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Last Saturday was the fourth annual City of Water Day, sponsored by the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance. Like last year, we took Puffin over to Liberty State Park. But unlike last year, we did not have to tie up to the seawall. This year we had a slip waiting for us in Liberty Landing Marina.

But first we had to get there. We got down to our marina around 8:30 a.m. All systems seemed “go,” except when we tried to start the engine, nothing happened. Well . . . not exactly nothing: There was a click, and then nothing. This swan came over to check us out and see if he could help:

It turns out boat batteries do not last forever, and the ones in Puffin may have been the original ones from when she was launched in 2004. Fortunately, Mike, the marina manager, had a couple of batteries in stock and got them installed for us in about fifteen minutes. With the new batteries, the engine started right up, and we were on our way.

It was a bumpy ride past Coney Island to the Narrows, straight into the wind and waves. New York Harbor was its usual hustle and bustle. I monitor VHF channel 13 when in the harbor so I can know what boats are going where. One of the ones we had to look out for was MSC Bruxelles, loaded with containers and bound for Baltimore:

Photo by Karen

 

I was my usual nervous self when traversing the harbor, but thanks to Karen keeping a sharp lookout we had an uneventful crossing from Bay Ridge over to the Statue of Liberty and the Morris Canal. Michelle, the dockmaster at Liberty Landing Marina, was very helpful directing us to our slip:

We missed the ferry over to Governors Island, so we decided to make the most of our time at Liberty State Park. We got some free ice cream, ate some lunch, and then went kayaking for an hour on the other side of the park (where we tied up last year). The views from Liberty State Park are pretty awesome. Here’s the New York skyline:

And here it looks like you can take a train from the old terminal in New Jersey straight to Manhattan:

We had a good time at our third City of Water Day. We got to spend some time in a part of the harbor that we usually just pass through and visit a new marina. But the highlight of the day was when we were getting ready to leave. A boat came into the marina, and the man at the bow looked over at us and asked — not “What kind of boat is that?” (which we’re used to hearing) — but, “Is that your Nimble?”

Turns out he’s the owner of Dunmaglass, a 1993 Nimble Nomad that he keeps in Alabama. We talked with him a bit, and he came aboard for a look around and pointed out where things are different on his boat. We would have liked to stay longer, but it was time for us to head home. After an exchange of emails, we slipped our lines and made for sea. Waves in the harbor were two to three feet, so we ducked around Governors Island and through the Buttermilk Channel. Once past the Narrows we were broadside to the waves, so we had to tack our way back to Jamaica Bay. About three hours after leaving Liberty Landing we docked back home at Sea Travelers Marina.

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On November 30, the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance held its 2010 Waterfront Conference. This all-day event was hosted by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in New York. More than 600 people attended the conference, representatives of the various non-profits, government agencies, and other groups that use and care about our waters and waterfront. One hundred five individuals made presentations at two plenary sessions and fifteen panel discussions. Obviously I couldn’t attend every session. Here is a summary of what I heard.

The morning started with a boat tour around New York Harbor. We headed first to the New Jersey side near the Statue of Liberty where we heard brief remarks about the Comprehensive Restoration Plan from representatives of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, and Liberty State Park. Then it was over to Red Hook to hear about New York City’s Comprehensive Waterfront Plan from the city’s Economic Development Corporation and the Department of City Planning.

Water taxi and tug in the East River

Lower Manhattan skyline (I can never resist taking this picture)

The morning’s plenary session, moderated by New York City Deputy Mayor Robert Steel, covered the Comprehensive Waterfront Plan and regional opportunities for collaboration and funding. Speakers came from New York City government, New Jersey government, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the U.S. Coast Guard.

The first panel discussion I attended was “Why is the NY-NJ Harbor Missing the Boat?” As a recreational boater, I was really looking forward to hearing what this panel would present. But I was disappointed that the presentations and Q-and-A focused more on bringing tall ships to New York than on providing docking opportunities for recreational boaters. Captain John Doswell (Working Harbor Committee and North River Historic Ship Society) made a very interesting presentation on what makes the perfect pier. He stressed that the perfect pier must be constructed for multiple uses such as recreation, emergency, and historic vessels. They should be able to accommodate boats with different amounts of freeboard, should have cleats and bollards that are easily accessible, and should be level and with straight edges, and the pilings should not be in front of gates.

Jamy Madeja (Massachusetts Marine Trade Association) noted that a University of Michigan study found that every $1 spent by a recreational boater on a slip or a mooring equaled $4 spent at local businesses. She also mentioned that Federal Boating Infrastructure Grants to build, renovate, and maintain facilities for transient boaters are available pretty much for the taking.

