Fleet Week at Passenger Ship Terminal

To find the street that corresponds with a pier along the west side of Manhattan, subtract 40.  So:
pier 66 is on 26th street,
pier 89 is on 49th street,
pier 90 is on 50th street.
pier 40 is on Houston Street, or ‘zero street’.

Pier 89 and 90, Passenger Ship Terminal, is where the Iwo Jima and the USS Roosevelt were docked for Fleet Week.


unfinished drawing of the Iwo Jima

What a crowd to see the Iwo Jima! How patiently people–children!–stood on interminably long lines to wait to enter the ship.

I set up in a quiet spot at the end of the pier 89, just past the throng, the booths with advertising, brochures, and paraphernalia, and past the navy ride simulator machine, but still within the boundary set up to pen visitors in from the end of the dock.

twicThe ship is daunting. She’s BIG, long, complicated, and I contemplated how to squeeze her bulk onto my sketch pad.

The smell of low tide was lovely (yes briny Gloucester and pristine CascoBay! NYC’s lowtide smells good!)  After drawing for 20 minutes, a marine with a big gun came by and apologetically asked me to move. “I’m really sorry. My OIC asked me to tell you, uh, but you have to go somewhere else. ” (oh? why? I’m not sure. Et cetera.)

Ok. How about here? I moved next to the ride simulator booth. I got a friendly nod, and continued to draw.  But after 10 minutes, another marine came by to tell me I could not stand there. No, I could not!–the exhaust from the ride was choking me.

I moved into the line of folks waiting for the ride, and my fellow citizens patiently accommodated by filing around me while I drew. Surely I can stand here? everyone’s standing here! More armed marines appeared. I continued to sketch, chatted with children.

Apparently, standing is not the issue. One OIC came to tell me that anyone standing in a place photographing–or drawing–for a long time was going to cause a bit of concern. He was very nice about it. I had my TWIC card suspended around my neck on a 1-800-USA-NAVY  ribbon I got from FleetWeek last year, and mentioned that I had worked on these piers, but he smiled apologetically and said, “You’re probably innocent, but, sorry…”  With the TWIC, I got the same reaction I get at airports–blank glance.

They who fight for liberty and freedom were good enough to grant me the liberty to finish my drawing, sort of.

I do understand their reaction, though. I think it was when I peered through the binoculars to see how the light fixture was attached on the stern of the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship that I raised a red flag. I’m glad I left the VHF at home.

Perhaps it was the detailed drawings that they objected to. I turned the page, switched to a cut reed pen and loose-&-groovy mode. The kids liked this much better:


What are your rights, should you find yourself in a similar situation? US military personnel (including military police) have no authority over non-military property or people. I was not on the ship nor standing on a tank, but on the pier which is is owned by the City of New York, though was probably also a USCG regulated facility for the visiting ships and various cruise ship companies. On non-military installations, they have no jurisdiction. If it was a security concern, the police might have been called. No one ever told me not to draw, but I was not able to stand around to draw. Well. I chose not to make it an issue. There’s plenty to draw, it was a beautiful day, people were happy.



For good photos and a literary stroll through the interior showing machinery, marines, where barnacles reside and the NAVY’s tweeting address, look here at Tugster.

I watched the marines in their various uniforms debark from the ship, pausing at the head of the gangway to turn to the river to salute the flag on the stern of the ship which was not visible. They would then come off the gangway and joyfully go off into the city with their comrades. I wish for them safe journeys, I wish for them to be able to return home, mentally and physically healthy.

I have the same wish, though, for those with whom they might cross paths, or swords.

26 Responses

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  1. tugster said, on 2009/05/25 at 01:34

    yup . . . definitely gray. and did you say there was a gray goose nesting on gray float between the two vessels, gray goose periodically swimming in gray hudson. you do make the gray so nuanced though.

  2. Mage Bailey said, on 2009/05/25 at 20:28

    Lovely lovely… have the grey perfectly. Did I see you on TV there in the background pen in hand? 🙂

    • bowsprite said, on 2009/05/27 at 23:12

      was I clapped in irons being hauled away? I had a very large sketchpad, 10″ x 20″, and though I was wearing a camouflage skirt, I was definitely not in stealth mode.

  3. Buck said, on 2009/05/26 at 09:08

    I love your eye! You see things so differently than I do when I look at USS Roosevelt. It’s incredible to be able to see her through someone else’s eyes like this. Kudos and thank you.

  4. tugster said, on 2009/05/27 at 23:43

    bowsprite . . . there’s VERY little we disagree on . . . BUT to say to cape ann and gulf of maine folk that sixth boro low tide has a “lovely smell…” seriously that’s like someone from a tropical zone trying to convince an alaskan they’ve never seen winter til they’ve spent time in …. trinidad. it’s like a canoeist offering piloting advice to the captain of iwo jima! to say sixth boro low is tolerable . . . i’d have no truck, but to tell a new englander that –unlike up there– NYC has a fantastic low tide . . . . no i don’t buy that.

