Surrounded by water, New York City is perfect for boating. Yes, really. The five adventures described below are guaranteed to help you get cruising, or sailing, or kayaking, or canoeing… By Jessica Allen.
You too can learn to sail. Starting in late spring, Manhattan Sailing School offers several sessions to turn anyone into a mariner. If you’re already skilled in fore, aft, and anchor, you can sign up for the Learn to Race course, and enter the competitive world of sailboat racing, or Basic Coastal Cruising, an overnight adventure that teaches weather forecasting, how to use the VHF radio system, and other general principles of seamanship. You can also join the Manhattan Sailing Club, with more than 900 members devoted to sailing around New York Harbor.
On select weekends in June, July, and August, you can go canoeing and kayaking—for free—from Socrates Sculpture Park, courtesy of the Long Island City Community Boathouse. Boaters stay in lovely, little Hallet’s Cove, where they’re protected from the larger crafts cruising up and down the East River. Back on land, you can roam around the outdoor sculpture or hang out with one of the many dogs (and dog owners) who congregate in this park on nice days.
From May to October, $10 will get you a pleasure cruise on Staten Island’s Clove Lakes Park. You can rent a paddleboat or a rowboat, then cruise around this “Forever Wild” site. Formed more than 20,000 years ago, when glaciers tore through what’s now New York City, the park’s natural features include ponds, brooks, and lakes, serpentine rock dating back to the Ordovician period (435-500 million years ago), and a 300-something-year-old tulip tree. Generally considered to be the borough’s largest living thing, this tree is 107 feet tall.
The Bronx River Alliance offers canoe trips along, you guessed it, the Bronx River. You’ll paddle through waterfalls near the Bronx Zoo and New York Botanical Gardens, and glide down peaceful swatches of this eight-mile waterway, admiring the fish, birds, and mammals who make this area their home. Several events are co-sponsored with Rocking the Boat, a community organization that helps economically disadvantaged kids gain self-esteem and learn to dream big by teaching them the fundamentals of boat building and restoration.
When asked if kids are welcome at the free, all-volunteer events held by Red Hook Boaters, the organization responds “ABSOLUTELY BRING YOUR KIDS!,” exclamation point and emphasis most definitely theirs. You bring your self, sunscreen, and a bathing suit/clothes you don’t mind getting wet, and the volunteers will supply life vests, paddles, safety tips, and kayaks for a short spin around the protected confines of Louis Valentino Jr. Pier Park. In return, most kayakers spend a few minutes before or after their sojourn on the water picking up trash on the beach or engaging in some other short clean-up activity.