creatures of the deep

Creatures of the Deep: this one sank in the Cape Cod Canal, was raised in 4 days and went back to work, busy in NYHarbor.

This one sank in the Wicomico River, was raised after 3 years, came to NYC under her own power (at 4kts), and works hard as a restaurant/bar on pier 66.

And this one sinks and rises for a living, and did so in Lower Bay and left, carrying some of our tugs off, away to the East. Type in Blue Marlin or “Ground Hog Day” to see Tugster’s reportage of her ups and downs.

And this one laid in harbor mud, was salvaged, and now is the Waterfront Museum, the host of the Creatures of the Deep art show. Curated by Karen Gersch, the show is currently on view until August 22. The Artists’ Reception will be on July 22 at Brooklyn Bridge Park.

Thank you, Tugster for sinking in the sinking/raising idea which gave rise to this post!

Happy July to all! see you in August!


Posted in anchorage, chart, containership, red hook, tugs, vhf by bowsprite on 2011/02/06

Last night, thick fog closed in, the horn called out into the silent, empty night.

But over the radio, many voices spoke. As the winds came, the fog was cleared away, but the tension mounted as the wind grew in strength, gusting over 40kts.

When the winds howl, you hear the tightness in their voices.

Coming in this morning, from being in the Panama Canal four days ago, was this ship, calling from the 26 buoy at around 04h30, navigating its way around traffic, an anchoring tug and barge and into Red Hook. The winds began to die down, and everyone was talking:

“…You taking the main channel?”

“…You got a barge there or are you light?”  “No, we’re light.”

“…We’re going to anchor here.”

Molinari (ferry), two whistles?”

“…Yeah, we got your pilot here…starboard side. Roger.”

“…I’m going up the Buttermilk.”

With a sigh of relief (mine), it docked at around 6am.

Boxes are ships at anchor: Light blue are tugs. Red are tankers. Green is cargo. The dark blue arrow is the SI ferry.
I did not include boats tied up at docks nor underway unless they were in the anchorage. The 26 buoy is around the “h” of  ‘mahima’.

how to simulate the tugboat feeling

Posted in tugs by bowsprite on 2010/09/04

you have tugboat life envy? I have tugboat life envy. Envy no more! now you can enjoy the same benefits tugwomen/men have in the comfort of your own home:

1. Sleep on a shelf in your closet.

2. Replace your closet door with a curtain.

3. Five hours after you go to sleep, have your significant other whip open the curtain, shine a light in your eyes, and say “time to go on watch”.

4. Renovate your bathroom. Build a wall across the middle. Move the shower head down to chest level. Install the hot/cold, on/off valves backwards.

5. When you take a shower, turn off the water while soaping.

6. Every time there is a storm, sit in a wobbly rocking chair and rock as hard as you can until you’re nauseous.

7. Put diesel fuel in your humidifier instead of water, and set it on “high”.

8. Using a spray bottle filled with diesel fuel, lightly mist your clothes.

9. Don’t watch TV, except for videos in the middle of the night. Take a vote on which one to watch, and then watch a different one.

10. Leave a lawn mower running in your living room 24 hours a day, to provide the proper noise level and exhaust odor.

11. Have your paperboy give you a haircut.

12. Store all your trash beside the chimney in the sun for a month.

13. Wake up every night and eat a peanut butter sandwich.

14. Make up your family’s menu one month ahead.

15. Set your alarm clock for random times. When it goes off, run outside and break out a fire hose.

16. Once a month, take apart every major appliance in your home, and put it back together again.

17. Use 18 scoops of coffee per pot, and let it cook for 6 to 8 hours. Call it tugboat coffee.

18. Invite six to eight people you don’t really like to stay with you for two or three months.

19. Install a reading light under your coffee table, and do all of your reading there.

20. Raise all the doorway thresholds, and lower all the top sills in your home, so every time you pass through you hit your head or bang your shins.

