Who’s the mental midgit that came up with the idea of kayak tours of the East River’s waterfront? There’s a growing trend of flotillas of multi-colored kayaks and canoes in all the wrong places in the recent past. Not long ago I read an article somewhere extolling the beauty of the New York skyline from a kayak and all I could think was, “Hey Jackass, that’s what the Circle Line boats are for”. Kayaks aren’t meant for a commercial waterway.
A quick Google search reveals quite a few sites for kayaking in the New York City area. I visited a few of these sites and saw little in the way of educating kayakers to the danger of playing in the midst of commercial traffic, although to their credit they do keep novices quarantined in protected coves or basins to start. These stalwart if misguided souls that venture into open water relate how awestruck they are by the experience of New York Harbor kayaking, but I don’t think they’ve given serious thought to the environment they’ve entered. We’re just a quaint backdrop to their vistas. Awestruck is what they will be when they’re caught in a back eddy off Hallet’s Point and I come around the corner in a full slide…but I don’t think the word can begin to describe the feeling they’ll have.
The sites I visited expressed no caveats or understanding of how dangerous we are to them. Yeah I get that the waterways are public, but do you really think that a ship is going to be able to wait for your pals to catch up to the group?
With kayaks paddling along in the East River, jet skis blasting by with more than two riders, water skiing on the sea plane approaches off 23rd St on the East River, NY., fishing in the channel, chasing tugboat wakes on jet skis, it’s going to get real ugly. It all adds up to a situation where recreational boaters end up in the midst of heavy commercial traffic and they just don’t get it.
So here it is, the 4th of July weekend and I’m watching kayaks paddling up the East River off the Brooklyn piers and along the ferry slips of Lower Manhattan as I make my way to Bay Ridge Anchorage. I mean really, kayaking on the East River! C’mon already, you’re so low to the water that you’re barely visible to traffic at half a mile. With no less than a dozen ferries and tows tossing wakes and flying by at a fair clip a disaster is only a matter of time. God help you when you’ve finally figured out why you made such good time up the river only to find yourself paddling you ass off against the current to get back to your expensive SUV before dark. Are you having fun now?
Every day during the recreational season boaters submit themselves to potentially fatal exposures and are completely oblivious to it. Thousands of pleasure seekers take to the water and expect their days to be just like the catalog pictures they perused before they bought their boat. Carefree and sunny days afloat without a care in the world, just bring enough sunscreen, granola bars and water. No concern for proper radio etiquette or the correct channel to call for a radio check…jeez if they even have a radio. Hell, most don’t understand a GPS unit enough to relay their position when they do get in trouble. Kayaks? They may have a flashlight or even a small strobe, riiiight….another bouncing glittering light lost in the city’s skyline.
There’s an urgent need to educate the recreational boater and identify the issues that commercial traffic faces in everyday operations and that information should be spread far and wide with notices of “no-play-zones” enforced to minimize the dangers the recreational community is up against by being on the water along with the commercial community.
I submit that these enterprises should at least make an effort to have their presence announced or perhaps provide some sort of radio equipped motor escort on their little jaunts. At least there would be someone to talk to.
For the life of me, I can’t seem to wrap my head around this kind of nonsense of playing in a commercial waterway, you might as well be playing hopscotch in the truck lanes on the New Jersey Turnpike.
Here’s an offer, if you or your friends are part of this madness, drop me a line. I’d be willing to address the issue of education with your group (for carfare and lunch, gratuities will be accepted). You’ll be safer for it and so will I.