Boat-gaters see Steelers Sundays as floating party
Fans Laura Sendacook of South Park and "Goob" Jenkins of West View dance to the music from a disc jockey aboard one of the "Steelers' Navy" boats outside Heinz Field.
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Jeff and Julie Moore traveled five hours, by boat, to celebrate her 39th birthday yesterday at a Steelers game. They never made it into Heinz Field, though, choosing instead to sell their 35-yardline tickets and to party on and around the boats docked outside the football stadium.
The Moores traveled down the Allegheny River with six boats that are regularly docked at the Rosston Eddy Marina in Ford City, Armstrong County. The boats, including a 47-foot houseboat, arrived near the Point on Thursday. The boaters wanted to make sure they got the best docking slots, along the river walk right outside Heinz Field.
The Rosston Eddy Marina group wasn't alone. On game day more than 100 boats were docked near the stadium or anchored out in the middle of Pittsburgh's three rivers. Many of the boaters had arrived Thursday and had been living and sleeping on the boats. Some had tickets and attended the game. Most did not have tickets and were not looking to buy any.
The boat people party on the boats and they party on the river walk in front of the stadium. They party in a way that is reminiscent of the tailgating parties that go on around cars and trucks in the nearby parking lots. Some jokingly call it "boat-gating."
"It's 40.4 miles from Ford City to Pittsburgh and we have to go through five locks, so that takes five hours," said Lauren Chorney, co-owner of the Rosston Eddy Marina. "But that's river time" and it's much more enjoyable than sitting in road traffic and then dealing with Pittsburgh parking, she said.
"Our group has been doing this for the past three or four years," said Gary Cagle of Ford City. His wife, Patty, baked the birthday cake for Mrs. Moore -- a dark chocolate with gold icing.
The other boat-gaters pitched in, pot-luck style, with pulled pork sandwiches and other crock-pot fare. They pooled their appetizers and entrees on a long table under a tent erected near their boats.
"We decided to stay with our marina friends," said Julie Moore, who was not disappointed about missing the Steelers game. "I've been boating all my life, and even before that. My mother started boating when she was pregnant with me."
"When you hear the roar of the crowd there is a two-second delay and then you can get to a television," said Jeff Moore. Under the marina group's tent was a small television hooked up to a satellite signal. Some boats also had televisions and were generous about sharing them with groups that did not.
Not far from the Ford City group, Frank Auffenberg of Upper St. Clair and his sister-in-law, Katie Auffenberg of O'Hara, hosted a party for 60 guests on their 67-foot Pluckebaum yacht. Food was traditional tailgate fare, including nachos and kielbasa.
Though the big boat had just about everything, including a bar, two bedrooms, multiple bathrooms, a living room, kitchen and upper decks, it did not have a working television.
"We can't get a satellite signal, but that's OK," Mr. Auffenberg said with a shrug. His guests mixed and mingled with other party groups, including one across the way under a black and gold tent where people gathered to watch a small television.
Frank Foster of Brookline and three friends boated over to the stadium at 10 a.m. yesterday and could not find a spot to dock or tie up. So they motored their 24-food Cuddy Cabin across the Allegheny River and tied up along the river walk next to Point State Park.
They were near George and Bridget Humphreys of McKeesport, who have docked in the same place on Steeler Sundays for nearly 10 years.
"We can hear the roar of the crowd from the stadium and follow the game on our radio," Mr. Humphreys said. "If we want something to eat we have it right here and we don't have to wait in line. We have friends over there in the boats and they text us to come over, but we stay right here."
The Humphreys left McKeesport yesterday morning. Their 29-foot power quest boat traveled from the Youghiogheny River down the Monongahela to the Point in about 30 minutes, going through one lock.
"We'll miss the car traffic, and we'll be home in time to see the 4 p.m. game on television," Mr. Humphreys said.
First Published September 8, 2008 12:00 am