Bowsprite: A New York Harbor Sketchbook

may 18 – 22: National Stationery Show

Posted in Uncategorized by bowsprite on 2014/05/17

Today begins the National Stationery Show at the Jacob Javits Center.

Do you want to focus and promote your artwork, and try to make a living at it by committing to this trade show–when you know on Wednesday, the ships are coming in for Fleet Week and will pass right outside the building, a monkeyfist’s throw away!?

So, I’ve committed. Here is my bike with all the ship cards and stationery I am presenting. I called the convention center to say I could not find information on how to unload from a bicycle; it was all written for car and truck drop off. The fellow was amused I was biking everything, and asked: “but who will watch the bike when you are unloading?” which I found very charming. I locked it to a lamppost.




I was lucky and missed the rain, but my shelving unit, coming from the flame proofers’, got extra-super, monsoon-flame-proofed. Thank you Urban Mobility Project, Shelly and Joe! It cost 1/9th the quote I got from vans and trucks, and we did not have the interminable wait times for the long vehicular congo line to the elevator in the back. We walked everything in the front doors, exhibition hall level.


Ok: so I had to spend $300 to flame proof my shelves in this modern structure with sprinkler systems. That’s fine, I did it. However, to then allow the NO FREIGHT AISLE be clogged for two days with heavy, immoveable stuffs…this would NEVER be allowed on even the more lackadaisical passenger vessels I’ve worked on. I could not get my things in. But, I was more worried that in case of fire, no one would be able to get out.




I finally made it to my little booth. Here is it, before:








and not quite done yet. I have ship schwag up the wazoo, and still so much to do…meanwhile, just west, past my lovely neighbor Park Soap, I know lies North River, right past that exit sign…and:

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Event: Fleet Week New York Parade of Ships

Location: New York Harbor

Time: 9 a.m. – 11 a.m.


The Corwith Cramer is docked at pier 25, she looks so beautiful.

Elcano just left town:southbound

And, in case of fire, I am running west, and advise my colleagues to do the same.




art show at greenport harbor brewing company, this saturday

Posted in Uncategorized by bowsprite on 2014/03/18

Hello, dear Friends!

You are cordially invited to my first solo show which will open this saturday at the very cool Greenport Harbor Brewing Company!

It is in a lovely harbor village on the North Fork of Long Island.


“Working Girls of New York Harbor: A Sketchbook of Tugs, Dredges and Ships”
Greenport Harbor Brewing Company
opening reception – saturday, 22 march, 7:30 – 9:30pm
exhibit runs through 31 May

 Greenport Harbor Brewing Company was founded in 2008 by Rich Vandenburgh and John Liegey. The beer is wonderful. The brewery is on the ground floor, upstairs is the gallery and tasting room.

This 1896 carriage house was  the Star Hose Fire House for many years. Sometimes barrels of leftover grains sit outside the building, covered with myriad happy sparrows.
I met Ann Vandenburgh, who runs the gallery at the Brewery, with Rich and John at the Greenport Maritime Festival when we had booths next to each other; I was selling art, they were selling beer. The long lines were for the beer, but I was happy for the company. And Ann offered me this show back in September.

Our neighbor on the other side of our booths was WPKN, a non-commercial, non-profit, all volunteer community independent radio. Starting to broadcast in 1963, PKN (Purple Knights Network) was named for the sports team back when the University of Bridgeport had a sports team. And when the University existed. Neither do today; all that remains is this fiercely eclectic radio station. Thank you, Kevin and Dave for the shout-out for the show from your station.

Thanks, Ann, GHBC, and All! maybe see some of you out here east, sometime. It’s a lively, lovey village, and a deep water port!


tug races on pier 84, sunday

Posted in Uncategorized by bowsprite on 2013/08/30

Pier 86 is where the “Fighting I” is berthed:intrepid

This is why I love to draw on site: my pen found the little ladder rungs on the bow, suspended perhaps 75ft above the water’s surface (roughly estimating by using the load lines.)

Can you imagine holding on, in the middle of the roiling Pacific Ocean, and looking down (not mentioning hostile aircraft or torpedoes honed in on your ship while you are clinging onto the rung)?

Stroll south a few steps Sunday for the Working Harbor Committee Tug Race on pier 84. Where is pier 84? subtract 40, you get 46st.
Pier number minus 40 will give you the street on the west side of manhattan, only. And from Pier 40 and up. Good for the few piers we have left, anyway.
10 AM – Parade of tugs from Pier 84 to the start line.
10:30 AM – Race starts – Just south of 79th Street Boat Basin near Pier I to Pier 84.
11 AM – Nose to nose pushing contests and line toss competition.
Noon – Tugs tie up to Pier 84 for lunch and awards ceremony. Exhibits, amateur line toss, spinach eating contest
1 PM – Awards ceremony.
2 PM – Tugs begin to depart

I will be selling bowsprite art, hope to see you. Come toss a line, kiss Olive Oyl, and pick up ship schwag. Happy Labor Day weekend to all!

USS Intrepid (CV/CVA/CVS-11)
Essex-class aircraft carrier
Built: 1943 by Newport News Shpbuilding & Drydock Co., VA
Length (original): 820 feet (250 m) waterline / 872 feet (266 m) overall
Beam: 93 feet (28 m) waterline / 147 feet 6 inches (45 m) overall
Draft: 28 feet 5 inches (8.66 m) light / 34 feet 2 inches (10.41 m) full load
Complement: 2,600 officers and enlisted
Aircraft carried: 90 – 100 aircraft

radio LILAC, next crafts’ fair in september!

Posted in Uncategorized by bowsprite on 2013/07/21


Bike, walk, swim, sail, paddle to Hudson River Park’s pier 25, off North Moore street and West Street.
Public transportation directions here.

