Bowsprite: A New York Harbor Sketchbook

cultural exchanges in NYHarbor

Mariners from around the world, both licensed and not, float into NYHarbor.  A look here at the merchant marine capacity is to see a complete array of pretty little flags. The people who serve as crew come from as many nations.

This story comes from a seasoned tug captain:

When finished bunkering and pulling away from a visiting ship, the tug captain maneuvers to position the barge to catch its lines as the ship deckhands cast them off. The trick is to slide quickly beneath the lines, and to take up the slack, so that the lines land on the barge and not go in the water.

“But if they want them to go in the water, there’s really nothing we can do to stop them,” and so, sometimes, the lines are flung off into the drink, leaving the crestfallen tankerman below to retrieve the heavy, wet, freezing lines.

“Yes, it happens. The deckhands lean over the rail and gloat. And, a handful of times, from hongkong nationals, I’ve heard the accompanying: “Hahaha! You go now, Round-eye!'”

“What?! That is absurd!!! no self-respecting asian would say ’round-eye!’ Round-eye is a “round-eye’s” term!”

“Well, I’m at eye-level, and I tell you, I see them. They take the line off the bitt and let it slide through the chock, and there’s no way you can take up all the slack in time. When the line goes into the water, their heads pop out over, they look at each other and laugh. And they say, “You go now, Round-eye!”

According to this excellent source of street lingo in beijing, the more probable insult of choice at the friendly work level would be da bi zi, “big nose” (though i’ve heard this used as a term of affection when an old chinese father called his american son-in-law that.) “Round eye” would not work because big eyes are very popular in china, and women undergo the knife to widen the eyes. I suppose it could be insulting for a deckhand to accuse you of having plastic surgery.

Blissfully disregarding the fact that they are the foreigners and not allowed off their ships, chinese mariners may still refer to the NYHarborer as an “old foreigner”:  lao wai.

As for cultural exchange, a fascinating glimpse into the plight of the stranded, visiting mariner is depicted well in this Village Voice article. And over in our own Howland Hook, a personal shopper for the shipbound

Regardless of your nationality: If you are throwing lines in the water, shame on you! what would your parents say?

Another view on Hawsepiper. Thank you!

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Happy 4708, year of the metal tiger, from this water tiger! and,

Happy Valentine’s Day! happy Mardi Gras!!!

Thank you, Caro, for the inventory of insults, most of which I could not use on this family blog.

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17 Responses

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  1. Andy said, on 2010/02/14 at 08:58

    Would the Metal Tiger be White Tiger or Gold Tiger? I understand there’s some dispute about this.

    • bowsprite said, on 2010/02/14 at 09:19

      Mercury? ohhh, sorry Andy! haven’t even heard of that!

      • Andy said, on 2010/02/14 at 12:24

        Really just trying to be a pain, there. ;-)

        Wikipedia — which is always right about everything — says “Metal is yin in character, its motion is inwards and its energy is contracting. It is associated with the west and autumn, old age, the planet Venus and the color white. The archetypal metals are silver and gold. Its Primal Spirit is represented by a White Tiger.”

        In Western heraldry, at least, the convention is that yellow represents gold, and white represents silver. So I’m going to go with the White Tiger as being silver.

    • bowsprite said, on 2010/02/14 at 12:30

      hahaha, Andy!!! your inscrutable subtly escaped me!!
      do you feng shui ships? all i know: in the galley, do NOT have the oven facing the refrigerator or the mate and the engineer will be at loggerheads the whole hitch.

  2. Ken E. Beck said, on 2010/02/14 at 10:01

    When letting go the balance of power shifts to some degree to the party holding the bitter end. That should be kept in mind while tying up.

    • bowsprite said, on 2010/02/14 at 11:34

      ah, The Bitter End of General Yen! now showing on a tug flat screen near you…

    • tugster said, on 2010/02/22 at 08:28

      explain? do you mean being considerate? is there a way the bitter end party can be deprived of gaining power advantage? upper hand . . . yes, they literally have that some of the time.

  3. Mage B said, on 2010/02/14 at 12:44

    Hey dear Bowsprite….happy new year and happy Valentines Day. Thanks for that great article on the SCI too. Wonderful drawings….. :)

  4. Maritime Monday 201 said, on 2010/02/14 at 23:34

    [...] more » [...]

  5. Vagabonde said, on 2010/02/15 at 13:17

    I just spent some time reading about the differences between the Tigers. So you are a Water Tiger? Very intuitive with excellent judgment they say. My husband is also a Tiger, but an Earth Tiger although his character does not show it. I am a Metal Dragon and that sure sounds fierce. Have a great year, Tiger! I like your drawing of the people on the ship – especially the one with the big mouth.

  6. tugster said, on 2010/02/15 at 17:58

    interesting post!!

  7. Andy said, on 2010/02/16 at 11:50

    A Mongolian co-worker told me today that this past weekend was the Mongolian New Year, as well. I asked if Mongolia uses the same calendar as the Chinese, and he said not exactly — often, the two New Years coincide, but not always.

    Good to know.

  8. Michael said, on 2010/03/09 at 11:21

    This round eye is ready for new art. Sketch and tell! Or sketch and be discreet. But out with the paints already!

  9. Taru said, on 2010/03/23 at 08:17

    love your illustrations.

  10. [...] For a perspective on some verbal and non-verbal communication in the harbor, check out bowsprite here. [...]

  11. Barista Uno said, on 2010/04/24 at 22:42

    I love the drawings! Your site is also refreshingly off the beaten path. I would consider it an honour if you could include my Marine Cafe Blog in your blog roll. The URL is:

    http:www.marine-cafe.com/mcblog

    I shall be more than happy to return the favour by adding your site to my own roster.

    Let me know if the idea grabs you.

    More power and happy blogging!

  12. Ship Freight said, on 2010/09/01 at 07:16

    I ‘m sorry, but I am unable to understand what you wanna say.


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