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Ferry runs over kayakers

-- Last Updated: Aug-30-16 9:09 PM EST --

Early in the incident, to speculate on what happen. Best wishes to all involved.




  • Self Powered Boats Don't Have The:
    -- Last Updated: Sep-01-16 4:26 PM EST --

    Right of way there, unlike other places. You got to stay out of the way of them big boats. That is the law! As written in black and white. The big boats have the right of way and rule the water there in NYC. I was shocked to read this, but good luck trying to change it.

  • According to one report,
    -- Last Updated: Aug-30-16 10:53 PM EST --

    it was a class led by an ACA certified instructor. Manhattan Kayak Company.


    What a traumatic experience; thank goodness no one was killed but my heart goes out to the instructor.

  • Very difficult ....
    To see a kayak from the helm of a larger boat if they are in close proximity. A large sightseeing boat in Pennekamp has to have spotters forward and aft when departing for just that reason.
  • you were expecting ?
    Utube has NY Waterway ferry videos.... and ACA instructors
  • The tour
    Cross referencing info from articles (time, photos of boats, etc.), below is the description of what I think was the tour.

    5:00 pm - 6:15 pm
    Skyline Kayak Tour - Beginner
    No experience required on easy sit-on-top kayaks. Get eye-popping panoramic views of Manhattan's famous skyline. Our instructors will first teach you paddle strokes on land, then embark on easy sit on top kayaks. Wear water-friendly bottoms and bring your camera! 1 hour. PRICE $60
    Difficulty: Beginner
  • A reminder that every paddler
    -- Last Updated: Aug-31-16 8:21 AM EST --

    Should know rules of the road
    A paddlecraft never has ROW 9ver working boats or vessels with limited maneuverability
    Its tough when you paddle close to boats that you assume are berthed..then Surprise.

    Happens in Maine too. Hubby snooped too close to equipment dock and got wash in cockpit when the boat he was next to suddenly backed up..

    Good to give all working boats a wide berth

  • Paddling in Commercial Areas
    It is probably surprising something like this, bad as it is, does not happen more often in that area. I cannot believe that the boat operator saw them crossing his path. As said in one reply, we kayakers are not nearly as visible as we want to assume when mixing with big boats.

    I hope the guide does not have a life altering injury, at least there are excellent trauma centers in close reach.

  • Any guide...
    ..would cringe at the thought of taking beginners through a busy working harbor..
  • Visibility issue
    "The boat pilot told police sun glare as he backed out of the pier prevented him from seeing the kayakers."


  • Manhattan....
    it is a very tough place to be an outfitter. There is no launch point that is not overcrowded with commercial traffic, as well as sea walls and wakes, unless you set up outside of Manhattan.

    Personally it would not my cup of tea to take even moderately experienced folks out on my own responsibility, and dodging ferries and barges is not my idea of a pleasant paddling experience. Let alone water quality issues and Homeland Security zones.

    But if you are living in Manhattan, you are no less likely to want to paddle than living anywhere else. Regardless of the difficulty of the environment.
  • Responsibility
    I guess if you're operating a large water craft and your visibility is impaired, you just go for it and hope for the best. I would be more inclined to not move the boat until you are sure there is nothing in the way.

    If I were the injured kayaker, I'd be looking for a real good ambulance chaser and sue the crap out of the water taxi outfit and the operator.
  • Manhattan
    I took one class with the outfitter in question - it was held in the Hudson at W 23rd St. The on-land instruction on stroke mechanics was excellent - it gave me the basics of a good forward stroke.

    We then did on-water work around Chelsea Piers. It was dicey - there is a NY Water Taxi stop there, and several came and went while we were paddling very close to shore. I did not like the on-water experience.

    For a couple years I was a member of the Yonkers Paddling & Rowing Club which is also near a water taxi stop. I got tired of the continuous commercial traffic and really don't paddle the Hudson in the city.

