Harbor Safety Project

To view notes from our first Symposium for Human-powered Boathouses in and around NYC held April 13, 2013 in Brooklyn, click here.

With the increase of recreational boating in NY/NJ Harbor, a number of city and state agencies have begun developing a list of ‘best practices’ (i.e., criteria) for new access points and boathouses. Some agencies have also begun to take a close look at the operational and safety procedures of boating groups that currently offer public programming, and in at least one instance are attempting to make safety certification by an outside organization mandatory.

The New York City Water Trail Association (NYCWTA) would like to offer a collective response on behalf of the human-powered boating community. It will highlight our track record of more than 20 years of safe boating in the Port of New York and New Jersey and detail how our community is planning to continue to keep the next generation of boaters safe. It will make clear that each organization has its own safety protocols, some but not all of which include outside certification, and that those protocols do a good job of addressing local conditions and concerns. Our response will emphasize that good education, rather than new regulation, is what is required to ensure continued safe boating in the harbor.

As a first step, we invite all the different boating clubs and organizations that use the urban waterways to share your safety procedures with the group as a whole, and with boating groups that are in the process of organizing. This will not only help new groups to develop their own safety policies, but also allow existing groups to identify any gaps in their existing protocols.

We have begun work on a document that can serve as a tempate for boating groups to develop their own safety protocols. That document can be viewed here and we invite supporting members to help us fine tune the document. If you'd like to work with us please send an email to harbor-safety@nycwatertrail.org

A second step will be to develop a basic set of shared principles for safe operations. We understand that the landscape of NY/NJ Harbor and its connecting waterways varies greatly and what is required of each group also varies. However, a basic “local knowledge curriculum” that is accessible to all will greatly benefit our members as well as the larger maritime community. A working draft of that document can be viewed here, and memebers' collaboration and input are welcome. To help out or send comments,please send an email to harbor-safety@nycwatertrail.org

Some basic information might include:
• Tides, currents, and tidal current lag in the harbor
• Weather and best sources for local weather information
• Local maritime traffic and Rules of the Road
• Basic harbor geography, local navigation, and common navigational hazards
• Proper use of VHF Radios
• Rescue techniques and towing skills
• Skills for safe and effective trip leading in the harbor

Overall, we see this initiative not only as a way to reassure city and state agencies that we are addressing their concerns, but as a way to build a platform for community discussion. This is an opportunity for us to grow and learn from each other.

If you would like to share your organization’s safety protocols, get involved with helping to develop the education document, or offer any other comment, please write us at: harbor-safety@nycwatertrail.org.