As Pirates roll on, their fans are rollin' on Pittsburgh's Riverwalk


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Outside the Pirates game at PNC Park on Friday night, it was high time to blow the boat horn.

That's when Pirates infielder Garrett Jones stepped to the plate with two out in the first inning and the bases loaded and hit a two-run double down the right field line, beginning the night's total domination of the St. Louis Cardinals and forging a first-place tie.

The fans packed into PNC roared their delight, and down at the Riverwalk, Ken Colwes ran up the steps of his boat, named "Instead of ... Children," past the Pirates flag flapping in the breeze off the Allegheny River, and across the top deck to lean on the horn.

It thundered out over the river -- HONK -- and Mr. Colwes shouted, "Now that's what I'm talking about!" before sliding back down the ladder to reclaim his chair and his beverage.

This year, the Pirates are going all the way, said he and his friends.

"Ain't no disbelievin' on this boat, partner," he said, as the crowd inside the stadium continued cheering over the blaring rock music punctuating the public address announcer.

As much fun as fans were having inside PNC Park on Friday night, the folks enjoying the game from the Riverwalk were experiencing a whole different level of relaxed, with the setting sun lighting the clouds over Mount Washington, the scent of Rib Fest barbecue wafting upstream from Heinz Field and the river gently rocking the boats beneath them.

"It's almost like being on vacation," said Mr. Colwes, a 54-year-old medical company manager from Ross who was waiting for his wife, Karen, to escape her office in Moon and join him and their friends on their boat.

"Every weekend," laughed one of those friends, salesman Jeff Martin of Rosslyn Farms.

Like many boat owners who had settled in for the evening, the friends -- approximately 60 of them, although not usually all at once -- gather along the riverbanks, sometimes tied up five or six deep, for all kinds of events, from Steelers and Pitt games to just hanging out in the sunshine, they said.

That's just what Brenda and Craig Oaks of Cranberry were doing as they sat next to their boat, "Always Wine'n," as a sort of unofficial welcoming committee for people who were visiting from out of town. They had come up the Ohio from the Beaver River through two locks to get to the Riverwalk on Thursday and find a good spot to tie up.

Besides cheering the Pirates, the Oakses said they had big plans for the weekend, including sampling Rib Fest, taking in Sky Blast featuring Zambelli Fireworks and Third Eye Blind in concert on Saturday night, and enjoying the people-watching and conversation along the Riverwalk.

Mr. Oaks even got some work done -- waxing and polishing the boat, of course.

"It doesn't seem like work when you wax a little, then relax a little, wax a little, then relax a little," Mr. Oaks, a 47-year-old regional sales manager, said with a grin.

Nearby, 30-year-old Jonathan McMasters, from outside Indiana, Pa., had brought his boat down from Sharpsburg just to enjoy the party atmosphere outside the Pirates game and see the fireworks.

"This is the best way to enjoy the city," said Mr. McMasters, a pipe welder for a petroleum products business in Coraopolis. "To me, it's destination boating -- anywhere you want to go, you can go."

And unlike on many of the city's streets, highways and parking lots, it's usually easy to get there on the rivers, said 65-year-old Carol Srokose, who was enjoying her boat, "Group Therapy" with her husband, John, 68, and several of their neighbors from Palo Alto Street in the Mexican War Streets, North Side. Their boat is docked near the West End Bridge, she said, making it easy for her and her husband to travel around Pittsburgh, then dock and head off to enjoy their season tickets to Pirates and Pitt games and other events.

"We don't worry about parking, we don't worry about rushes," Mrs. Srokose said. "And it's a pretty view of the city at night."

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Amy McConnell Schaarsmith: aschaarsmith@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1719.


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