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.)

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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…

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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.

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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.      ♥     ♦

9 Responses

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  1. tugster said, on 2013/04/10 at 12:44

    interesting info. may the bilges be aired on deck and waft over those on the pier. the truth must out.

  2. fishandships said, on 2013/04/10 at 13:14

    Great post. Thanks for the HARVEST mention.

  3. bluebrightly said, on 2013/04/10 at 13:54

    Fascinating – I had no idea about any of these incidents – but I’m far from NYH now. Damn Staten Island! Figures! Now I have to go read about Black Seal.

    • bowsprite said, on 2013/04/11 at 08:26

      I’d be surprised if you had heard of any of these incidents, since I did not see you at Montero’s where I heard these tales. Staten Isle is not to blame. I understand the city wanting to protect us, but it is unconscionable to deny visitors water. We give prisoners water, we give stray animals water.

      All city piers were not allowed to let the ship tie up. It’s complex here: piers are owned by city, state, or Gov’t, some then given over to corporations to handle. For a big working harbor like NY/NJ, there is no harbor master. It was FleetWeek AND OpSail that week–where do we put all the ships? few places could accommodate a big vessel like Dewaruci, leave alone the homeland security issue.

      This was a city that once had hundreds of piers, and many, many visiting ships; that is how we became New York City. And, as trucking costs rise, the city may finally realize we simply need to move things over the water, and will build more piers and docks again.

      Moving cargo over the water is more efficient, and saves money. Our bridges, tunnels and roads cost so much to maintain, traffic is horrendous, fuel is getting costlier and harder to tap and refine. You can’t get a pot hole in the water.

      • bluebrightly said, on 2013/04/11 at 11:25

        I hope there’s movement towards a more workable harbor – what you say makes sense – and you didn’t mention pollution, but I imagine transporting goods by road pollutes more than by water. NYC needs to keep working to revive the waterfront, and the harbor. I know next to nothing about all this, but I was thrilled to see all the boats – small boats, fishing boats – tied up at Fisherman’s Terminal here in Seattle. The industry is real, it’s small scale, the people work hard and it seems that it’s actually an important part of the economy – which it should be, because, as you said about NYC, Seattle too, is all about the water – that’s why it’s here.

  4. mageb said, on 2013/04/14 at 11:07

    I’m so sorry we couldn’t make it.

  5. Bill Whalen said, on 2013/04/15 at 20:51

    We’ll be launching the CRBB scow soon — maybe the end of summerl She’ll be ready for a maiden voyage as soon as we line up some maidens who can take a joke.

    Investigating a cargo voyage carrying about 5 or 6 tons of sponges from Tarpon Springs to NYC. Our shipping agent said the “exfoliates market” in NYC tends toward “loofahs”. He’s kidding us, right? Loofah?

    If NYC is in the market for a loofah, just what the hell are we gonna get as cargo for a return cargo? Halvah? Motzo? Chalah? Sounds like there ain’t much moolah in sail cargo….

    • bowsprite said, on 2013/04/16 at 12:53

      Can you define ‘maiden?’ I don’t think I qualify, but I’m good at jokes on me.

      I will conduct a poll. Curious how many tugs have loofahs hanging in their showers.

      Return cargo is always the question. Moolah: I find it doesn’t talk, it goes without saying!

      Now I feel guilty: I complained and so they are sending us no fleet for FleetWeek. Can you talk to your buddies and tell them I will clam up? maybe. I’ll try?

  6. Gregg Stefan Zuman said, on 2013/10/13 at 00:43

    Revolution Rickshaws has a meeting this week with Port Authority about Red Hook Terminal opportunities for craft transport. Who’d a thunk it!

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