Adverse weather halts Inaugural Ambrose Crossing Challenge

Published on April 1st, 2015

Atlantic Highlands, NJ (April 1, 2015) – The first annual Ambrose Crossing Challenge, a sister event to the Everglades Challenge in Florida, started on Saturday, March 21st (the first day full day of Spring) off the beach in the Breezy Point section of Brooklyn.

There was no official headcount but approximately 375 boats of various sizes – kayaks, canoes, stand-up paddleboards (SUPs), windsurfers, catamarans, kiteboards and other small boats with more than 500 people – took on the 4.7 nm course crossing the Ambrose Channel to the tip of Sandy Hook in Gateway National Park in New Jersey.

This is the first event of its kind to be attempted in the New York Bight, a busy shipping area of the coastal Atlantic Ocean. Most of the adventurous participants never finished the crossing.

About 5 minutes after the start, a freak early-spring snowstorm squall arrived with NW winds gusting to 35 knots. The windsurfers, catamarans, and kiteboards easily made the passage in about 15 minutes. However, hundreds of other small boats, including several dozen SUP’s, were blown offshore.

All available boats were summoned to pick up people in the water. TowBoat, BoatUS, fishing boats, harbor pilot boats and other vessels saved everybody, including 72 people who had managed to hang onto the Ambrose Light and Scotland Light buoys. Needless to say, the event was terminated.

There were numerous capsizings that put many people in the 40 degree water and at risk of advanced hypothermia. The weather continued to deteriorate with 4-foot seas and solid 20+ knot winds. Miraculously, not one life was lost and the worst injuries were due to bluefish biting people in the water.

“Our top concern is safety,” said Commanding Officer King Webb, head of SAR at Station Sandy Hook. “With bad weather, no manifest and no safety spotters, we must prohibit this event from ever being held in March again.”

Former Chief Officer Mark O’Brien, an SAR expert, questions the intelligence of tri-state boaters. “I understand that people have had a rough winter, and they are anxious to get on the water on the first day of spring. But they just have to be smart about it. Most of these people should have been in drysuits. That water is still very cold.”

The event organizer pledged to move the event to a more favorable time of year. “Rather than the Spring Equinox, maybe we’ll do the Winter Solstice,” said Jed Trainor, a SUP yoga instructor from Brooklyn who organized the event, explaining that the last day of fall (December 21st) would be much better for the next attempt.

He is also considering a requirement that entrants carry safety gear and wear a PFD, and he is scouting around for corporate sponsors so he can afford to have a safety boat follow the fleet.


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