Maritime Festival at Pier 84
New York is a city of vehicles: just try to get a parking space. But long before it became famous for horn-blowing cars, careering taxis and crawling buses, it was renowned for a form of transportation that didn’t even use roads, at least not those made of pavement.“So much of New York’s history is maritime history,” said Betsy Frawley Haggerty, president of the North River Historic Ship Society. “It wouldn’t be the city it is without the port.”
That past will be remembered with a celebration of New York as the city of ships. This year’s Maritime Festival at Pier 84 in Manhattan will begin on Saturday with opportunities to tour notable vessels and even ride two on the Hudson.
“This is kind of a first,” Ms. Haggerty said of the excursions, made possible through the ship society. The hourlong voyages, with limited spaces, will take place aboard tugboats: the 102-year-old Pegasus, a former oil-industry ship, and the 60-year-old Cornell, built to transport rail cars.
Families can tour the Urger, a 1901 tugboat that is also a bell boat, which means that the captain had to signal the engineer by bell to speed up or slow down. “They may let kids ring the bells,” Ms. Haggerty added. Tours will also be given of the 95-year-old Waterfront Museum and Showboat Barge, a railroad barge-cum-museum; the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, a 1969 reproduction of a traditional sailing vessel commissioned by Pete Seeger as an educational boat; and the Day Peckinpaugh, a 1921 cargo carrier built for the Erie Canal. The ships won’t be alone in rocking and rolling: the Mercantillers, a band, will play on the pier.
Sunday is the 17th Annual Tugboat Race and Competition, which starts at 9:30 a.m. with a parade of the competing boats. (Last year’s race is pictured above.) After the race more tug battles follow: nose-to-nose pushing challenges, timed line tosses (to be the fastest to tie the boat up at the pier) and contests like best mascot and best crew tattoo.
Children can practice for the nautical life with amateur knot tying, line tossing and a more unusual sailor skill. “Kids love our spinach-eating contest,” said Capt. John Doswell, executive director of the Working Harbor Committee of New York and New Jersey, which sponsors the day’s events. This year’s contest, he added, will even have a children’s division. (Hey, it worked for Popeye.) (Saturday, tours from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., with rides every half-hour from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., first come first served; nrhss.org; free. Sunday, 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., all events free except for those wishing to board a spectator boat for the tug race, $35; $30 for 65+ and children; workingharbor.org. At Pier 84, 44th Street and the Hudson River, Clinton.)
By LAUREL GRAEBER
The New York Times