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Sail Back In Time

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The great New York Times reporter and observer of the city Meyer Berger once wrote, “New York, city on many waters, is all things to all men.” The same could be said for plying those waters. Some of us like to pilot our own craft. Others favor the Circle Line. Some fancy the Beast (Lord help them). Us? We’re partial to the Pioneer Schooner. The 102-foot, nineteenth-century Pioneer is a sleek but sturdy sailing vessel made of iron and steel (the only iron-hulled merchant ship still in existence, in fact) and topped by a pair of masts reaching 76 feet. Six days a week, the Pioneer shoves off from Pier 16, on the East River at Fulton Street, for a two-hour sail from the South Street Seaport around lower Manhattan. A volunteer crew from the seaport museum skippers the ship (the route varies), and there’s room for 35 passengers. Once you’re out from Pier 16, the motors are cut, the massive canvas sails catch the wind, and you’re clipping swiftly through New York Harbor the way generations of sailors have clipped before you. The cool air and sea spray are altogether welcome on a 90-degree day, but the real attraction is the city itself, seen from the quiet deck of the Pioneer. Slip past haunting old Governor’s Island (with its empty barracks and Colonial houses), under the Brooklyn Bridge (opened just two years before the Pioneer was built), and around the Statue of Liberty. On the way back, you’ll pass the southern tip of Manhattan. Look north. The view used to be merely beautiful. Now it’s heartbreakingly so.


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