21. Lockwire all the lug nuts on your car.

22. When baking cakes, prop up one side while baking. Then, when finished, level it up with frosting.

23. Every so often, throw your cat in the swimming pool, and yell “Man Overboard!”

thanks Capt. Rustchak! compiled by Marc Jobin,
and written by those who live the life (Misunderstood Mariner.)
Need more? go here, then go beyond just this post,
and poke around this blog…¡buxomly illustrated!

clearwater’s great hudson river revival 2010

This weekend: Clearwater’s Great Hudson River Revival 2010
A musical and environmental festival; the venue looks amazing!

Uglyships has its Flashbacks, BibliOdyssey has its Image Dumps. Here is mine, for John Sperr’s old Instant Button Machine in the Dutchess Outreach booth this weekend. He asked for a few images to represent river and harbor activity, so I collected a few together. I have to draw more tugs! According to Roberta Weisbrod, since 1991, there is a 37% increase of tugs operating in NYHarbor. Taurus is foist on the list!

All artwork is ©2010, but is available upon request for altruistic, beneficent, benevolent, charitable, eleemosynary, good, humanistic, philanthropic, public-spirited causes, and for birthdays and ship anniversaries.

boat time

Posted in dredges, safety, tugs, USCG, watercolor, drawing, boat, sketch, waterfront by bowsprite on 2009/12/15

This ship has a 12h watch system: 0600 to 1800, 1800 to 0600. The crew of 35 are on 6 weeks, off 6.
A front watch gets the sun. A back watch gets no sun–and no Captain down their backs.

This one is using a 7-5, 5-7 watch (0600-1300-1800-2300-0600), deviating slightly from the industry standard of 6/6.

This offshore tug has the luxury of a 3-watch system (the benefit of any voyage more than 600 nm): 4 on-8 off, 8 on-4 off.  Their breakdown is 0600-1000-1400-1800. “We do it this way so whoever cooks does not end up with the pots.”

You were on watch to see the sun rising, the smell of breakfast is cooking, the engine is loud, someone is hammering: it is time to go to bed.

I am not going to touch the fatigue issue on boats. However, I will direct you to some fascinating sites. The Nautical Institute urges mariners to report issues relating to fatigue as part of their database.

Peruse the USCG’s Crew Endurance Management literature. Reactions to it are on Towmasters and by NYTugmasters, with links to studies on the matter. Good reading on the experiences are found on Kennebec Captain and on Old Salt Shaker’s ‘rest in pieces’, ‘inhuman error’, and ‘groundhog day’.

A reference on these manning issues are here. Quite interesting is this 1984 case of seamen vs USCG. If you need help falling asleep, all the codes are collected here.

So, don’t request a tug to blow their horn as they go by: there is always someone trying to sleep. They fight constant noise, vibration, light, motion, odors; are interrupted by drills — I just cannot imagine it. As one chief mate puts it: “…bear in mind that we work aboard vessels that are essentially designed to collide with things…”

One offshore tug chief mate said, “I don’t know how harbor guys do it. I had to do it for 2 weeks, and at the end, I couldn’t remember my name.”

Another mate wrote: “It was a 2-watch system (captain, mate, two deckhands and an engineer) until the economy fell apart –  and then most ship assist tugs went to “singled-up” crews (captain, engineer, and deckhand) – don’t ask how they complied with work and fatigue…!”

Knowing all this, though, it still might help to take the advice of one well-meaning journalist girlfriend should you attempt to date someone who goes to sea/incommunicado for weeks at a time:

thank you Julie, Will, Jed, Robert, Wesley and O, Linked Ones!

Warship 21, out to sea

Farewell, USS New York!


0740h, ch13:  “Warship 21, Warship 21, changing speed to 10 knots, over.”

sailfish,ladyBbackground: USCGC Sailfish (WPB 87356), 87-foot Coastal Patrol Boat (WPB) – Marine Protector Class
foreground: Coast Guard Auxiliary boat Lady B, the former 82-foot U.S. Coast Guard cutter USCGC Point Brown (WPB-82362)


