Lane's USA 2009
My plan was to take the ferry from Lewes, DE to
Cape May, NJ, so I had a leisurely morning before riding the seven
miles to the terminal for an 11:15 am departure. This was a larger
ferry, and ferry terminal, than I'd encountered before.
This terminal had separate access to the ferry for vehicles and pedestrians, the latter taking this
elevated, enclosed (air-conditioned) walkway and airport-like loading
ramp while the cars took the usual ramp (here shown still elevated
while the ferry finishes docking).
Providing entertainment while I waited to board was this:
Naturally I walked over to investigate, and found this placard:
Chatting up one of the volunteer crew, I learned that this vessel is a
replica of the original Kalmar Nyckel, a "pinnace" built in 1625 in
Sweden and used to transport Swedish colonists to the New World. The
vessel not being very "weatherly" (i.e. it can't sail close to the wind
like modern sailboats) it could not take a direct route east-to-west
across the Atlantic and had to follow the Trade Wind route so the wind
would predominantly at her back ("abaft the beam"). This required a
first leg from Europe to the Cape Verde Islands, thence across to the
Atlantic to the Caribbean, and then arcing NW with the Trades to
America. During the 1600's the original Kalmar Nyckel made more round
trips to the New World than any other single vessel of the time.
Some construction details caught my eye. She is three-masted, the
forward two masts square-rigged and the aft mast sporting a lateen sail
(the diagonal spar shown here).
The forward mast and bowsprit are shown here, with a detail of the tiny
mast on the tip of the bowsprit. Notice that at each "crosstrees" on
each mast there is a round platform with a small railing, which you
don't see on many tall ships. These were called "fighting tops", and
were actually sniper platforms for use in close-quarters fighting.
Turns out the famous British Admiral Nelson was ultimately killed by a
musket ball from a fighting top.
This boat had a tremendous amount of carving, I mean everywhere. I
don't know how much weight it added to the boat, but enough I bet to
adversely affect the boat's handling. Here are a few examples.
One other detail I must share is the lashings on the mast.
These lashings literally hold the mast together. It turns out that in
1625, in Sweden, available natural timber had been reduced through
lumber harvesting to nothing but spindly toothpicks of trees, none
large enough by itself to make a mast out of. (The same thing happened
in the New World, but not until the late 1880's.) So the mast was made
up of smaller trees carved into pie-shaped crossections that were
combined, overlapped lengthwise, and glued and lashed together to make
a complete mast. And, epoxy being nonexistent in 1625 (they probably
used something like ground-up pigs' hooves), you can bet that the
lashings were pretty important structurally.
When we finally boarded the ferry, my bike got shoved in the usual
And off we went, soaking up sun on what was a rather cool day with a
We left Cape Henlopen, New Jersey's northernmost point, to starboard as
we passed --
-- we left the breakwater and lighthouse to port -- (looks
just like the Los Angeles Light in San Pedro) --
-- and settled down for the 75 minute passage. These ladies talked
incessantly the whole way. I sat behind them in the shade.
We arrived at the Cape May terminal --
-- and I headed north to my hotel in Eatontown, NJ some 130 miles away.
I started out along the shore and quickly realized that the entire 150
mile length of the Jersey shore was non-stop traffic lights and aging
beach resorts, which I didn't need to see and would keep me from
reaching my destination, so I returned to the Garden State Parkway
(toll) and buzzed north as fast as I safely could. No photos. My hotel,
when finally located (there were two locations a mile apart with the
same address), was inexpensive, and deservedly so. The door to my room
looked like a prison block --
-- and while there was a swimming pool, it was clear I wasn't going to
be able to use it.
The air conditioner was also falling apart, but I managed to reassemble
it without tools, and I settled down for the night. Next day, JFK.
It was only 63 miles to my hotel at JFK airport and I had
the whole day, so from Eatontown I headed east to Monmouth Beach, a
popular upscale weekend retreat from NYC. Nice beach, but . . . why is
the sun rising over the ocean? It's just not right.
