For many years now, I have been kayaking on the waterways of the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area. I have served as president of the Hudson River Watertrail Association (HRWA.org) and in a week I will be joining with other guides to escort some 100 kayakers and stand up paddlers on the Hudson. Throughout this time on the water I have become familiar with all of its beauty, but also particularly familiar with the dangers inherent to a waterway clogged with a variety of large vessels. Tuesday’s incident involving a ferry boat crashing into a group of kayakers on the Hudson in New York City is yet another reminder of the dangers kayakers face every time they go into the water.
As a guide we are aware of the dangers that exist out on water so we prepare and train to protect those in our charge. We are alert to changing weather conditions, tidal conditions and boat traffic. While paddling on the Hudson in the area of New York City we have seen taxis race across the water and have been alert to their paths and routes. Our goal as a guide is to do our best to avoid them and keep everyone safe.
However, the taxis have a duty as well. This incident did not occur in the open water where evasive maneuvering is more easily accomplished but close to the shore with a boat apparently racing out from the pier into the channel without taking minimal precautions. When the black boxes on the boat are obtained and reviewed we should know the exact speed at which the boat left the pier and its speed when it hit the kayakers.
Every professional marine operator on the Hudson knows that it is a mixed use waterway. Every professional marine operator including this taxi captain knows that there are kayakers on the water who will give him right of way if only given the chance. From everything we know this group of kayakers tried to avoid the impending collision but never had a chance to do so before they were hit.