Solely volunteer-run and totally nonprofit, the New York City Downtown Boathouse organization allows the public to escape the concrete jungle and go for a short-but-sweet kayak ride along the harbor and nearby waters.
You’ll have three choices for location: Pier 96 (take the A/C/E to Columbus Circle), Pier 40 (A/C/E to Canal St and walk west to the river, then up a few blocks), and 72nd St (waterside promenade in Riverside Park). In order to participate, you must sign a waiver and know how to swim (children must have a guardian sign the waiver and wait at the location). Sessions are limited to 20 minute intervals, but if no one else is waiting, you’re free to set back out!
From the middle of June to the middle of September, you can join multi-hour guided boat trips up the Hudson River that leave on weekend mornings at 8am. Expect to paddle a couple miles weather permitting, so be in good shape and familiar with the equipment. As the trips are popular and summer weather enticing, guides may run a lottery to decide who goes when there are more people than boats. On popular summer weekends, your chances are around 50%. (If you’re lucky enough to have your own kayak, you can usually tag along.)
Free kayak-skill classes are offered every Wednesday. You can also attend the community meeting on the first Tuesday of every month to hear what’s up, or you can check the calendar for a general overview. Membership is optional but recommended at $50 per year.
Donations are encouraged, but volunteers are much more valuable! If you can swim (and are 18+), you might consider making a reasonable commitment to the program – you’ll get free training and free use of the equipment, not to mention the opportunity to go on loads of trips and, of course, make some new friends.
Don’t forget sunblock, swimsuit/light clothing, and something to drink if going on one of the morning trips. All activities are on a first-come, first-serve basis – no reservations accepted. Plan ahead, get excited, and get there early!