POV

The Cripple Crow

Story by Matt Heidkamp - matt@citizenbrooklyn.com Photos by Icarus Blake
Photo © Icarus Blake

Photo © Icarus Blake

I awoke that morning hoping to get a taste of the high-life. Lured in with the promise of a day spent sailing in Brooklyn, Anna and I arrived at my cousin Sam’s suburban New Jersey home to help get the boat ready. Our vessel: a lime-green sailboat fit for four, hand-built by Sam out of scrap wood during his free time. Her name was the Cripple Crow. This would be her maiden voyage.

Sam always had a knack for building things, and an affinity for weird adventures. The latter quality, perhaps our greatest common denominator, is what drove him to labor over his boat for nearly eighteen months. We positioned the boat atop of his mid-80’s station wagon and were on our way to Jamaica Bay, Brooklyn, stopping only for an assortment of six-packs.

Photo © Icarus Blake

Photo © Icarus Blake

To get to this particular spot on the Bay, we cut through Sam’s work site (he builds bridges in BK) to a deserted strip of beach. Looking to the water, a deserted, possibly unnamed island sat a mile into the distance.

With the boat ready to set sail, we marveled at the journey we were about to take. We didn’t have a champagne bottle to christen the inaugural trip, so we had Anna break a bottle of Miller High Life, the “Champagne of Beers”, on the boat, cutting her hand open in the process. Undeterred, we set sail, drunk and heading off to the mysterious island.

We had drawn doodles and scribbled the lyrics of Devendra Banhart’s “Cripple Crow” on the side of the sail. Perhaps naming a boat after a song about peace is a bad omen; our sail snapped clean off within the first five minutes of our voyage. Our sailboat was now a rowboat and Sam and I paddled on, leaving the mast behind.

All things considered, we were still having a good time. The weather was warm and there were plenty of drinks. After an hour’s worth of paddling, we had reached our island destination and dragged the boat ashore. Around us was a graveyard of horseshoe crabs, broken pieces of boats and a children’s tricycle. We spent the rest of the day swimming and exploring. The island was ours.

Photo © Icarus Blake

Photo © Icarus Blake

Heading back to shore was decidedly more difficult. The drunker we got, the harder it was to paddle straight. The fact we were in a shipping lane didn’t help either as the Cripple Crow nearly flipped in the wake of passing vessels. I decided to jump out and swim for a bit and came to a shocking realization: Jamaica Bay is only four-feet deep. With Anna steering, Sam and I casually walked the boat the next half-mile to shore, packed up and headed home… We all spent the next week incredibly ill. Don’t ever swim in Jamaica Bay.

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