Community can be hard to find, and amid a pandemic it can be nearly impossible. I moved to Hoboken in October of 2020 without a social circle in place. I arrived to the area at the tail end of outdoor events season, just in time for winter weather to set in, which meant buckling down until spring to create a community of my own. But once the iconic white trees of Hoboken began to show themselves I knew it was time I did the same.
I combed through the Hoboken Business Alliance directory in search of local businesses I could connect with (to note, the directory is significantly outdated as many businesses have either closed or moved during COVID). That’s when I discovered the Hoboken Cove Community Boathouse (@HoboCoBo), located on Frank Sinatra Drive and Maxwell Place. I learned that the boathouse is a 501(c)(3) organization run entirely by volunteers. Which means, the activities— kayak and stand up paddle board— are completely free. Without hesitation, I reached out to become a volunteer. In the 10 days since, I’ve already joined the Meetup group three times.
Since it began 17 years ago, the Hoboken Community Cove Boathouse’s mission is to provide free access to the local waterways through open programs to the public. Over the years, it’s grown from a handful of annual kayak days to an average of 6,000 paddlers year-round. Upon signing a waiver, visitors (and their pets) can confidently paddle in the protected cove either solo (must be 16 years or older) or in a double kayak. Volunteers are on-site to greet, assist with equipment, and provide any help in the water. There is a courtesy time limit to 20 minutes when lines form, but on quiet days guests can enjoy the water for as long as they’d like. In addition to cove paddles there are public trips, those lasting several hours and go all around the area, which are held several times a month to those 18 and over and with proper training.
Oscar Hernandez is a Hoboken Community Boathouse board member, ACA Coastal Guide, and one of the volunteer group leaders. “While walking on the waterfront I saw the boathouse,” he recalled from when he first moved to Hoboken 11 years ago. “I remember looking at the beach. It was always empty and had a lot of scary signs.”
The beach, and the Hoboken Boathouse, have come a long way since thanks to community support. Building maintenance and utilities are covered by the City of Hoboken but donations are what keeps the boathouse afloat— public donations cover the insurance and all equipment is donated by volunteers or other boathouses in the region, including a Ke Aloha Outrigger canoe.
Ke Aloha, Hawaiian for ‘love is all around,’ is part of the Polynesian culture that is anchored into the Hoboken Boathouse. The outrigger, donated in 2016, is “considered to be a living entity” that is cared for the same as a family member would be.
“Kindness, teamwork, support for one another, and appreciation of life became a really important part of everything we do,” Oscar explained of the diverse group of aquaphiles. “I know couples that met while volunteering and now are married. Many volunteers now bike, ski, and take go on trips together to paddle in different places…We have an amazing family.”
It’s easy to get swept away by the sense of community the Hoboken Boathouse provides, and one I’m grateful to have discovered.