Setting Sail

Sailing Off the Big Apple explores New York City by water, discovering and rediscovering the city’s historic waterways, shoreline developments, and rich maritime culture. Where its sister site Walking Off the Big Apple strolls the streets on foot, this site wanders down to the shoreline and gets on a boat.

A motorboat and a sailboat pass like ships in the night during sunny daylight in the East River. 

At first, we’ll mostly travel by ferry. The city’s expanding and affordable ferry service is increasingly opening new ways to experience New York City both for residents and visitors. Riding the ferry is a great way to keep up with the transformation of the waterfront and explore unfamiliar neighborhoods.

View of Midtown East from the NYC Ferry

Over the past few years, many of the city’s old working piers and industrial waterfronts have been repurposed for recreational purposes, transformed into new parks and spaces for entertainment. Where once dockworkers and longshoremen loaded and unloaded supplies by hand or operated large gantries to unload railroad cars, now visitors come to relax and watch the sunset.

Domino Park, Williamsburg Brooklyn, as seen from the NYC Ferry

In tandem with the piers and parks, new high-rise residential and commercial buildings are lining the shoreline, signifying a new desire to live on the periphery of the city. The development is particularly notable on the East River.

Brooklyn Bridge, from the ferry

At the same time, in 2012 Superstorm Sandy showed the vulnerabilities of this metropolitan archipelago in the face of intense hurricanes and rising seas.
Queen Mary 2, Brooklyn Cruise Terminal. Red Hook, Brooklyn.

The history of New York is inextricably tied to its geography. Situated where the Hudson River meets the harbor and the Atlantic Ocean, the city became a powerhouse of transatlantic trade. The future of the city will be shaped by how it fares in the rising waves.

Sailboat. Hudson River near La Marina in northern Manhattan. Looking north. Hudson River Community Sailing. 

So, here we go.

Expect posts on practical matters such as how to take a NYC Ferry, sightseeing tips for places near ferry landings, surveys of developments from the water, a few sailing lessons (I’m taking them), island explorations (City Island, Staten Island, Roosevelt Island, Coney Island, etc.), sunset sails, excursions up the Hudson River, a little beach fun, sightings of large cruise vessels, resources for sailing tourism, history posts, maritime museums, warnings about climate change, lots of oysters, and general navigational guides. As with Walking Off the Big Apple, you’ll also see lots of pictures and maps.

Bring along sunscreen. Stay hydrated. Wear sunglasses and a hat.



Before Sandy. View of New York Harbor from the Battery. October 28, 2012.