Presenting! a few of our vendors, and if you would like to be in touch with them or learn more:

mawusiMawusi    gathernowoodGatherNoWood   vmackenzieVH McKenzie  ssecombeShelley Seccombe   invibezInIVibez    elments4Elments4InspirdLivng   flilgreeFiligreeNYC   daintycreationsDaintyCreations   greenmountianGreenMountain   sosSaveOurSeaport   Tara   blowspittlebowsprite



many thanks to Mary, Gerry, Andy, Sanford, Carl, Brian, Paulina, Stephen, Jimmy, Tom, Kenny, Brian, Derry (other volunteers’ names to come) for all your help. This would not be possible without all of you!

Thank you, Broadsheet, Downtown Express, Tribeca Tribune. Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance (others to come).

sailing ships at work

Posted in Uncategorized by bowsprite on 2013/04/10


On June 14, 2011, this 70 ft schooner, Black Seal, brought 20 tons of cocoa beans from the Dominican Republic to Red Hook, Brooklyn.

This is how they did it: no customs report, no bills of lading, no contract with the ILA to lift the 400 bags, and a blank stare when asked for a TWIC. Viva l’esprit of rum running!

Our wise leaders decided that shooting at the handmade three masted schooner was not as good press as welcoming it, so we are happy to have the beans, Mast Bros chocolate, and this WSJ story. Will there be more? Day-o!

(update: the editorial offices of BLOWSPITTLE ink have been informed that all hoops were hastily collected, set up on pier 9A and jumped through: correct papers were obtained-signed-approved-delivered, customs agent procured, docking permitted, stevedores contracted, eyes crossed, teas dotted.)

♠    ♣   


On March 9, 2012, this 105 ft schoonerbrig, running under sail power only — no motor at all — set a course from the Dominican Republic to pick up cocoa beans in Grenada bound for New York. They had rum, salt and other Caribbean products for New York, England and the Netherlands. Their voyage plan had Grenada as their last Carribean stop in order to load the cocoa beans last to keep them cooler, forcing the ship to sail from the Dominican Republic against the current and close to the wind, sailing that demanded constant trimming and setting of sails during all watches.

All for naught: the bureaucracy and regulatory fees demanded by our port thoroughly discouraged Tres Hombres, and the cocoa shipment for Grenada Chocolate Company was not to be. The ship had to abandon the stop off at New York, and changed course towards the Azores. Simply no way to gain if you try to follow the rules. Read the ship log’s entry here. Day-o…

♠     ♣   

built in 1952 by H. C. Stulchen and Son of Hamburg, Germany

This 191 ft barquentine is the largest tall ship operated by the Indonesian Navy and serves as a sail training vessel for naval cadets and as an ambassador of goodwill for the people of Indonesia: Dewaruci.

She was on her last voyage, nearing NYC for FleetWeek/OpSail 2012 when she ran low on water. She crawled like a thirsty desert traveller along the NJ coast, crying ‘water! water!’ unheeded. She reached the Verrazano Narrows bridge, and approached Sullivans Pier in Staten Island where she would tie up for FleetWeek, two days early. She was denied permission to dock. And was not allow to water.  Anti Terrorism Force Protection  (ATFP): the police forces were scheduled for two days later and could not be deployed so quickly, nor could they be paid for for the two extra days. ATFP does not do boat time.

Desperate, the ship with their crew of 70 students looked for water, but found none. Calls were made and both SUNY Maritime and the United States Merchant Marine Academy welcomed them, eager to host the ship for two days. Fort Schuyler on the Throggs Neck peninsula was just a touch closer than Kings Point, Long Island, so the plan was to sail to SUNY Maritime to tie up and get water.

The ship began the trip up the East River, when the Sandy Hook Pilots noticed a discrepancy with specs and a translation issue. “Air draft” in Indonesian looks like “mast height” or the other way around; the mast from the deck up would have gone under the Brooklyn Bridge, but not with the ship under it.

Dewaruci turned away, and limped back, still parched, to Lower Bay to wait for two days.

For the FleetWeek parade up and down North River, Dewaruci students dressed gaily in blue and white uniforms, and stood atop yards, on shrouds and on bowsprit, saluting a city that was a rather shabby welcoming host. O day.

♠     ♣   

And there, a glimpse of the life of sailing ships at work that call, or try to call, at NYH.

Tonight! the Working Harbor Committee presents “Sailing Ships At Work”: the history of sailing cargo ships, the ships that sail cargo today (short part) and what the future may look like.

Ship historian Norman Brouwer, Capt. Maggie Flanagan, and Rick Spilman will be presenting.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013 6 – 9 p.m.
Community Church of New York
40 E. 35th Street
New York, NY 10016

Price — Adults: $25, Seniors (62+) $20
please click here for tickets.

The future: projects like the Vermont Sailing Barge, Hope and Alert, HARVEST, B9 Shipping, and the MARAD initiative of the Hudson River Foodway Corridor will bring  back water transportation of cargo…putting ships back in shipping.

The Working Harbor Committee is not responsible for any of the drivel I write. I just monitor VHF radio and drink in scuttlebutt in bars. And unfortunately, I will not be able to attend the event tonight, but go and have great fun.      ♥     ♦

art show on the lighthouse tender Lilac!

Posted in Uncategorized by bowsprite on 2012/08/11

“Ships of New York Harbor”

oil paintings of Frank Hanavan and illustrations of Christina Sun

open today! and on view until 31 August

Mondays and Thursday,  4 to 7 PM,

Saturdays and Sundays,  1 to 6 PM.

Reception: Thursday, August 30, 6 to 10 PM.
Music by the Jug Addicts!

