Rocking the Boat

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youth development program

Wooden boatbuilding and water-based programs help underserved youth build the self-confidence and skills to finish high school, maintain healthy relationships, and create bright futures.


20 high-school-aged students work in a professional-grade wooden boatbuilding shop to build a full size traditional wooden boat from start to finish. Often without any previous woodworking experience, students study architectural drawings, create patterns, and build the entire backbone of the vessel before cutting and steaming planks and frames, painting, and then launching it into the Bronx River. About half of the fleet of boats are Whitehall rowing boats, but other designs include a range of traditional East Coast rowing and sailing boats from the past 300 years. Design decisions are influenced by the specific needs of the On-Water Program, with students from the two programs collaborating to arrive at the best boat.


24 high-school-aged students use the boats built in the Boatbuilding Program to learn a wide range of maritime skills—boat handling, traditional and modern navigation techniques, and sailing, as well as swimming—and implement real environmental restoration projects that are revitalizing the Bronx River.

The current slate of environmental projects, all conducted in conjunction with professional scientific partners, include:

Stormwater Capturing Rain Gardens
Rocking the Boat's first environmental project to have a direct benefit on its own property involves creating and maintaining two rain gardens in front of and behind the organization's new facility in Hunts Point in order to capture storm water from the 6,000 square foot roof and keep it out of the sewer system. The Bronx River Alliance serves as a project partner and has installed rain barrels to act as water collection and retention tanks.

Creel Survey/Fish Consumption Public Education
Students will record the frequency of anglers they see fishing in the Bronx River and interview them about their catches, and present findings to the Lehman College Laboratory for Marine and Estuarine Research.

Water Quality Monitoring
Performing tests for coliform, nitrates, dissolved oxygen, turbidity, salinity, pH, and temperature at both Hunts Point and Soundview sites in the Bronx River, Rocking the Boat assembles weekly reports of water quality data that can be used to identify point and non-point pollution sources. The Bronx River Alliance downloads this data along with data from other sites along the Bronx River collected by other groups and uses it to report to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and to provide to other partners.

Oyster Garden Monitoring and Oyster Reef Monitoring
Working with NY/NJ Baykeeper and the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation's Natural Resources Group, students will prepare two oyster habitats in the Bronx River, populating them with baby oysters and then monitoring their growth over time. Students will also regularly monitor the 50,000 piece oyster reef installed last fall in the Bronx River and assist with other projects as they arise.

a boat timeline in their words