how to swim from a schooner

Tugster is running a Swim Day post today. So, Happy Swim Day! What better way to celebrate than to jump into the harbor? Is it legal? yes! sort of.

Here’s the catch: you cannot enter the water from anywhere near the shore. Land and waters 100′ off the sea wall or piers around the city is either state or city owned, and is therefore is under jurisdiction to patrol. If you try to swim within 100′ off the shore, you will be fished out and fined dearly. You may apply for a permit to swim in an organized event, but easy access to and from the water is dependent on where you enter and leave the waters, and there are many regulations that discourage a quick dip.

Or, you can jump off a boat offshore. What is the law there? there is no law. The police who come to pick you up willbring you in for something, but not for swimming.  And if you ask them why you can’t swim, they’ll say, “Well, this is how it is because I’m telling you that’s how it is.”

So, should you try this, here is the one big rule: Do not make any captain do paperwork.

Do not inconvenience YOUR boat capt, do not trouble the captains hauling oil, cargo containers or cars, do not freak out the big DEP boat captains, do not worry the many tugboat captains, the small workboat captains, the ferry and watertaxi captains, the tourist/dinnerboat captains…et cetera. What you do to yourself is up to you!

So, as I have had access from a schooner, here’s how to swim from a schooner:

ready 1. (The hardest:) Find a captain who will let you off her/his boat.
They’re all hardwired to keep you ON the boat, so you will be very hardpressed to find one that will actually let you off.

Your ship will most likely be anchored. If a capt will let you off a boat underway, s/he wants to put you out of her/his misery, in which case, don’t go.

Determine current direction and strength before you go in. I throw in a small piece of food, leaf, or twig.

bowsprit 2. (The easiest:) Jump off.

ciao! 3. (The most fun—well, it’s all fun:) Swim.     float

(Best to avoid propellers, even if engine is idle.)


4. (The MOST INELEGANT:) Come back aboard.
To come back onboard, you’re lucky if the capt rigs something from the davit for you, or has something off the side if the freeboard is low enough. But I’ve never had this extra courtesy and I’ve never pushed for it since they look the other way to let you go in. So, climb up the headrig. It is never elegant.

At anchor, the chance that the ship runs over you is slightly less than when underway. Slightly. She will hopefully pull away from her anchor chain. Approach from the side front.

Be aware of the dolphinstrikers or martingales! Lower Bay was the most exhilarating to swim because of the swells, the openness, the big containerships steaming by, however, it was also where I watched that martingale go up very high and come slamming down deep into the water. Watch your head. Grab the chains of the headrig when the martingale is at the lowest point for a free boost. Scurry up the slimy chains before the next swell or you will return to your original position with force; hold on tightly.


The martingale stays chain will be quite slippery and green with moss and slime. If you are clever, you picked a schooner with a low bowsprit and corresponding footropes of the net. Grab the ropes of the net, then pull yourself in by holding the hawse, scuppers, anything. Don’t grab the staysail or jib: it unfurls. Then before climbing back onboard, yell “Laying off!”as if you were just out for a moment tying a few clove hitches to secure the jib.

headrig layingon

Photos M.Riff. Thank you, M!

Ah! Sailors DO tell good stories!! Three good swim stories on Tillerman’s site: the last one is a doozy! his site is a doozy.
And MessingAboutInBoats gives you beautiful peek into another world, another time, and writes it in a way that makes you want to hold your bowl up and with big puppy eyes say, “More please.”
Postcards brings you a tale from the depths of the pool, also another time, another place, complete with beautiful sketches!
Yes! teach your little ones how to swim! So so so important! kudos to AMoveableBridge, JollyTar, and more!