    On another note, I work with a number of mariners who are professionals in the harbor. One harbor pilot told me the general opinion is that kayakers should be barred from the harbor - they're all worried about running down paddlers as happened yesterday. He compared it to letting bicycles on the Cross Bronx Expressway among the big rigs. He said they just can't see the small craft.
  • some added thoughts
    Not looking to protect one side or the other, but just throwing out some thoughts related to this.

    One area I definitely find faulty with the kayak company is the ratio of clients to guides. The story said 1 guide for the 9 boats. Presumably guide was 1 of that boat count. So that would be a 1 guide to 8 client boat count. That is high. The places I work limit it to 1 to 5 max. That said, I am not sure a second guide would have affected this.

    Knowing rules of the road is important, but I am also not sure that there are signs of the kayakers not knowing/following the rules of the road. It sounds like the ferry was berthed when the kayakers started to pass, and then the ferry suddenly started to move. You treat berthed vessels and moving vessels differently. I checked the ferry schedule and it looks like this terminal has just over 1 boat per hour during rush hour, so is not a heavily used terminal. I think the circle line goes from there also, so that adds boats during the day, but likely not in the evening when this happened. So expectation of a ferry taking off at any time is small. And if this happened at "about 6" as reported, there isn't a ferry scheduled for that time. There is one at 5:35, so perhaps it happened earlier? Or maybe that ferry was running late and rushing?

    Of course, what should happen around a ferry terminal where lots of boats come in and go out often would be for kayakers to swing wide, but they may have had limited ability to do so due to currents, other vessels, etc. In SF, the ferries keep their engines running and props engaged when they are docked, so there is a prop wash behind the ferry that you want to avoid, so that is another reason to swing wide.

    Perhaps that second guide could have added eyes on the ferry. When I pass ferry terminals, I look at whether the ferry is still boarding, whether boarding ramp is still attached, are there people adjusting lines (sign of either just tying up, or untying in preparation to launch), etc.

    Just some thoughts. Not clear cut from my POV with what little info we have that it was one side or the other's fault.
  • As someone in the maritime industry ...
    as well as being a former sponsored paddler and designer I'd offer the following comments:

    1. As others have stated; There is NO provision in the International or Inland Rules that gives kayakers any special rights. They are simply another vessel, and as such must give way to any number of "constrained" vessels. Some state laws may be different on local lakes and waterways so one has to know the Rules on the body of water they are navigating.
    2. So not only do we as paddlers need to be wary of the different types of constrained vessels, we also need to understand that we may be the give way vessel to ANY other vessel depending on the situation / relative positioning.
    3. Radar has a shadow where objects close to the bow of a vessel may not be seen. Depending on the height of the radar, settings, vessel design etc.
    4. As a commercial operator I can say that there are at times many distractions. I work for a company that has a superb safety record world wide, but maritime accidents are not uncommon. I have seem Captains and Mates engrossed in Facebook on their phones while at the helm! (not where I work = termination).
    But it happens and my advice to kayakers is to be defensive and make NO assumptions.

    Consider this: You're paddling along in limited visibility and see a tug and tow headed in your general direction. You assume they see you. Imagine a relatively inexperienced 2nd Mate alone in that wheelhouse immersed in his or her phone because it's the first Internet signal they've had in days! Eyes are on Facebook not the radar or ECDIS, and NOT out the glass. It happens.

    Having said that I'll say the majority of professional mariners I know and work with are diligent, caring, very safe individuals who are highly trained. I am typing this "off watch" from a 7000HP tug in Alaska.

    Be especially careful folks at night or in fog!! Places like the Inside Passage or San Juan / Gulf Islands, Puget Sound etc. are heavy traffic areas.

    Be familiar with Rule 10 Traffic Separation Schemes and carry a VHF Radio and never be afraid to call Traffic prior to making crossings in traffic areas.

