Posted in OffTopic: not in NYHarbor by bowsprite on 2013/05/30


In my well-worn copy of The Book of Old Ships, by Henry B. Culver, beautifully illustrated by Gordon Grant (Garden City Publishing Company, Inc, NY © 1935), it says this name may have come from the generic Turkish word “fulk,” meaning a ship.  The Catalan felouques had “masts inclined well forward, and had on each side of the stem, a painted eye after the style of those which ornamented the prows of the ancient Egyptian and Greek ships. The lateen sail with its high pointing whippy yard is much better suited to the lighter and dryer winds of the south than to the heavier airs of the northern seas.”

The “Gold & ambergris…” quote is from Patrick o’Brien. Ambergris is found in the guts of the sperm whale, it smells like poop when fresh, but ages into a sweet scent and was used in perfumes. It made Melville muse that “fine ladies and gentlemen should regale themselves with an essence found in the inglorious bowels of a sick whale.” Store High In Transit!

crude post

Posted in Gulf oil rigs, OffTopic: not in NYHarbor, oil rigs by bowsprite on 2010/05/09

I’m so sorry: we are up to our gills in this, yes? but offshore oil drilling is pertinent to NYHarbor, for its yield is what makes us run. Tugster caught Guardian, whose last position ±10° is recorded here, in the 6th boro a year and a half ago. (Boat doodle above is not of Guardian.)

While looking at photos of offshore supply vessels (OSV) of the Gulf, I noticed: they do get amazing weather.

“It is beautiful there,” said the mariner who worked in the Gulf. He mentioned each rig he worked with pride.

“Drilling is high tech. It’s hard. And they are good at it—very good. But they don’t always know what will happen when they hit that reservoir. I’ve seen so much burned off in a control flare, and if you’re anywhere around it, it’s HOT. I would feel my skin crackle as it dried from the heat. I’d have to go inside the boat, and the flare’s heat would blister the paint off the boat. Then you’d hear on the radio: “Mud! more mud!” and they’d pump drilling fluid through the rod string inside the drill pipe, out through the bit, and some guy would be there, taking measurements of the mud and mixture until they got it just right…When you see a photo like that, with those flames all over, ohhh, it just makes you sick to your heart…”

The fondness for the Gulf and the work is also evident in this wonderful voice.

I know nothing about oil rigs. How many oil rigs are in operation? a peek at this one directory will dizzy you with the numbers of projects and companies at it. (But I couldn’t find the answer.)

The Energy Information Agency is a great resource. But still, no one quite knows the best thing to do to check the gushing:

• at the U.S. Minerals Management Service, MMS: “To submit alternative response technology, services or products please call (281) 366-5511.”

• at the EPA: fill out this form if you have an idea to try. A question: “Have you field-tested your proposed solution?
I suppose they have to ask, but I would have to check off “No. I did not test my idea in 5,000′ depth of water in heavy seas. And neither did you. Y’all.”

• at the source: this pdf form to fill out with your suggestions.

THIS is an impressive website for the Offshore Oil and Gas industry:!

top row: 1. Brutus in a water ballet, 2. Blindfaith being pushed by Tern, 3. Genesis on Transshelf cutting through the ice of Finland, reaching the Gulf in 24 days;
bottom row: 4. Mars eases on down the road, 5. Genesis floats through the Corpus Christi shipping channel, 6. Baldpate’s base skates into place.

I could spend hours (er, I have spent hours) gawking at the photos (credit, please? who took them?)

The names of the rigs, fields and ships are poetic, the images are striking, the feats–and implications–are awe-full. (I didn’t say awful.)

Heartfelt support to the crews working there, the crews stranded and waiting.
And heart-full apologies for the loss of life: human, plant and animal. We are all complicit.

Tugster weighs in in “Deepwater Miracles”, and wonders what you think…

call for entries: ameliorate your vessel

Posted in OffTopic: not in NYHarbor, paddleboat by bowsprite on 2010/03/12

As seen on gCaptain and Uglyships:

logo: pimped up by monkeyfist from somewhere

send your ideas to 59°56’N! You can primp your ship:or, you can pimp your ship:


a docking in cherbourg

This story is told by Sandy Eames, a tallships sailor, so it must be true:

A schooner came into Cherbourg, France to dock. As it approached the wall, its bowsprit impaled a 2CV. The skipper put her into reverse, but it as the waters would have it, the bow lifted up as it backed out, and the boat took the little car out with it. And as luck would have it, the cafe overlooking the dock was full of diners who could testify that Sandy’s tale is true.

Si vous etiez present lors de cet evenement, merci de nous envoyez votre temoignage pour confirmer sa veracite!

