04.05.2012 - 04.05.2012
It was an inauspicious start. After a few good nights, I had reverted to only very limited and poor quality sleep. I had finally dozed off properly and was in the middle of a very strange deja-vu style dream (I couldn't tell you what about any more – it is unusual for me to even know if I have dreamt) when the alarm went off at 04:20, and I dragged my sorry arse out of bed. But there was anticipation, excitement in my mood.
Even at this hour some other people were stirring, and I hurried up to my pre-planned vantage point on the front of deck 11, just below the bridge, to gaze at the glorious vista of New York lights in front of me. Or, I would have done if there had been any. In fact, there was nothing except fog. Lots and lots of fog. The fog was so thick that it was a struggle to even see the waterline below. Occasional glimpses of the water confirmed that yes, we were indeed still moving, but other than that, no clue.
Our fog horn went off at regular intervals, and even though we all knew it was coming it was still loud enough to make us all jump. Something in the back of my head told me that I had spent many hundred pounds and seven days on a ship, getting up at an hour which would be illegal in some cultures, just to see the approach to New York and all for nothing. The rest of humanity – and my friends – were probably correct. I really should just fly. Pah!
But at this point there was nothing left to do but enjoy anyway, and get involved in the kind of morbid banter with other passengers that only the Brits can in such a situation. By glimpsing occasional dim buoy lights to the starboard side, we knew we we're “in the channel” and on approach. Another dim light that we thought was a buoy turned out to be the stern of a harbour tanker, probably 100metres long and which we passed at maybe all of 25metres, yet only saw when we were practically alongside. We had passed half of the boat before we could see the bright light on it's front. The pilots boat travelling adjacent to us we saw only the lights of.
There is water there somewhere, but the fog was so thick it was hard to work out where
As we approached the Verazanno-Narrows Bridge – a massive 2mile long/211m high structure that we passed under with only 4metres clearance – we saw nothing. We could hear the traffic on it about 20seconds away, but did not see it until we were virtually underneath it. My eyesight is one of the few things that really work and I saw it first: a ghostly line of lights at about head height. 2-3seconds later, everybody else saw it. A further 2 seconds and we were passing under it, almost as a shock despite it being lit up and on a clear day, being visible for many miles and minutes. It's sudden ghostly appearance *just* over our heads was both a bit spooky, and really cool. And at that point, we suddenly had precise confirmation of where we were.
The Verazanno-Narrows Bridge suddenly appears at a distance of a few metres. On a clear day, it can be seen for miles, whilst (below) looking back as the ship sneaks underneath it
On any normal entrance to the harbour, at this point the woman holding a torch would be dead ahead, the Manhattan skyline showing in all of it's glory. Today, nothing. As daylight slowly began to break and the fog marginally cleared, we started to see the outline of the lights of the Brooklyn shoreline. A few minutes later, a Staten Island ferry appeared just next to us. Still no woman and torch, no tall buildings.
Eventually, as we slowly turned past Governors Island, I spotted her. The mythical Statue of Liberty, a gift from the French (though how many American's know/admit to that is perhaps unsurprisingly quite small) maybe only a couple of hundred metres away, and only just a dim outline in the distance with a tiny light. Again I was the first to see her, but as we then turned away, many people who's eyesight was not perfect did not see her at all. Of the Manhattan skyline, there was still nothing.
The least exciting photo of the Statue of Liberty that you will ever see, just glimpsed as we approached the dock. Again, on a clear day, visible from a much greater distance and looking much more spectacular!
We then slowly turned, backed and manoeuvred into out moorings at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal; at that point, looking out over Brooklyn I got my first view of proper land; of America. A few warehouses, some containers, a parking lot and my first American word. I actually laughed out loud when I saw it. Unmistakeable despite the fog, it proudly said “IKEA”...