Earlier today I received and email from Tom Blanchard, retired Empire State Development's Regional Office Director for Research and Planning. Tom had read my recent post on Creating More Waterfront Opportunities
and shared with me some of his thoughts regarding the questions/ideas that I posed. In his email he addressed the issue of bringing bigger passenger ships into the Inner Harbor, and also how to get more people out enjoying the water on a smaller scale. Rather than relegating people to stringent time schedules and destinations, there also needs to address flexibility concerns.
From Tom Blanchard:
I saw your piece on the visiting WWII Navy patrol boat and its ability to take people out on the water. Your point about the need for more access to the lake for the public is a good one. Driving the Excalibur
, I've been amazed at the number of people that have never seen, never mind been on, the Buffalo River or Lake Erie. Seeing Buffalo, especially at night from the lake is pretty dramatic. That's what the South Basin in the 2004 Master Plan
was there for (see image below). It provided a berth for the Miss Buffalo, The Cotter, The Spirit of Buffalo and one other similar size vessel in a very visible location with easy access for ticketing and boarding passengers.
The Spirit of Buffalo and Miss Buffalo are now almost hidden from the center of activity. The Spirit of Buffalo is in a hole in the mouth of the Commercial slip, away from her ticket booth and the Miss Buffalo is down the street. Yes, the basin would take away some of the people space for concerts, but it would have added a dimension of continuous activity when there are no special events or concerts going on.
There were some who argued to the ECHDC that the South Basin is not historically authentic. The Prime Slip, which was privately built and then filled in at about the same location, was intended for berthing more vessels in proximity to factory buildings. Different dimensions, same economic uses.
In your article you also raised the question of whether there are former military vessels available for passenger use. The answer is "Yes". The US Navy surpluses 40 foot motor launch hulls all the time. They can be bought from dealers that buy surplus goods in quantity (see photo). They're call "liberty launches" or liberty boats and were used to take crew ashore for liberty when their ships are at anchor in foreign ports (see Liberty Hound restaurant). They are heavily built fiberglass, diesel powered and can be converted to passenger use to meet US Coast Guard stability rules for passenger vessels. They can be modified and licensed to carry about 20 including a crew of two. I think there is one of these, or the covered Captain's version, on the Little Rock right now. There are tons of those Coast Guard passenger licensed boats around that could be converted for passenger use. The more boats like that, the more awareness of the lake and the river.