I love the rich colors of Technicolor and Kodachrome! The 1964 film, Les Parapluies de Cherbourg, however, was shot on the unstable Eastman negative stock. The director, Jacques Demy, knowing that the negative would fade quickly, had three color bands shot on black and white negative, and thirty years later, created a new color print that is lavish and rich.  The entire film’s dialog is sung! it takes a bit of getting used to, all composed by the incredibly prolific Michel Legrand, who also helped to digitally remaster the score for the new version. The experience is something else: elegant dresses matching the wallpaper, beautiful old painted numbers on the bows of fishingboats, sailors in their uniforms, umbrellas, cobblestones, a sweeping, teary score… Probably not shown on a tug flatscreen soon, but here is it, because it is beautiful!

Ah! restoration. It ain’t just for ships.

And, in a “of all the gas joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine” moment…

(click on the youtube link, then on “cc” to view subtitles)

Steamships of Lake Geneva, Switzerland

Posted in OffTopic: not in NYHarbor, paddleboat, steamships by bowsprite on 2009/07/16

I am in Switzerland!

And on my first day, I went to the doctor’s. (Swim in a marina at your own risk, for where boats lie, wayward electrical currents, anti-fouling particles, oil, and foul matters from neighbors who do not pump out will surround you. I think I got hit by the latter, in the ear.)

In Dr. Hans Bänninger’s office was a book: A History of the Compagnie Generale de Navigation sur le lac Léman. It is a book on the lake fleet of paddelwheel steamers on Lake Geneva.


M/S Italie 1908 – decommissioned, but still floating around. Update (30nov2015): now in dry dock!
Paddlewheel, compound engine with double expansion, two equal high-pressure cylinders. Converted in 1958 to 8-cylinder, diesel electric.

length: 66m / 216.5′
breadth: 14m / 45.9′
displacement: 296t
ship depth, fully loaded: 1,51m / 5′
passengers capacity: 800
crew: 4


S/S La Suisse 1910 – the flagship of the fleet and still running!
Paddlewheel, one bow thruster; original 2 cylinder compound engine with double-expansion (one small high-pressure cylinder and one large low-pressure cylinder, each driving the pistons and the crankshaft with the same stroke.)

length: 78,5m / 257.6′
breadth: 15,9m / 52.2′
displacement: 518 t
ship depth, fully loaded: 1,61m / 5.3′
passengers capacity: 900
crew: 7

1n 1808, the Albany was the first paddle steamer which steamed along the Hudson to the coast of the Delaware River. 

Steamboat technology came to Switzerland in the shape of the Guillaume Tell on Lake Geneva in 1823. Her wooden hull was from Bordeaux, her engine from Liverpool. Escher Wyss in Zürich built the next few steamboats. Eventually the shipbuilding came to rest in a place with a great name for a shipyard: Ouchy! ha! however, it’s pronounced ‘Oo-she,’ like “who she?” minus the ‘wh’.

Many little companies competed on the lake until 1873, when the Compagnie Generale de Navigation sur le lac Léman (CGN) was formed to better compete against the railway. Their fleet grew and shrank over the years with their fortunes (in 1963-1964, they were 22 ships strong). But, they exist and persist, and some of the beauties are still running. The old ones are called the Belle Epoque ships.

La Belle Époque was a shimmery period (for the rich) from about 1890—when champagne was perfected!—until 1914: World War I. In the book are photographs of grand dining rooms, wooden ceilings and panellings with intricate inlaid work, exquisite brasswork, rounded steps with the name of the ships in brass on every step, hand-blown glass lamps and sconces, luxurious fabrics on banquettes and chairs, and potted palms.

The engine rooms are lovingly beautiful, captured in a romantic sepia glow at a time when steam and coal were used and when such engineering was a form of high art.

Some ships that were converted to diesel electric in the 1930’s (like the Italie) were part of a grand plan to return to steam in 1998. In 2001, the re-steamed Montreux was inaugurated with fanfare and a popular ‘gourmand-cruise’, however the costs of re-steaming three other Belle Epoque ships proved daunting, and the plan was dropped. The fate of the old ships seemed gloomy until steamboat lovers banded together in 2002 to form the Association des amis des bateaux a vapeur du Léman, the Friends of the Steamboats of Léman (ABVL).

Dr. Bänninger is a member of the ABVL, and he gave me the book from which these drawings and information come.  Merci millefois, Dr. Bänninger! for this book, and the ear drops!

lake geneva

from the CGN site:

“With a total surface area of 582.4 square kilometres (348 in Switzerland and 234 in France), the lake is 72.3 kilometres long, and averages 10 km wide (minimum width 8 km, maximum 13.8 km). Its maximum depth is 309.7 metres and it has 167 km of coastline. Its surface is 372.3 metres above sea level in summer and a metre lower in winter. The water is clear to a depth of 6.5 to 7.5 metres, depending on season and location.”

Click here to see their winter, autumn, and summer runs.



doucement – “sweetly” !
demi vitesse – half speed
en route – full speed
en avant – forward
en arrière – backward