The Honorable William Wall (aka the “Willy Wall”) is the floating clubhouse of the Manhattan Yacht Club, anchored in the New York harbor just near Ellis Island. The open air bar has incredible views of downtown Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty (and neighboring Brooklyn and New Jersey, of course). Indeed, the clubhouse was designed specifically for taking in the sailboat races and you’ll notice it is more of a viewing platform and barge rather than a sleek yacht. (We admit it was a bit cloudy yesterday, but we’ll be back to get more photos soon).
To get to the William Wall, you take the Admiral’s Launch, a United States Coast Guard certified vintage motorboat from Liberty Harbor Marina in Jersey City (before 2015, it left from North Cove Marina in Battery Park). The red-hulled boat fits 40 comfortably, gliding out of Jersey City, past Liberty State Park and into the New York harbor.
The secret here is that you don’t have to be a member of the club to experience the clubhouse: it’s simply an $18 roundtrip “launch” fee, payable online. You can also just wait standby starting at 7:30 pm if tickets are sold out. Manhattan Sailing Club members get to go the front of the line, but that’s usually not an issue for the 149-person capacity boat except during peak periods.
The drinks are affordable and the offering is straightforward because the experience is ostensibly the races. Wine, beer, liquor and standard mixed drinks are available–served in plastic cups–but no cocktails. The chill factor is accentuated by the fact that you can bring your own picnics, or order food from Surf City in Jersey City, which gets brought to the clubhouse by the launch boat. The races begin at a buoy near the William Wall, go up the Hudson River and back, turn around in the cove behind the clubhouse, and return to the same starting point.
The first level of the William Wall is the formal clubhouse, a wood-beamed space outfitted with club chairs and a built in bar. Though this space was once exclusive to club members, it is now open to the general public as well. Here you will find memorabilia of the club’s history and a small library. Framed is a letter from the Yacht Club of Monaco designating the Manhattan Sailing Club as the first ambassador of the Spirit of Tuiga Club, presided over by HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco. But the open-air top level, with the central bar, is where the action is.
And who is William Wall, you may ask? By all accounts he was rather “honorable,” serving as a U.S. Congressman during the Civil War, consulted on by Abraham Lincoln in regards to the use of the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Born in Philadelphia, Wall was trained as a ropemaker and set up his own business in Williamsburg in the 1820s, where he became a key figure in local government.