Mason Sears (SF Marina) talked about the concrete floating structures (also known as docks) that his company makes. Doswell gave them high marks.

Captain Bert Rogers (American Sail Training Association) remarked that the “water’s edge is not a boundary, but an entry to adventure.”

The next session I attended was “The Oyster and the Clean Water Act.” Wayne Jackson (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 2) described the Harbor Estuary Program and its goal of having all open waters in the harbor be fishable and swimmable. All the panelists agreed this is a long way off. Jim Lodge (Hudson River Foundation) talked about the Oyster Restoration Research Project, a two-year study to determine the possibility of restoring oyster reefs in the harbor. This is a joint project with the Corps of Engineers, the NY/NJ Baykeeper and the New York Harbor School. Debbie Mans (NY/NJ Baykeeper) talked about her great disappointment that the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection had ordered the removal of oysters from the experimental reef located in New Jersey waters. She said the project will go ahead with the reefs in New York waters.

Paul Greenberg (author of Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food) noted that conservationists are by nature nostalgic, whereas the general public is forgetful. He said the success of conservation programs in Chesapeake Bay and Puget Sound is because there is still a living memory of what it used to be like in those areas. The oysters have been gone from New York Harbor for so long that the living memory is also gone. We need to create a new living memory here. Success in New York, he said, will lead to other coastal communities following our example.

The last panel I attended was “Floating the Blue Highway—The Economics and Rationale for Water Mass Transit.” This was the most exciting panel I attended. Pierre Vilain (HDR) presented the results of a study based on U.S. Census Bureau data that showed where people who use ferries live and work. Paula Berry (NYC & Co.) discussed a pilot project from this past summer that showed that recreational users would use water mass transit. Her group teamed up with New York Water Taxi to run a NYHarborWay water taxi that linked waterfront parks on the East River.

David Hopkins (New York City Economic Development Corporation) discussed the role of water mass transit to relieve overcrowding on other forms of mass transit, such as PATH, and to serve areas not served by other forms of transit.

Rex Asiedo (New York City Office of Emergency Management) talked about the role of ferries in emergency situations such as evacuations, blackouts, and the crash of US Airways flight 1549 into the Hudson.

Carter Craft (waterfront planner and consultant) reminded us not to forget about regional freight ferries and the role they can play in getting trucks off the roads.

Tom Fox (New York Water Taxi) talked about his idea for high-speed, long-haul ferries to connect the area’s waterfront parks such as Jacob Riis Park, Robert Moses Park, and Jones Beach. He also described his vision of the East River as the Grand Canal of New York. He sees express and local ferries running uptown and down and out to the airports. He said that to be successful, water mass transit must be integrated with and run like terrestrial mass transit, with passengers having the ability to transfer from one boat to another and between the different modes of transit. According to Fox, three things are needed to make this a reality: 1) public investment in infrastructure, 2) private investment, and 3) political will.

After the recap session, where the leaders of the fifteen panels presented brief summaries, we headed over to the Battery for an evening boat tour and cocktails.

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There is still time to register for the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance’s 2010 Waterfront Conference. This full-day event includes not one but two boat tours of New York Harbor and brings together representatives from government, educational, non-profit, and private entities to discuss various aspects of the future of our waterfront. Discussion topics include the reintroduction of oysters to our waters, how to attract more recreational boaters, how to fund waterfront projects, getting kids on and in the water, and more.

Click the picture to go to MWA’s website for more information and to register. See you at the conference!

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We are very pleased to announce that A Movable Bridge has partnered with the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance to help make their vision a reality. Through the work of MWA and its Alliance Partners, the waters of New York Harbor will become cleaner and more accessible to a wide range of users, from recreational boats to ferries, tugboats to canoes and kayaks, those who swim to those who fish. Residents and visitors to the area will no longer be cut off from the waterfront and the water but will find numerous opportunities to use the water for fun and for transportation.

Click the picture to go to our profile on the MWA website.

And here are two reminders about upcoming events:

1) The deadline for public comment on the New York City Department of Planning’s draft recommendations for the comprehensive waterfront plan is 5:00 p.m. on November 12. Go here to read the recommendations and here to submit your comments.

2) MWA’s 2010 Waterfront Conference is November 30. Click here for more information and to register.

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Here’s a close-up look at another vessel at work in New York Harbor, the schooner Pioneer, owned and operated by the Seaport Museum New York (formerly the South Street Seaport Museum).

This is the block at the end of the fore boom. The line running through is the foresheet, which is used to control the angle of the sail with respect to the wind.