From there I headed north up the coast toward Seabright Beach, the last
community before Sandy Hook. This is a residential community built in a
swamp. By now you've heard me talk about the structure of barrier
islands, the progression of ocean-beach-dunes-swamp-lagoon, and this
was no different except the homes were all built on fill in what used
to be swamp -- which meant they were built roughly at sea level
(because the lagoon behind the dunes is at sea level). In this area
they had made an attempt to improve the longevity of their homes with
Yes, that's a stone and cement wall about twelve feet high. From up on
top it looks like this.
Periodically this structure had a wooden stair going up and over it to
provide beach access.
I don't think I'd be entirely happy looking out my front window at this
breakwall. I think I'd be uncomfortable. On the other hand, the folks
who live on this side of the country (when I talk to them)
generally think I'm crazy to live in California where there are
earthquakes, fires, and mudslides on an annual basis. To each his own,
From here I continued north to explore Sandy Hook, on a dead-end road
along a forested sandspit several miles long. Here's an overview of
Lower New York Bay showing Sandy Hook, lower center right, taken off
(Don't worry, I'll explain the "Brian's house" label shortly.)
Sandy Hook is a National Park as well as a working military
installation. The national park commemorates and preserves past
military installations as well as the environment. There is quite a
long line of old lookout posts and gun emplacements along the NE
shoreline, which now are heavily overgrown and decrepit to the point
that visitors are not allowed inside them. They remain unrestored.
There are views of New York available at the far northern end of Sandy
Hook. The road ends near an elevated observation platform, popular with
This view is to the north, with the Verrazano Narrows Bridge in the
distance. This bridge is the one right next to the Interstate highway
"278" symbol at upper center on the Google Earth image above.
That platform on a post to the left of the tree is an osprey nest.
According to two birders who were there on the platform when I got
there, about 25 yards to the left in the grass the mother osprey was
tearing apart a recent kill and flying scraps back to the nest to feed
her new chicks.
Further to the right the view is of Coney Island/Brighton Beach, about
15 miles distant.
Behind the platform, blinded now by new growth, is a former military
observation structure that *used* to have a clear view!
Moving on to the west from Sandy Hook, I had plenty of time and decided
to meander the residential roads and streets close to the shore and see
what I could find. Not far from the southern tip of Sandy Hook the land
rises to "significant" elevations (a couple hundred feet), giving the
area the feel of, say, Palos Verdes Drive West in Los Angeles. This
area is known as Atlantic Highlands. Along the way I found a spot where
I could get a clear-ish view of the water and New York at this house,
which belonged to a guy named Brian.
Here's the view from his property. Pretty nice!
I saw this and decide a telephoto shot was in order.
Here you can see a small mooring field (and some pretty nice boats) in
the foreground, followed by the northern point of Sandy Hook, and then
Staten Island to the left and Coney Island to the right, behind Sandy
Hook (refer back to the Google Earth view above, where Brian's house is
What is not so clear here, but visible with some augmentation, is
Manhattan appearing as ghostly skyline above and behind everything else.
My attention was drawn to Manhattan by Brian himself, who had wandered
out his front door to see what the heck I was up to. I told him, and
when the part came out about having ridden there on a motorcycle his
demeanor shifted, he came down his porch steps and up the walkway to
the sidewalk saying something like "This I've got to see". Turns out
he's more-or-less bicoastal, and is familiar with the LA region and
even PV Drive West, to which I compared this spot. He pointed out the
Empire State Building and the Wall Street complex, and we chatted
awhile until he needed to get back to work.
At Brian's suggestion, since I had plenty of time, I took coastal
surface streets all the way to and through Staten Island, returning to
freeways at the Verrazano Bridge for the final few miles to JFK
airport. This is what the views look like from the south coast of
That's the west end of Coney Island in the distance. Below, a couple of
young ladies enjoy the beach on a Friday early afternoon. This is an
area of very quiet water, as it is protected from all directions except
southeast. This photo was taken from a spot on the beach to the right
of the word "Richmond" on the Google Earth view.
JFK airport, by the way, is located at the far upper right corner of
that view, on the northeastern shore of swampy, island-filled Jamaica
My hotel was located right outside the NW corner of the airport, and as
I write this my motorcycle is there, locked, fork-locked, covered,
under a protective building overhang, and cable-locked to a post,
awaiting my return tomorrow (today is Monday 5/25, Day 33), at which
time the adventure resumes.