Last weekend the Erie Basin Marina received a surprise visit from a PT-728 ThomCat WWII US Navy motor torpedo boat. The fully restored PT Boat was on its way to Liberty Aviation Museum in Port Clinton, Ohio. What is so special about this boat is that it is the only operation boat of its kind that's open to the public for water voyage tours. That means that for a small price visitors can climb aboard and head out onto the open lake. If you think about it, there are very few opportunities to do something similar in Buffalo. We have a Naval Museum that has stationary military ships for tours, which is neat, but wouldn't it be great to get more people out on the water?
Granted, we are seeing more opportunities to interact with the water these days thanks to initiatives like the Spirit of Buffalo, Moon Dance, Queen City Ferry, sailing schools, Miss Buffalo, etc. There needs to be more though. Just the other day someone told me about a great concept called a Boat Share. Buffalo has a Car Share and a Bike Share is on the way... but I digress.
With all of the military boats to tour, why can't we get a smaller one that would take people out on the water? There must be tons of surplus military boats, right? Kids would love this sort of thing... actually anyone would love this sort of thing. Just think if The Cotter fireboat was dedicated to giving rides all the time. As it stands, The Cotter is still in operation, so that wouldn't work. Boat rides would be a great way to raise money when the fireboat is not out fighting fires or participating in events.
It seems to me that our Military and Naval Park would be the perfect group to make this sort of interactive aquatic experience happen. I think that it would also behoove the Naval Museum to allow all visitors to Canalside to climb aboard the stern of the USS Little Rock, which does host occasional parties. Can you imagine if people were allowed to sit out on the deck and eat and drink? It would be one of the best patio dining experiences around. The added access would not prevent boat tours from being performed - in fact I bet that it would help to drive tours of the missile cruiser. The open deck is not that interesting to tourists unless it's got a cafe component. The rest of the ship is what people really want to see.
We have some ready-to-activate assets that are not being used to their full potential, while at the same time we need to be forward thinking regarding what would draw more people out onto the water (such as an operational PT Boat).
Many times there are opportunities staring us right in the face and we don't even realize it - think Canalside's restaurant Liberty Hound - how long did it take us to figure that one out... it was dead space sitting inside the Naval Museum!