Monday, July 20, 2009

Camping "jail" or going home?

This weekend was the City of Water Day event on Governor's Island. Kayakers had the option of camping out on the island overnight. This is a rare opportunity and I was excited about the experience. Had my tent, typical bad camping food, a propane stove all in my boat.

About 4 pm those not camping overnight headed out. I wandered back to my boat to grab my knitting and a book to take along in search of the perfect sunset viewing location on the waterfront. Many of us planned to head over to Water Taxi Beach, open til 2 am, for a few drinks & dancing later.

At 4:30, looking forward to a few hours of solitude and relaxation, officials, carrying clipboards and wearing headsets, came by informing us that campers had 'til 7 pm to carry their belongings to the other side of the island before lock up. What??? Most of us are middle aged professionals. What havoc did they imagine were were going to cause?

They explained camping was only allowed on a chainlink fence rimmed baseball field and we were to be locked in from 7 pm until 6:45 am. A security guard would be standing watch all night so that no one could escape. Only a medical emergency would get us released from the caged in baseball field/camp site. There would be 2 port-a-sans and a hose of non-drinking water on the field.

Sunset is at 8:30. That meant I couldn't even watch the sunset. I'd be sitting in my tent for over an hour already watching the skyline through the links of a fence. What would I do for 12 hours locked in a baseball field? Was this Guantanomo Bay North.

People debated leaving. There was still 90 minutes of flood current left, 15 minutes to decide. We ran around asking other Parks Department officials, all confirmed the lock down for campers at 7 pm.

I packed my boat, strapped my tent to the deck and headed out with only 2 others. Everyone else easily accepted a night of confinement. Caged in on a beautiful historic Island while revelers at Water Taxi Beach were free to come & go.

We were the only three boats leaving. A challenging paddle back with cross winds and large waves under blue skys and bright sun. But, a feeling of relief.

Robert was waiting at the boathouse as I pulled in an hour later. He drove me home.

I ask, what would you have done? Would you have allowed yourself to be locked behind a fence for a night or would you have paddled home to you own bed, where you can unlock the door, walk outside and watch the sunset unimpeded by links of steel?


  1. I'm with you; being locked in all night kind-of ruins the camping experience. Props for leaving. I'm thinking of kayaking to Governor's Island this summer - have you seen anyone do it in a more open "Ocean Kayak"? My sister has one I could borrow. Cool blog, -Alex

  2. Thanks for your comment. Turns out they did eventually release them later in the evening - but still why even start out with this?

    In any case, the kayak club I belong to is almost exclusively sit on top Ocean Kayaks. I'm one of the lone cockpit kayakers, so it is certainly doable!

    Don't know how far you are coming from, but we are in Long Island City, Queens. Just watch the tides/currents and have a Marine radio to talk with the other motor boaters or better yet, travel with a group.