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