Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Tugboat Rest Stop

When I look out of Beczak’s windows and see a tugboat and barge at a standstill in the Hudson, I’m mystified. Here’s the thing. Where I live, in Dobbs Ferry, tugs and barges continually move up and down the Hudson. But here in Yonkers, tugboat and barges often stop for hours, even days. Why?

I decided to ask Ed Zabonik, launch operator of the Yonkers Hudson River Pilots, just two doors up Alexander Street.

We chatted in his office, on the second floor of a small disheveled building. Ed gestured out the window at the Hudson River Pilot boat docked at an old pier. “Pilots are certified to take a barge between Sandy Hook and Yonkers, or between Yonkers and Norrie Point. My job is to drive the pilot boat boat out to meet the tugs coming through Yonkers. I ferry new pilots out with me and bring the off-duty ones back to land.”

Ed chuckled at my question about why tugs and barges stop in Yonkers. “They’re taking a break. Either they’re waiting for their next orders or there’s no place else for them to go.” He explained that while Yonkers is not an official Coast Guard anchorage, ships often stop here if the anchorages are full or if a boat has no place else to go. “It’s a calm, out of the way place to park for a while. They can be out there for two days or two weeks. The record number of barges I’ve seen anchored at Yonkers was sixteen!”

Ed continued, “Sometimes you see the tugs leave the barge. That means the pilots need to go shopping. They tie up their tug at the Yonkers City Pier and catch a cab up to the A&P.”

I asked Ed if barges would be cleared out of the river on June 6, River Day, when hundreds of boats are expected to sail up the Hudson. He shrugged. “As of now, no one knows. The Coast Guard is the only agency that can close the river to commercial traffic.”

Lenore Person
Marketing and Communications Manager

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Blessing of the Hudson

May 13, 2009

“We give blessings to the river to honor what the river gives us and for the remembrance of our ancestors that have passed on. We feel their spirit is alive on the water.”

Tony Moon Hawk of the Turtle Clan of the Unkechaug Nation and Marcey Tree in the Wind of the Turtle Clan of the Ramapough shared these words on Earth Day 2009 at Beczak’s riverfront. I stood alongside them and a dozen other guests including local clergy, musicians, and community leaders to ask God’s blessings on the Hudson River.

Everyone had a moment to honor the waters of the Hudson in their own way, while, all around us, life continued to thrive. As the clergy took turns offering a ceremonial blessing, the rising tide brought plankton to feed the young fish in the marsh. As the river carried ashes of a burned white sage leaf and an ear of corn that Mr. Moon Hawk tossed in to honor the river’s gifts of food and a trade route, mummichogs lay eggs on the muddy bottom of the tidal pool.

Today I stood on the rocks of Beczak’s beach looking at the beautiful Palisades cliffs and taking in the cool morning air. I once again felt the quiet of the Hudson River connect me to my world.

Steve Ruff
Director of Programs

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

May Hudson Quadricentennial Countdown

This special monthly feature to The Tidal Zone blog recounts the highlights that led to Henry Hudson’s sail past the tidal marsh of what is now Yonkers’ Beczak Environmental Education Center on September 13, 1609.

“Turn her around”… “He’s a mad man”…“We’ll die here”… the Half Moon crew mutters to each other.

The Half Moon has been at sea for one month and by early May she is within thirty miles of Norway, right on schedule. But the sailors are bitterly cold and scared. The raging snowstorms, whiteouts and menacing icebergs make Dutchmen throw insults at English, who reply with shoves and punches.

But today is different. Perhaps it is the howling wind that unites them against their captain. “Put him out!” they demand together. It’s mutiny, punishable by death.

Backed against the bow of the boat, Hudson offers the crew a choice. They could sail southwest looking for the Indies by way of a sea just north of the English colony in Virginia, or they could search for a more northerly passage via Davis Strait. The sailors choose the warmer route. Hudson calls for the ship to turn back and head across the Atlantic, breaking his contract with the Dutch East India Company.

Two days later, another violent storm, the worst of the voyage, rocks the ship. The crew’s fear returns; Hudson stays in his cabin poring over maps.

Lenore Person
Marketing and Communications Manager

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Seahorse Scenes!

April 25, 2009

Beczak’s seining season has just begun. From April to October, we give our visitors waterproof boots and pants called waders and show them how to drag a long fishing net through the Hudson. Last weekend, our seine team caught white perch, striped bass, pipefish, shrimp, and some kind of ball of sediment and leaves. Megan, one of our volunteers, began to search through this mud and realized that there was something living in it. To our surprise, it was a lined seahorse! The seahorse measured about two inches in length and was the first that I had caught this far upriver.

The lined seahorse (Hippocampus erectus) is a close relative of the northern pipefish, a common catch in our net. While pipefish can be spotted up to 50 miles upriver in brackish water, the lined seahorse has more of a limited range. It can be found as for north as the Tappan Zee Bridge, but increases in numbers in the New York Harbor and the Atlantic Ocean. Since this seahorse is so small, it was likely carried upriver by the strong currents.

Spotting a seahorse here in Yonkers was a very exciting find. This is just another example of why I always tell my students that you never know what you’ll catch in the Beczak seine net!

Jason Muller
Educator/Technology Specialist