Archive for the tag 'boaters'


There are few stories I love writing about more than the apparent resurgence of wildlife along our shores, as historically poor water qualities continue to make strides towards a healthy habitat.

The latest is a rare sighting of humpback whales just outside of Jamaica Bay, along Rockaway Beach, Staten Island and Long Island.

Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers President Dan Mundy Sr. sent us the above photo, showing one of two whales that was spotted near the Rockaways getting so close to a paddleboard enthusiast that she probably felt the ocean spray as it surfaced.

Mundy couldn’t say for sure whether or not it was a humpback, but said it probably was. The same day, there were several other sightings, according to news reports out of Staten Island and New Jersey. Earlier in the week, Newsday reported on two humpbacks off of Atlantic Beach on Long Island – probably the same two.

And on the same day and same place as the above photo was taken,YouTube user Mike Leonard caught some cellphone video of a humpback surfacing near Rockaway.

According to Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation, humpback whales are common to these waters. But it’s rare that they’d be this close to shore, especially for several days on end as the sightings seem to suggest. The foundation told Newsday that they believe it’s because there’s an unusual amount of food for them in this area, drawing them alongside pods of dolphins.

Oh, yes, dolphins.

They were seen with the whales along Long Island, and Mundy said he himself witnessed an enormous pod of more than 100 dolphins in the same area just three weeks ago. He shared the photo below, and you can see Rockaway in the background.


If you’ve got a boat, it’s a heck of a treat to see the dolphins and humpback whales so close. But keep a safe distance; these are enormous wild animals, so give them their space. Oh, and send us your photos and video.


It has been almost eight months since Superstorm Sandy devastated the area and while political leaders, activists and volunteers are doing everything they can to clear the rubble from the streets, boaters are hoping that more action is taken to clear the area’s waterways and creeks. NY1 is reporting that boaters are requesting more government intervention to clean up the trash, sunken boats and broken docks washed into the seas by Sandy.

In Gerritsen Beach, partially sunken boats and old broken docks are still clogging up the waterways and creating hazards for boaters. Recreational boater Buddy Love explained the less than safe conditions in Brooklyn’s waterways.

“Sunken boats that are turned upside down…debris in the water that is washed up…some of the boats are hazards because they are sticking up out of the water,” Love told NY1.

The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the city Parks Department has claimed that cleaning up the waterways and creeks is not their responsibility, though officials from the DEP did volunteer in clearing a lot of debris blown in the water by Sandy.

Despite the unsafe obstacles, sailors who take off from Sheepshead Bay are reporting that there are still many clear channels available for passage.

Varuna Boat Club (photo by nolastname)

Varuna Boat Club (photo by nolastname)

Eight months have passed since Superstorm Sandy crashed to the shores of Sheepshead Bay and the Varuna Boat Club (2806 Emmons Avenue) is finally finishing the repairs needed to get the club back in pristine condition.

News 12 is reporting that the Varuna Boat Club, which has been in existence for 138 years and started off as a rowing club in Bay Ridge, has faced a long road to recovery. Seven boats were lost in the storm and the docks were heavily damaged.

While the work, shared by fathers and sons whose membership can be traced back through the generations, has been long and arduous, all the effort is finally paying off.

“They show you that no matter how old you are, with a little hard work, you can get anything accomplished,” member Michael Siano told News 12.

Way back in November, just a week or so after Sandy, we wrote about and shared photos of the destruction exhibited upon the Emmons Avenue boating clubs. Since then, we’ve been keeping tabs on their progress, and just about all of them are in the same shape as Varuna – close to recovery, but not there yet. They’ve all gotten back on their feet in the sense that their doors are open and are hosting functions once again, but many still have damaged docks, pools and other problems – and repairs are largely being done by volunteers from within the club.

These clubs, mind you, are hardly the hoity-toity yacht clubs of popular imagination. They’re working-class and middle-class sanctuaries, providing resources like pools for their members (many club members do not own boats), and are part of the community fabric. We hope to see them all running at full steam within the next few weeks.

Community Board 15 helped clear the way for a new storage facility on Knapp Street, voting in support of a waiver to existing zoning restrictions at their meeting last Tuesday despite objections from community groups.

The proposed location. Click to enlarge. (Source: Google Maps)

Metro Storage NY came before the Board in a process to repeal a “restrictive declaration” on the property at 2713-2735 Knapp Street, a wedge of land that juts into Plumb Beach Channel at Voorhies Avenue. The 28-year-old declaration prohibits any use other than a retail and marina development, a clause that has caused the land to stay desolate since the original plans fell through years ago.

