Fat Cat and its unique home in the Borough of Kings.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Jamaica Bay

Jamaica Bay is the body of water that separates the southwestern points of Brooklyn and Queens from the Rockaways. Part of the Gateway National Recreation Area, Jamaica Bay, which the Brooklyn Bird Club states is "one of the most important wildlife refuges in the United States" where thousands of birds routinely stop during migration. Its marsh-like waters dotted with little islands, with the JFK Airport and Cross Bay Bridge in the distance to the East and the Marine Parkway Bridge the West are part of the fabric to this uniquely picturesque place in New York City. That is where we headed today.

The temperature was in the mid-80s, sky was blue with a few billowing clouds above and there was a nice, steady sea breeze. I also had the pleasure of being joined by three lovely ladies for today's sail.
I followed the Pearson Ensign Topaz out of Sheepshead Bay toward the Marine Parkway Bridge (aka Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge). The winds were out of the south, which kept us on starboard tack all the way to the Jamaica Bay.

As we headed under the Marine Parkway Bridge two things happened: the noise from the bridge traffic increaesed and the wind died. Its also pretty cool to see a bridge from the water. Once you pass through you are in another world, Jamaica Bay.

The first thing you notice about Jamaica Bay is the landscape, which looks like an elegant, swaply-like backwater. There are a few little islands that poke out above the water and in the distance. From above, there is a consistent stream of jumbo jets arriving from all points across the globe headed toward JFK airport, which is visible in the distance. Today, in addition to the commercial traffic, a very large, grey, two propeller Army helicopter flew very close to the water. It was so close, that we got an additional puff of wind because of it. It was interesting to see, because you don't see things like this every day. But what was it doing up there?

Friday, May 26, 2006

No Wind Today

The sky was overcast all day, with intermittent patches of rain. I started my long Memorial Day weekend a bit early hoping I would be able to take the boat out for the first time this season. Around 4:30, the grey skys surned sunny. I took my chances and headed across Brooklyn to Sheepshead Bay. When I arrived, I noticed it was at least 10 degrees cooler than it was in downtown Brooklyn with a bit more fog. The bay looked like a sheet of glass. There was no wind. It didn't look good.

When I arrived at the club, a few guys were launching Santa Marina, one of the many Pearson Ensign daysailors from the local fleet. Because the Ensign is small, at 22.5 feet, its fairly simple to launch a boat from its winter home in a cradle to the water. It took four guys about 30 minutes to put the boat into the water.
While they were at work, I was killing time, watching the water for any signs of wind. Over the course of about an hour, there were some signs of wind. The bay had some slight ripples in the water and a small tell-tale was flying in the light breeze. I decided to take my chances and try to go sailing.

I took the launch out to my spot in the mooring field, threw my bag aboard and started to prepare the boat for sailing. Less than 30 minutes later, the boat was rigged up. Thankfully, there was a slight breeze in the air. I pulled away from the mooring and headed into a little patch of air. While I wasn't moving fast, I was moving. It was indeed smooth sailing. I headed across the bay to the Emmons Avenue side, slowly tacked the boat -- in order to keep her moving -- and slowly headed back across the bay. I was happy.

I sailed around for about 30 minutes and decided to head back to my mooring. I didn't want to get stuck out there with no wind, and I noticed the sky was turning. I didn't want to try my luck. Unfortunately for me, the wind started to die a bit, just as a single raindrop fall down on my head. The single raindrop slowly turned into a few more, then a few more. I put my rain jacket on. I knew I was caught.

I sailed back to my mooring, and as quickly as I could, started bringing down and stowing wet sails and ropes in the rain. It wasn't fun. Because I wanted to get out of the rain so badly, I rushed to put everything away. In my hurried state, dropped the top of my mainsail in the water. Eventually, I got the boat put away and called the launch. It was time for me to go home.

While my inaugural sail was not ideal, I was still sailing, in New York City on a Friday afternoon. Not bad.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006


Perhaps the ultimate indulgence for the traveling cyclist, or the ideal accessory for your Wally 80 (

Pinel & Pinel, a Paris-based luxury goods manufacturer, has partnered with Brompton Bicycle, an English company reputed to produce the some of the finest folding bicycles, to develop a unique customized folding bicycle with its own custom travel trunk. For $6,600, you can customize your travel trunk, choosing from more than 51 colors of leather, including chocolate brown, orange, evergreen, hot pink and yellow. The Brompton M6R, a 6-speed can also be customized from 10 colors to match the trunk.

I love the concept, craftsmanship and mutitude of options, but I'll be shocked if they sell even one.

Pinel & Pinel
62 Boulevard de Strasbourg
75010 Paris
Tel: 33 1 45 23 11 15

Sunday, May 21, 2006

You Sail in Brooklyn?

I'm surprised with the amount of people who ask me this question.

Brooklyn has more than 30 miles of coastline, with some of the most breathtaking views on the planet. Its waterways, running from from the East River, under the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, and into the Atlantic Ocean are filled with snappers, bluefish, bass and fluke.

As for the sailing, I think Brooklyn offers some of the best conditions around, and I'm not alone. As part of New York City's bid for the 2012 Olympics, the proposal included a "sailing center" in Breezy Point, with competition to take place off the Brooklyn coastline in Jamaica Bay. On a typically breezy June afternoon, you'll find kiteboarders and windsurfers, sailing alongside a variety of sailboats, ranging from daysailors and sportboats to ocean cruisers. While today's sailboat racing scene may not be Olympic caliber, the burgeoning fleet of racers from the Miaramar (, Sheepshead, Rockaway Point Yacht and Deep Creek Yacht Clubs can be seen fighting around the marks. Last year's racing season in Brooklyn was highlighted by the first Brooklyn Cup Regatta, which attracted more than 100 sailors from Brooklyn, Long Island, Connecticut and New Jersey.