Bowsprite: A New York Harbor Sketchbook

treasure map

Posted in harbor wildlife, kill van kull, newark bay, NYHarbor by bowsprite on 2011/05/21


The red dots mark the spots! I found thick, lovely oyster shells on the Kill Van Kull and in Newark Bay. They are heavy, rough, but more smooth than fluted. There is no way to tell how old they are, but it is good to hold them and to think they may be coming back.



ice breaking on the raritan river

Rare is the chance to go up the Raritan! and judging by the virgin ice, rare are the visitors in january. The Raritan once was connected to the Delaware river by a canal upon which goods, coal & sailors traversed.

This survey boat works all year ’round, and often has to break its way through the ice. The tide was coming in that morning, and at the mouth of the Raritan River, the boat cut easily through the slushy saltwater. However, as we got further into fresh waters, the ice thickened,  the boat was thrown around more, sometimes settling on top, then sliding off to the side before breaking through. The sound was disconcerting. By 4″ of ice, we were becalmed–er, be-iced:

Then, standing out there, one could see how lovely the Nature is, fields that go on and on, silent, vast. However, we were not alone:

the fish population include (but are not limited to) largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, sunfish, catfish, trout, chain pickerel, american eels, carp and yellow perch. An occasional Pike and Musky have been taken out of the Raritan as well. The tidal portions of the river host migratory salt water species such as striped bass, fluke, winter flounder, weakfish and bluefish. Many nesting birds and water fowl make their homes in and along the length of the river. Crustaceans such as blue claw crab, fiddler crabs and green crabs are also found in the tidal sections of the river. Crayfish can be found further upstream. —wikipedia

We also saw huge mounds, made by beavers? muskrats? some sort of mound-builders. Industrious & industrial-sized!

This Sayreville Power House, the only building for miles around, is right next to the Sayreville public boat launch, surrounded by marsh grass and landfill. Electrical wires cross the horizon, the NJ Turnpike cuts the water. Still, there’s enough of solitude out here to imagine what it must have been like once upon a time.

(what is it? in the video clip, the structures visible when the birds are overhead in the sky are the transducer and the GPS unit mounted on the bow of the hydrosurveyboat, the Michele Jeanne. Upon the job site, the black transducer is lowered into the water and the white bulby Trimble DGPS antenna is placed right on top.)

a nautical bestiary


bee

- a ring or hoop of wood or metal.

bitching

- not exclusively nautical, but rare is the ship without this; sounds like:
“I dont %&$&# LIKE sailing! Why don’t I go to the crafts festival and just take the train and meet you at the next %&$&# port?”
or “The hosting yacht club is serving ¿%&$&#what???”
or %&$&#! %&$&#! horse cock for dinner again??”

camels

- wooden (usually) platform buffers between a ship and a pier; way deeper and heavier to move than you think. On this camel by Passenger Ship Terminal pier 90, rope was shredded into a soft nest, eggs were laid, and the parents-to-be waited while warships of Fleet Week 2009 tied up a few feet away.

cathead

- a heavy beam projecting from each bow of a ship for the purpose of holding anchors.

clamshell dredge

cockbill

-an anchor is said to be cockbilled or a-cockbill when hung vertically by its ring stopper from a cathead ready for use, or, temporarily, during the recovery process.

constrictor knot

- not well known, but according to Hervey Garrett Smith, author and illustrator of the wonderful book, The Arts of the Sailor (1953), the constrictor knot is superior to most comment seizings or stoppings: “…quicker, neater, and can be drawn up more tightly. The harder you pull the two ends the tighter it grips, and it will not slacken when you let go…It can be set up so tightly that is is almost impossible to untie, and makes an excellent whipping. (The slipped version is easy to untie.) …Its superior construction and usefulness leads me to believe that it ultimately will achieve the popularity it rightly deserves.”

cow hitch

- also known in days of old as a lanyard hitch, the cow hitch is today more associated with any knot which is not a recognized maritime knot as used at sea; a lubberly hitch. Folks must be forgetting to use those lanyards.

