I have never been to New York so given we only had a limited period
there I decided the best approach was to hit the ground running. I did a
fair few of the really touristy things (like visit the Statue of Liberty +
The Met) but these high-lights were out-shone by our day spent as guests of
the New York City Fire Department at ‘The Island’ the Fire Department’s
This was a real eye-opening day + my first real interaction with card-
carrying Americans. First up was an introduction by Firemen Mike + Pete. It
was clear that all the people we met were straight-up genuine, ‘nice’
people who were just that proud of the work they. Incredibly patriotic too
– ubiquitous flying of the stars + stripes is done without irony. Brits
don’t do enthusiasm/patriotism quite like this – so the inner
anthropologist in me was in full action.
Getting kitted-up was an education in its own right. I had no appreciation
of how HEAVY the protective clothes worn by fire fighters actually is. It
was also quite funny that they had protective clothing in my size (I am
5’3″ + slight) – I strongly suspect there was a touch of the Frodo + Sam in
awk clothing look about me + I definitely felt like an extra from a
Hollywood action movie!
Our instructors for the day were the impressive Rickie, Shaun + Daniella
(one of only 40 female fire fighters in a force of 20,000!). Fire-fight
training is taken seriously and we were put through our paces. We practised
putting out a building fire, a car fire, rescuing somebody from an upper
floor in a 6 storey building which involved being belayed down from the
roof (not for you if you don’t do heights) + were introduced to their
physical fitness programme. Fire fighters are very fit.
After lunch of the tallest deli sandwich I have ever seen our hosts threw
down the gauntlet, accepted by Oli Philips (from Great Britain CV26) – who
being a professional rugby player was definitely the fittest of our
assorted bunch – to compete in a physical fitness challenge of heaving,
hitting + pulling your way round a ‘physical ordeal’ training circuit in
full fire fighting outfit. Shaun for the fire fighters wasn’t taking
prisoners but Oli with a mega effort bettered Shaun’s time by 9 seconds.
Impressive effort Oli!
Our stay at the centre finished with a visit to the memorial wall to the
343 fire fighters who lost their lives on the 11 September 2001. The lost
is still deeply felt by the NYC Fire Department + we were all very touched
by the words spoken by Fireman Pete. Such an incomprehensible loss. The
commitment and dedication shown by the men + women of NYC Fire Department
made me feel really humble – just a little person in the presence of
giants. I had a fabulous, enjoyable + yes, educational day.
The afternoon saw a return match in North Cove Marina when our hosts of the
morning came for a visit of the boats and a meal cooked by Lawrence Lingard
(from Qingdao CV22 (twitter @clipperracecook) who also happens to be a
global circumnavigator + chef).
It was an all round great way (short of taking the Firemen sailing) to say
thank you for such generous hospitality. In fact all the fight fighters
without hesitation enthused about an opportunity next race to come sailing
with us on one of the Clipper 70s.
Personally I think Clipper misses a trick. If it were me I’d take more of
the locals + ‘nice’ guys sailing … just my view.