Lilac  is berthed at Pier 25, Hudson River Park
at West Street and N. Moore Street

1 train to Franklin Street stop
A/C/E trains to Canal Street stop (exit at Walker Street)

LILAC is a 1933 lighthouse tender that carried supplies and maintained buoys for the U.S. Lighthouse Service and the U.S. Coast Guard.
More information about her here. We hope to see you there! Frank is there sundays, Christina will be there mondays.

lightship ambrose

Posted in Uncategorized by bowsprite on 2012/07/01

Lightship Ambrose LV 87 / WAL 512
Built: 1907 by New York Shipbuilding Co., Camden, NJ
Length: 136ft. (41.5m)
Beam: 29ft. (8.8m)
Draft: 13ft. (3.9m)
Original Illumination Apparatus: three oil lens lanterns
Propulsion: Steam

This lightship was stationed in the Ambrose Channel since 1906, guiding vessel traffic through the main shipping channel just below the Verazzano Narrows bridge, into New York and New Jersey Harbor until 1967. She was given to South Street Seaport Museum by the U.S. Coast Guard in 1968. A light tower replaced it, was hit by ships a few times too many, and, now, the channel is marked by lighted buoys.

Now at the new! improved! South Street Seaport Museum under the fertile wing—nurturing wing?— of the City of the Museum of New York  this lightship was painted in March, and is now being restored and is open for visiting at Pier 16.

The wings of the seaport museum are alive: a new exhibit is up, nautical pieces from another museum I love, the American Folk Art Museum.

And true to the harbor’s spirit, the active gem of the museum, Pioneer, is sailing. Go onboard to sail in the harbor or go and volunteer and learn how to handle lines and many other things that may always serve you well…!

dad’s ships

Posted in Uncategorized by bowsprite on 2012/06/18

My father was estatic when I found photos online of his first ship, the Overseas Tankship Corporation vessel, Carlsbad.

“How we loved the captain! We would have done anything for him. He and the officers were Norwegian. We were a crew of 40, many of us boarded in Shanghai. We carried oil and went all around the world. I loved the ship, too. I made a model of the ship out of paper and the captain wanted it. He bought it for $20, purchased a glass case for it when we were in New York, and he displayed it in the officer’s mess.

“When my 2-yr contract ended, I boarded the Liberty Ship Benjamin H. Hill. We carried cargo. I was on board for only 8 months.

“Why are you asking all these questions? Why do you want to know this?”

SS Carlsbad

Built: 1945 at The Kaiser Company, Swan Island Yard, Portland, OR
Length: 159 ft 6 in (48.6 m)
Beam: 20 ft 7 in (6.3m)

Liberty Ship Benjamin H. Hill
General Cargo Vessel Type EC2-S-C1 (E = emergency, C = cargo, 2 = waterline length between 400 – 500ft, S = steam power, C1 = this design)
Built: 1943 at  J.A. Jones Construction Company, Brunwsick, GA
Length: 441 ft 6 in (134.6 m)
Beam: 57 ft (17.4 m)
Depth: 37 ft 4 in (11.4 m)
Speed: 11 kts

For more information on Liberty Ships: see
Ships for Victory,
Project Liberty Ship – cruise on the restored John W. Brown!
They also maintain the incredible resource, with all their photos 

Click on this link to see a wonderfully illustrated 1943 brochure on the capacity of a Liberty Ship.

Amazing site if you are into tankers: Auke Visser’s Historical Tankers Site

Happy Fathers Day!

who do you love?

Posted in Uncategorized by bowsprite on 2012/02/14

What do you love?

happy vday, everyone!


Posted in Uncategorized by bowsprite on 2012/02/04

Tips from Capt JJ: “One black ball means he’s anchored. After that, the more balls you see, the more f*k’d  he is.”

one black ball:

two black balls:
“Not under command. Underway, but no way on. Adrift.”
Unable to follow any rules.

three black balls:
“Aground. Displayed aloft.”

 two black balls, two diamonds:
“Vessel engaged in underwater work. Pass on diamond side; avoid ball side.”

Another beauty tip from Capt JJ: “You know how I remember it? girls love diamonds, so go for the diamonds. Or, you have to have balls to pass on the side with the balls. But the girls and diamonds one is easier, for me.”

ball diamond ball:
“Restricted in ability to maneuver. Working vessel.”

And, Capt JJ had to go there—“This is no good, either:”

— thanks, Capt JJ. I think.

If hungry for more, the COLREGS International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, published by the IMO, spells out in exhaustive detail the rules for lights, shapes (dayshapes like these), and sound signals.

Note:  *No vessel ever has absolute ‘right of way’ over other vessels.*  You can be the ‘give way’ (burdened) or the ‘stand on’ (privileged) vessel.

nautical tattoos

Posted in arts of the sailor, tattoos by bowsprite on 2011/12/14

Written and researched by Owen Burke, Brian Lam of The Scuttlefish:

Hold written on one set of knuckles and Fast written on the other was meant to give a sailor good grip in the rigging.

A Rope tattooed around the wrist meant that a seaman is a deckhand.

A tattoo of an Anchor told that a sailor had crossed the Atlantic, or was part of the Merchant Marines.

Crossed Anchors 
on the webbing between the thumb and index fingers marked a bos’n’s (or boatswain’s) mate.

Nautical Star or Compass Rose was given so that a sailor could always find her way home.

A Harpoon marked a member of the fishing fleet.

A Full-Rigged Ship displayed that a sailor has been around Cape Horn.

A Dragon signified that a sailor has served in China.  A Golden Dragon was given when a sailor crossed the International Date Line.

A Shellback Turtle or King Neptune was earned when a sailor made it across the Equator.

or Crossed Cannons signified military naval service.

A Sparrow or a Swallow tattoo would go to a sailor for every 5,000 nautical miles they traveled–a swallow because it can always find its way home.
Royal Navy sailors during WWII who took part in Mediterranean cruises were tattooed with a Palm Tree, as were U.S. sailors who spent time in Hawaii.
A Dagger Through A Rose meant a sailor was loyal, and willing to fight anything, even something as sweet as a rose.
During WWII, a tattoo of a Pig and a Rooster was worn to prevent a sailor from drowning. When pigs and roosters were boarded on boats they were put in crates that floated and subsequently, often ended up the only survivors of wrecks. Crosses on the Soles of one’s feet warded off hungry sharks.
Thanks, Brian and Owen of Scuttlefish!

