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New York

New York

There's nothing you can't do.

Off to the Races

Off to the Races

Leaving Manhattan, Long Island to Sea Cliff.

Bocce Ballin'

Bocce Ballin'

Fun and food, Brooklyn to the Bronx.

Up the River

Up the River

Off the grid, New Paltz to Rhinebeck.

Upstate Utopia

Upstate Utopia

Vintage flavor in Rhinebeck and Phoenicia.

New York City

New York City

Think you know New York? Think again.

Roundtable

Roundtable

One word: Pulse.

Cream of the Crop

Cream of the Crop

Meet the Urban Milkman.

Kimchi Connection

Kimchi Connection

Flavorful inspiration.

Big City Ballet

Big City Ballet

A dancer's guide to Brooklyn.

Fare Game

Fare Game

Through the eyes of a cabbie.

Roundtable

Roundtable

Hidden gems from New York's ultimate insiders.

Pop-Ups and Pickles

Pop-Ups and Pickles

An exlporation of Little Italy and Brooklyn.

The Keys to the City

The Keys to the City

Art, restaurants, and nightlife in New York City.

Social Climbing

Social Climbing

Unexpected recreational activities in Brooklyn.

Earth and Water

Earth and Water

Discover NYC by land and by sail.

Insider Profiles

Finding the Nature of New York, on the Water

Tom Berton"And you see the water reflecting whatever it is: sunlight, moonlight, the lights of the city, the lights of the harbor. It's surreal. It's magical. It's like you're a million miles away from the city, and you're five seconds off the seawall."


Tom Berton lived his entire life deep within New York's canyons of skyscrapers. They can cause tunnel vision, of a sort. Earth, water and sky are replaced by metal and stone. Your view is limited to whatever stands immediately before you: a shop window, a neon sign, a pile of trash. And although Berton learned like every other school kid the true geography of the city — that Manhattan is an island — he never experienced its natural beauty until his early 20s.

It was while walking one day around Battery Park at Manhattan's southern tip that Berton happened upon an older man struggling with a duffel bag containing a sail. In exchange for Berton's help, the man offered Berton a ride on his 70-foot yawl, the Petrel, to tour the city's extensive waterways. It was a ride that changed his life.

"My first experience on the water got me doing what I'm doing," says Berton, owner of Manhattan by Sail, which operates three traditional sailboats in and around New York Harbor. All these years later, the experience is still no less than poetry in motion.

"The engine is off and the sails are up, and the sails seem stationary, and the water is moving by, and the city is moving by, and the Statue of Liberty is moving by, and the bridges," says Berton. "And you see the water reflecting whatever it is: sunlight, moonlight, the lights of the city, the lights of the harbor. It's surreal. It's magical. It's like you're a million miles away from the city, and you're five seconds off the seawall."

When the Petrel's owner, Nick van Nes, decided to end his tours in 2000, "It was not an acceptable circumstance," says Berton, a self-described serial entrepreneur who has developed businesses and consulted in real estate, stocks, retail and international trade. He and some Petrel regulars went in on an 82-foot schooner called the Shearwater.

"We just jumped up, slipped a new boat under everybody and continued along," he says. "It wasn't really meant to be much of a business. If it didn't lose money — if it survived and paid for itself — then that was going to be great."

Then 9/11 happened. Not only was the boat severely damaged from raining debris, but Berton also found himself rethinking his life and his business pursuits. He bought out his partners and decided to run Manhattan by Sail independently.

"It was about five years before things improved," he says. Then, in 2006, he purchased a six-passenger sloop, the C-Pony. And in 2008, he added a 158-foot topsail schooner, the Clipper City, to his fleet. In all, he estimates he's introduced more than 130,000 passengers to the sparkling waters, blue skies and picturesque coast that are as quintessentially New York as the subways and landmarks inland.

The water quality around the city has improved so greatly in recent years that New York Harbor's recreational use is booming. Berton is among those making recommendations for a new blueprint that encompasses more than 500 miles of shoreline around New York's five boroughs. As people take greater advantage of the water and all the opportunities it provides, he's hoping to use his business for education, teaching young people about the natural environment around New York and also about sailing.

"For me," he says, "going slow is so much better than going fast."

Check out Tom's New York.