Volume 20 Issue 11 | July 27 - Aug. 3, 2007


Downtown Express photos by Jefferson Siegel

Above, paddlers arrived and departed from Pier 40 during free kayaking on a recent weekend.

Big row on waterfront as kayakers convene at pier

By Jefferson Siegel 

If you’ve ever spent a summer day by the Hudson River and dreamed of being on the water, but your ship hasn’t come in yet, don’t despair. Downtown Boathouse on Pier 40 offers free use of kayaks on weekends and holidays all summer long. 

Their mission statement, simply put, is: “We are dedicated volunteers who want to share our love of the Hudson River with the rest of you.” No solicitations, no one passes the hat. Just show up and row. 

Last Saturday was a perfect day to take to the water. During the afternoon, small groups of people made their way along the south end of Pier 40 at W. Houston St., then down a metal gangplank and onto a small dock. After donning life vests — also provided free — volunteers gave each prospective kayaker a brief tutorial on the basics of the sport.

Then people were helped into one- and two-person kayaks for a leisurely row in the enclosed area of water bounded by Pier 40 and the tunnel ventilation pier at Spring St. 

“It was awesome,” gushed Terry Shields of New Jersey as she returned to dock with her 8-year-old son Eamon. It was Shields’s first time in a kayak and her reaction was typical of many who paddled out and back during the afternoon. 

Five tourists from the U.K. stood on the floating dock listening to a Downtown Boathouse volunteer explain how to use the bright orange-bladed paddles. Nearby, a bright-red, two-person kayak pulled up to the dock and Brooklynites Ben Hutten and Samantha Orenstein hopped out.

“That was great, thank you!” Orenstein told a volunteer who held their kayak as they climbed onto the pier. 

The boathouse suggests wearing clothing that can get a little wet. There is a small changing room and shower. Lockers are available with locks, although they suggest people bring their own locks.

D.T.B.H. does not take reservations for the kayaks. Anybody can just walk up and row out on weekends and holidays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. They also offer other kayaking and boating programs. More information is available at

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