    Be safe out there, and enjoy your paddling. Just as learning to paddle well, rolls , strokes, leadership, etc, part of being a good kayaker is being a good "Mariner".
  • Also
    That Captain or Mate WILL be assigned at least some if not the majority of blame. Sad for them as likely a career ending event. And horrible for the folks hurt. In collisions blame is shared even if you think you're totally correct.

    With ferries keep an eye on traffic going on an off and look at the exhaust. A tell tale sign is a plume of smoke from the stacks - pulling away. Some ferries will sound a whistle blast (Inland- pulling off dock or landing) (International - not required, but some Captains do so as a blind corner signal - for safety)
    Never be afraid to hail the Ferry on VHF CH 13.

  • There is always something....
    At least one thing you mentioned in the above posts had occurred to me. But I don't know that area. Habits which may be reliable between paddle craft and commercial craft in one area may not be as reliable in a densely packed place like Manhattan. So I doubt anyone here can say something definitive.

    Bottom line, ferries and paddle craft are a particularly tough mix. Ferries have a schedule, can run late and in some areas they have no choice but to go for it hard because of current. No kayaker in their right mind should ever be in the way of the deceptively short ferry run between Shelter Island and North Haven for example. Current runs very strong there and the ferry has to gun it out of the launch to have a chance of making the opposite terminal.

    I think it is a wonderful thing that anyone tries to help paddlers enjoy the water anywhere. Personally though, Manhattan is not on my list of places to be wet.
  • Law of gross tonnage
    First time I saw that term, it was in a post by Marshall of The River Connection. I had to look it up as I had no idea what it meant. I do now and that's what I go by regardless of where I paddle, but especially in the busy harbor where I launch to paddle Lake Michigan. I always think of the "stop, look, and listen" mantra from my childhood while I'm crossing the harbor.

    I have to disagree with a comment suggesting lawsuits be filed because I work in the legal profession. We have a sign in our office stating "Agree, because the law is costly." Litigation is costly, not only financially but emotionally and few wind up happy in the end. Best to let the insurance companies work this one out, or at least try to.

    I just hope that all involved recover physically and emotionally from this awful accident.
  • ...and not the guide?
    -- Last Updated: Aug-31-16 3:24 PM EST --

    Lawsuits using misplaced blame get us regulations. Reading you in the past I thought you were opposed to more of those.

  • In Arizona
    ANY paddle or sailing craft has the right-of-way over any powerboat.


    To insist on that right is stupid and suicidal!
    That powerboat is moving at 35 knots and the driver is too busy trying to impress his gf to see a dark-coloured kayak low in the water being paddled by someone in a cammo PFD.

    Even when I have the right-of-way, I never insist on it. It costs me nothing to give the river to the powerboat though my daughter talks about suing them...
    which is STUPID!!! for so many reasons.
  • Probably two ins. companies involved.
    ...each with their own staff attorneys with both pointing fingers at the other..

    I remember the Ford Explorer, Firestone Tire fiasco. It ended up killing Firestone when it was Ford's fault.
  • No working ports in AZ
  • Unfortunately
    I believe some folk who only paddle state regulated waters that DO give paddle craft stand on status take that as the Rule on all waters.
    If it tastes salty you are probably in waters governed by the Colregs, and you are just another vessel subject to the same rules as the guy in the Bayliner.

    Tonnage rule: I cringe at that cliche because while it may be a good default to ensure safety it's simplistic. If Im running a light tug (no barge) I am not constrained. A kayak on my starboard side in a crossing situation for example would be the stand on vessel and i would take action to give way well ahead of time.

    If that same kayaker stopped maintaining course and speed it would confuse the situation maybe. Id try for s strong visual contact, slow down and make my course correction to avoid early and obvious.

    Ever at a 4 way stop and someone tries to be polite but departs fron the rules? Sometimes it ends up being confusing.

    Dont mean to split hairs and generally agree with the tonnage default. Just be smart and avoid situations with prudent navigation.

