Curiosity won and I arranged to travel into New York City on the new Sea Jitney last Friday afternoon. The ferry, with a capacity of some 150 people, runs between Highlands, N.J., near Sandy Hook, picks up the bulk of its passengers at the 35th Street terminal on the East River, then sails to the Port Jefferson dock, a two-hour ride. I took the ride in reverse, using the new water route to get into Manhattan.
Here is what I can tell you about the trip.
It is a beautiful and serene cruise down Long Island Sound. I stood at the rail on the upper deck, watching the lush green bluffs of the Island silently slip by, thinking that the view of the land from the water probably hadn’t changed much since the Indians paddled their canoes along the waterway. The day was cool, the air smelled of salt water and the boat barely rocked as it hugged the North Shore and powered along, escorted by an occasional seagull. I could have been anywhere, I suppose, on any river cruise, until we reached Queens and the boat traffic became heavier, with barges, tugs, tankers and fishing boats plying the waters.
We began seeing the many bridges that herald the approaching port. Although I was born and grew up in Manhattan, I had never seen this perspective of the borough before. The bridges are the sentinels as the distant skyline, with its high-rise buildings, announces the coming metropolis.
We slid through Hell Gate, the place where waters from the Sound and the East River meet, then started downtown. There were all the east side landmarks, from the East River Drive and the Triborough Bridge — known officially as the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge — on the northern end to the unmistakable outline of the United Nations Plaza, followed shortly by the canopy of the 35th Street dock.
Without much ado, the captain neatly nosed the ferry to the pier, and I was walking down the gangplank and into the crowds and energy of Friday evening city life. The docks were filled with people waiting for other ferries, and helicopters were landing and taking off from the adjoining heliport. Red and blue buses were allegedly taking people across town for free, although I didn’t immediately see them in the crowded streets.
Municipal green and yellow buses were carrying people uptown and downtown.
The abrupt change from the serenity of the water to the cacophony and crowds of the New York City street scene was something of a shock but one that was short lived as we melted into the mass of humanity and went on our way.
The ferry is a stress-free way of traveling to and from the city, and I can hardly wait to take it again — just for the pleasure of being on the water in such a beautiful place.