The Uber pulled up at Pier 40 for Pier Pressure. It was midnight, and the port was deserted. The lit-up One World Trade Centre loomed on my left, while nothing but streetlights, metal fences and concrete lay to the right. The words “where the hell am I,” ran through my mind as I roamed around checking I’d typed in the right address.
Then, I spotted a queer beacon: a couple of women Passionately (that’s an intentional capital P) making-out under a streetlight. They took a break to breathe, and I took the opportunity to ask where the party was. They directed me further down the dockside, where I turned left and found a massive four-tiered yacht with a rainbow flag at half-mast. Several dapper dykes were sprinkled across the top decks, chatting and sipping their drinks. I was home.
“We’re a whole lot of fancy now,” I thought as I walked up the ramp to the Hornblower Infinity (not the sexiest boat-name, I’ll admit) to the iconic Pier Pressure party. I was greeted by a handful of staff—all of whom happened to be women wearing white navy uniforms—who left me weak at the knees before I’d even stepped on board.
Now, I don’t know if it’s because I arrived late (the party was three hours in) or if something happens when you put a bunch of queer woman on a yacht, but the atmosphere was nothing short of debaucherous. I headed down to the lower decks (via a gold handrail’ed staircase) and was greeted by a surge of liberated, sensual, booze-infused feminine energy. The DJ spun steamy Latin rhythms, a couple of Go-Go dancers (their garters laden with dollars) loosened everyone in sight, coaxing some to dance as erotically as they could and others to form an orderly queue to whine up behind her.
Spreading out from this was a huge dancefloor filled with an eclectic group of women. There was no majority in age group, fashion sense, or ethnicity; this was another beautiful, typically diverse mix of queer New Yorkers. There were over a thousand people on board, and yet we all had space to move. There were no queues at the (eight) bars, and the staff were warm, efficient, and chilled.
Moving up, I headed to the third deck to get a bird’s eye view of the night’s entertainment: Bon Bon Burlesque. The whole yacht hooted and swooned in unison as the dancers meticulously moved around the stage, waving fans, flinging feather boas, and removing corsets.
Post-show, I went outside to the upper deck. City lights glistened over the calm waters of the Hudson. The temperature was perfect, and the gentle pulse of Reggaeton and people laughing contributed to the dock’s charm. Women lounged on sofas as they basked in the serenity of the night-sky. Couples (new and old) were being ridiculously cute. They’d lean over rails to point out this landmark or that, shuffling closer together to hold hands as they took it all in. It was enough to bring a tear to my soppy (cough, drunk) lesbian eyes.
Soon after, the upper levels emptied as we scurried downstairs for the evening’s climax: Lumidee. As with the burlesque, the crowd was so supportive. Many were transfixed on their phones, live-streaming the legend as she sang smash hits past and present. Most devices went away when “Never Leave You” (Uh Ohh, Uh Ohh… you know the one) came on. It’s a timeless hit that had the audience screaming their adoration as Lumidee sang her love right back.
It was Pier Pressure’s 20th anniversary (no surprise considering how smooth the night ran), so thank-you speeches followed. An entourage of iconic lesbian space-creators took to the stage, including founder Kate Frawley (Lovergirlnyc), Cynthia Russo, Lori Torres (the person behind Latina-prioritising LasReinas), Nikki Hill (SPICENYC), Danielle Millet-Stanziale, and Hana Love (GirlNATIONnyc). May they keep bringing their (big dyke) energy together to make fabulous parties like this.
Heading up, down, around, and out (the boat can be a bit of a labyrinth after a few mixers), I found myself back on the lower decks. Things had started to mellow down. Whitney, Crystal Waters, and ABBA tunes accompanied dancing circles of friends and salsaing couples. It was all a lot more G than the R-rating this deck had been a couple of hours before.
I stepped off the still-docked ship. It was the end of my voyage through the seven seas of girl-on-girl dutty-wining. I waved to the staff in the Navy uniforms on the way out. They were all guys this time, with the accumulative sex appeal of Captain Birdseye. I wandered back through the desolate docks, grateful for the community of queer women who make parties like Pier Pressure that are as unique, unifying, and liberating as this.