The one and only time I took a Ride the Ducks boat was to oblige friends who wanted to take the land/water tour while visiting Philly.
The July 7, 2010 accident off Penn’s Landing that killed two Hungarian students prompted my decision. A completely random, highly informal and thoroughly unscientific survey of Philadelphians shows I’m not the only one who feels this way.
No matter how many new safety measures the company employs, you couldn’t pay me enough to ride a Duck Boat when they return to The Delaware River.
That’s because a month before the fatal accident, I was on a nerve-wracking Ride the Ducks trip but managed to keep my cool in order not to look like a wuss.
At the boat ramp on Columbus Blvd., I took a deep breath and hoped for the best as we splashed down into the murky waters of The Delaware River near The Ben Franklin Bridge. Suddenly, the World War II-style amphibious vessel felt about as safe as a tin can as it sputtered its way into the shipping lanes.
We took a right turn and headed south, passing the waterfront condo that the captain said Will Smith had bought for his dad. We continued toward the spot, unbeknown at the time, that was the scene of the accident off Penn’s Landing.
(A recent federal report found that a tugboat pilot pushed a barge over the top of the Duck Boat which had properly dropped anchor while awaiting assistance after becoming disabled.)
As my boat turned around at Penn’s Landing and headed back up The Delaware to the bridge, the captain told us we would float for a few minutes before returning to land. During that time, several pleasure craft zoomed by, purposely causing waves that made the Duck Boat rock and roll. I was beyond relieved to get back onshore.
When I heard about the fatal accident, I immediately flashed back to feeling like a sitting duck (no pun intended) next to The Ben Franklin Bridge. I imagined the horror those passengers experienced as that hulking barge approached and didn’t stop.
For several days after the accident, I wore the yellow Wacky Quacker duck call noisemaker as a way of remembering the young Hungarians who died and honoring the ones who survived the nightmare.
Overall, Ride the Ducks is not a terrible company. I might have taken another boatride if the proposal had been approved to change the route to The Schuylkill River.
Wait, who am I kidding?