TheLongIslandGuy said, on 2009/07/01 at 04:31

I didn’t realize the water quality in New York Harbor was fit for swimming. So what made you jump off a boat in the winter? (Everyone has their coats on but you.)

bowsprite said, on 2009/07/01 at 08:03

The water is lovely! and there are many races around the island.
This set of photos was taken at the end of october 2007 on a painting art sail (notice easels). The Hudson River sail was to go paint colorful leaves, but the subject refused to cooperate.
Air temp was chilly, but the water was warm. UNLIKE your Long Island waters! Noank waters was so cold just this weekend! Brrrrrr! but beautiful!

  • tugster said, on 2009/07/01 at 07:18

    ooo i see this as the start of a series . . . next installments could be how to swim from a tugboat, a canoe, a gondola, a kayak . . . . that could lead to how to (fill in the blank) on a (fill in the blank with type of vessel). in this post, i love the foto above “inelegant” partly because i see two feet and calves, one forearm, part of thigh BUT then there’s that orange that looks like cap color and can NOT figure out how you contort to get yer head there . . . please clarify.

  • michael said, on 2009/07/01 at 07:19

    Christina, that was such a fun day!

  • bowsprite said, on 2009/07/01 at 08:22

    I tell you! watch out for a slamming bow!
    The current swept me right under it, the ship came down, and loped the head clean off.
    Leg caught the martingale stay, and I had a good grip, so I was not going to let go. Had to look for the head which was difficult as the eyes were on the part floating away. A ganglion trailed out like a painter, so I caught it and reeled my mind back in. All fine now. Part of the adventure.

  • tugster said, on 2009/07/01 at 09:04

    thank the river gods and goddesses for that ganglion . . . i’m glad yer intact, but your mind might have had an interesting journey, unexpected adventures, beamed back wild watercolors from the deep and the remote.

  • Mage Bailey said, on 2009/07/01 at 09:06

    I can let out my breath now?
    Seriously, what an adventure. Thanks so much for sharing this with us. Goodness.

  • Turinas said, on 2009/07/01 at 09:09

    My wife has perfected involuntary swimming off our boat

  • Michael said, on 2009/07/01 at 11:12

    It so happens that I like taking risks in the water as much as the next guy (more, surely) but it seems like you have quite the array of unpleasantness to avoid swimming amidst ships. Chains, barnacles, the cops…geez!

    We all must get back to the water, though. Schooner better than later.*


    * and I hate puns. Apologies. I’ve been off my feed lately…

  • […] instructs us on how to swim from a schooner;  I presume this is first in a series that might lead to similar instructions on swimming from a […]

  • Kennebec Captain said, on 2009/07/01 at 16:44

    How to Swim from a Canoe.

    First with a quad band cell phone in one pocket and a digital camera in the other, attempt to show your son that the old man still has a trick or two up his sleeve by steering into what appears to be a gentle eddy. Second, holding the bow line with one hand and stroking with the other…..

    • bowsprite said, on 2009/07/01 at 17:00

      oh, no!!! intrepid inpromptu swimmers deserve a special hand. Or two. With ziplock baggies!!! Ahhh, things a parent will do to form lasting memories for the offspring…
      so…how does one get back ON a canoe?

      • Kennebec Captain said, on 2009/07/02 at 10:59

        Well, getting the phone soaked wasn’t just a matter of being too short sighted to put the phone in a baggie, that section of the Kennebec doesn’t even have cell phone coverage so there is no reason to even carry a phone.

        The rating of the river there is “good for beginners” so it took some local knowledge to find a spot to flip the canoe. As to getting back aboard, I towed it (one handed side stroke) ashore (about 1/2 mile below where we capsized) where we emptied it out.

  • O Docker said, on 2009/07/01 at 17:52

    Splish, splash, Bowsprite!

    Over the side, in the tide, goin’ for a ride, showin’ the flip side, climbin’ the topsides, modesty aside, bikinified. Clove hitches tied? Grinnin’ wide!

  • bowsprite said, on 2009/07/01 at 18:54

    hickory dickory ODocker,
    lounging on anchor locker,
    with a sweep of his pen
    and a tweak of his ken,
    comes the amusing little e-shocker.

