By Pablo Garcia
On Saturday, September 28, Hudson River Park Trust (HRPT) held its annual Submerge Marine Science Festival sponsored by the Hudson River Park Estuary Lab Team on Pier 84. Village Community Boathouse (VCB) was a founding member in support of the original Submerge Marine Science Festival on Pier 26. In the early days we would walk a 25-foot Whitehall gig over to Pier 26 with the concept that, along with our mission to place people on the water, we also build boats for the public’s edification.
This year due to so many river events and change of venue to Pier 84, we set up a table up with navigation charts, a copy of the VCB Training Manual, cruise report sample, navigation compass, pH chart, and photos of the various types of boats we build, but with no actual physical boat present.
The table was out of the way from the main traffic but that was okay because we had a splendid view of traffic along the river. When we had the boat on display, children always ran straight to the boat and began to ask questions. This year the adults were the first to approach the table. The big favorite with the children was the compass. I would ask them which way was North. They would always point back to the shore and uptown. Then I would show how true north was 23 degrees in the other direction, towards the river. The adults were usually unaware of this magnetic skew with the north/south Manhattan street grid. At around 3 pm volunteer Christine McVay was explaining how we build boats to put people on the water when the first “Rocking the Boat” crew flew by on their “Row around Manhattan” fundraiser. We explained that they borrowed VCB boats for this day-long thirty-mile voyage. Soon boat after boat came by, adding a visual component to our oral narrative of the human-powered boating community on the Hudson. As we explained tides and current, and the connection of science to the skill sets needed for navigating the river, many began to appreciate the difference between being a passenger and being a community rower.
As part of Hudson River Park’s Park over Plastic initiative to reduce our plastic footprint and improve the health of the Hudson River, VCB has stopped selling single-use water bottles. I bought a “Park over Plastic” water bottle to show VCB support of the concept.
I would like to thank The Trust, The Estuary Lab Team and Anna Koskol, the Environmental Educator whose vision of Informal Science engagement makes this such an exciting event for children as well as parents and educators. Tina Walsh who reached out to make sure VCB had everything in order for participation, thank you and of course Sally Curtis and Deborah Clearman who helped me stay the course. Dave, Frank, and Marcel for Boathouse maintenance tips in preparing the line for the kiddies.