Bowsprite: A New York Harbor Sketchbook

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.)

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:

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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

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