Boating Pittsburgh

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I spent last weekend out in Pittsburgh for my brother’s law school graduation, and while I’m super excited and proud for him (although, truth be told, a lawyer in the family probably would have been helpful during my undergrad years), part of me is bummed. When he’s done with the bar this July, he’ll be most likely moving back on east, and I’ve grown very fond of my visits to Pittsburgh. It seems that each time I go, I find something new and impressive, and there’s still a lot of the city left for me to explore. That being said, I think it’s fitting that our weekend activity was boating the three rivers, something I feel like he’s been talking about wanting to do ever since moving to Pittsburgh three years ago.

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For the geographically challenged amongst us, Pittsburgh’s downtown is surrounded by two rivers, the Allegheny and the Monongahela, which converge at what’s known as “the Point” to become the Ohio. One Saturday afternoon during Shawn’s first summer there, we rented kayaks from Kayak Pittsburgh, and took them out on the three rivers for a paddle. It was an awesome way to see the city, and what surprised me was the sheer number of people out on the river, not just on kayaks, but on all manner of watercraft; big old fashioned paddle wheelers, small motor boats, speedboats, party yachts, cabin cruisers, houseboats, and jetskis hung around the point, giving the area a very coastal feel. There’s enough major cities with rivers cutting through them, but I’ve never seen it celebrated as much as it is in Pittsburgh.  I remember Shawn saying then that it was his goal to make friends with someone with a boat.

"The Point"
“The Point”

Anyhow, fast forward to this weekend. Despite getting that Juris Doctor, Shawn never did make that boat owning friend. Luckily, we live in a beautiful country where we can rent things we weren’t able to curate ourselves, so decided that we’d do just that to celebrate graduation. The thing is, that despite the number of boats you’ll see out on a nice day, finding an actual rental in Pittsburgh is rather difficult. At first I thought it might just be me, but it turns out that the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has actually documented this boat rental shortage before.

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Initially, we were going to rent a pontoon boat, which you’d be able to drive yourself. While this might not be the best idea for the average joe, our father used to have his own boat, so would’ve felt comfortable playing captain (understatement of the year: he would’ve LOVED IT). They were already booked though. I drove to Pittsburgh Friday morning under the assumption that we were going to be rafting in Ohiopyle instead (which I would have been perfectly fine with), so I was pleasantly surprised when grabbing a pre-graduation drink at the Peter’s Pub, to hear that Shawn had found a charter cruise that would take us barhopping along the river for a couple of hours.

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At dinner the night before, we joked about what kind of boat “Captain Bob”, as the gentlemen my dad talked to on the telephone called himself, might commandeer. None of us had visited the website, so best case scenario we got a nice, big boat with plenty of room to move about and a knowledgeable local captain. Worst case scenario: we were all crunched on a speedboat listening to a washed up parrot head regale us with his glory days. I didn’t have super high hopes when I woke up Saturday morning, but that might have more to do with the fact that we’d spent Friday night at some bar with a special on milk stout that I take way too big advantage of. As it turns out, we needn’t have been worried: Rush Hour Boat Charters was a great choice. The boat was big, spacious, and had an awesome cabin, which happened to be perfectly suited for a quick cat nap. Additionally, Captain Bob ended up being a super nice, laid back guy who was very professional, and very knowledgeable about the Pittsburgh waterfront.

A view of the Duquesne Incline from the water.
A view of the Duquesne Incline from the water.

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The old Heinz plant.
The old Heinz plant.
Washington's Landing.
Washington’s Landing.

If you’re ever interested in taking a charter, it’s $95 dollars an hour on the weekends ($85 on weekdays). Six passengers are allowed on board, and you could bring on all the snacks and refreshments you desire-the boat even has a iPod hookup, which none of us had properly thought through (Not listening to “I’m On a Boat” while on a boat is a big fail-Prestige Worldwide would be very disappointed).

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We sailed up the Allegheny to the Redfin Blues waterfront restaurant and bar for a drink, although we decided afterwards that we would have been perfectly content just staying on the boat and relaxing all afternoon. There’s two bars on the Allegheny one could dock at, that and one at Washington’s Landing. Station Square has several bars you could dock at, but they were currently under construction, and Captain Bob told us that rumor is Hofbrauhaus is opening a mooring area, which would essentially be my dream come true. I’d actually love to come back to Pittsburgh at some point this summer, and rent the boat again the night of a concert.

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Taking a quick cat nap.
Taking a quick cat nap.

While we simply did a leisure cruise up the river, hanging out and catching some rays on the bow (or a pretty nasty Irish tan in my case), Bob told us he does narrate Pittsburgh factoids if you’d like, and while he didn’t give us the formal narration, he did point out and give us tidbits about manner of the waterside buildings, which I always find interesting. Pittsburgh is a small city, so once we got upriver far enough, it did get very peaceful. My favorite part, though, was at the very end, when we cruised around all the activity on the point.

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Rush Hour Boat Charters will now always be my first recommendation for boating in Pittsburgh, but if you’re looking for some other options, here we go:

Pittsburgh Water Limo has two yachts available for private rentals, and also does some public rides (their wine and microbrews cruise caught my  eye for some reason).

The Gateway Clipper is a larger boat in the same vein, that does sightseeing cruises, and hosts a multitude of themed dinners, nights, and brunches.

Boat Pittsburgh is what we almost did-a fleet of pontoons for rent.

I wasn’t going to include the dreaded duckboats, as my frequent trips to Philadelphia have convinced me that they are a menace to society, BUT Captain Bob is also runs duckboat tours, and he’s already shown me he could take me out on the river in a non-life threatening manner.

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If you want to exercise on the river, check out Kayak Pittsburgh or my recent post on SUP in PA-with lots of Pittsburgh options.

1 comments on “Boating Pittsburgh”

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