Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Haulin' Land Over Water

Part of Brooklyn's offshore appeal for recreational boaters is the fact that in certain areas there is very little commercial activity. That doesn't mean that commercial traffic is non existent. Recently, we saw this very large barge hauling, what appeared to be a massive mound of earth off of Breezy Point heading toward Jamaica Bay.

These large vessels are surprisingly fast and quiet. This particular barge approached us in a fairly narrow channel and signaled us with two short blasts of the horn. That indicated to us, the barge intended to alter her course to port. We tacked starboard to give her ample room. As the barge crossed, we were overwhelmed by the sheer size of the barge and its cargo. Its like a large floating steel warehouse, at least a block long. Truly a modern marvel when you think abut it.

We had no idea where it was going. Our hypothesis, based on nothing but a pure guess, is that excavated land (from somewhere in Brooklyn or Queens) was headed to JFK Airport.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Heat Wave Special: Open Hydrant Relief

As long as fire hydrants have existed, Brooklynites have sought out these urban oases on hot summer days. New York Times writer Michael Cooper aptly described the open hydrant as a "one of the defining symbols of summer in New York City." In the Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing, there is a terrific scene developed around a group of neighborhood kids seeking relief and having fun at an open hydrant. In light of tradition and because of the current heat wave, City Hall is urging residents not to open fire hydrants and to report open hydrants by calling 311. One illegally opened hydrant wastes up to 1,000 gallons of water per minute. While it may be illegal to fully open up a water hydrant, New Yorkers can legally open a hydrant with a spray cap. That only puts out around 25 gallons per minute. Spray caps can be obtained by an adult 18 or over, free of charge, at local firehouses.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Stupid Stinkboaters

Boaters are divided into two categories: sailors and power boaters (we believe fisherman are a separate category). And in Brooklyn, like everywhere else in the world, the two mix about as well as oil and water.

In order to operate a powerboat, all one needs is enough money to rent, buy or own a boat; enough money to fill the tank; and the ability to turn a key and push the throttle forward. Operating any vessel under power skillfully is another story. Sailing is is a never-ending learning experience of controlling a boat through water using the wind and tides in conjunction with the sail trim, boat angle which creates lift (like an airplane wing) to move the boat. Unlike a car or powerboat, you can't just point a sailboat and expect that it will move in the direction you want it to move. In many cases, the wind, or perhaps shallow water, will prevent a sailboat from being able to move in a particular direction. Sailboats also can't turn on a dime or quickly stop and move into reverse.

This weekend, in our local waters, we experienced some classic boneheadedness by a number of stinkboaters. One fishing boat (seen in the picture above, and better seen if its enlarged), was motoring along from some unknown point West to the Gateway Marina. As it is cutting through the Rockaway Inlet, we could notice that this boat was emitting a cloud of yellow-brown smoke from its transom. Upon closer inspection we could see a long cloud of smoke trailing for hundreds of yards from the boat.

We're also fairly convinced that a good number of the stinkboaters in our local waters have no idea that there are "rules of the road." These rules, known as the International Regulations for Preventing Collision at Sea, dictate which vessels shall stay clear of the other in various situations. Our most common beef is with the local fleet of Rodneys is they ignore the basic rule that power gives way to sail. The reasoning behind this rule is that boats with unrestricted maneuverabilty need to give way to those boats with restricted maneuverability for obvious reasons.

Sailboats under sail have restricted maneuverability. For that reason, a powerboater, like the knuckleheaded guy in the 25-foot boat with a 300 horsepower engine, who also happens to be towing his 8-year old kid behind the boat in a tube should not head right in the direction of a slowly moving sailboat and expect the boat to quickly move out of the way (yes, that did happen over the weekend).

There are also New York State and Coast Guard laws governing boat speed in the vicinity of docks and noise limitations, which we interpret as: the illegal boat will be forced to dock and not leave until sound suppressing equipment is installed and operable. We're guessing that the powerboater, driving the obnoxiously loud Scarab that sounded as loud as five top-fuel dragsters, with a driver who yells"yo, we got the right of way," as he plows in front of a sailboat approaching a mooring field had his mufflers on order and was shaking out the engine briefly before installation.

The US Coast Guard Navigation Rules are free and and available right now. (We put the link there to make it easy.)

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Photo of the Day: Silhouette of Coney Island

We love this shot of Coney Island in silhouette, with the Parachute Jump and Astro Tower clearly in view. When its blown up, you can make out Cyclone and the masses on the beach.