Monday, July 21, 2014

NYC Free Kayaking on the Hudson River

This weekend, we went kayaking on the Hudson River -- it was so much fun!

The Downtown Boathouse & Manhattan Community Boathouse runs a free kayaking program from a few different locations all summer long, even into October if the weather permits. It is entirely volunteer-run, and based entirely on donations, so they are happy to accept donations either in person or through their website, but it is completely free for anyone to go have fun on the water.

The Downtown Boathouse wants to encourage water use, as well as offer the opportunity to take advantage of the space surrounding our island for recreational use. While waiting in line, an enthusiastic volunteer told us that one of the goals of the program is to promote water-use among New Yorkers -- he said, "I love being on the water, and it shouldn't be limited to those who can afford to keep a boat here. We want everyone to have access to the waterways."

It certainly was a fun way to spend a little time this weekend, and it almost felt like getting out of the city for a little bit. I didn't know what to expect, but the program runs so smoothly that they make it really easy for anyone to give it a try. While we were out, other kayaks included a dad and his tiny little boy who couldn't have been more than two years old, an older man who was absolutely glowing after his solo ride, a few tourists, and lots of couples and friends undoubtedly eager to take advantage of a fun program, just like we were.

When we first arrived, we were given a waiver to sign, a lock so we could safely stow our belongings in a dry locker, and directed to pick out a life jacket. Because they provide lockers and life vests, it made it really easy for anyone strolling by to decide to go for a spontaneous kayak adventure. The volunteers helped each person into a kayak, and kept an eye out so that no one went out of the bounds of safety. Before pushing us off, they advised us about what we shouldn't get too close to, asked that we stay out for about 20 minutes since the line was long (welcoming us to hop back on line after if we wanted to go again), and sent us on our way.

We went out from the 72nd street dock, but there are a total of four locations Manhattan Community Boathouse sends kayaks out from.

Pier 26 @ Hudson River, just North of N. Moore Street
Saturday, Sunday & Holidays: 9am-6pm
(last boats sent out at 5:30pm)
Monday - Friday: 5pm-7pm
(last boats sent out at 6:30pm)

Pier 96 @ Hudson River and 56th Street
Saturday & Sunday: 10am-6pm
Monday - Friday: 5pm-7pm

Dock @ Hudson River and 72nd Street
Saturday & Sunday: 10am-5pm

Governor's Island @ Pier 101
Saturday: 10:30am-4pm

The line can get long, but because everyone respected the program and brought their kayak back in about 20 minutes, it moved pretty quickly. Also, there are a couple of single kayaks, so those waiting on line to go out in single kayaks were able to get on the water a little faster. If the weather is iffy, it's best to check that the program is running that day by following Manhattan Community Boathouse on Twitter @kayakMCBH.

If you go, be sure to wear something that can get wet! There's a spot to leave shoes on the dock, but the kayaks themselves will have some water in them, so it is suggested that bathing suits or shorts are worn. I wore a sporty dress, and a couple other women were in skirts, so as long as its not too short, any clothing that can get wet should work fine.

The volunteer we spoke with also told us that Manhattan Community Boathouse is always looking for more volunteers, and that the volunteers get some fun perks throughout the summer, including getting to enjoy concerts on the piers for free. He and a few other volunteers were invited to watch a major band perform on one of the piers last week, and while others paid for tickets, he and the other volunteers were able to take the kayaks out into the Hudson, and enjoy the concert from the water. Doesn't that sound like fun?

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