The USS New York makes calls after the Statue to tugs outside the KV, to the Staten Island Ferry, negotiating through another busy day :

mysterytug(definitely NOT to be used for navigation! this AIS program is off by many minutes and does not read the signal from some ships. Notice: none of the official vessels are showing. Then, you have captains at anchor who don’t turn to ‘at anchor’ mode but drift in ‘underway’ mode, which is nice, because you can see them draw circles as the tides go in and out:)

before 0800h: “CG Sailfish, this is Warship 21: speed change to two-one, two-one, over.” And they go…out to sea.

aboard the Sturgeon Bay for the welcoming parade


On VHF 13: “Look at at that moon!” At 0604h in Bayonne, the moon was a half hidden, huge, beautiful orange glowing ball. Onboard the Sturgeon Bay, we sailed past Penobscot Bay and Katherine Walker, and south towards the Narrows to greet the PCU (pre-commissioning unit) New York. See Tugster for amazing photos and writings from the day; be sure to read the very good comments that Jed sends! & look at ShipShooter‘s breathtaking aerial photos!

USS New York, LPD-21 will be commissioned tomorrow, Saturday November 7th at pier 88.


The harbor never really sleeps. I love the amber glow of the deck lights of the tugs.

amberlightsAt Global Marine Terminal (above), Cap Breton & OOCL Malaysia were being pushed into place. Below: Pearl Ace.


As we neared the Verrazano Narrows bridge, we sailed in the midst of another working day on the harbor: a cruise ship, ferries, more tugs & barges, a CircleLine all moved along, doing their business. The battleship was in view, far away. Once we were in Lower Bay, the spray came flying in through here:



At 0621h, Zachary Reinauer calls out and asks the Sturgeon Bay to switch to its working channel where it asks what its position in the parade is to be.

“Do you have the list of vessels and their orders?”

“We woke up to orders to be in the parade, so here we are. We do not know the order.” They fell in behind us. Pilot No. 1–the OTHER vessel named New York!–seemed to lead, followed closely by the pilot book Sandy Hook.


This is how I love the harbor: a big fuzzy flotilla of parading vessels, working vessels, fireboats spraying red, white and blue jets of water. Pleasure boats would get too close and get chased away by the swooping Defender class boats. A PT boat, a schooner, a sloop, even a duck boat made little appearances in the parade. Only missing the tallships.



Southbound barges seemed to collect as we neared the George Washington bridge. A couple of tugs and barges were anchored in the anchorage channel, but seemed to be VERY much too close. We were a fat parade, especially when the ships turned and we doubled in girth.

Rosemary McAllister and Ellen McAllister were there to assist when the PCU New York made her turns and docked at pier 88.



0929h Sturgeon Bay to another CG vessel: “…pier sweep has been conducted…switching duties now, you may RTB (return to base) now.” We docked behind the Intrepid, and lunched and watched the boom go out as Houma delivered fuel.

galleyMeatball subs were served, and in the galley was a zipper sign that flashed: “Welcome to the Sturgeon Bay… I LUV BAYONNE”…Have a great Coast Guard day.”

As we returned to Bayonne and watched the skyline pass, a woman next to me said, “I used to work in the Chrysler building.” Her husband, a member of the Central Jersey Council of the Navy League, had fought in the Korean War. “He was on the LST 495. The men would joke it stood for ‘Long Slow Target.'”

The history of the LST is interesting, and here is a memorial museum to one of them.  Below, a schematic drawing from this tribute site:


This design became the roll-on, roll-offs in use today. How do they hold up? see the discussions on Kennebec Captain, see the pretty pictures on UglyShips part one & part two, and on Tugster (when I ask him where he’s hidden them).


Many thanks, Lt. Rae and to your hospitable crew of the Sturgeon Bay! Thanks, Pamela, Lee & Will! hi, Jessica & Bob!ussNY21

junk in the harbor

12:53pm, this just in over VHF ch13:desk

Tug: “To the southbound Army Corps Of Engineers vessel.”

ACOE vessel responded (rather sure it was the Gelberman.)

Tug: “About a mile south of you, by Ellis Island, there’s a desk.”

ACOE: “A desk?

Tug: “Yes, a desk…and some telephone poles.”

ACOE: “OK, thank you.”

Happy Harbor Week!