    And use that handheld!

    Be safe. Enjoy.
  • then there was Audi
    ...and "sudden acceleration"
  • Law is
    -- Last Updated: Aug-31-16 6:37 PM EST --

    When a power-driven vessel is leaving a dock or berth, she shall sound one prolonged blast.

    Large boats here on Long Island NY like charters always get on 16 and request clear passage and wide berth and say what they are planning to do. Instructor should always have a radio and possibly did to know what is going on especially in a busy port like NYC. Courts will sort it out. God bless all the injured kayakers. Was looking to see if announcing on VHF is a law also but didn't find it yet but it should be done especially in situation where you know kayakers are around at times.

  • Didn't they say..
    The pedals were too close together and blamed the drivers?
  • I am sure
    lawyers are looking for them. It will be a good case for them.
  • Do the ferries follow the same rules?
    It has been a while since I have been on a ferry to or from LI, but my recall is they pretty much traveled their established routes and figured that others would expect they would be there.
  • still
    -- Last Updated: Aug-31-16 6:51 PM EST --

    ships should announce they are leaving on VHF. Instructor would have had time to contact ferry and / or get kayakers out of the way. Prolonged horn blast you cannot miss unless you are deaf. Glare would be no excuse. Unlike a car where it can appear in almost an instance it doesn't happen when leaving a dock. He should not have moved the ferry and someone should be astern I would think if he can't see and knows kayakers use the waters.

  • On ferries in Maine, Portland
    And it is salt water.. I have never seen anyone specifically spotting for kayaks even when it is common for them to be around in the summer. No ferry has gotten any cites for this as far as I know. Don't recall if they blew a horn before leaving.

    I did see a Coastie give a very stern time to a kayaker that had gotten themselves in the way of an incoming ferry close to the dock, could have gotten cited but it was hard to tell. The ferry stopped and called the Coasties. And any sanction was correct as far as I and my husband were concerned. The paddler had several problems, no lights when the day was nearly faded, no reflective anything. And from what we could see nonexistent boat control, but there are no fines for bad paddling.
  • Salty..........
    ......always the voice of reason. Nice to see your posts again. Stay in touch.......

    Jon http://3meterswell.blogspot.com
  • so if
    you can't see you hope and pray?
  • I'll give captain my NY vanity plate
  • we donate
    one ferry sched to Manhattan yaks
  • You model my point
    Only in Inland Rules is a vessel required to sound one long blast when departing. NOT International!! So once again skewed information is shared.

    Now, a Captain in International waters "may" choose to sound a blast as a warning but it's not required. So you may see a ferry in the San Juans pull away with NO blast.

    Years back I ran a big tour boat and would often sound three blasts meaning operating astern propulsion.

    So DO NOT count on a warning whistle signal in International waters.

    Even some waters that are technically Inland of the demarcation lines such as Puget Sound Wa still employ International Rules per the Coast Pilot.
  • Regards
    Dont visit here often but just happened upon this. The Rules can be confusing so I dont fault folk for not undertanding the nuances between the International and Inland Colregs and / or State modifications to such. It's easy to mix it all up as is evident in these threads.

    Id encourage paddlers to take a Rules course at a Maritime school or at the least know what Rules apply to their waters. Thats part of voyage planning. Part of being competent vs naive or arrogant.

    It's all fun. Knowledge supports safety. Just having situational awareness will go a long way.

    I wish you all safe fun paddling.
  • Not accurate
    A ferry will contact VTS and notify traffic of their departure but theres NO requirement to make a Securitee announcement on the VHF.
    Im starting to think the Internet is part of the problem.. Where do folk get this false info??
  • Interesting take on right of way
    Talking about this with another kayak guide, and his response on right of way rules is that they only matter in sailing races. Away from that, whether you have right of way or not, if you can do something to avoid a collision, you need to do it.
  • In yacht racing..
    .. you can be penalized for a right of way infraction but still you don't see a lot of collisions. A protest is filed and a hearing is held to determine the guilty party usually after a few drinks.. Very civilized.

