One place to which people can safely and now legally retreat to is their boat, yacht, kayak, canoe, Jet Ski, dinghy or Huckleberry Finn-styled raft. On April 18, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that New York, New Jersey and Connecticut would be “aligning policies for marinas and boatyards,” opening them up together so that no single state was overwhelmed by waterbound crafts. As long as marinas and boatyards would allow only personal use and “maintain strict social distancing and sanitization protocols,” boat-owners could set sail any time they’d like.
This was welcome news to area marinas and boat-lovers up and down the mighty Hudson River, as well as those along the Rondout Creek.
Marlboro Yacht Club
“It was a big weight lifted off our shoulders,” said John Gilberto, the commodore – the marine variation of a club president – of the Marlboro Yacht Club, a private membership-based not-for-profit association located along the Hudson River halfway between the Mid-Hudson Bridge and the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge. “We organized quickly and got to work at 6:45 a.m. this morning [April 25] and didn’t stop until 7:30 p.m.,” he said.
Some of the yacht club’s members had invested considerable sweat equity on the one sunny day this weekend to get their docks put in, their posts driven down, and their moorings set. “I’d say we’re about 70 percent of the way done,” estimated Gilberto. “We had masks and gloves on and stayed socially distant, and had takeout food for lunch and dinner. We’re all very careful about following the social distancing and sanitation rules.”
The lifting of the restrictions had allowed people to get out with their loved ones and enjoy their boat, the river and all that fresh air. “But we’re not allowed to use our clubhouse or bar,” said Gilberto. “We had to cancel all of the club reservations, which is a busy place. We have our annual Commodore’s Ball, which is a black-tie event in May. We also allow members to rent out the clubhouse for parties, weddings, anniversaries. We have a bar that we use, and all of this helps to offset our costs. We’re losing a lot of money, a lot of revenue. But we’re we are excited about being able to get out on the water.”
The club plans to open the second week of May. “We’re about two weeks behind, which isn’t too bad. And the weather hasn’t been very good for boating so far, until today.”
While it hasn’t been banner weather for boating, the fisherfolks are loving it. “It’s striper season,” explained Gilberto. Many fishermen are either already out on their private crafts or itching to get out to catch the striped bass in the Hudson, which are running right now.
“Last year we must have had 20 striper fishermen renting slips for a six-week period for $300,” but this year they weren’t allowed to get their docks in. “We’re not like a commercial marina, we do all of the work ourselves,” Gilberto said. The club has 133 members and sets aside 83 slips for members.
“There are fishermen out now because it’s striper season, but that’s a different type of boat enthusiast,” Patrick Sheehan said, agreeing with Gilberto.
For additional information about the Marlboro Yacht Club, call (845) 236-3932.
Kingston City Marina
Sheehan and Jeff Correa won the bid to manage the Kingston City Marina, a commercial venture which has 50 slips and caters more to visiting boaters, boat tours and seasonal renters. “We were awarded that RFP right around the time that the COVID-19 hit,” said Sheehan, who expressed his relief that the state had allowed marinas and boatyards to open for personal use. Rentals and tour boats are still restricted, which impacts commercial marinas like the City of Kingston’s.
“By definition, if you’re on a boat with people in your immediate family or who live with you, then you’re social distancing,” said Sheehan. “Just like golfing, I think boating, if you’re just smart and safe, is a great way to get fresh air, get outside and have some enjoyment during this time. We’re all adjusting to this new normal, and I think we’re just redefining that thing called ‘personal space.’”
Sheehan likes the idea of the municipal boatyard stimulating economic activity. “The idea that people would want to come and visit and rent a slip for a few nights, go out to our local restaurants on the Strand or our shops is a great thing, in a normal time,” he said. “We would have bus tours where people would go to the [Rondout] lighthouse, go to the Vanderbilt Mansion, the FDR estate, the Maritime Museum, and dock at the marina. We get tours in from Canada, all over New York, the Carolinas – and all of that helps to make this city vibrant.”
The more family-styled marinas such as the Rondout Yacht Basin and the Marlboro Yacht Club, are looking at huge losses in revenue from their ancillary social offerings (pools, restaurants, clubhouses et cetera). Meanwhile, the commercial marinas are anticipating a large hit from the loss of tour boats and their transient slip rentals from tourists and out-of-town visitors. They’re not sure how many transient visitors they’re going to see this season.
The new managers are getting the marina ready, COVID-19-aware and socially distant and safe, to open up in the next two to three weeks when the weather gets better.
