OHNY Volunteer Council member, Bob Moore, joined our volunteer crew last month for the Hidden Harbor Tour that was organized in partnership with the Working Harbor Committee. He recaps the evening and gives details about the harbor, landscapes and vistas that were seen during the two hour tour.

Despite the fact that the day dawned overcast and rainy, the clouds rolled back as the afternoon wore on an we were more than happy to see the sun begin to shine just in time for the OHNY/Hidden Harbor Boat Tour that took place on August 16th.  OHNY staff and passengers assembled at the Pier 16 dock at the South Street Seaport, all keenly waiting to board the Zephyr, a large three-deck tour boat.  We made it smoothly on board; all of us, that is, with the exception of one passenger who was seen making a mad dash down the pier and crossing the gangway just as it was about to be withdrawn!

passengers aboard the Zephyr

The ship backed out of the pier and proceeded a short distance up the East River and under the Brooklyn Bridge.  Our “hosts” for the evening were Captain Doswell of the Working Harbor Committee and Ed Kelly of the NY Maritime Association.  Both provided us with a continuously fascinating commentary on each site we passed in addition to a number of nautical and maritime facts.

Ed Kelly of the NY Maritime Association

The Zephyr then set course southwards towards Buttermilk Channel, a narrow stretch of water bordered by Governor’s Island to the west and Red Hook to the east.  Apparently Buttermilk Channel received it’s name in the early 19th century, when farmers were able to drive their cattle across when the channel dried out at low tide.

a full ship

We sailed onwards past the Brooklyn Passenger Terminal to the end of the Red Hook peninsula, where a Fairway supermarket and some art studios are now housed in the old brick warehouses.  Zephyr then entered the Erie Basin ,which has been transformed by the advent of IKEA. The once thriving shipyard has now been closed and our captains called our attention to the remnants of the old graving dock.  The basin is occupied by a large fleet of barges which operate short distances up and down the coast carrying oil fuel, cement and other commodities. These are important links on the transport chain.

colorful tugboat

We then proceeded out into the Red Hook Channel, past the Gowanus waterfront and the immense Brooklyn Army Terminal, the site of Elvis Presley’s  (the anniversary of whose death this day was) departure for Germany to carry out his military service. The Terminal is an enormous building which provided a gateway for much military equipment to be transported overseas to the war efforts in Europe.

making our way into the Kill van Kull

Heading westward, Zephyr passed the Statue of Liberty on its starboard side and proceeded towards the entrance of the Kill van Kull, another narrow strip of water which separates Staten Island from New Jersey.  Zephyr then passed under the Bayonne Bridge, a very picturesque bridge redolent of the Sydney Harbor bridge in Australia.  It is listed a s a National Historic Monument.  However, the distinctive bridge, with its parabolic arch and lower road bed, is now unfortunately causing a botttleneck in the port.  The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has plans to raise the bridge by raising the height of the roadbed by 60 feet,  a very difficult job that  is not due to be completed for several years.  This could have a severe economic impact on the port.

passing under the Bayonne Bridge

After passing under the bridge, Zephyr rounded Bergen Point and swung up to the north-right to enter Newark Bay, home to the huge Port Elizabeth and Port Newark container ports.  We passed the large ‘Arthur Maersk’ container vessel, owned by the largest container shipping company in the world, AP Moller of Denmark.  Much has changed in the shipping industry over the last 30 years or so.  So many of the goods which we take for granted stocked in local stores come from overseas, and Ed Kelly pointed out that were an accident to occur in the Kill van Kull, blocking entry to the port, dramatic consequences would quickly impact the tri-State area.

the "Arthur Maersk" container vessel

As Zephyr turned and headed for home, the sun was setting over New Jersey, casting the Bayonne Bridge into a beautiful silhouette.  Swinging leftwards down the harbor, we passed Robbins Reef light house, in which legendary lighthouse keeper Kate Walker once lived (rowing her children to school everyday in a row boat to Staten Island).  We passed the Statue of Liberty just as the sun was making its final exit.  Once we made our way back to South Street Seaport the reaction from all who disembarked Zephyr was universally positive.

gorgeous sunset at the end of the tour

(Images courtesy of Mitch Waxman)

1 Comment to Recap: OHNY Hidden Harbor Tour – Aug 16th, 2011

  1. August 31, 2011 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

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