    Interestingly, unlike a court of law, anyone involved in the incident may be found guilty even the one that filed the protest in the first place.
  • It is a marked navigation lane
    -- Last Updated: Sep-01-16 11:56 AM EST --

    On the charts. And thus far no one has been run over a ferry in Maine that I know of, though that woman in the dock area was trying awfully hard.

    What happened in Manhattan was very bad, no way around that. And one of the not-highlighted parts of this story was that the ferry only had one run a day, which automatically makes things less predictable than if it is something an every two run. This may not have happened as easily with a ferry that had a more frequent, hence needing to be more timely, schedule.

    But there is a point where people in kayaks paddling around much larger craft have some responsibility to understand where they are paddling and practice aggressive avoidance. I know for ex that at the end of the afternoon lobster boats coming into Friendship Harbor are often running on auto-pilot. The crew is not looking for small objects in the channel. They are busy cleaning things up and starting to settle pots, so they are not likely to notice anything smaller than another lobster boat or a sailboat. So I don't cross the channel until I know I will cover the distance before anything gets near me. Happily I can find a pretty narrow spot in the channel, but if I get there in rush hour so to speak I have stopped and waited for up to 10 or 15 minutes before going. There is no way I am going to assume they will see or avoid me.

    What no one has mentioned here is that it is not unheard of for kayakers to get run down by barges in the NY area. It's not an annual thing, but I have read of it more than once. As far as I know no tug operator has ever been cited for it unless there was a big public issue. That area is big, frequent commercial traffic and frankly it is their water. Kayakers and recreational craft share it, but that is not the same as having equal weight in day to day operations.

    It may be that the tug operator was supposed to sound a signal and did not, it may also be that this happened in an area where the sound level of all those boat signals is easily lost. I don't know where you are on Long Island but I have spent a lot of time out that way. There is no harbor anywhere on LI, north, south shore or the crotch, that compares to the congestion of really large boats in the Manhattan area.

  • yep
    ...and in Europe, where drivers were used to the pedal arrangement and more used to manuals, no such problem.

    But the customer's always right...
  • that may be true
    but in our locality kayakers sometimes approach lobster boats in an attempt to shop more cheaply.
    Lobster boats operate an erratic course with multiple traps on a line and sometimes not. Its just about impossible to deciper a strings colors quickly in a sea of different patterned buoys.
    The same in harbors. Usually there is a channel marked and boats off to the side.. Some moored and some about to get underway.

    We go by USCG rules here. Peter alludes to Rule 8 which is of course any skippers responsibility

    Some kayak rental agencies make you sign a paper saying that you acknowledge that they told you kayakers have no right of way over anyone. Perhaps its over simplification but certainly wise for first timers and new paddlers to be aware of.
  • If
    -- Last Updated: Sep-01-16 10:03 AM EST --

    the guide/organization is experienced in the area ..

    the ferry company publishes a schedule ....

    ferry company adheres to schedule .....

    then kayaks in ferry path esp off the dock at the time of departure ...

    have not yielded right of way.

    further, the guide/company is now liable for damages to the companies clients ...

    no matter what they signed into.

    as 'failure to deliver' in any form negates 'signing away rights to complain'

    at extreme behavior levels, the client may complain of malicious intent ...I'm sure yawl can come up with examples often read in the tabloids.

  • missplaced blame?
    I read the linked report and if that report was correct, the taxi boat operator stated that his vision was impaired by sun glare. If that stands, it is a clear admission of negligence if the operator proceeded to move the vessel without assurance that his way was clear.