Appropriate safety measures for those who rent a slip are important, Sheehan said, “The typical layout of a marina has a linear-shaped dock with fingers out to the side, and really lends itself towards having enough space for people not to come in close contact.” He explained. “But we’ll also put up the necessary signage and follow all of the guidelines put out by the city and the state. It’s a great way to be with your family and to do some recreational activity that is safe.”
For additional information about the City of Kingston Marina, call (845) 331-6940.
Rondout Yacht Basin
The Rondout Yacht Basin in Kingston has officially opened its doors and is busy putting boats in the water. “We have about 20 boats in right now,” said Nick Rothline, who owns the full-service, 16-acre marina with his brother Andrew. As soon as the Governor lifted the ban on marinas and boatyards, the brothers got busy getting their docks in and slips ready for their members. “We’ve been putting in about five boats a day,” he said, noting that they have a 150-slip marina. “Everyone is pretty excited. We’ve had a lot of fishermen because it’s the Striper season until the end of May, so they want to be out on the water.” In Rothline’s estimation, opening the marinas and golf courses was the right move. “It makes sense that they were one of the first things to open up because they can be socially distant, especially boaters, and there’s not a lot of other things people can do right now.”
To that end, Rothline has already had a few new customers that have bought boats because they want a safe way to recreate with their families. Unfortunately, due to the current restrictions, the Rondout Yacht Basin can’t open up its full menu of offerings like picnic areas, barbecue pits, lawn games, a waterside cafe, a swimming pool and the use of its bathroom facilities. “It’s tough, but this is what we have to do right now and we’re complying fully with the CDC and the State of New York,” said Rothline. “For more information about the Rondout Yacht Basin, call (845) 331-7061 or go to https://www.rondoutyachtbasin.com.
Highland Landing Park
According to Highland Landing Park Association president, Alan Van De Bogart, the boat launch is not currently open to the public at the Highland Landing Park. This is a 1.7-acre public park that Scenic Hudson helped the Town of Lloyd purchase, turning an oil tank farm into a riverfront park.
“We’re waiting for guidance from the Governor’s office as to how and when we can open up the park safely,” he said, citing concerns about public health and safety in a park that is “non-kinetic like the Walkway Over the Hudson or the Highland Rail Trail where people are moving and walking. Our park is geared towards gathering and picnicking and that’s not what we’re supposed to be doing right now in terms of public health and safety.”
That said, Van De Bogart said that he understands the desire for people to have a local boat launch where they can take their craft out and enjoy the river, go fishing or kayaking. “We’re reviewing it and paying attention to how we can be in line with the State’s protocols for safety,” he said. “It’s a beautiful park and we’ve put so much work into it and we’d love to see it open, but public safety comes first.”
For updates about the Highland Landing Park, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sea Tow Mid Hudson
Joe Thomas of Sea Tow Mid Hudson, which he said is best described as “the Triple-A of the water,” said there was a great buzz along the river about the governor’s decision to let the boatyards open. “Everyone’s about three weeks behind but they’re getting ready now,” he reported. “Honestly, I’m hoping it’s going to be a great year, despite everything. Boating is naturally socially distant, and I think the trend is going to be for people to recreate locally. I think you’ll see a lot of people out boating, or on some type of watercraft. They’re going to want to go to their local parks and RV and campgrounds. People aren’t flying right now, and I’ve heard of so many vacations being canceled – family reunions, even weddings. People want to stay local, but they also want to get outside, safely.”
Thomas explained that membership is the bread-and-butter of his business. Sea Tow are the people you call if your boat breaks down or sinks, or your moorings need to be stabilized or your dock breaks loose. “We do crew or equipment changes on big boats going through,” Thomas said. “We tow you in if you’re in trouble. We dive. We do salvage work, replace a chain or a line.”
Thomas said that the marinas, boatyards and boat launches were gearing up quickly. “Almost 99 percent of marinas in this area take their docks out, so that they don’t get busted up by ice in the winter,” he said. “Now it’s time to get the posthole-drivers and clean off the decks and get them back in, assembled, anchored and ready to host the boats.”
Mariners are by nature resilient. “They’re going to weather this and get through it,” Thomas predicted. “They’re going to take some hits, but I think this could be a year when you see a lot of people using their boats, getting out on the water, and recreating with their families.”
For additional information about Sea Tow Mid Hudson, call (845) 336-8145.