crabbing

- sideways maneuvering into a cross current or wind to compensate for drift.
To “catch a crab” is to make a faulty stroke in rowing that causes the blade of the oar to strike the water on the recovery stroke.

cranes

crow feet

crow’s nest

doghouse

dogwatch

dolphins

- pilings lashed together with heavy cable upon which vessels land to moor. Usually, one piling is called a dolphin, a group of more than one pile is called a cluster, as in “put out a line over the second cluster off the bow.”  When neglected, provides fine nesting for birds of the harbor.

donkey engine

- a steam-powered winch to hoist sails and anchors on old schooners; an auxiliary engine on a sailing craft (which does propel the vessel) is still sometimes informally known as the donk.

elephant foot

elephant table – (help! cannot find this one!)


fishplate

fish tackle

- a large hook used to assist in maneuvering the anchor from under the cat-head, and brought to the side or gunwale, or to launch and recover boats.

flounder plate

- a triangular steel plate used as a central connecting point for the tows, bridles, and towline.

fluke

- the wedge-shaped part of an anchor’s arms that digs into the bottom. Sometimes painted yellow to lure full frontal admirers.

fox

- made by twisting together two or more rope-yarns. A Spanish fox is made by untwisting a single yarn and laying it up the contrary way. (But, why? ¿por qué?)

gooseneck

goosewing

hogged

- the state of a vessel when, by any strain, she is made to droop at each bow and stern, bringing her center up. Opposite of sagging.

horse

horse cock

- “phoney baloney”. Mmmmm.

hounds

leech

marlinspike, a marlinspike hitch

- a tool for opening the strands of a rope while splicing.


monkeyfist

- a weighted knot wrapped around lead or a ball, found at the end of a heaving line. Illegal in NYHarbor. ME variety is especially lethal: you really won’t know what hit you.

mousing

- a seizing to prevent hooks from unshipping. Sling hitch on the hook’s back, go around the bill, make turns, wrap with frapping turns, then a set of riding turns, finish with a square or reef knot. Notice how Hervey Garrett Smith draws the same hook three times; that is love.

pelican hook

- a hook-like device for holding the link of a chain or similar, and consisting of a long shackle with a hinged rod which is held closed by a ring.

pigtail hook

- a screw hook having an eye in the form of a spiral for holding a loop, chain link, etc., at any angle. I am not fooled: this was designed to snag my sweaters.

ratlines

- rope running across the shrouds horizontally like the rounds of a ladder and used to step upon in going aloft.

roach

- curved cut in edge of sail for preventing chafing

rhino horn

- slips through a hole in the bow ramp of the LCU or LCM to hold the landing craft in position while vehicles embark/debark.

sea cock

- a valve to open a pipe to allow suction of sea water into your vessel either to supply fire pumps or for cooling if your engine is cooled with raw water. Also used generically.

sheep-shank

- a kind of hitch or bend, used to shorten a rope temporarily.

sole

snaking, snaked whipping

- snaking protects against chafing of turns on whippings at the end of ropes.

whales

- fenders that were once upon a time real whale bodies, but today, are BIG black, heavy industrial strength rubber bumpers. One captain’s fender story is here.

wildcat

- oops. another wildcat coming up…

worming

- rigging of old ships were wormed, parcelled and served and lasted as long as the ships, or longer. Worming is the laying in of small-stuff between the strands of rope to fill in spaces to prevent moisture and rot. Parcelling is spirally wrapping rope with narrow strips of old canvas soaked with rigging tar, overlapping to repel moisture. Serving covers the rope by tightly winding marline or hemp against the lay. Heavily tar, and maintain regularly.

Worm and parcel with lay
Turn and serve the other way

zinc fish

- a “sacrificial anode.”  Metals (e.g. your propeller) in salt water, experience a flow of electrical current. The slow removal of metal is called “electrolysis”. Zinc is used as it has a higher voltage in the water so the current will tend to flow from it than from your props.

beasts of weather and water conditions:

dog days, ox-eye, mackerel scales, mares’ tails, white horses…

other waterborne beasts:

frogma, peconic puffin, the beagle project, the horse’s mouth (if any otters I missed, please do drop a lion.)