CoastLink Hamburg

Posted in Uncategorized by bowsprite on 2011/05/25

Many, many heartfelt thanks to CoastLink and David Cheslin, Gavin Roser, Antje Wiechern, and Margaret Williamson! Coastlink (headquarters in the UK) is an organization dedicated to the promotion of short sea and feeder container shipping in Europe. An incredibly informative conference was held in Hamburg last month, with presentations from major ports and a few new start-up ports. Representatives from ports in the Mediterranean/North Africa, Russia as well as several ones in Germany spoke.  To hear what was happening in short sea shipping today in Europe was eye-opening and borderline deflating, for we are so very behind in this country.

How many out there would like to band together to purchase a few cranes and open a little port near the train station? On a  large and professional scale, the Port of Workington did it.

David invited me to speak a bit on New York Harbour as Hamburg is facing the same issues of accommodating the new PanaMax containerships; they lack the air draft problem but have the water depth and dredging issues. It was an educational experience the whole way: a thumbdrive is a “USB stick.” And to them, a torch is allowed onboard: it’s a flashlight, not the open flaming thing we hunt monsters with in the woods. And I will present soon other things I learned from CoastLink. Thank you, again, David and Everyone!

Here is the slide show I presented:


I am an illustrator and have a blog on NYHarbor where I put up stories:

I am also a part-time deck hand on this hydrographic survey vessel.

This auspicious image…

…started off my surveying adventures: the single-beam sonar caught our boat’s wheel wash and the bottom below.

We have surveyed all around this island…

There is water access all around the island of Manhattan, into the boroughs of the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island, connecting New Jersey, and out the Long Island Sound.
To the north runs the Hudson, up the incredible locks of the New York State and Champlain canals. Access to the Finger Lakes region is through the NYS Canal system that is 524 miles long.

Westward are the indomitable salt marshes, the silting arteries of the Passaic  and Hackensack, the very busy Kill van Kull and Arthur Kill, the Raritan river which once connected us to Delaware via a canal now long gone.

Passaic (80 mi/129 km)

Hackensack (45 mi/72 km)

Kill van Kull (3 mi/(4.8 km)

Arthur Kill (10 mi/16 km,)

Raritan river (16 mi/25.7 km)

The East river mingles with the Bronx River, and flows out into the mighty Long Island Sound and beyond. Or, runs inland as the Newtown Creek and the Gowanus Canal. Out the Narrows, the waters flow through Jamaica Bay, Sandy Hook…and out to sea.

East river (16 mi/26 km)

Bronx River(24 miles/39 km)

Newtown Creek (3.5 mi /6 km)

Gowanus Canal (1.4 mi/2.3 km)

Hackensack, Hoboken, Navesink, Lackawanna, Passaic, Raritan, Secaucus, Weehawken… these names tell me where these places are. However, to the Native American tribes who lived here, these names also described the water, which would reveal the food that was to be found there: the fish, the flora, the animals. And as nothing was wasted, it would also mean tools, skins and furs. Water, food, clothing, shelter: all are human necessities. The ships that ply our waters do bring clothing and materials to make shelter. However, food is not transported by water here: it is all flown and trucked in, most of it is brought to one place.

We have a ‘warehouse on wheels’ model. Whatever we need, we call in and order. Our stores operate the same way: including food stores.

“…there is less than a week’s supply of food in the entire food chain, while consumers—in contrast to America before 1960—hold less than a week’s worth of food at home…In their refrigerators.”

We depend upon the fact that the bridges will stay standing, the tunnels will remain clear, and that the roads that lead into the city will not be overwashed by storm surge. And that trucks can continue to roll in, rumbling over the abused bridges, tunnels and roads, burning fossil fuels in thick snarled traffic, beating up the infrastructure even more, and releasing pollutants into the air.

There are initiatives to bring regionally-grown produce into the New York Metropolitan area by water (please see “Alliances” for some of their links). The longest in the game have been the NY Soil and Water Conservancy, The Lower Hudson – Long Island RC&D Council with the USDASustainable Ports, HARVEST, Floating Food, the ShipCoop and others have joined either forces and resources or are working independently, and the number of good people with the desire to contribute to the cause is growing.

Of the models being discussed, the one which is the closest to being assembled and set into action is clean tug and barge work.
Roughly 60% of the tugs in the harbor are involved solely with petroleum transportation by barge, 30% do ship/barge-assist, and perhaps 10% move other things: aggregates (sand, gravel & stone), cement, scrap metal, paper recyclables, dredge spoils.

The tugs and barges are ready.  In some cases there are ships which would be better suited for the job. For example, Ro-Ro’s onto which trucks can be driven and transported. Passenger ferries with freight-carrying capabilities, would another model. However, we have many beautiful old single screw tugs, historic tugs all along the Hudson and up into the NYS Canal System that could take on the shipping work right away.

There are many obstacles, of which the large subsidies to trucking is the hardest to beat. Maintenance of truck-abused roads, bridges, and tunnels, and the costs of traffic congestion, air and water pollution, and accidents: these are all , or mostly, externalized costs not factored into the user-end price of trucking that is paid by a cargo consignee or the retail price of goods and services paid by consumers. A good report is here, published by the US Government Accountability Office “Surface Freight Transportation – A Comparison of the Costs of Road, Rail and Waterways Freight Shipments That Are Not Passed on to Consumers.”

An undeniable physical barrier is that which surrounds Manhattan: walled off waterfronts with no where to tie up:

We have the bollards, but they are lawn furniture.

Where there was once active piers, docks and slips, there is now crumbling remains.

And new construction does not have room for the working vessels. Unless it is a yacht.

