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Lots of boats come to Oriental, some tie up at the Town Dock for a night or two, others drop anchor in the harbor for a while. If you've spent any time on the water you know that every boat has a story. The Shipping News on TownDock.net brings you the stories of the boats that have visited recently.

Taking Time
March 30, 2013
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avid Gow is well familiar with time — both as a concept — and a hands-on thing. He has made a career of restoring antique clocks. As Conservator for the Willard Clock Museum in Grafton, Massachusetts he’s around valuable old timepieces all the time. Right now, David Gow is taking time for a dream he’s had for 20 years – to go off on a sailboat, point it south and head to the islands for a year.

podjo gow
David and Barbara Gow on board their Pacific Seacraft 37, Podjo.

Though David Gow and his wife, Barbara had sunny islands in mind when they set out from Narragansett Bay in October, it was two islands much closer to home that gave them tales to tell by the time they reached Oriental in November.

At that point, they’d hoped to be further south than the Town Dock, where they were tied up “Podjo” their Pacific Seacraft 37 for a few days. But five weeks in to their cruising, they were beginning to absorb a lesson about the way boats and weather can conspire against schedules. One of the instructors went by the name Sandy.

After a few delays in taking off from their home waters in Rhode Island, the Gows in late October were sailing down the Long Island Sound when they detected a small issue with a sail. They decided to seek out a repair at City Island, a small village on the far northeastern edge of the Bronx and New York City.

podjo town dock
Podjo at Oriental’s Town Dock when David and Barbara Gow stopped in to catch their breath on the way south in November.

About this same time, it was looking as if Hurricane Sandy would be approaching in a day or two. Their grown sons were phoning them, concerned, to say they should get off the boat. David and Barbara set anchors and situated their new home in the lee of Hart Island, a few thousand feet from City Island.

Then, they tried to dinghy to City Island, David Gow remembers. “I was fairly nonchalant.” But not for long. Even with an engine on the skiff the going was slow. They were only half way to the shore, and in the late afternoon, darkness and rougher seas were setting in. “It took all of our effort.” David says. He recalls thinking, “‘This is going to be a headache.‘”

“Waves were lashing over us,” David says. But cutting across the rollicking water was just one part of the challenge for the new cruisers. As they got closer to the City Island shoreline, they saw nowhere to get ashore. There was one dock, but it was towering over them, revealing pilings encrusted in menacing barnacles.

podjo block island plaque
Another island story for “Podjo”. The Plaque on her companionway says that the boat took first place in the 1985 Pacific Seacraft Block Island Race.

Then came the first of several City Island encounters that saved the day. David says “two young guys were signaling to us to go over to the side.” The young men threw a line down to the Gows who, somehow, used that to climb up on to the dock. Their dinghy was hoisted up after them.

By this point, it was pitch black, and the Gows were sopping wet. “soaked, miserable, cold and stringy,” by their description. David and Barbara found empty streets and as they walked around in the chill, wet, dark night could find no hotel. With the hurricane bearing down toward New York and only them and the police on the streets of City Island, David says they felt “like vagrants.”

There was one place open. A pub, and they went inside for the chance to warm up and dry out. They still had no sense of where they could stay for the night. After a while, Barbara says, “A woman comes up to us and after chatting with the fellow at the bar, she said, ‘We have a basement room where you can stay.‘”

The man was a fireman in the Bronx, Barbara says, and “they couldn’t do enough for us.” The Gows rode out Hurricane Sandy there and stayed for a couple of nights. Meanwhilel, “Podjo” rode out the hurricane just fine in her holding near Hart Island where they stayed for a few days more.

podjo salon
Back to the comforts of “Podjo”.

Hart Island fascinated them, David in particular, and even though they never set foot on it as it’s off-limits to the public, he was still speaking glowingly of it, weeks later in Oriental. Over the centuries, Hart Island has been the site of POW camps, from both the Civil War and WWII. It’s housed a prison, a reformatory.

Perhaps even more memorably for the crew of Podjo, it is a Potter’s Field, the final resting place for New Yorkers whose families wouldn’t pay to bury them, or who died alone. An estimated 800,000 bodies are buried there, their coffins stacked one atop the other in long trenches.

The burials go on to this day, as the Gows were to see. Anchored a stone’s throw from the shore, they watched daily as a ferry brought prison inmates to Hart Island to bury more dead. The Gows were anchored so close, they say, that they could hear the taunts from the inmates, ‘We can see you! We can see you!‘”

Podjo clock chart
On board “Podjo” the clock just tells time, David Gow says. Barbara Gow points to the home waters for “Podjo” on Narragansett Bay. That’s where they sail actively through the summer months. Their voyage south on “Podjo” is part of an 8 month trip to the islands.

Still, they stayed, and besides the activity of the inmates, the Gows say they watched all sorts of wildlife on the island where so many dead are buried. The irony they say, is that they were “finding life there.”

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Posted Saturday March 30, 2013 by Melinda Penkava

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