 

These are the mast hoops. The hoops go around the mast, and the sail is attached to the hoops.

 

This hook is attached to a block, part of the preventer tackle. It’s used when sailing downwind to prevent the boom from swinging from one side of the boat to the other.

 

And this is some decorative ropework at the base of the fore traveler.

 

Pioneer‘s season is over, but come spring you’ll be able to sail on her.

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New York Harbor is not Puget Sound. We don’t have mountains, and we don’t have as many big ferries.

We also don’t have conditions like this:

(For more pictures from this series, click here.)

One of the shortest (if not the shortest) ferry trips you can take in New York City is from the Battery to Governors Island. It takes about ten minutes, but it’s totally worth it. You get to see the water side of the recently restored Governors Island ferry terminal:

 

You get to ride on a vessel with all sorts of nice details that show the captain runs a tight ship, like this line, neatly coiled and ready for use:

 

And even if it’s raining you get a view of the East River and its bridges:

 

For a close-up view of another New York City ferry, click here.

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The deadline to submit comments on New York City’s proposed comprehensive waterfront plan is approaching faster than Puffin heading up the harbor against an ebb tide. You have until 5:00 p.m. on November 12 to get your comments in. The easiest way is online. The New York City Department of Planning will then compile all comments received and send them to the relevant agencies for review.

If you haven’t read the draft recommendations, you can do that here. This is your last chance to make sure your voice is heard. Speak up for town docks, more marinas, recreational boating, rowing and paddling, access to the waterfront and the water, in- and on-water activities, connecting schoolchildren with the waterfront… whatever floats your boat (so to speak).

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The Urban Assembly New York Harbor School is one of New York City’s public high schools, dedicated to using the harbor as an instructional tool. It used to be located in Bushwick, Brooklyn, about as far from the harbor as one can get and still be in New York City. Today was the official opening of the school’s new Governors Island facility, a former Coast Guard building that has been beautifully renovated—an opening complete with the ceremonial cutting of, not a ribbon, but a fishnet.

It was chilly and rainy, but the ceremony was held outdoors. As Harbor School founder Murray Fisher explained, since the ninth-graders were at that moment out on the water on the schooner Pioneer, we should also be outside. The SUNY Maritime band played the anthems of the U.S. armed forces while we waited for the ceremony to begin:

The flags didn’t mind the rain:

Nor did the plants in the school’s garden, a joint project of the art and science classes:

The Sustainable NYC class at Fordham University worked with the Harbor School students to plant the garden and procured most of the plants.

Various dignitaries attended, including New York State Senate Majority Leader John Sampson, State Senator Daniel Squadron, Congressman Jerrold Nadler, New York City Council Member Margaret Chin, Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, and Mayor Mike Bloomberg. Here Nathan Dudley, the school’s principal, addresses the attendees (with Murray Fisher on the right):

Chancellor Klein spoke:

Students listened, some in the rain:

And some from their classrooms:

Finally, Mayor Bloomberg came to the podium as the rain got serious about falling:

The fishnet was cut with golden scissors:

We were rewarded with “light refreshments” for standing in the rain. This being the Harbor School, the refreshments included oysters:

One project of the school is the reintroduction of oysters to New York Harbor, a necessary step for cleaning up the harbor. These oysters did not come from their project (we think).

The Harbor School is the only school in New York with this view from its cafeteria:

And it’s also the only school in New York whose students get to see this every day on their way home from school, as they ride the schoolferry:

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Karen and I have long wanted to circumnavigate Staten Island in Puffin. I’ve always been a bit daunted by the task: a long, narrow waterway; large commercial vessels; our small, slow boat. The day after City of Water Day, after checking out the new Willis Avenue Bridge, we headed for the Kill Van Kull, where we were greeted by the Charles D. McAllister, one of many vessels plying the waters between Staten Island and New Jersey that day:

Just past Snug Harbor we noticed this raised section of pipes on the Bayonne side and what appeared to be a marina beyond it:

Based on our charts and online research, we were not expecting to find a marina on this stretch of the kill, so we went in to investigate. It turned out to be the Atlas Yacht Club. An older gentleman was heading out in a small boat, and he intercepted us and firmly (but kindly) escorted us back to the main channel. All very suspicious, until we read this article from the New York Times. The Atlas Yacht Club was originally founded by squatters, and although today it is legit, its members shy away from publicity. Thomas Murphy has some great b&w photos of the club.

Back on the Staten Island side, we saw this unidentified Reinauer tug in one of Caddell’s dry docks:

There’s a great photo gallery on Caddell’s website.