Pier 57 was once an engineering marvel: a pier that was built upon three giant concrete blocks, used to receive ship passengers. And today? Abandoned.

The old warehouses of Erie Basin once stored sugar, grain, cotton, spices, flax, hemp, jute, wood, indigo, india rubber, leather, dried fruit, seeds, tobacco,
cocoa, coffee. They also let you drop your cobblestones ship ballast for a fee. Put in your application here today.

All along the waterfront you will find places that once welcomed passenger or cargo laden ships which now no longer do. If the infrastructure to dock a vessel is lacking, we will refit old landing crafts and pull ourselves upon the shore to unload goods. Except that there is hardly any  ground upon which to land. U Thant Island is taken.

Until recently, the waterfront was incredibly important and active:

A good write up is to be found here from Fordham University on how this was lost. The Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 created the Interstate Highway and Defense Highways, essentially a massive subsidy to trucking (the least efficient means of freight transportation that exists besides air freight), relegating rail and shipping to second-class status.

Railroad cars once floated across the river, bringing in raw materials from the hinterlands and sending off manufactured goods back. The Erie Lackawanna terminal, hemmed in by development, has been beautiful preserved and will one day serve as a ferry slip, but is currently used more for film and photoshoots.

The NYNJRail, is the only cross-harbor rail barge service left. Once, hundreds of these carfloats would traverse the harbor daily. Keep an eye out for the Cross Harbor Freight Program.

Perhaps the most beautiful building in the harbor is the Central Railroad of New Jersey terminal.

Kudos to NJ for preserving this site, which is now on the State and National Register of Historic Places. Passengers and goods once travelled inland: today, it is a quiet sanctuary, living proof of Nature’s indefatigable force. Nothing we make–with all our might!–is going to last.

Everywhere around the harbor, testaments to the once-productivity of this city are to be found. The Domino Sugar factory is being condominumized.

Old factories built to last, last. But the industries themselves have not.Even upriver,  one can pass by abandoned plants, like the Adirondack Power and Light Company,

or this unnamed carpet factory. Mills, lumberyard, factories have all closed and the towns have never fully recovered from the loss of work.

Small family owned stores that were once plentiful and placed about in neighborhoods have been forced out, replaced by the Walmarts and KMarts which require a car to reach. Public transportation to the megacomplexes do not exist. The youth, lacking ways to getting to the malls, have no easy ways of earning wages, nor any venues in which to social. Gang activity is high in some towns.

The Henry Street Grain Elevator stands behind tanks,

and the old Todd Ship Yard cranes are now decorations for the IKEA shoppers to pass as they park over the largest graving dock that was filled in for their cars.

The loss of industry affects the maritime industry. There was once great a demand for tugs and experienced crews to run them. In the last two years, we lost two women-owned local tug companies.

What, then, does this city produce?

Garbage. Recyclables. Babies.

And  wastes. Here is the Dept of Environmental Protection‘s “honeyboat” bringing sludge from the Newtown Creek to the 134st dewatering plant. The human wastes are treated, dried, pelletized and sold for fertilizer for non-organic salad growers. Yet another reason to go organic.

So, that is what this city produces.

There is shipping activity, and even some short sea shipping activity: small containers on barge.

Oil is moved about, in barges or in small tankers.

Cruise ships, ferries, water taxis, tourist boats are on the water.

The fishing industry is active.

Recreational vessels abound, to the chagrin of the working mariner. Kayakers, swimmers all go in the drink.

Government vessels like this Army Corps of Engineer Driftmaster constantly ply the waters. Coast guard, harbor police (“Harbor Charlie”), buoy tenders, ice breakers drift or speed by.

Restoration of historic vessels is also active. This old lightship is now a popular bar and restaurant.

There is no shortage of dredges, scows and their tugs and supply boats.

The Kill van Kull  (kill is ‘creek’ in dutch) was once at a natural depth of 15-18′, and home to rich beds of oysters, clams, and fishes, surrounded by salt marshlands. Today, this major shipping channel has been dredged to 50′ below mean low water.

The Army Corps of Engineers, with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, has been working on the Harbor Deepening Project since the 1980′s. They have had to contend with a bottom made of soft and stiff clays, red shale, serpentine rock, glacial till, and granite. Different kinds of dredges are used for the different materials.

This cutter suction head was used to drill through hard bedrock as an alternative to blasting. For videos of how this works, view these dredge animations on the ACOE site.

Here is one of three spare cutter heads, with a total of 52 teeth in each of the helical jaws. The cost of a tooth (which weighs 16 kg / 35lbs) is between $150 and $180 each, depending on size and manufacturer.In the wheelhouse is a large heavy black cabinet which sometimes shakes, vibrates and ‘walks’ around as the cutter head grinds through the incredibly hard bedrock, and at the end of the 12-hr shift, several of the men have to move it back.

Many thanks to Capt. Bill Miller and Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co., and Tugster for the dredge photos.

Where does the dredge spoil go?  as it is contaminated with PCB’s, special environmental buckets and scows are required to transport the spoil. Some of it is mixed with ash and concrete, and turned into landfill. For more information, you can download reports from the USACOE Dredged Material Management Plan for The Port of New York and the State of New Jersey.

Two golf courses have been created with dredge spoil: the Bayonne Golf Club, above, is an exclusive “scottish link” design. Liberty National is the other one.

Thanks to the ACOE of our and our army of dredgers, draft is not an obstacle to short sea shipping within the Harbor.

The air draft is however, an issue for some containerships. The air draft beneath the beautiful Bayonne Bridge varies with the tide between 151 and 156 feet.
(It was the longest steel arch bridge in the world when it opened on Nov. 15, 1931. Look for her sister bridge in the film, The King’s Speech, hanging in the office of Lionel Logue!)

