Wednesday, September 29, 2010


While City Island was my destination it is also a place where people leave from and never return. Just a two minute walk from the boatyard is a guarded and locked ferry dock at the end of Fordham Street.

This is the ferry that runs to Hart Island and which is the Potters Field for the city of New York. The ferry is operated by the New York City Corrections department. Because the people doing the burials are prisoner volunteers of nearby Rikers Island.

Hart Island is only about 1800 feet away from City Island. But, for several youngsters it was a journey too far on a January night in 2003: 

A weekend search of the icy waters and small islands off City Island in the Bronx turned up no trace of four teenage boys who vanished Friday night after leaving a party and apparently shoving off into Long Island Sound in a fiberglass rowboat. Officials said last night that if they had gone into the water, there was little hope that they had survived.

"The most obvious destination for what many thought was a nocturnal adventure -- Hart Island, with its storied potter's field graveyard and abandoned missile silos, less than a mile off City Island -- yielded no signs that the teenagers had been there. Dozens of other islands between Westchester and Nassau Counties were scoured. Scuba divers searched shoreline waters, but turned up nothing.

On Friday night, he said, they attended another party, and were last seen about 9:30 p.m., carrying oars and Mr. Wertenbaker's acoustic guitar toward the docks and marinas on the island's eastern shore.

The guitar was found on Saturday by Mr. Wertenbaker's family in a cemetery by the docks, and police search dogs traced the teenagers' scent to Barron's Marina nearby, where an eight-foot fiberglass rowboat was missing." -New York Times
The next morning I wandered over to the same Pelham Cemetery where the guitar washed up. It was just a stones throw from the mooring Bianka was on. It is a very interesting place. The dead at Pelham have "million dollar" waterfront views:
That's BIANKA at the mooring with the white hull and blue sail cover on the left. Hart Island is in the background. Most of the tombstones at Pelhem Cemetery are facing the water:

Well, wouldn't you want that view too?  Another interesting thing about the Pelham Cemetery for me as a sailor was how many of the grave markers showed the deceased's love for sailing on the waters that surround City Island:

When you see the word "pilot" like on the grave stone of Alexander Banta below. Think about a "Hell Gate Pilot" guiding ships down the East River and not those in planes circling overhead making a final approach to Laguardia Airport.

There is no doubt how this fellow made his living:

 I spent over an hour wandering around the Pelham Cemetery. It's a fascinating place for those who love the sailing and the sea because for many of those buried there loved it too! It's a reminder for those of us still living to appreciated it while we can and everyday that we can.

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