Look here for a beautiful post of hardworking animals here on the USCGC Escanaba!

Thank you, again for everyone’s help! drawings will be added, and please report any missing strays. Thank you!

Tagged with:

animals of the working harbor

Posted in arts of the sailor, equipment & gear, harbor wildlife, new york harbor by bowsprite on 2009/11/26

Happy Thanksgiving to all! Gratitude and homage to those working today, and a peek at the beasts of burden that aid them on the water:

This post is being updated with all your suggestions–Thank you! I’m stumped by some of them (Jed!!), and cannot find a few of the ones mentioned. The new post is “a nautical bestiary“.

Thank you, everyone, and ODocker, Kennebec Captain, Jed, Willi, PaulYar!, Marc, Tugster and Towmasters.

OSV Bold

before the makeover – United States Naval Ship Vigorous (1989), a Tactical Auxiliary General Ocean Survey class vessel:

vigorous

after the makeover, now – Ocean Survey Vessel Bold of the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) (since 2004):

bold

OSV Bold

Built: 1989 at Tacoma Boat Building Company,  Washington
Overall Length: 224 feet
Width: 43 feet
Draft: 15 feet
Displacement: 2300 tons
Speed, Sustained: 11 knots
Ship Operating Crew: 19
Scientists: 20

The OSV Bold monitors and assesses the health of ocean and coastal waters, and the standards to which they aspire others to have, they hold for themselves.

They follow safe discharge practices (of blackwater, greywater, oils & greases, lab chemicals, and ballast water), emit low sulfur dioxide, and are compliant with the International Maritime Organization’s International Convention of the Control of Harmful Anti-fouling Systems on Ships by using a hull coating that does not contain organotin pesticides and has a low copper leach rate.

grabber

Bottomgrab, otter trawl (not for otters, but fish), a rocking chair dredge are deployed from the A-frame to collect samples which are studied in the wet and dry labs onboard.

towfishThe side scan sonar, towed behind the vessel, produces digital acoustic images of the ocean floor and can echo back a signal up to a depth of 300′. CTDA water profiler, the CTD device, measures physical water characteristics throughout a column of water in real-time. A camera behind a glass (not shown), captures images of the sediment profile layer, cutting through ocean floor and peeking at denizens’ burrows, grain size, et cetera.

The Bold was docked briefly this week for tours at Pier 17. For more information and schedule at other ports, look at their website and their official blog. And see it Tugsterized.

Central New Jersey Rail Road Terminal, Jersey City

Voilà, the gem of Liberty State Park!

cnjrr

The Central New Jersey Rail Road terminal (1889), also known as Communipaw Terminal is one of the most beautiful buildings of New York Harbor. Twenty tracks and four ferry slips provided the terminal with streams of cargo, supplies, passengers, workers. The palatial waiting room has a gabled ceiling three stories high and the most grand view of Upper Bay and the Manhattan and Brooklyn skylines; it now houses Liberty State Park’s Visitor Center. Statue of Liberty ferries leave from the slips.

However, the treasure lies behind this elegantly proportioned and well-maintained edifice:

cnjrrjardin

the old tracks are overrun by a jungle of native flora, Nature come to reclaim her domain. Twenty tracks of young trees, tall grasses and weeds flourish, the dark old steel structures are lost amid the riotous green, the sidewalk cracks are colored in by little grasses and sprouts. A beautiful light filters evenly through the open trestles. It is dramatic in full sun, and magical on grey days:

(if it weren’t foggy, you’d have seen lower manhattan when the camera turned west at 0:25, looking out the building)

Nature’s indefatigable force is inspiring. Nothing we make–with all our might!–is going to last. No better proof exists than in the photographs of shipbreaking captured by Edward Burtynsky and Andrew Bell. Or, in the quieter photographs our own Tugster, closer to home, in the Kill van Kull.