NYHarbor was busy this week, and here are some of the highlights where partyers, stately visitors, and working mariners made it work, swimmingly:

12sept09 Saturday, 1411h  – “Requesting slow bell in the Buttermilk Channel for a flotilla of historic Dutch vessels visiting, requesting slow bell in the Buttermilk until 1500.”


Then, the navy vessels go by:


WaterTaxi to the Coast Guard Cutter (paraphrased): “Oh, please, please, may I go inbetween the navy ships? i’m just crossing the river.”

Coast Guard Cutter (verbatim): No. Denied. Forbidden. “You can stay where you are or you can go to the end and take the stern of the last vessel, but you may not cut through the parade.” The ships went by slowly, and the taxi was like a little boy who has to go the bathroom very, very badly, but could not.


The ships went up as north as the 79th boat basin, turned and went south. Here, one passes Pier 40, home to the Steamship Lilac and Fireboat John D. McKean:


Little Flying Dutchmen joined the parade:

flying dutchmen

Cargo ship Ocean Atlas steamed south alongside the Sloop Clearwater, calling out 5 bells to warn sailing vessels ahead:

clearwater.oceanatlasOcean Atlas (120m x 20m; draught 7.7m, destination Houston)

What ship is this?


Then, a call on VHF 13: “A flotilla in the mooring!”


The working harbor draws comparisons of the regatta to Nature: “Yeah, watch out, I got a lot of fleas here on my right.”


“Uh, Heyward, I’m going to go south of these mosquitos, see you on the 2.”


(The views expressed here are not the opinions of the blogger, who rather saves the discourtesy for the cigarette boats.)

flotillabattery2This view is looking south, where the regatta is at the Battery. The hexagonal stupa is the Holocaust Museum, the patina’d copper green topped roof and tower is Pier A, the old fireboat station. The strip of land midground is Governor’s Island. The waters are the deep water range (fore), and Buttermilk Channel (behind).  The background land is Brooklyn. The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge straddles Bay Ridge, Brooklyn to the left and Staten Island to the right.

Sunday: Harbor Day. The morning started calmly with Half Moon and Tromp riding between Penobscot Bay and Thunder Bay. Hawser 65610 was also in service.


Sorensen Miller brought a large number of passengers onto the Warship Tromp.


sorensenout2 The USCG Cutter Penobscot Bay began to announce on ch13 that a security zone would be in effect from 1100 until 1600: no traffic allowed on north river during that time, from the Battery to Berth 64 (about 24th street.) The announcement was made at intervals.

catherding2KP: “Kimberly Poling is in the ConHook Range, splitting the 29 and the KV buoy, headed up the north river.”
CGPB: “Kimberly Poling, this is CG Cutter Penobscot Bay, you going all the way through?”
KP: “Oh, yes, sir, I’m going to Albany, to Rensselaer.”
CGPB: “OK, well, please hug the Manhattan side.”
KP: “Very good.”
CGPB: “Thank you, have a good day.”
KP: “You too.”


KP (to buddy on radio): “Yeah, I just made it before they closed.” “You’re lucky.”

Another vessel is not as content: a series of insistent 5 blasts were made as boats were right in front of its path (photo is taken when they just cleared away.)


Arcadia, faltering: “I..I can’t believe you just crossed my bow like that…”


1003h  “Don, what are you doing, cooking everybody’s pop tarts with that radar?”
“Oh, you like that screen, huh?”

Minerva Zoe, in the ConHook Range, headed out to sea.”

1045h “Jervis Bay (cargo) is at the KV buoy, inbound for Port Elizabeth.”
1109h Half Moon and Onrust announce they are about to fire guns. I never did hear them.
McKean: “Yeah, you can pump 25.”

Marjorie McAllister uncomplainingly steers with a partially loaded barge and heads south.



Unknown: “Can you go 1 whistle? we’re going to raise an RHA on the starboard side.” (–what is an RHA?)
Containership Bauci: “We’re coming on the 28 here, see you on the one.”

statenferryWhich tallship is motoring without sails set? yes, Clipper City.