“It’s derelict. What do I see here? I see some trucks, I see some cars,” said Metro Storage’s attorney, Howard Goldman, before the Board.

Goldman said the restrictive declaration and the lot’s proximity to the Coney Island Wastewater Treatment Plant means that few plans can get through the process to make use of the property. In 1996, an application was submitted for a two-story retail development was squashed, and, in 2005, a plan for a residential development was opposed by the Department of Environmental Protection.

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The FDNY’s Marine 3 headquarters in 2009. (Source: Vlad Iorsh/Flickr)

The fire eaters of the FDNY’s local marine unit will have to rebuild their summer headquarters – or find themselves homeless, thanks to Superstorm Sandy.

Marine 3

The Marine 3 summer vessel. (Source: FDNY)

The unit – FDNY Marine 3 – operates a summer base at the tip of Kingsborough Community College (2001 Oriental Boulevard) in Manhattan Beach. When the waters whipped through the campus, it ravaged the unit’s four-year-old quarters, rendering them useless.

“Marine 3′s quarters sustained damage from flood waters,” confirmed an FDNY spokesperson.

It wasn’t alone. Several firehouses were damaged and many have not reopened since the storm. All are in the process of being repaired, and trucks have been stationed throughout the affected communities to provide quick response.

Marine 3′s headquarters will also be rebuilt, the spokesperson said, although he was unable to provide a timetable or estimated cost for the repairs.

In the meantime, local mariners need not worry. Marine 3′s vessel – used only during the summer, when boating and other water sports are at their peak – was pulled out of the area ahead of the storm, and was unharmed. When summer rolls around, it will again be stationed at Kingsborough, whether the headquarters are rebuilt or not.

“There is no impact to fire protection or fire service in that area,” the spokesperson said.

The Marine 3 headquarters opened in September 2008, featuring 24-hour security, a new kitchen and bathroom, and a state-of-the-art floating concrete dock. The location also became a training center for members of the Fire Department’s Marine Division, which was given access to Kingsborough Community Colleges’ Maritime Technology Program, a high-tech sailing simulator that puts students at the helm of various vessels to prepare them for careers on the water. It helped grow the city’s small vessel program, which FDNY brass lauded as allowing them to provide faster, more efficient responses to water-related emergencies.

According to a release by the New York Times, the city environmental officials lifted an advisory on recreational water activity issued last month after Superstorm Sandy. The environmental advisory applied to the East River, Hudson River, New York Harbor, Jamaica Bay and the Kill Van Krull.

The advisory was put into effect after power outages caused wastewater treatment plants and pumping stations to discharge untreated wastewater in New York City waterways.

The recreational advisory urged against activities such as swimming, canoeing, kayaking, windsurfing or any other water activity that would entail possible direct contact with the water.

In related news, the Gateway National Recreational Area announced that it reopened both the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge and Great Kills Park, however Floyd Bennett Field is still closed.

None of those advisories stopped the local Brighton Beach resident featured above from testing out the cold waters of Brighton Beach by going for a risky swim six days before the advisory was lifted.

Previous storms caused local vessels to become unmoored. Many were destroyed when they collided with the footbridge.

If you’ve got a boat, don’t be foolish. Stay off the water until after Hurricane Sandy passes!

The U.S. Coast Guard has elevated New York and New Jersey port condition status to Yankee. Large vessels must vacate New York’s ports, and other mariners are cautioned to avoid being on the water. The Coast Guard’s search and rescue operations will be hampered, and they may not be able to provide help until after the storm. Drawbridges will remain closed as wind picks up speed.

(Get all the latest Hurricane Sandy-related news, announcements and resources, including live video, at our Hurricane Sandy Resource page.)

Here’s their press release:

The Captain of the Port of New York and New Jersey set port condition YANKEE for all commercial waterways in preparation for Hurricane Sandy, effective Sunday,

Gale force winds from Hurricane Sandy are expected to make landfall along the coast of New York and New Jersey within 24 hours. In addition the COTP Hurricane and Severe Weather Plan, additional actions are required:

  1. Commercial deep draft vessels greater than 500 gross tons are not authorized to remain in port alongside a pier after 6 p.m., today.
  2. All vessels must be out of Bay Ridge, Stapleton, and Gravesend Bay Anchorage Grounds by 6 p.m., today.
  3. Only one barge per commercial mooring buoy, with a tug in the vicinity, is authorized after 6 p.m., today.
  4. After the hurricane has passed, all facilities must fill out a post-storm assessment survey.