$1.3 billion has been approved to raise this bridge up to 215 feet; and engineers intend to raise it while simultaneously keeping the bridge open to traffic. Many believe the project is necessary in order to accommodate larger container ships being built in anticipation of the widening of the Panama Canal in 2014. Here is the ACOE’s very thorough 69page reconnaissance report, created in 2009, the Bayonne Bridge Air Draft Analysis.

However, there are many who believe the raising of the bridge is an unwise use of money when there are better options.

“…Unlike the European Union, the United States does not have a comprehensive port plan therefore each port on the East Coast, from Florida to Nova Scotia is competing for the next generation of very large container ships. Instead of designating certain ports with deep unobstructed facilities as feeder or hub ports, and creating a fleet of very fast smaller ships to move container cargo to less accessible, but no less important ports in a coordinated way – US ports are competing with each other by building duplicate facilities for the few very large ships that are likely to call on East Coast Ports in the next twenty years.

When the Army transferred the Military Ocean Terminal Bayonne (MOTBY) to the City of Bayonne, those of us with an interest in the port, dredging, and the environment were heartened by the plans that included a state of the art container terminal for the largest of the ships that may call on the Port of NY and NJ (the so called post Panamax 10,000 teu container ships). The Bayonne Local Redevelopment Authority (BLRA) asserted that they would bring a port developer on board who would raise $500 million for a new container port, bringing with it more than 3000 jobs.

Not only could the former MOTBY be the closest port to deep channels – it will save billions of public dollars, avoid the height limitations of the Bayonne Bridge, and reduce the significant environmental impacts that will be caused by continuing to attempt to deepen the dangerous, narrow Kill Van Kull, and dredging more of the contaminated sediments of Newark Bay – the new port on the Harbor side of Bayonne, could be built using the newest most efficient container management technology including alternative fuel and electric vehicles, and direct transfer of containers from ship to trains or ships to container barges, or ships to container rail cars on barges.

The additional benefit of a new container port at MOTBY is its juxtaposition to the Global Terminals, and the Greenville rail yards. The MOTBY Port also creates a cross harbor synergy if the “cross harbor float” system is re-invigorated as is envisioned by the Port Authority of NY and NJ the new owners of the Cross Harbor Railroad. Taking all that into account, MOTBY is the premiere maritime asset in the Harbor and one of the most valuable maritime properties in the world.

The (pre-real estate meltdown) plan proposed by the Bayonne Redevelopment Authority (dubbed the Peninsula at Bayonne Harbor) is for high rise housing and offices, with a yacht harbor in the last huge graving (dry) dock in the harbor, and only a minimum amount of port commerce space, what appears to be one cruise ship berth…”

excerpt from Bridging the Gap by Andrew Willner

An obstacle to short sea shipping is the lack of many small ports distributed about, and the lack of infrastructure: piers, docks, cranes, ramps, storage facilities. Pictured above are the ports we have, and a very good listing of all the port facilities and their facts can be found here.

In NYHarbor, it is illegal to handle cargo without going through the International Longshoremen’s Association. I believe the going rate is $250 a lift: taking a container off a ship and setting it on wheels. Rolling and then transferring the container onto a smaller vessel would be another $250. Depending on where the vessel would be going, it might almost be worth it.

Jones Act. I’m not able to hold any sort of discourse on this complex subject but I surely can refer you to good people who can, and who would argue very intelligently for both sides of the case: those who want to upkeep the Jones Act to protect American workers and shipyards, and those who want to repeal or amend the Act to allow cheaper, foreign built ships to operate.

I can only say that if the Jones Act was completely repealed, many of my friends would be out of work, unable to compete with trained, cheap foreign labor, and we would lose what little manufacturing knowledge and ability we have.

Above: Union Dry Dock, before a captive audience.

More obstacles: policies that stack all odds against water transportation and lack of funds to change policy.

MARAD does not recognize the Hudson River, canal systems and the Sound as corridors, and will not approve new project designees until funding becomes available; MARAD will advise when they are accepting submitals. A meeting with the City Council revealed that they would like to see an full economitive study or white paper on watertransportation of regional produce, but do not have the funds to support one. The USDA has zero’d out all funds for the Hudson River Foodway Corridor initiative for this year. Coffers are bare.

dear Rigmor from Bornholm DK stands in front of a MARSEC sign at the Staten Island Ferry Terminal.

Alternating between an (expensive) inconvenience to an absolute obstacle could be the tight security the government imposes upon all marine actions. At the time of this talk, the Homeland Security Advisory System (HSAS) was in place, but has since been replaced. Which is good, because they never did use the blue or the green Level plates. They probably did not even have them made. The fear and suspicion that 9/11’s acts of terrorism has inculcated into law enforcement has affected all mariners, and affects even the workings of maritime photographers and sketchers with big drawing pads.

Dept Homeland Security’s TWIC program (Transportation Workers Identity Card) is a redundundant ID card, issued by Lockheed Martin, and not terribly popular with some mariners, as compiled here. You cannot move about waterfront areas without one, but you cannot move anywhere with one, either.

“The National Terrorism Advisory System, or NTAS, replaces the color-coded Homeland Security Advisory System (HSAS). This new system will more effectively communicate information about terrorist threats by providing timely, detailed information to the public, government agencies, first responders, airports and other transportation hubs, and the private sector.”

Though not an obstacle as much as a frustration, new piers are being constructed for strolling of park goers and not for working mariners. However, it is a wonderful, hopeful beginning. It would be very good if those with funding to build such projects would consult with marine experts. Understandably, as park piers were not initially constructed with marine industry in mind, we’re happy with what we get.

Eagerly awaited new piers have large yokohama fenders appropriate for big ships hanging over water of depths of 6 to 10m. Tiny gates too small for ship brows and ramps are placed in front of pile clusters and bollards, and pier furniture blocks the entrances. However, they absolutely do deserve praise for building piers.