Here’s the first bridge to cross (under). It’s the Bayonne Bridge, which Karen and I walked across in April 2009:

With a lot of traffic in the narrow channel on the south side of Shooter’s Island, and a very large automobile transport ship coming up behind us, we decided to take the channel to the north of Shooter’s Island. This brought us near Elizabeth, New Jersey, and this old building where Singer made sewing machines in the early 1900s:

More traffic. This is Dann Ocean Towing’s Ruby M:

This single bascule movable bridge has a large cement counterbalance (on the left):

Often the counterbalances are below the bridge, but this bridge is at water level so there’s no room.

Commerce on the kill—containers being loaded on the Duncan Island:

Two more bridges were passed under. The Goethals Bridge is in the foreground, and the Arthur Kill Railroad bridge (a vertical lift bridge) is behind:

This building on the New Jersey side once belonged to the General Aniline Works, a chemical plant that produced sulfuric and acetic acids as well as dyes:

This website has a lot of history and old photos of the company.

Thankfully this leviathan was moored for loading or unloading. The Atlantic Aquarius is 595 feet long:

The New York side of the Arthur Kill is where old ships go to die. A graveyard there contains the remains of numerous ships. This is what it looks like in Google Maps:

And this is what it looks like from the water:

The New Jersey side has its share of dead structures and boats:

How is it that these boats and pieces of infrastructure that were once vital to industry and commerce are just abandoned and left to decay?

This is the last bridge before exiting the kill and entering Raritan Bay—the Outerbridge Crossing:

At the tip of Staten Island we anchored and had lunch. We then continued around the point and followed the shore up to Great Kills Harbor. At the entrance to Great Kills it was just another day at the beach for these seagulls:

We left Great Kills Harbor and headed back to Brooklyn. But the NOAA weather radio had reports of severe thunderstorms moving into the area. We tried to beat the storm to Swinburne Island, a small artificial island in the lower bay, but the wind shifted so that we were broadside to the waves. We turned around and made for South Beach on Staten Island. Close by the beach the waves were smaller, and we anchored and rode out the rest of the storm. As the wind and rain let up, we weighed anchor and set our course for home. This was the view behind us toward the west, as the sky cleared and we approached Jamaica Bay:

All photos by Karen

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July 24th was City of Water Day in New York Harbor, sponsored by the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance. This year’s event expanded beyond last year’s single venue of Governors Island to also include Atlantic Basin and Brooklyn Bridge Park in Brooklyn and Liberty State Park in Jersey City. Last year we made City of Water Day history by being the only non-human-powered recreational vessel to participate and dock at Governors Island (read about it here and here). This year we again took part, only we were not allowed to dock at Governors Island. (We didn’t take it personally. Well… not too personally.) We did get permission to tie up to the seawall at Liberty State Park, though, and that helped us feel like we were really participating. And we did get to visit some of the other venues, at least in passing.

First stop was Atlantic Basin, where PortSide NewYork‘s HQ, the Mary A. Whalen, is now berthed. Visiting for the day from its usual home on Manhattan’s west side was the steamship Lilac. Here’s Lilac tied up alongside the Whalen in an empty and quiet Atlantic Basin:

The m/v Cape Race was also visiting Brooklyn:

Cape Race was originally a deep sea trawler, built in 1963, and is now being converted into a “go anywhere in comfort expedition yacht.” The Cape Race website has lots of information and some amazing video of her in heavy seas.

Leaving Atlantic Basin, we passed north of Governors Island and caught a glimpse of the activity on shore. A quick trip across the harbor brought us between Ellis and Liberty islands on our way to Liberty State Park. Here’s the view back toward city:

And here’s Puffin tied up to the seawall at Liberty State Park:

The Hudson River sloop Clearwater took part in City of Water Day, too. Here she is making Puffin look tiny:

We had a lovely view of Lady Liberty’s backside from the park, a side of her not often seen by New Yorkers:

After the day’s activities wrapped up, we took Louis, one of the organizers from MWA, and George, a volunteer, for a quick circumnavigation of Liberty Island, which gave us another great view of Liberty’s aft section:

After dropping our passengers back at the park, we headed to the anchorage just beyond the park’s embayments for the night. This anchorage is quiet with good holding ground, and it’s well protected from wakes and most winds. We had it almost to ourselves:

We also had the unique opportunity to sleep within sight of both the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and the Willis Avenue Bridge, but more on that in another post.

The moon was very nearly full, and the night was hot and clear (until a quick-moving thunderstorm passed through around 1 in the morning):

Photos 1, 2, 3, and 7 by Karen; all others by Brian

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