After Vicki and I dropped off Margaret at her photo shoot, we decided to dinghy over to the Domino Sugar factory to see it up close. Vicki, apparently, has a fascination with the Domino Sugar factory in Brooklyn, and I just have a strange passion for any older industrial area, especially those along the water.
I should preface the story of our tour by saying there are currently no pictures of it in this post because Vicki was the one taking photos. However, Vicki is supposed to be sending us her pictures. As soon as she does, we will be sure to make her world famous for her fabulous photos, rather than infamous for withholding them from us all.
As we got closer to the factory, we were dwarfed by its size and realized just how large an edifice the place was. We could not comprehend what they did with all the space inside and figured that a good portion of it must have been simply closed up. But, as we were later to find out, they actually did use the entire space to process the sugar and put it into all sorts of different packages.
There were a few people milling about outside the factory. One woman looked like she was on her break, sitting at a picnic table and reading. Another guy was clearly on his way to his shift; he gave us a friendly wave as if people dinghied around the factory everyday.
We slowly putted around the front – from the water – of the factory and passed right under the bow of the huge ship that was being unloaded – at eight tons per scoop – when Margaret and I were coming in. Apparently it takes an entire week to unload one of those massive ships as they remove ten million pounds per day. Getting twenty feet away from such a giant is rare and feels slightly illegal. I only half-jokingly warned Vicki that she should prepare to be taken into custody by the Coast Guard at any moment.
Coming around the stern of the boat, we headed into a little cove formed by the factory and the dock. Now it almost felt like we had entered into the bowels of the factory. Machinery – namely conveyor belts – coursed overhead as if we had suddenly been transported into a post-apocalyptic film. And, like any good Hollywood movie of that type, we could see nature poking through: a few fish jumping on the surface, some grass growing up along the dockside, and, best of all, a night heron ambling along the dock and then taking flight as we got closer.
From the factory, we crossed the harbor and approached Fell’s Point, an area rich in maritime tradition that we had heard was now a cool neighborhood filled with older buildings and good bars and restaurants. As if to reinforce our idea of the place, a massive city dock poked out into the water, gated off with its roof tumbling in upon itself. Behind that, we could see people walking about and bar after bar along the cobblestoned streets. We quickly found a floating dock housing a bunch of kayaks and figured it would be OK, though probably not legal, to tie up there.
Just as we were getting off the dinghy, the sky started to darken and the wind picked up. We knew a storm was on the way, but watching the radar and the sky, it had seemed like it was still some way off. Immediately, I told Vicki we were returning to the boat, fearing that it might drag in any real blow. We again piled into the dinghy and started heading back into the harbor just as some serious gusts racked the little boat. Concerned for Vicki’s safety, I turned around and dropped her back off at the dock. But I headed out once again, knowing I would be unable to do anything but fret about Bear if I was not aboard.
In the shelter of the neighboring pier and point, it did not seem too bad. I was actually most worried about getting soaked by the rain that I figured was only moments away. I picked up speed and started to plane just as I left the lee of the point. With a clear, half-mile path to the Inner Harbor, the wind funneled through the thoroughfare, buffeting the boat. Lying low and leaning forward, I was being bounced about by the growing waves. Just after I looked to my side and saw a group of executives in suits looking out the window of their corporate headquarters, a particularly strong gust came, lifting up the dinghy. In that moment when the bow rose above me, well over 45 degrees to the water, time slowed so that I could think through just how humiliating it was going to be to flip the dinghy in front of these guys, how disgusting it was going to be to get dunked in the water of the Inner Harbor, and what a pain and expense it was going to be to have to get the engine cleaned after turning it over in the saltwater. I lunged forward trying to flatten out the boat, and, at the same time, the gust subsided a bit and the bow crashed back into the water. Momentarily safe, I realized that going directly into the wind would be risky, if not impossible. So, I angled across the water to the lee of the other side and worked my along that edge with the boat still being convulsed by waves and, especially, wind. The wind was so bad that I was getting pummeled with dirt and trash while cups, plastic bottles, and other litter skimmed across the water alongside me. Before long, I could see Bear, holding steady just where we left her. Finally, I left the lee of the shore, re-crossed the channel, and came alongside her. Just as I stepped aboard, the rain started to come down in earnest, giving me almost enough time to close the hatches before everything got drenched.
For the next two hours, I sat aboard, not even needing to look out to make sure we were not dragging anchor because I could watch the large buildings out any port. Vicki texted that she was happily taking in Fell’s Point and having a few craft beers at a bar for only $2.50 a draft. As the rain slowed, I stepped outside and was greeted by a massive, complete double rainbow arcing from the Domino Sugar factory over the water to Fell’s Point. I stood out there and took in the scene, charged by my run against the storm, awed by the beauty of the rainbow, and amazed to be at anchor in the middle of all the lights and action of the Inner Harbor.
Margaret took this picture of the rainbow from her photo shoot at a marina across the water.