Crumbling, yet working, piers is what you will find in the Newtown Creek and the Gownus Canal:

“One of the most polluted industrial sites in America…containing years of discarded toxins, an estimated 30 million gallons of spilled oil, and raw sewage from New York City’s sewer system.  Newtown Creek was proposed as a potential Superfund site in September 2009,  and received that designation on September 27, 2010…Since there is no current in the creek, sludge has congealed into a 15-foot-thick (4.6 m) layer of “black mayonnaise” on the creek bed.”

3.5 mi (6 km) long, the Newtown Creek has vessel traffic going to the fuel tanks, pumping stations, waste treatment facilities, and recycling facilities.

Excavated in 1881 for commercial shipping and barge traffic, the Gowanus Creek became the Gowanus Canal. Lined with small industries and neighboring residential areas with chic bars and restaurants, it is a navigable channel: 7,500′ long, 100′ wide, and of depths from 4′ to 16′.

For over a hundred years, oil refineries, machine shops, gas and chemical plants, soap makers and tanneries all indiscriminately dumped industrial pollutants; compounded with discharges, storm water runoff, and sewer outflows, this water body ranks as the nation’s most extensively contaminated, pushing the Environmental Protection Agency to designate the Gowanus Canal a Superfund site on 2 March 2010. Read more on the ACOE’s Gowanus Canal and Bay Restoration Study.

However, the bridges work: here is a well-organized listing of the bridges. A call to the USDOT at (201) 400–5243 at least 4 hours in advance will insure that an operator is there to open the Hamilton Avenue Bridge, unless it is under maintenance.

According to the New York State Highway Bridge Data, “Based upon data submitted to the Federal Highway Administration in April 2010, about 12 percent of the highway bridges in New York State are classified, under the broad federal standards, as structurally deficient and about 25 percent are classified as functionally obsolete… ”

The incredible New York Canal System is an inland waterway that runs 524 miles into NY State, connecting the Hudson River, Lakes Champlain, Ontario and the Finger Lakes, the Niagara River and Lake Erie, passing through 25 counties and close to 200 villages, hamlets and towns. Depth and height restrictions are found here.

The locks are well-built and well-cared for, maintaining the equipment seems to be a source of pride with the operators. If the power went out, the locks would still work. “It would take 6 of us,” one man told me, “but we’d get you through.” Look here at Tug44‘s homage to the beautiful equipment and machinery!

There are many small regional farms located near water. We have the best land for producing dairy, and yet large subsidies to giant agribusinesses make milk from states across the continent ubiquitous and cheaper in the stores. The land upstate produces the best apples, yet in stores, apples from Washington state are trucked in and carried.

As one observer said at an Outdoors America conference on supporting upstate farms: “This IS a homeland defense issue!”

But the challenges goad us into being more resourceful:

(source unknown: pls notify us of owner of this photo, thank you)

if these good fellows had TWIC cards, we’d be set.

(source unknown: ditto)

And, we are willing to try anything. We might even have to go to the Big Guy: maybe Santa would let us charter his rig for off-season rates so we could ship by reindeer and sleigh:

photo: Bill Bensen

all other photos either by Capt Joel Milton or Christina Sun©2011

I have two other wonderful hosts to thank: Vielen danke e grazie to Hamburg urban planner and lighting designer,  Mario Bloem e Donata for food, shelter, technology and true friendship–

Mario: “No, Christina. NO more than 30 slides, otherwise it will be like those friends who show you their vacation photos, and if you bore them, it will be bad karma.”


le havre-bound!

Posted in liners, Uncategorized by bowsprite on 2010/03/24

I am going to Le Havre, in Normandie, France!

Two Atlantic liners of the Compagnie Generale Transatlantique, or “The French Line”:

SS Normandie, 1935
Builder: Chantiers de Penhoët, St. Nazaire, France.
Length: 1,029 ft (313.6 m)
Beam: 119 ft 5 in (36.4 m)
Height: 184 ft (56.1 m)
Draft: 37 ft (11.3 m)
Decks: 12
Installed power: Four turbo-electric, total 160,000 hp (200,000 hp max).
Propulsion: Four 3- (later 4-) bladed, 23 tons each
Speed:29 knots (54 km/h), max speed recorded 32.2 knots (59.6 km/h)
Capacity: 1,972: 848 First Class (cabin), 670 Tourist Class, 454 Third Class
Crew: 1,345
Maiden voyage: Le Havre – New York in 1935.

SS France, 1962

Builder: Chantiers de l’Atlantique, St. Nazaire, France.
Length: 316.1 m (1,035 ft)
Beam: 33.8 m (110.6 ft) waterline
Draft: 10.8 m (34 ft)
Propulsion: Geared CEM-Parsons turbines quadruple propeller (1961-1979) / twin propeller (1979-2008)
Speed: 30 knots (56 km/h; 35 mph) approx.
1961-1974   407 First class,  1,637 Tourist class
1980-1990 – 1,944 passengers
1994-2003 – 2,565 passengers
1961-1974 – 1,253
1980-1990 – 875
1994-2003 – 875
Notes: Cost US $80 million approx.
Maiden voyage: Le Havre – New York , 1962

oil spill containment boom & parts

Posted in Uncategorized by bowsprite on 2009/11/15


whatzit? peek here.

the Schooners of New York Harbor

Posted in NYHarbor, schooners, watercolor, drawing, boat, sketch, waterfront by bowsprite on 2009/04/19

Overheard on VHF, on two different occasions:

  • Princess to the sailing boat, Adirondack coming out of Chelsea Piers.”
    Adirondack to the Princess, we’re at North Cove, going south. You want the Imagine.”
  • Adirondack, by the Statue, this is the tug and barge coming up on your stern…”
    No response. It is not the Adirondack, but the Pioneer at the old buoy 31 (now 35), with no other schooner in sight…

What ship is that?

