Saturday, June 26, 2010

Tour de Bronx

I mentioned Charlie's boatyard a while back. Above is the nearby Pelham Bay landfill (this is the Bronx, after all). Below is the tricky narrow egress, difficult for a duffer like me to manage in a crosswind, as I may have mentioned before:

Charlie is at least the second generation of his family to run this boatyard, or so I hear. I wouldn't dare ask Charlie himself any questions about his family history, or indeed any questions at all not absolutely necessary, because I am rather in awe of Charlie.

Not that Charlie is a hard case, or an unfriendly guy. On the contrary: like most Boat Dudes, he's hospitable, kindly, sociable, and generous, which you don't realize at first because like most Boat Dudes, he has a somewhat laconic just-the-facts-Ma'am manner. Here is an exterior shot of part of Charlie's house, in the yard -- sorry about the Dumpster; I couldn't find an angle that didn't include it:

Charlie noticed me taking pictures, which piqued his curiosity since he wasn't expecting to see me again until October. He promptly invited me to take a picture from inside his house:

Nice, huh?

Charlie has a colleague named Emil, or maybe Emile. I would no more dare take a picture of Emil than I would twist a lion's tail, though Emil is also a wonderful guy and took suitable measures during a winter gale when a tarp I had secured badly over the Scapegrace blew loose. (He cut it away and let it fly off in a 40-knot breeze into Eastchester Bay, before it could pull the boat right off her poppets.)

Here's where Emil lives, or so I'm told:

I imagine Emil is very aware of the weather.

Eastchester Bay is very urban. Just on the other side is the New York police shooting range, where they also take bombs, or possible bombs, and the occasional bag lady's bag, to dispose of them "safely". It was probably illegal to take this picture, but I took it anyway:

Most afternoons at Charlie's yard one hears the ominous mechanical bang-bang of automatic weapon fire sounding flatly across the water from this dismal fortress. I didn't know what it was, at first -- thought it was fireworks, then realized there just aren't that many holidays. Unless you're a cop, and then every day is about gunpowder.

Whom, exactly, are they practicing to shoot? Not me -- not in their minds, anyway -- but having had some of those guns pointed at me, in my day, it's an unpleasant thing to hear. Whomever it is they're practicing to shoot, they won't shoot in the service of my interests.

I don't know how many of my fellow Boat Dudes at Charlie's yard would agree with my suspicion and dislike of the police. Some of them are retired cops, others retired firemen (who would possibly be more sympathetic; there's no love lost between the cops and the firemen).

The Boat Dudes don't love authority, but they don't love the underclasses either. So -- much as I love the Boat Dudes, I stay away from this topic.

On my way back from Charlie's, I took a detour to pick up an outboard motor part at Sheila's outboard motor place on City Island. I parked illegally and wandered for a few minutes through Pelham Cemetery, a very nice spot to be buried, if buried one must be:

Off across the water there is Hart Island, with its melancholy abandoned smokestack. Hart Island is New York's potter's field, where we bury our dead on the stingy taxpayers' tab when nobody else can be found to pay for the Dead Dude's last piece of private property.

Not too many people know about Hart Island, but it has a certain morbid fascination for me. I have sailed around it. There are signs warning you to keep away -- the burials are handled by prisoners from another island in the New York archipelago, Rikers Island, and so Hart's itself, and its humble dead, are now a fief of the Incarceration Sector.

Sheila's outboard motor place is right next to the dock from which Charon's ferry takes the unwanted and uncherished -- or at least, unpaid-for -- dead over to Hart's. The dock is plastered with dire minatory warnings from the wonderfully-named "Department of Corrections", but maybe one of these days I'll feel bold enough to take a picture.


  1. Keep it coming. Between your posts and google maps/earth I am getting familiar with terra incognita, i.e. NYC as not shown on Law and Order. Although to give credit where due 'L&O-Criminal Intent' had a recent episode set in Broad Channel with a good bit of local color. Pelham Bay looks quite a bit plusher, even from the satellite.

    Charlie's house shows up well on satellite. It is an inflatable?

  2. Nope. I dunno how it was built, but the dome is certainly rigid -- may even be metal.