Possible Sites for a Sailboat Facility near Pittsburgh's Point

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John D. Norton

And for those who want to ask: why do we sail?

Why have a Sailboat Facility near Pittsburgh's Point?

The Concept

The goal is to set up a modest sailing facility as close as possible to the point. The facility would allow for storage of about a dozen small sailboats that could be launched quickly into the rivers and be sailing around the point. Small sailboats of 13 foot length are small enough to be rigged and launched by one or two people without the need for a trailer hauled by a car or truck. They are large enough to carry a crew of two comfortably, so they can be used both for instruction and social events.

Minimum Needs

Overview of Possible Sites

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The sailing times listed presume a prevailing westerly wind of 10-15 mph and are for sailing West against the wind. These are optimal conditions for sailing. With less wind, sailing times will be correspondingly lengthened.

Existing Boat Launches

(Existing) Birmingham Bridge Boat Launch

The sole, existing public access boat ramp close enough for sailboats to reach the point is on the South Side near the Birmingham Bridge. The overall facility is considerably larger than a small sailboat program would require. It is sized for powerboats to be launched from trailers. It has considerable parking and enough space for cars or trucks towing boats to maneuver their trailers and launch. The upper level parking lot is sufficiently large for it to be possible to locate a boat storage shed there without very little impact the facility. There are portable lavatories.

Advantages: There is plenty of space in which to erect a storage shed and the possibility of launching larger sailboats from trailers. Disadvantages: One hour sailing time to the point under optimal conditions is a serious obstacle. This part of the Mon River is narrow and with reduced wind due to shelter by a high cliff on the northern shore. The launch is also used by powerboats. Sailboats can be slower to launch, so there may be some traffic jams triggered by many sailboats seeking to launch at once.

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(Existing) Smithfield Street Bridge Launch

This existing launch is located on the Mon Wharf. The site is presently used for parking and is largely unused during the weekend. There is ample space for boat storage under shelter.

Advantages: The launch is located close to the point and is immediately opposite the boat docks at Station Square. Disadvantages: Will a sailboat facility conflict with the park planned for the site? Or will it be an added asset?


Possible Boat Launches

(Possible) West End Bridge Launch

The site is a passage that passes under the rail lines on the south side of the Ohio River to provide street access to the river. The proposal is that this access point be converted for sailboat launching.

Advantages: The underpass provides a natural location for boat storage. A few simple wire cages would be all that is needed. The site is also very close to the point and in a part of the river that is wide and open. That means sailboats have the best winds and more flexibility there to avoid barges and otherwise maneuver. Disadvantages. The site is presently used as means of accessing barges on the river. Boats would need to have their masts stepped and be rigged on the river side of the underpass; a boat with its mast stepped is too tall to fit under the underpass. There is very little space on the river side of the underpass for mast stepping.

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(Possible) Seventh and Ninth Street Bridge Launches

Kayak Pittsburgh has a kayak launch site underneath the Sixth Street Bridge on its northern shore. The facility includes a locked wire cage for kayak storage underneath the bridge and a ramp into the water under the bridge.

Kayak Pittsburgh at the Sixth Street Bridge

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The Seventh and Ninth Street Bridges provide similar sites, either of which could easily be adapted as a sailboat facility. In both cases, there is a covered area under the bridge where wire cage storage could be installed. There is open space alongside and under the bridge where sailboats could be rigged and their masts stepped. Each would need a ramp to be constructed. However the construction would not be difficult; it would be comparable to the ramp constructed for launching kayaks at the Sixth Street site.

Advantages: The site is relatively close to the point and in an area that would already be a natural destination for sailors. The rigging and launching of sailboats in this parklike area would lend a sporty, family air. The similarity of sailing and kayaking would reinforce this section of the river as a destination for water sports. Disadvantages. These are very public locations and not all stakeholders make like the idea of sailing facility here.

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The Seventh Street Bridge Site

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The Ninth Street Bridge Site

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(Possible) River Avenue Boat Launch

The site is on the Northside River trail approximately 1.75 miles upstream from the point. There is direct road access from River Ave. across the trail to a ramp into the Allegheny River. The site is presently used industrially by barges.

Advantages. The site has ample parking and space for construction of a storage shed. The present industrial use is an eyesore in the middle of the otherwise parklike trail, which is used heavily for recreation. Disadvantages. The present use may preclude establishment of a sailboat facility. Time to sail to the point is quite long, even under optimal conditions (48 min), which makes the site much less desirable than others closer to the point.

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