Construction to replace the Tappan Zee Bridge that spans the Hudson River and connects Westchester and Rockland Counties in lower New York State has been ongoing since late 2013. The site is an amazing collection of cranes, barges and partially constructed sections of the bridge. This situation makes the location a very dangerous place to operate a boat.
Since July 2013 there have been three serious boating accidents.
July 2013: A recreational powerboat hit an anchored work barge at night. The operators of the recreational powerboat were out celebrating the pending nuptials of two people within the party. the bride-to-be and one other person were killed and four people were seriously wounded in the incident. Alcohol was involved and the operator of the powerboat was sentenced to two years in prison.
March 2016: The tug boat "Specialist" struck a construction barge moored beneath the bridge and sunk into the river. All three crew members were killed in the incident.
June 2016: The tug boat "Potomac" operating for Tappan Zee Constructors, the company building the bridge, collided with a construction related cable and partially sank with no loss of life.
The fact that two of the incidents were professionally operated commercial vessels related to the project, further demonstrates the need for recreational boaters to recognize and understand the risks associated with operating at this location in the river. These accidents can happen anyone, even those with years of experience at the site.
So how best to navigate the area if you need to traverse the Tappan Zee space of the Hudson?
First: Communicate with the professionals working the river by using VHF Channel 19.
That is the channel the Tappan Zee Construction Tugs are Operating on.
Request clear passage through the area.
Be sure to relay your intended route through the area so as to make all operators aware of your presence in the area.
Ask about any submerged obstructions in your area and ask if there are any incidents or scheduled movements from the construction crew that you should be aware of.
Your respect for their safety and yours will be well received.
Also, be sure to monitor normal navigation safety channels
13: For Bridge to Bridge Communication
16: Standard Distress Calling Channel
It may be handy to have an additional Handheld VHF on board to make sure you are able to progress through the area without incident.
Second: Be Alert. If you are not single-handed, post as many watch positions as possible to visually ensure that you are not operating in an area of the river with construction debris that can damage your engine or hull.
Third: Monitor the situation both visually from the deck of your vessel and if possible use an AIS collision avoidance system integrated with your chartplotter so you can keep tabs on all vessels in your area. Additionally AIS gives you the ability to know the names of each vessel so your conversations can be on a 1 to 1 basis, thus providing a higher chance of safely navigating through this busy and congested waterway.
By proceeding through the area with respect, and common sense you'll avoid any embarrassments and headaches as well as some money, and perhaps even a life.