Free Kayaking on the Hudson River
By A.C. LEE
As the weather turns warmer, city dwellers inevitably seek out the water, and many now happily get their fix without leaving town. Whether it’s on City Island or in Tubby Hook, in the Rockaways or in Red Hook, you don’t have to look hard to find opportunities for boating, swimming and surfing.
And kayaking. At the dead end of West Houston Street in the West Village is Pier 40, where an all-volunteer outfit, the Downtown Boathouse, offers a free program for seasoned mariners and complete neophytes alike. As long as you can swim, you can sign a waiver, don a life vest and enjoy 20 minutes of paddling within a designated area in front of the boathouse, safe from the Hudson River’s currents and within reach of assistance.
Take a lock and you can stash your stuff in a locker, change into your swimwear and shower after you’re done. The Miser is reasonably sure all is back to normal after last summer’s unfortunate sewage mishap, which contaminated New York’s waterways for a few days, but better to avail yourself of all the amenities on offer, no?
It turns out that “Downtown Boathouse” is a bit of a misnomer; there are two other locations on the West Side of Manhattan, one at Pier 96 (at 56th Street) and one at 72nd Street. Both offer free kayaking, though the hours at 72nd Street are slightly shorter, and that site lacks showers and changing rooms.
For the stoutest of body, heart and mind, assuming they can make it there by 8 a.m. sharp, Pier 96 offers guided three-hour tours along the Hudson, covering up to five miles. The Miser assumes the fleet won’t include a kayak called S. S. Minnow.
(Pier 40 is open Thursdays from 5 to 7 p.m.; Saturdays, Sundays and holidays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; West Houston Street at West Street. Pier 96 is open weekdays from 5 to 7 p.m.; Saturdays, Sundays and holidays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; West 56th Street at the West Side Highway, Clinton. 72nd Street is open Saturdays, Sundays and holidays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., 72nd Street in Riverside Park; downtownboathouse.org.)