Mariners are also advised that drawbridges will remain closed when wind speeds are 34 knots or greater or once evacuations begin. Because of the uncertainty of weather movements and related bridge closures, mariners are urged to seek passage through drawbridges well in advance of the arrival of gale force winds.

All Coast Guard small boat stations have secured operations in anticipation of the hurricane.  As a result, they will have minimal search and rescue capabilities until the storm passes out of the area. The Coast Guard once again urges boaters to stay off the water and off the beaches.

As Hurricane Sandy draws closer, the Coast Guard is warning the public of these important safety messages:

Stay off the water.  The Coast Guard’s search and rescue capabilities degrade as storm conditions strengthen.  This means help could be delayed.  That is why boaters should heed to weather watches, warnings and small craft advisories.

Evacuate as necessary.  If mandatory evacuations are set for an area, the public should evacuate without delay.  Coast Guard personnel and other emergency responders may not be able to evacuate those in danger during the storm.

Secure belongings.  Owners of large boats are urged to move their vessels to inland marinas where they will be less vulnerable to breaking free of their moorings or damage.

Trailerable boats should be pulled from the water and stored in a place that is not prone to flooding.  Those who are leaving their boats in the water are reminded to secure life rings, lifejackets and small boats.  These items, if not secured properly, can break free and require valuable search and rescue resources to be diverted to ensure they are not actually people in distress.

Stay clear of beaches. Wave heights and currents typically increase before a storm makes landfall. Even the best swimmers can fall victim to the strong waves and rip currents caused by hurricanes.  Swimmers should stay clear of beaches until local lifeguards and law enforcement officials say the water is safe.

Be prepared. Area residents should be prepared by developing a family plan, creating a disaster supply kit, having a place to go, securing their home and having a plan for pets.

Stay informed. The public should monitor the progress and strength of Hurricane Sandy through local television, radio and Internet. Boaters can monitor its progress on VHF radio channel 16. Information can also be obtained on small craft advisories and warnings on VHF radio channel 16.


Source: Jim Henderson via Wikimedia Commons

Folks strolling along the Emmons Avenue pier may notice the dinner boats, the restaurants and the swans in the Bay. And, of course, that local trademark: groups of fishermen, at the crack of dawn, continuing Sheepshead Bay’s traditional line of work.

The New York Times ran a profile of one of the fishermen, 28-year-old Kyle Kaltenmaier, who works on the Sea Queen 7, a party boat that docks along Emmons Avenue.

Kaltenmaier, who is from Woodhaven, Queens, is a first mate and an aspiring professional poker player. Better known as “Dolphin” to his crew, he reels in as many customers off the street as he does fish of the day.

The day the Times was there, he pulled 20 would-be fishermen for one of the Sea Queens’ three cruises.

On the boat, after the rods are hooked and baited, the lines are dropped and everyone relaxes, Kaltenmaier’s job is telling fishing tales like a modern-day Hemingway.

He talks about the whale he saw off the Rockaways and fishing disasters he’s had to avert with novice anglers.

As fulfilling as his life may seem, Kaltenmaier wants to take a break from the sea and spend more time in the casinos. As an aspiring professional Texas hold’em player, he wants to hit it big.

He’s been saving his fishing money and taking breaks in the winter time to work his card shark game in Altlantic City.

“I’ve tried it the past few years, but it’s just never worked out,” he said. “It’s just a matter of getting the right cardS.”

Kaltenmaier said he got into poker after watching passengers playing on the ship. He got so good that he was banned from playing against his customers.

“Poker is a lot like fishing: part luck, part skill,” said Kaltenmaier.

Source: Darny via Flickr

Boaters traversing the Verrazano Narrows will now have to contend with a 110-yard “safety zone” implemented by the U.S. Coast Guard yesterday.

The temporary safety zone marks off the area where 1,500 artillery shells and munitions were discovered in October by local diver Gene Ritter. It sits just underneath the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.

The discovery, which the New York Post just can’t stop calling the “bombshell revelation” – get it? – is thought to be a lost stockpile that spilled into the bay during a military accident in 1954.

Coast Guard officials said the safety zone will stay put at least until the end of June, or until the explosives are removed. But with the Navy claiming the shells aren’t their responsibility, it’s unclear who’s leading the cleanup effort.

Bonus: Ten points to any local boaters who can get me a photo of the safety zone!