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This summer I finally bought a handheld marine radio (Standard Horizon 851x, if you’re interested). After years of paddling without my own radio, I finally dropped the money to get one, in part because I paddle more often near the big vessels in the harbor.

As it happened, we were coming back from a short trip across the river and decided to wait for a southbound barge to pass us by. While we waited, I overheard that vessel and another talking on the radio – I paraphrase below:

Vessel 1: This is [vessel 1] coming round the Battery to the North River.

Vessel 2: Hey there vessel 1, this is [vessel 2] southbound on North River. Want to do one or two?

Vessel 1: 1 is fine.

Vessel 2: OK. Hey, there’s some kayakers here, about 4 by the Holland Tunnel.

Vessel 1: I don’t see them.

Vessel 2: They’re behind me now.

Vessel 1: OK, I see ’em.

So, a little translation first: The Hudson River is referred to as the North River, and “one or two” is code for 1 or two toots of the horn, which are the more traditional way of signaling passing port to port (1 toot) or starboard to starboard (2 toots), on which side a vessel will overtake the other on.

I decided to let them know our intentions, first talking to Vessel 2, then Vessel 1, but neither responded.

As it happens, I was able to look up Vessel 2’s owner and email them, and I got a reply from one of the crew. He hadn’t heard me hailing them, but had heard me attempting to hail the other vessel. He gave me a nice pat on the head for being a polite kayaker and suggested a way to signal intentions better (one that I knew, but which we were not using). And that was that.

Put another way: I emailed a harbor vessel after trying to talk to her on the water.

Published in 2013 Backpaddle Kit Leadership New York NYC NYKC

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