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."


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.

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.

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”.

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.