Anchor's Away! Boating Is the Way To Go In Rockaway!

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Boating in Rockaway is a three-part series by The Rockaway Times highlighting the amazing experiences locals and visitors alike can experience in our beautifully rich Jamaica Bay. You may be surprised by the resources that are available for everyone to enjoy, right here in our local waters, if you have the opportunity to take a memorable adventure.

In our inaugural article, Boating In Rockaway, The Rockaway Times (RT) described the beautiful sites to behold after being gifted a tour of Jamaica Bay from Arverne’s Vernam Basin to beyond Breezy Point’s tip by local boater, Peter Galvin. In this second installation — from kayaking, cruising, houseboat living to even where you can rent or buy your own boat — we introduce you to the many local inlets, where landlubbers too, can go overboard and rock boat life in Rockaway.

According to Jolene Willis-Lujan, an ecologist with the National Park Service at Gateway and local resident, before wading out, keep in mind that Jamaica Bay is part of a national park and because of that, access to the islands, which include The Raunt, Big Egg, Elders West, Elders East, Yellow Bar, Black Walk, Ruler’s Bar and Ruffle Bar, are restricted.

“We have a lot of federally-protected birds such as water fowls, cormorants, Osprey and more, that nest on those islands, which are fragile ecosystems. We started restoring the marshlands on these islands in 2005. Some of the islands are active restorations, so we want to give them the best chance at success for survival,” Willis-Luan said.

Despite these restrictions, there are still ways for you to indulge in boating life on the bay.

Kayaking

Since 2008, nonprofit organization, Gateway Bike & Boathouse (GBB), in conjunction with the NPS has been offering kayaking out of Riis Landing (across from Fort Tilden) and Bay Breeze Park at Beach 88th Street and Beach Channel Drive. GBB is staffed by volunteer paddlers, and offers a unique experience for both novice and veteran paddlers to explore. Rick Horan, founder and executive director of GBB, said he was inspired to start this organization after his own frustrations with finding an open docking site to launch his own boat. “In Jamaica Bay, there were no public access points to launch a small vessel. Initially, we thought to just create a storage and launch area, but then decided this was a great way to introduce everyone to kayaking on the bay for free. This is why we named it the Community Boathouse because it’s really about serving the community — from the volunteers who come out to help, to those who come out to learn and experience kayaking on the bay,” Horan said. Though the summer days are waning away, GBB plans to stay open through September, as the water is still warm. “The biggest variant is the weather,” Horan said. “As long as it’s not too cold, too windy nor too much chop, we plan to be open.” Open paddles do not require a reservation, but guided tours do. For further information about GBB and how to volunteer or experience kayaking on the bay, visit: communityboathouse.org or visit Facebook page: Community Boathouse Rockaway Beach.

Cruising

For eight years, whale/dolphin-watching lovers have boarded the American Princess Cruise from Riis Landing. The 95-foot aluminum U.S. Coast Guard certified cruising vessel for up to 250 passengers is perfect for dining, sightseeing and even dancing. On this comfort cruise, grab the chance to spot your favorite seafaring mammals, which may compete in size with the grand ship you are boarded on. The American Princess runs through late November. For more info, visit www.americanprincesscruises.com.

Jamaica Bay Sunset Cruise

Bird lovers, on Saturday, the American Littoral Society, Gateway National Recreation Area, NYC Audubon, and the American Littoral Society are  hosting a special three-hour narrated tour of Jamaica Bay aboard the 100-ft “Golden Sunshine” out of Sheepshead Bay. Learn about the history and ecology of the bay, and see diverse birdlife. For info, visit: jamaicabayfallcruise.eventbrite.com or call (718) 474-0896 or email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Houseboat Living

Over the summer, Greg Pulaski and his girlfriend, Veronica Gonzalez O’Ferral, have been living on the Figment, a modest houseboat that offers a luxurious lifestyle. Born and raised in Rockaway, Pulaski is the definition of a sea baby as he is a lifeguard, surf instructor and gypsie of sorts. “Veronica and I both live where we work, but without the hassle of a house,” Pulaski joked. Inside their houseboat, they enthusiastically show off their tiny kitchenette, sleeping area and porch on top of the boat, which has a majestic view of the bay. “This summer has been challenging due to the weather, but we love this tiny community of houseboats we live in. This is a perfect way to get back to the present moment, where all that matters is a roof over our head, with the bay as our backyard and the stars as our night light,” Gonzalez-O’Ferral said.

In Marina 59, located on Beach 59th Street, retiree Carlos Betancourt, is also enjoying his ripe years of doing what he loves, fishing and living on the bay. Betancourt said he resides on his boat from April to November. “I’ve been coming to this Marina for over 40 years, and this is the life I planned for my retirement. I get up in the morning, get on my neighboring motor boat to go fishing and come home to eat,” he said.“Don’t get me wrong, I love this life, but there are many challenges, such as just the other day when the tide surged through, covering the dock and flowing into the streets. However, we all look out for each other. As long as the boats are tied up securely, we are fine,” Betancourt said.

Renting or Buying Your Own Boat

At Marina 59, you can do both, and according to owner, Ari Zablozki, all you need is a driver’s license. NYS does not require a boater’s license, but it is recommended that you get a NYS Boating Safety Certificate. Marina 59 has been around since the 1940s, and Zablozki says he loves the community. “This marina is special because of the diversity of people that dock their boats here. However, owning a boat, takes a lot more work than owning a car, but there’s a spirituality in enjoying the ocean and the bay. It’s a pathway to a new life,” Zablozki said. To find out how you can rent a boat or even buy one at Marina 59, plus all the additional services they offer, visit: marina59.com

Check out RT’s next Boating in Rockaway installation to learn about more boating on the bay. Hint: get ready to angle up!

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