Haven't you heard? New York's waterways are totally safe now. Okay, so maybe we're not about to eat bridge-caught mullet quite yet, but we'll happily head out on the Hudson, East River or Gowanus and paddle the day away. These five organizations provide everything you need -- from boats to lifejackets -- and take you along for the ride, absolutely free.
1. Paddle the Gowanus Canal with a guide from the Dredgers Canoe Club. No charge, no reservations required - and please, no wisecracks about the nuclear sludge at the bottom of the Canal. gowanuscanal.org
2. The Red Hook Boaters will load you into canoes or kayaks and guide you on a short paddle around the protected cove. They also organize special open water expeditions to places like Governors Island and the Buttermilk Channel. www.redhookboaters.org
3. The Downtown Boathouse runs free kayaking sessions from three locations along Manhattan's west side at Piers 40 and 96 and also at 72nd Street. Bonus: This is the best vantage point from which to enjoy a summer's eve sunset, bar none. www.downtownboathouse.org
4. The Long Island Community Boathouse has plenty of Queens-launched paddling programs via canoe and kayak, including Sunday explorations of Hallets Cove, at the northern end of Socrates Sculpture Park. www.licboathouse.org
5. The Village Community Boathouse organizes paddling en masse in 25-foot Whitehall gig helmed by experienced NYC harbor coxswains. Bonus: You get to use the word "coxswain." www.villagecommunityboathouse.org