How to take a free boat tour of New York Harbor all summer
Now this is interactive public art: A fireboat has been turned into the dazzle ship Flow Separation, offering free boat tours of New York Harbor all summer.
Taking a boat tour of New York Harbor is a rite of passage for many tourists, but Summer 2018 brings a new ship to the city that’s cool enough for even New Yorkers to take a ride. And this boat tour of New York Harbor is also totally free.
The historic Fireboat John J. Harvey has retired from its service with the Fire Department of New York and taken up a new gig as an interactive public art piece called Flow Separation created by Tauba Auerbach. The artist hand-painted the ship in World War I-era dazzle camouflage, which was created to help them blend in with the water and confuse enemy submarines.
“With Flow Separation, I didn't want to ignore the John J. Harvey's identity, so I took the boat's usual paint job and scrambled it,” Auerbach says in her artist statement. “The palette also exaggerates the fact that ‘dazzle’ was more about confusing and outsmarting, than about hiding. I like those instances where cleverness is an antidote to brute force."
Named for the way water spreads apart then comes back together as a vessel moves through it, Flow Separation was co-commissioned by the Public Art Fund and 14-18 NOW, as well as a Kickstarter campaign. The boat offers free onboard tours during weekends, as well as free tours of New York Harbor in August with advance reservations.
You can visit Flow Separation at Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 6 (through Aug. 12), Hudson River Park’s Pier 25 (Aug. 13-Oct. 7) and Hudson River Park’s Pier 66a (Oct. 7, 2018-May 12, 2019). Everyone is invited to explore the boat while it’s docked during weekend visiting hours, which are noon-4 p.m. on Saturdays and 3-7 p.m. on Sundays. There’s no charge to board the boat.
If you want to experience Flow Separation in action, catch one of its free boat tours of New York Harbor taking place most weekends through Oct. 7. The trips set out on Saturdays from 4:30-5:30 p.m. and 6-7 p.m. and Sundays from noon-1 p.m. and 1:30-2:30 p.m. Each tour can accommodate 75 passengers and lasts between 45 and 60 minutes, and returns to the same dock. Besides the sights of Lower Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty, the ship’s 1930s firefighting hosepipes will occasionally turn the boat into a moving fountain.
Ticketholders must arrive at least five minutes before the departure time, when any remaining spots will be released to a standby line. Reservations will open on the following Tuesdays at noon through publicartfund.org:
July 31: Reserve tickets for trips on Aug. 4, 5, 11, 12
Aug. 7: Reserve tickets for trips on Aug. 18, 19
Sept. 4: Reserve tickets for trips on Sept. 15, 16
Sept. 11: Reserve tickets for trips on Sept. 22, 23
Sept. 18: Reserve tickets for trips on Sept. 29, 30 & Oct. 7
Flow Separation isn’t even the Public Art Fund’s only moveable, interactive piece of art for Summer 2018. Catch the Hot Dog Bus, a Volkswagen Microbus that artist Erwin Wurm has turned into an “overstuffed food truck,” in Brooklyn Bridge Park. The bus doles out free hot dogs (with a side of consumerist commentary) to visitors through Aug. 26 at Pier 1 on Saturdays and Pier 5 on Sundays.