    • bowsprite said, on 2009/05/27 at 23:48

      haha! it’s my olfactory nerve’s perception and I’m sticking to it!

  5. Ivy said, on 2009/05/27 at 23:59

    ” you ”
    are having too much fun. I am jealous. I hate to admit it.

    • bowsprite said, on 2009/05/28 at 00:51

      aay! you’re the one who chose the Bklyn Fleamarket! you coulda come to see warships and weapons instead.

  6. […] when I was in town for the grand entrance for Fleet Week 2008.  I’m endebted to the vigilant bowsprite for catching the recessional . . . the fleet processing out the sixth boro for watery parts not yet […]

  7. Jed said, on 2009/05/29 at 11:31

    A little insight to the crew of a Destroyer:

    The Detroyermen
    J.A. Donohue

    There’s a roll and a pitch, a heave and a pitch
    To the nautical gait they take,
    For they’re used to the cant of the quarter deck’s slant
    As the white toothed combers break.
    On the plates that hum like a beaten drum
    To the thrill of the turbines might,
    As the knife bow leaps through the foamy deep
    With the speed of a shell in flight.
    Oh, their scorn is deep for the crews who keep
    To the battleship’s steady floor,
    For they love the lurch of their own frail perch
    At thirty five knots or more.
    They don’t get much of the drill and such
    That the battleship sailors do
    For they sail the seas in dungarees
    A grey destroyer’s crew.
    They need not climb at their sleeping time
    To a hammock that sways and bumps
    For they leap kerplunk into a cozy bunk
    That quivers and bucks and jumps.
    They hear the sound of the seas that pound
    On the half inch plates of steel
    And they close their eyes to the lullabies
    Of the creaking sides and keel.
    They’re a lusty crowd that’s vastly proud
    Of the slim grey craft they drive
    Of the roaring flues and the humming screws
    Which make her a thing alive.
    They love the lunge of her surging plunge
    And the murk of her smokescreen too.
    As they sail the seas in their dungarees
    A grey destroyer’s crew.

    • bowsprite said, on 2009/05/30 at 01:05

      Beautiful! thanks, Jed! I love the roll and pitch of these words! love the imagery!!

  8. JulieinSF said, on 2009/05/29 at 12:50

    gorgeous! just please don’t send those ships to SF. xoxoxo

    • bowsprite said, on 2009/05/29 at 13:13

      Well, I talked to my buddies and convinced most of them to change course, so instead of 5 or 6 of the big ones, you’ll only get 1, coming to you October 8 to 13, 2009. The Navy’s Blue Angels, your precision flying team, will conduct air shows on Oct. 10 and 11. Anything for a friend, Jujubee! xoxoxo

  9. […] Fleet Week at Passenger Ship Terminal […]

  10. Michael said, on 2009/05/30 at 20:38

    Very, very nice Ms. Bowsprite. I’m too tired to search for adjectives right now, but I just love the lines from the bow to the shore, and the play of light on the warships.

    Very very nice. VVN.

  11. O Docker said, on 2009/05/31 at 00:33

    Bowsprite, you’ve got me laughing out of my chair, here!

    The terrorists need detailed info on the ship’s construction, so they send an artist with a two-foot sketchpad to stealthily record it all. I’m sleeping soundly tonight knowing Homeland Security has thwarted this threat by asking you to move every ten minutes.

    It’s the same kind of peace of mind I get every time I’m asked to take off my shoes at the airport.

    I wonder how they determined you were ‘probably’ innocent.

    • bowsprite said, on 2009/05/31 at 09:28

      Ah, ODocker! But that is our clever plan! by having me constantly change my perspective, we have created skewed diagrams that, when they fall into enemy hands, will be the monkeywrench in their machinations.

  12. O Docker said, on 2009/05/31 at 01:09

    Nay! The enemy now has stereo pairs from which they will construct 3D plans – you evil-doers are wicked smart.

    • bowsprite said, on 2009/05/31 at 09:36

      I protest my innocence and uphold my allegiance!
      Anyone know how to write ‘hawse’ in arabic?

  13. tugster said, on 2009/05/31 at 01:51

    bowsprite as agent of the DHS . . . do you carry their ID mayhaps?

  14. […] Read all about Bowsprite’s trials and tribulations (and scuffles with overly concerned Security) as she attempted to sketch the Big Ships in attendance at Fleet Week >> […]

  15. Ralph Baenziger said, on 2009/12/04 at 21:21

    no way of coming

  16. Ralph Baenziger said, on 2009/12/04 at 21:22

    no way of coming (out of Switzerland)

  17. Ralph Baenziger said, on 2009/12/05 at 03:29

    many ways of excuses not to come to New York

  18. […] 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. […]

  19. […]  Bowsprite–who loves gray or otherwise stealthy and can sometimes clear away the miasma and draw them, if you ask her nicely– ascended to a rooftop yesterday to see what MIGHT lurk between the […]

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