Well, should the old girl not readily show you her derrière bearing her escutcheon (plate with the boat’s name), below are some of the schooners (et al) of NYHarbor, drawn more or less to proportional scale, with some identifying marks, so you can call her by name:


Schooner Pioneer:
Built: 1885, in Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania
Docked at: Pier 16
Material: Steel Hull, Iron Frames
Length: 102 ft.
Breadth: 22 ft.
Draft: 4.5 ft. (w/centerboard up) 12 ft. (w/centerboard down)
Mast Height: 76.6 ft.
Sail Area: 2,737 sq. ft.
Passenger Capacity: 35

It’s very easy to spot the Pioneer: look for the orange jimbuoy at the stern. She has a beautiful bow, one of the classiest in the harbor—a clipper bow— with a proper martingale permanently cocked to starboard from a docking mishap. Black hull and masts, white booms and gaffs, wooden bowsprit.

Her topsail is the grimy-est sail you would ever be called upon to hoist, redolent of grey-brown subway rats’ pelt. It’s only brought out in very light winds and training sails. Pioneer also has a fisherman’s sail, stretched from foremast to mainmast— also a vanity sail— taken out only when the crew clamor to learn how to set it.


Schooner Lettie G. Howard:
Built: 1893 in EssexMassachusetts
Docked at: Pier 16 (update: now at Mystic Seaport, CT)
Material: Wood hull, masts, spars
Length: 125.4 ft. / 38.22 m
Breadth: 21.1 ft. / 6.43
Draft: 10.6 ft. / 3.23
Sail Area: 5,072 sq. ft.
Crew: 7-9

Lettie is lovely: a forest green with topsides, booms, and blocks all a buttery yellow. Look for the notch midships. I know this notch well: on the first day of my first Lettie trip, racing towards the Georges Bank, I would prop my head in this notch (only while offwatch, of course) and vomit. Wooden masts, white bowsprit.

Lettie is so shipshape I believe even her baggywrinkle is drycleaned periodically.


Schooner Adirondack:
Built: 1994, Scarano Boat, Albany, NY
Docked at: Chelsea Piers
Material: Douglas Fir , cedar, teak, and mahogany.
Length: 80 ft
Draft : 8.6 ft.
Sail Area – 2,000 sq. ft.
Passenger Capacity: 49 passengers

Adirondack’s signature telltale marks: the plumb stem and the canoe stern. White hull, bowsprit, booms, gaffs & masts.


American pilot schooner Imagine: (now renamed Adirondack III)

Docked at: Chelsea Piers
Built: 1997, Scarano Boat
Length: 78 feet
Passenger Capacity: 49 passenger

White hull, trim, bowsprit, booms, gaffs & masts of Port Orford Cedar.


Sloop Clearwater:cleartiller
Docked at: 79th st Boat Basin
Length: 106 ft
Mast Height: 108 ft.
Sail Area: 4,305 sq. ft.

Clearwater is green-hulled with thick black trim, black masts, and has a huge white boom, white bowsprit. Very rare is her large tiller, carved in the shape of a fist. One person might be able to steer her dead ahead, but it takes several crewmembers to turn the boat.


Schooner Shearwater:
Built: 1929, Rice Brothers Shipyard, East Boothbay, Maine
Docked at: North Cove
Materials: Wood; Teak, Mahogany, Native White Oak Georgia Pine
Length: 82.5 ft
Beam: 16.5 ft
Draft: 10 ft
Mast Height: 85 ft

She’s still a schooner: Marconi rigged, not gaff like the others.

(More that I missed! artwork to come)

Schooner Clipper City
Docked at: Pier 17, NY

Sloop Ventura:
Docked at: North Cove, NY

Schooner Mary E.:
Docked at: City Island, NY

Schooner Liberty:
Docked at: Liberty Marina, Jersey City, NJ

Schooner Richard Robbins:
Docked at: Lincoln Harbor, Weehawken, NJ

These are some of the schooners that live here. Many friends come through: Mystic Whaler is here, at the 79th st Boat Basin, the A.J.Meerwald and the When & If, from NJ, and many others. If you are feeling the desire to own a fine schooner, this one is for sale: the Rosemary Ruth.
Photos here from Tugster. Great photos and writing on Frogma: go there and type in Rosemary Ruth and Schooner Ann!

Hello, World!

Posted in about, contact, doodle, email by bowsprite on 2008/05/23

Bowsprite was born in NYC on Riverside Drive, grew up in Jackson Heights, Queens, and did not realize the Long Island Sound was just a monkeyfist’s throw away for the first four decades. Duh! But, there are so many of us New Yorkers like that, so I began this blog to show what surrounds us.

Our waters are amazing! Our waters have protected, nurtured, nourished us, and still today, bring us much of what we need to survive and flourish.
What is on the water? who’s out there? what is going on on the waterfront? Come to the water. Get on the water. Get IN the water!

I love the old boats we have, I admire the knowledge of people who know how to fix, maintain, and run some of these boats and ships. I admire the working harbor, and I’ve been lucky to find a little boat to work on, a little orange hydrosurveying vessel. There is a vibrant community of what Tugster calls “the 6th boro”, and it is thanks to them that I learn of the things that I record. I love ships, I love stories, I love the water, and with this blog, I get to combine it all!

I got into this watery world quite late. It began with the books of Jacques Cousteau, Dr. Eugenie Clark, Patrick o’Brien, but really became an obsession when I joined a team of swimmers to swim around Manhattan, and studied my first chart. I owe much to the people I’ve met who work on the Pioneer, Peking, Wavertree, & the Michele Jeanne who generously pass on their knowledge, passion and friendship.

This doodle is of a tin toy, a German christmas ornament. It dangles from my lamp, over a large pile of drawings of boats and ships I hope to post up soon!

Thank you for checking in! Thank you, Elizabeth and Will for helping me to begin this blog! Thank you, Dr. Wanderson, for the tag, Bowsprite.

(& in memory…)

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