    Where I paddle ocean going freighters, tugs, barges and all manner of power boats, sailboats and anything that floats are constant and plentiful. Generally the commercial boats (tugs) are operated very professionally, but I've seen them do some very odd maneuvers when they were either practicing, or just goofing off while waiting for a ship etc. Some of the newer tugs have 360 degree drives and can go sideways almost as fast as forward, so you have to keep an eye on them.

    By far, some privately operated large power yachts are what kayakers have the most to be wary of. And then there are the fishing guide boats. These guide boats are generally capable of speeds of over 50 mph and that seems to be their only speed unless they are trolling. There was a recent case where a guide boat ran right over another fishing boat. So far as I know, the kayakers have been spared.

  • the fact that you used the
    words 'situational awareness" is very cool. It applies to many different environments and paddle craft and is a common part of my paddling dialogue with others.

    Being keenly aware of where others are and thinking about what they are likely to do next is a proactive mind frame. Noticing the environment and subsequent changes can apply to both a busy harbor with large boats, or a crowded river with a bunch of gonzo ww boaters, or even a small twisty stream with no other paddlers around.

    A lack of "situational awareness" leads to mistakes and misfortune. You can be both "vigilant" and "relaxed" when the situation allows for it. However, full complacency can lead to trouble.

    People often like to paddle near where they live. That may or may not be a good idea depending upon the environment and their level of situational awareness.

    I can tell you that I personally have no business paddling in a busy NY harbor and would have a lot to learn to do so safely.

  • Some clarifications...
    After reading this thread, I see only one poster that has any real experience in paddling the NYC metro waters.

    Just to clarify a few things:

    -There are nearly 4,000 ferry boat trips per day that are made by the small, high-speed commuter ferries that are similar to the one in this incident.

    - New terminals, new routes, new ferry boats and changes in time schedules make it practically impossible for anyone to know ahead of time what ferry boat is leaving when and from where.

    - Much, but not all the time, the captains do sound three horn blasts upon backing out.

    - They almost always have prop wash as they "press" against the terminal to maintain a position in the significant. currents to allow passengers on and off.

    - They ALWAYS announce their departure on VHF channel 13. As a paddler, if you are monitoring channel 13, it is often difficult to hear and determine which ferry boat is making the announcement. It is often announced only once. They will always state the name of the ferry and where they are departing from. Most of the time the ferry boat names can not be read easily.

    - The ferry boats (IMHO) have probably the greatest speed and wake potential of any of the commercial traffic in the harbor. There are fast tour boats, but they operate much less frequently.
    The sun glare is something ALL paddlers should be aware of. Even thou you may be paddling (navigationally speaking) in the correct location, you may not be in the best place to enhance your visibility to other powerboat or commercial traffic.

    Visibility is your biggest asset. This is not the place for dark colored: clothing, PFDs, paddles or boats. Bright colors and reflectors are you best defense.

    Commercial traffic (tugs, ships, ferry boats, tour boats), can often be heard on the VHF alerting each other of human powered and recreational boats.

    Despite all this, paddling the NY harbor and the related waters that can be safely paddled and given the amount of commercial traffic and the amount of recreational boaters and human powered boats- I'd say it has a pretty stellar safety record.

    The harbor can be paddled safety. It does thou require a higher level of situational awareness than many paddlers may be accustomed to that normally paddle fresh water or more "rural" coastal waters.

    Be safe-

  • Thanks
    The sheer density of the boat traffic is different than any place I have tried to paddle. And for me, the overhead of managing all of that safely is similar to why my return to biking when I have time will mostly be on bike paths. I can bike on the road, did for many years. But the local roads are a lot busier and my interest in being that attentive to avoidance is a lot less.

    It is great that there are those like you who have the habits to manage it.
  • page 12
    RULE 5
    Every vessel shall at all times maintain a proper look-out by sight and
    hearing as well as by all available means appropriate in the prevailing
    circumstances and conditions so as to make a full appraisal of the situation
    and of the risk of collision.

    captain is toast
  • great sense of humor
    situational awareness

    The harbor can be paddled safety

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