    (sorry, rhyming dictionary failed to find anything meaning ‘pun’ ending in ‘-ocker’ )

  • Jed said, on 2009/07/03 at 20:23

    From Ambrose light to Waterford’s Locks
    From Witte’s yard to Hempstead’s docks
    Schooner, cruise ship, barge and tug
    And all sorts of cargo which they lug.
    All targets for the pen and brush
    Keeping MY horizons full and flush.

    ah, Jed!
    anything to be said,
    will pale in comparison
    with your poetic harbor run!

    (sorry, rhyming dictionary offered nothing to go with ‘comparison’.)

  • 15 Responses

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    1. Jed said, on 2009/07/26 at 13:37

      I’m bettin’ that ODocker’s an Ococker

      “Also known as Ocockers, the native islanders are a tight knit bunch. There is a real sense of community on Ocracoke. You’re sure to notice the Ocracoke “brogue,” the famous local dialect that has evolved over the past 250 years. Sit for a spell and let a real Ococker tell you about some of the historical and cultural lore of Ocracoke.”

      • bowsprite said, on 2009/07/27 at 10:01

        how can I resist? here’s my Oh, Cocker! volley:

      • O Docker said, on 2009/07/27 at 19:11

        While not an old salt from Hatteras,
        The suggestion does indeed flatter us,
        But my snug Berkeley berth
        Is the fairest on earth,
        Where I sit, by the sea, on my fatteras.

        • bowsprite said, on 2009/07/27 at 21:56

          Ok. I am going to register a new blog, trawl around on all the blogs you frequent and cut and paste in all your contributions…YOu just might be the very first to win a pulitzer for comments.

        • O Docker said, on 2009/07/28 at 00:07

          You really shouldn’t encourage this kind of thing.

          I think we’d all like to see more of your Swiss travels, though.

    2. bowsprite said, on 2009/07/28 at 02:57

      well, I monitored NYHarbor AIS for much of the time until we lost internet connection for 4 days…

    3. Camellia said, on 2009/08/21 at 21:23

      Wow, I enjoyed reading this! Christina my sister, you have such hutzpah you crazy chinese mermaid!! And what a sexy photo of you and that beautiful smile!

    4. Jeff Anzevino said, on 2009/09/16 at 12:30

      Reading your wriiting makes me feel as if I was there! I need to start visiting your site more often.

    5. […] swimmer a few years back was . . . Bowsprite.  What follows are excerpts from her […]

    6. […] Across America.  Recall the 2009 swim post by tugster . .  . uh,  me?  And someone’s unconventional techniques? Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Graveyard 3 If looking […]

    7. Irtsa said, on 2010/08/14 at 12:50

      What fabuloso photos! What resolve and expertese coupled with sheer intrepid(-ity?/-ness? – Ah, English, one of the most colourfully illogical languages of the world).
      How exciting to see you find your element, like this, over the last decades – and take your creative artist-soul into life as your medium, Life with / on / in Ocean. Your biggest and ongoing-till-death-do-you-part (and such parting may be but an illusion) Work in Progress. Thank you for inspiring so many people, Chris, by sheerly merely being your Siren-Mermaid-Self! Through you us landlubbers with earth under our nails and ash smudged on our cheeks can be tickled by the watery realm. Love from your Land-Viking Sis

    8. […] the second foto, taken by the inimitable bowsprite,  Sandy’s showing off the brass treads he installed in Pioneer‘s aft cabin ladder. […]

    9. linda collison said, on 2011/06/08 at 20:11

      Loved this. (And appreciated the line about not making the captain do any paperwork!)

    10. tom russell said, on 2011/08/31 at 02:42

      fun read. (“laying off!” heheh)

    11. John Almberg said, on 2012/10/25 at 15:18

      Become a volunteer on the “Christine” in Oyster Bay. We put girl scouts overboard all the time! (as part of a group sail.) I have to admit that Captain Pete is on his most alert when the girls are swimming, but he manages to keep a smile on his face.

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