Bowsprite: A New York Harbor Sketchbook

bedazzled

Posted in Uncategorized by bowsprite on 2011/06/25

We are bedazzled by Razzle Dazzle!  I am very fond of warship grey. And I like Canadian warship grey, too, the “grey to match Halifax fog.” However, nothing is quite like Dazzle on a warship…

Invented by the artist Norman Wilkinson while he was serving on patrol in the English Channel in May 1917, dazzle camouflage’s purpose was confuse rather than conceal; the paint job made it difficult for the enemy to estimate the type, size, speed and heading of the painted vessel, rendering visual rangefinders ineffective for naval artillery.
Initially meant for merchant ships during WWI, the Navy quickly made use of the dazzle camouflage for “warships employed in convoy escort duty, blockade patrol, and those such as seaplane tenders, which often had to proceed at very slow speeds, and in the case of blockade ships, to remain stopped for long periods. These last were sitting targets for U-boats.

“By early 1918 dazzle pattern was being worn by over four thousand British merchant ships and approximately four hundred Royal Navy vessels of various types.  It was worn by ships of other countries also, and was officially adopted by the American Navy in 1918.” – A. Raven
“Dazzle’s effectiveness is not certain. The British Admiralty concluded it had no effect on submarine attacks, but boosted crew morale. It also increased the morale of people not involved in fighting; hundreds of wonderfully colored ships in dock was nothing ever seen before or since.” - wiki

The Development of Naval Camouflage, by Alan Raven, is a very thorough piece in six chapters, complete with the result of years of research in documenting colors used by merchant ships, and the navies of Britain and the United States. He even includes excerpts from the logs of befuddled enemy ships.  However, it is hard to read, being white type on blue, and is chopped up into many pages.  I have collated it into one file and formatted it into something easier to read, if anyone is interested. (Courtesy of Plastic Ship Modeler Magazine issue #96/3.)

Then, look here for beautiful images & references, and here for models at an exhibition here in NYC several years ago.

I am currently working on a little ferry in NYHarbor, and my shifts are afternoons and evenings, saturdays and sundays: just when the cruise ships and party yachts come out. Some of them have been featured on UglyShips, and they are eyesores. Tugster recommended that they be Dazzled! Here, then, not to confuse, nor conceal, but to liven up their dreary silhouettes—and to boost our morales, those of us on bowwatch—are the new! improved! versions of five of the ugliest vessels in NYHarbor:

“Where’s the cleat? where’s the line? WHERE’S the deckhand?”

My favorite artist: Sister Mary Corita! She’s done tanks, she should do tankers.

“All together now, all together now!”

What a difference a paint job makes! This is for all of youse
who thought you saw a building moving towards you on the water.

Preceded always by its clown smile, this one asks for it.

So many passengers vessels are lemons. Uglyships, that bastion of good taste, highlighted a few of our harbor’s tugs. I say there is no such thing as an ugly NYHarbor tug. We have eccentric ones, but fugly? Nah, fuggedaboutit.

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24 Responses

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  1. tugster said, on 2011/06/25 at 05:23

    bowsprite . . you’ve given away the farm. on my to-do list is selling a new paint scheme to the marco polo folks, but now once they see her as “yellow submarine,” and realize the boost this’ll bring at the ticket office–every land lubber is going to flock aboard for twice the price–they’ll reject my paint scheme/rebranding ideas in a second. oh well . . . i guess consolation for losing the deal is that I TOO will have the pleasure of riding these now-over-the-top-so-tacky-they’re-exquisite sixth boro vessels.

  2. Baydog said, on 2011/06/25 at 07:39

    This gives a whole new meaning to ‘the circus is coming to town’. My family and I will actually be on the circus boat next weekend for 6 days!

    • bowsprite said, on 2011/06/25 at 08:00

      next weekend?? is BAYDOG coming to town? we are ready to roll out the carpet! the Spam Musubi! the barrels! ready to muster!! I’ll have to look at her schedule and see if she’s steaming this way! GOOD! then I will look forward to seeing that goofy bow grin!

  3. O Docker said, on 2011/06/25 at 11:24

    Brilliant, as usual.

    I’m still convinced the original dazzles were dreamt up by John Cleese and the Ministry of Silly Ships.

  4. SeaBart said, on 2011/06/25 at 15:41

    Brilliant post! I’m up for appointing you as Prime Minister of the Recolorfication of Ugly Ships Department!

  5. Michael said, on 2011/06/26 at 17:18

    I’m bedazzled, and meditating on “war penguins”. Surely the Python had a hand in that!

  6. mageb said, on 2011/06/26 at 18:19

    Oh, I am enlivened. I’ll come back later and read the book. If my eyes go blind, I will email you. I’m in love with the idea of Be-dazzling those truly ugly yachts. We have a few of them here too. Pure genius of an idea

  7. [...] reading on Bowsprite: A New York Harbor Sketchbook [...]

  8. bonnie said, on 2011/06/27 at 10:11

    Well…the Hackensack was…er…pretty interesting. There for a while. But it was for a good cause!

    • bowsprite said, on 2011/06/27 at 13:36

      Hackensack was a goddess!
      I loved her, loved her colors, and thought of upholstering my sofa and drapery á la Hackensack!

      • Bonnie said, on 2011/06/27 at 21:22

        Wait, I thought you were doing your decor in frazil pizza!

  9. tugster said, on 2011/06/27 at 22:23

    so here’s an idea . . . there’s a book called mannahatta, which tries to imagine the island in its fairly pristine state in say . . . 1500. suppose you devise a paint scheme for the island such that someone headed along the north river would look at the island and imagine it as it was, with the edifices of modernity all obscured???

  10. paulb said, on 2011/06/28 at 10:36

    I’ve got to go with the Norwegian Gem with my vote for ship most in need of a new paint scheme. It looks like someone gave a 9-year old an airbrush. That particular ship qualifies as fugly in my book.

  11. [...] The mighty Bowsprite used her dazzle to recolor some ugly ships and made them look muuuuuch better! Please see more of her art HERE! [...]

  12. [...] The mighty Bowsprite used her dazzle to recolor some ugly ships and made them look muuuuuch better! Please see more of her art HERE! [...]

  13. Michael Junge said, on 2011/06/29 at 05:36

    Bowssprite – love your work. I did these modern Navy razzle dazzle designs http://img69.imageshack.us/img69/5980/burkedazzle.jpg http://img7.imageshack.us/img7/6263/lsd41dazzle.jpg sometime back – feel free to post them as desired.

  14. [...] for the unfrazzling bowsprite . . . herself galivanting where time gets forgotten, a foto of  WPG-78 aka USS Mohawk, resplendent [...]

  15. cooldude said, on 2011/07/25 at 04:40

    kncok nevis where is it nowwww~~~~~

  16. tugster said, on 2011/07/28 at 15:01

    molecules of knock nevis permeate no doubt a million new metal products, and corroded fragments mix with the sands of alang: the 1500′ and +600,000 dwt vessel was scrapped more than a year ago

  17. Mary A Whalen said, on 2011/10/17 at 21:04

    >she should do tankers.

    tanker?!!!!
    we love tankers as they are!!!!
    otherwise love your dazzler post.
    best,
    The Mary Whalen

  18. [...] of Whitefish Bay.  No visitors to the sixth boro have quite these hull designs, which border on neo-razzledazzle a la [...]

  19. […] But "high visibility" is the opposite of "camouflage". What it can be is some type of "dazzle" scheme, as tried by for example Royal Navy in WW1. (The intent was not to hide the ships, but make it difficult for the enemies to properly determine range and speed of the target. Read more about and see examples of it here and here.) […]


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