A VIP sneaks into town by water

Most of the big celebrities show up in Manhattan in the back of a black SUV Yet New York is still a port city. In 2019, Greta Thunberg’s emissions-free yacht cleared customs near Coney Island before disembarking to speak to the UN Last month, a visiting VIP traveled to Ellis Island aboard a diesel container ship from three hundred yards loaded with thousands of toilets. bowl pistons, all-season automobile tires, pints of European blood plasma and Heineken tallboys.

It was approaching 3 A M, and the water was calm. Almost low tide. A light southwesterly wind. The sky was cloudless purple, and the visiting celebrity lay quietly in a twenty-foot shipping container, one of a stack of six, stowed amidships. Several spectators took photos on iPhone as his ship passed under the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge. “America is opening up, my friend! Ed Aldridge, a gray-haired executive with French logistics giant CMA CGM, owner of the ship, said enthusiastically as he waited to board. “Our little sister is coming!

He was referring to Little Lady Liberty (aka Little Sister, Replica No. 1, The Second Statue of Liberty), which was making its American debut. One hundred and thirty-six years ago, Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi’s original Statue of Liberty arrived in New York aboard a French Navy ship – in three hundred and fifty pieces housed in two hundred and fourteen crates (plus a manual instructions). His Mini-Me – a nine-foot, one-sixteenth-scale bronze cast – would land via an ultra-super-post Panamax crane.

The big bronze cap, created in 2011, had just spent a decade playing in Paris. In mid-June, she was hoisted into a custom wooden and plexiglass travel suitcase, then docked and loaded into a blue painted container (label: “STATUE OF LIBERTY; exceptional cargo“). “It was expensive,” Aldridge said. “We had to make sure we got it right. “

Aldridge wore an American flag tie, leather loafers and a twelve thousand dollar Rolex. From a dock on Staten Island, he boarded a sixty-three-foot pilot boat, to give Little Lady Liberty an official welcome. At 4:58 A M, he descended from the pilot boat onto a rickety metal gangway bolted to the container ship.

“There is nothing better than this! he said. “Let’s go!” A PR woman boarding wearing a life jacket shouted: “Security! ”(A few months ago, a sea pilot captain fell while boarding a nearby tanker, and later died.)

On deck, Captain Volodymyr Hladky of Ukraine, who looked and smelled like he would appreciate clean hotel linens, greeted his guest at CMA CGM Nerval. “It’s a great moment in history,” he said with a smile. He wore scruffy thatch, blue latex gloves, a baseball cap with the word “captain”And a stainless steel Casio watch. “We create history! “

Hladky’s crew (seven engineers, four officers, three qualified ratings, two regular ratings, a deck officer cadet, fitter, electrician, engine engineer, messenger and cook) had spent seven days crossing the ocean. Originally, Hladky said, another ship was scheduled to pick up the visiting celebrity in Le Havre, but then “they call me and say, ‘Turn around! and I say, “Yes, okay! “Le Nerval was almost halfway to America when it turned around to pick up Little Lady Liberty from France.

“It’s July, don’t you think it’s time to throw out Santa Claus who died from last year?”
Caricature by Zachary Kanin

Towards 6 A M, an FDNY pump boat anchored near Liberty Island celebrated the arrival of the Bronze VIP with a water cannon show. “The colors of the French flag! Hladky said, pointing to jets of water lit in blue, white and red. The second, who was from St. Petersburg, said: “Russia too!” Aldridge barked an order to a young sailor to fly a large American flag along the ship’s deck. The sailor muttered under his breath.

“Freedom! Freedom! Diplomacy! Friendship!” Aldridge yelped. Then someone held up a phone; Stanislas de Laboulaye, the great-great-grandson of Édouard de Laboulaye, who had conceived the idea for the original statue, in 1865, was at stake. “Our little sister had a wonderful rest from the across the Atlantic, ”Aldrige shouted over the phone. “She has a big smile on her face right now!”

“Very good, good,” said de Laboulaye. “Send my greetings to the statue.”

Down in the engine room, eight dismal sailors celebrated their own arrival in New York City with black coffee and unfiltered cigarettes. Some had been on board the Nerval for nearly four months. The mate explained that no crew member would be allowed to disembark with Little Lady Liberty, who was heading to Ellis Island for an Independence Day celebration before being repacked in her special suitcase and transported by truck to the French Ambassador’s residence in Washington, DC, where she would live for the next decade. “The situation is a bit difficult,” he said. “Although we have the vaccination, we have no way out. He added, “But the view of Manhattan is amazing. “

In the ship’s galley, the eighteen-year-old messman peeled twenty pounds of potatoes as helicopters circled overhead. On deck, Aldridge says, “She’s waking up. She’s getting ready to celebrate!

Around nine o’clock, the ship docks. A small fanfare played the national anthem, and the French Ambassador, Philippe Étienne, gave a short speech – “Long live the friendship between our two countries! – while several policemen armed with M4 rifle assault rifles sweated in the sun. Hladky watched as a two hundred and ninety foot crane lift the visiting celebrity’s shipping container onto a waiting truck chassis.

“It’s over. We delivered safely. I feel this one in my soul,” he said with tears in his eyes. PM, we are sailing again. ♦

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