Back in the spring of 2011, using a $250,000 grant and another $76,000 from the fund balance, the City of Hudson doubled the length of the dock where the Spirit of Hudson is moored and installed floating docks in the old ferry slips to accommodate 20 to 25 kayaks or other small boats. With the longer dock, it was hoped by some, that Hudson could become a port of call for small cruise ships, but so far the only vessel to share the dock with the Spirit of Hudson, with any regularity, has been the Tahiti Queen, a tour boat that lost its dock space in Peekskill and now has some undefined connection with Guy Falkenheimer, Hudson's dock master, and his company, Hudson River Cruises, Inc.
For the first two summers, the rows of floating docks in the old ferry slips seemed not to be getting the anticipated use, so this summer, it was charming to see the Mariana, a small Danish sailboat known as a smakkejolle, tied up in the slip alongside "Rick's Point." The boat belonged to Kim Arenskjold, who had shipped it here from Denmark last summer.
The signs on the gates to the docks indicate that leaving boats overnight is prohibited, but Arenskjold was emboldened to leave the Mariana there because he'd been advised that there was nothing in the city code to back up that prohibition. Previously, Arenskjold and representatives of the Hudson Sloop Club had spoken with Common Council president Don Moore and First Ward alderman David Marston about making the slip on the south side of "Rick's Point" available for use by the Hudson Sloop Club. Although it is reported that both men were amenable to the idea, no action has been taken to authorize that.
So, whether or not its presence was sanctioned, the Mariana continued to grace riverfront park . . . until last week. On Sunday, July 14, Moore reportedly visited the Arenskjolds' shop to tell Arenskjold that the sailboat's presence in riverfront park had been the subject of a recent "staff meeting." As the conversation was reported to Gossips, Moore said that a couple of aldermen--it was not disclosed which ones--had "raised the issue," but Moore reiterated that keeping the Mariana moored in riverfront park was all right with him, since the docks weren't being used anyway. The message Moore intended to deliver may not have been the message received, since Arenskjold assumed, based on the conversation, that it was still OK to leave the boat in riverfront park.
On Wednesday, July 17, Falkenheimer, the dock master, left a message on the answering machine at the Arenskjolds' shop saying that the boat had to be moved by 2 p.m. that afternoon or it would be impounded. Because the shop was closed on Wednesday, the message wasn't heard until Thursday, and when it was, Arenskjold rushed down to the river, fearing the boat would be gone. Fortunately, it was still there. Falkenheimer was at the waterfront when Arenskjold was taking his boat out of the water, and he was reported to have been "very nice." He told Arenskjold that he had no problem at all with the boat being there, but he had been asked by DPW superintendent Rob Perry "to get the boat out of there" because there had been a lot of complaints.
When Gossips asked Perry about the incident, he said that Falkenheimer was asked "to have a discussion with the owner" of the boat that was "continuously docked" in the ferry slip. He didn't indicate who had made this request but implied that it wasn't he when he stated: "DPW's responsibility for the docks is to put them in the water and take them out." Perry went on to say: "I would expect the Council will address the specific rules of the docks, as well as the authority of the dock master, when they review the language of the current lease agreement."
Wouldn't it be grand if city government could help facilitate rebuilding our connections with the river? The original reason for the floating docks in the ferry slips was to accommodate people who came to Hudson in small boats. They could tie up, come ashore, spend some time in the city, and leave again. Since it doesn't seem that the docks are being used much in that way, perhaps it is time to consider how Hudson residents want to use them and find ways to accommodate those desires as well as the needs of visitors. Sailing on the river in small boats is a time-honored tradition. The City should do what it can to encourage its revival.
Historic photograph courtesy Historic Hudson