What will last? Nature. Of which we can still claim to be a part, despite all our efforts.

“Nature is not a place to visit, it is home…” Gary Snyder, The Practice of the Wild

the Sturgeon of Liberty State Park

Posted in harbor wildlife, historic vessels, jersey city, liberty state park by bowsprite on 2009/06/25

taxi

If you take this little water taxi from Manhattan’s World Financial ferry terminal across the river, it will first stop at Warren street, Jersey City, where you can explore Paulus Hook.

Next stop: south across the Morris Canal Basin to Liberty State Park.

This old Morris & Essex Canal once ran once ran all the way to the Delaware River. Barges carrying mainly coal from Pennsylvania and finished goods from NYC shuttled back and forth. Today, two marinas are here, home to luminaries like the historic–and working!–Tug Pegasus and the hearty denizen of the cold, battering North Sea: Cape Race. (And, a peek here of some of their neighbors.)

chart2

pegasuscolortug Pegasus

caperace Cape Race

Liberty State Park is 1,122 acres of open space with sea breezes, parks, salt marshes, wildflowers, two little beaches lined by rocks and flora, and the expansive Hudson Liberty Walk. I save the gem of this park for another post, but for today:

walkway

if you walk along the red brick boardwalk that suspends over and transverses the sea into which fishermen cast off,

ellisIsle2and walk behind Ellis Island’s hospital and old buildings
(that walkway over to the island is guarded and not open to pedestrian traffic),

wildflowerfield

and if you meander through the wildflower fields where you almost can pretend you are in a far away meadow
—until the helicopters and party boats’ booming music remind you of where you really are,

statue

and then go behind the Statue of Liberty with the ferries pulling in and out,
and then turn your back to Lady Liberty, you will see a little beach.

shells

And if you go onto that beach and follow the wrack line, you will see the shells of:
ribbed mussels, clams, oysters and bright orange little crabs.

Signs of life returning to NYHarbor! signs beyond the wood piling eating worms (that are so hardy they begin to bore into concrete!) Signs that the clams and oysters are coming back! How would one have known? there is hardly any access to the water in our harbor!

But there are bigger signs: a 6′ carcass of a sturgeon!

sturgeon2

Atlantic Sturgeon  (Acipenser oxyrhynchus)

Recent studies indicate that a population of approximately 150,000 juvenile Atlantic sturgeon may reside in the Hudson River at any one time. This species is not currently fished very heavily; in the past it was harvested in large numbers and often called “Albany beef”.

Atlantic sturgeon can reach lengths in excess of 10 feet and weigh several hundred pounds.

Sturgeons are primitive fishes with rows of bony, armorlike plates on their sides and a skeleton of cartilage rather than bones.  Barbels hang under the sturgeon’s long, flattened snout in front of the mouth. Sturgeon are bottom feeders, their sensory barbels being used to detect food and their protruded, tubelike mouth, to suck in bottom-dwelling plants and animals uncovered as they move along the mud.

Sturgeon flesh is of good quality, and the roe (eggs) of Atlantic sturgeon is the well-known delicacy caviar.

The Atlantic sturgeon is anadromous, ascending large rivers and estuaries to spawn. New York’s Atlantic sturgeon population is restricted primarily to the Hudson River.

6'carcass

IMG_8561 IMG_8566 IMG_8568 IMG_8622

What else lies in the waters that surround us? Both the schooner Pioneer and the sloop Clearwater have trawling sails, where nets are launched and harbor life is brought up to be observed and released.

The Battery Park City Parks Conservancy sponsors the occasional Go Fish event down near Pier A where you can bring  the inhabitants of the deep up yourself, have it recorded, put it in a tank, and then set free.

Of the clams, oysters and mussels, asked Tugster: “Is it edible?” Hmmm. Maybe soon. Maybe, one day, the waters will be so clean that we can wade into our waters with children, pick up a shellfish or two, and have no adverse reactions to popping them down the gullet. I shall keep the vision and hope we move in that direction. In the meantime, move upwind of that sturgeon!

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