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  • Bruce Tate

Fleet

One night, we shared "docktails" with our buddy boats. One of the captains was Kim, the director of the American Great Loop Cruisers Association. We discussed the previous days run and our pending entry to New York Harbor. We talked about being inexperienced. She smiled, and said everyone has days like that. "Some days you watch the show, and some days you _are_ the show." We also talked about the coming challenges of Fleet Week.


Every May around Memorial Day, ships representing many kinds of public service enter New York Harbor. Usually Fleet Week vessels arrive late in the morning when the adoring public can celebrate the huge ships. This year Fleet Week involved six massive ships representing the Coast Guard and Navy. These proud ships enter the Hudson River with security that is always striving to maintain a safe and defensible barrier around each ship.


This year, the fleet arrived in the Harbor just before Currently. We were following our good friends, the Longs in Long Recess, a 27 foot Ranger Tug. It was a remarkable show! Fire ships were saluting the fleet by blasting huge geysers of seawater into the air. The massive ship parade passed right by Lady Liberty, an iconic scene of power and majesty.





As we arrived, the Hudson River was squeezed down to about a quarter of it's usual width, leaving scant space for the many usual container ships, ferries, additional police boats, and the boat escort barrier around the fleet. Inevitably, our two tiny tugs were squeezed between the arriving parade of warships and New York's everyday fleet of chaos. Something had to give.


As we swam our way upstream like so many minnows among thousands of migrating salmon, we were squeezed closer and closer to the places we were not supposed to be. Eventually, we got intolerably close to the fleet. As a rule follower, I watched horrified as the escorting military police boat peeled off of the fleet and politely but firmly asked us to move farther out, pointing vaguely toward the turbulent wall of chaos occupying the constricted Hudson.


As we struggled to nudge our way back among the big fish, a smallish container ship emerged into the harbor. It was the last straw. Now, a harbor police boat skittered alongside first Long Recess and then Currently to point vaguely back behind us to tell us to wait until the fleet had passed.


Meanwhile, Tony had slipped out of our temporary time out, unnoticed by the harbor police. He pointed at the Statue of Liberty. Tony said on the phone that we'd worked hard to get there, and we'd get our pictures.


At some point in all of the chaos, Maggie noticed that I was overloaded. My dyslexic brain had too many inputs, too many rights and lefts among the buoys and ships and escorts to track. She gently gave me a camera, pointed me to the back of our boat. I told myself that I'd been promoted to head photographer, but the truth was undeniable. That day, just 48 hours removed from my crowning marine achievement, I'd been banished from the helm.


Later that night we were tucked in at Liberty Landing, a wonderful marina a stone's throw from the Statue of Liberty. We showered off, walked off our stiffness, and began to work through some of the wonderful pictures of the day. I even took some of them. There were Karen and Tony in their cockpit right beneath the Statue of Liberty. There was the fireboat, welcoming us to New York.



It turns out that the most famous picture taken did not come from me, Maggie, or either of the Longs. It was a tiny, low-resolution picture of a police boat right beside two tinyt tugs captured by New York's harbor web cam.


I smiled knowingly. On the loop, some days you're the show.


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