1100h – Penobscot Bay declares on ch13 the security zone is in effect, “closing North River from the Battery across to Morris Canal, Jersey City. The south marker is this unit, Penobscot Bay. The north marker is Thunder Bay, a straight line across berth 64.”

Despite the warnings all morning, boats call out.

Penobscot Bay, we need to refuel at Morris Canal…”

“…requesting to transit north to North Cove…”

Penobscot Bay, we need to get across the river to the Battery…”

“…do you have a radio on there?” (If this does not elicit a response, try to talk louder.)

Penobscot Bay responds to almost all of them, and repeats: “… you will have to wait until the end of the race, at 1600.” “If you do not have a flag, you may not enter the security zone…” “Negative, you may not enter the security zone…”

sundry tugmen: “How about some working channels here?” “Wouldn’t it be nice to have a race channel on the working harbor?”northriver

The DEP’s North River, going on North River after the security zone is in effect.

to be continued…

fun with vocabulary


“The panes were finally removed. Alas, we had not calculated for the mullion, and the surprise was further delayed.”

bollardpull hpHildegard had more horsepower, but Gigi topped the tons in bollard pull, and the two were in a catty fight to spin the tanker either clockwise or counterclockwise.”


“She failed inspection miserably, even being faulted for sloppy catenary.”   Need your catenary calculated? book an appointment with the DoryMan.

disclaimer: usage might be wrong, corrections gratefully accepted.

the Kill Van Kull Security Zone

Posted in dredges, kill van kull, new york harbor, shipping, tankers, tugs, Vessel Traffic Service, vhf by bowsprite on 2009/07/09

Vessel Traffic Service announced on VHF 13 that all tugs and barges longer than 400′ may not meet or overtake other vessels in the KV. Curious, I called VTS  (718.354.4088).

“Yes. No meeting, no passing from KV buoy 1 to KV buoy 5 for all vessels longer than 400′ and deep draft vessels.” The three buoys have been moved 600′ to the north of their original positions last week, and it became mandatory for large vessels to observe one-way traffic until further notice.


The Kill van Kull was once at a natural depth of 15-18′, and home to rich beds of oysters, clams, and fishes, surrounded by salt marshlands. Today, dredged to 50′ below mean low water, it is a major shipping channel, making it possible to bring in imported goods, cars, fuel, chemicals, orange juice, and to ship out our recyclables.

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.


What is happening now is quite special: We’re in the final deepening phase off St. George, the dredgers have encountered bedrock, and a unique use of equipment is at play (oh, I mean ‘work’)…


“That cutter-head begs to serve as inspiration for a horror movie.” – Tugster

The hydraulic dredge, the Illinois was described by Bill as a “floating factory;” it is huge.

Hydraulic dredges usually use a cutting head to dislodge the sediment which is immediately suctioned and pumped through a pipeline to an offsite settling area, often several thousand feet away.

However, working boats in the area have noticed an absence of the pipeline. If there is no dredge spoil, then there must be no dredging. That cutter-head seems to be drilling away at pure bedrock (instead of blasting). Dredge 54 comes along behind it to dig it up. A support barge is there to replace the hard teeth on the cutter head.

What has been the observed result of the dredging of NYHarbor?
° Working mariners have noticed that the current has increased, and that high and low tides have been affected. Those Eldridge tide predictions are no longer accurate in places.
° Docking seems to be more dangerous, but if you dock only at slackwater, you might have several hours to wait, which would cost more money.

Tugster, who caught amazing photos of the machines and vessels at work, poses two questions:

1. what would happen if dredging activities ceased?  Not sure how fast it fills in here, but several points along the east side of North River silt in as quickly as about 2 a year. The way things are set up now, our harbor cannot afford not to dredge. (And, dredging is expensive! that’s fine if your project enjoys federal, state, or city funding, but what if you are a mom&pop little shipyard? you are between bedrock and a hard place: you cannot afford to dredge, but you cannot afford not to!)

…alternatively, if we stopped dredging, the kill would become a kill again (creek in dutch), oysters, clams and mussels would be sold alongside hotdogs, and you’d have to take a train to Baltimore to get those plastic lawn chairs.

2. “How come the mainstream media pays no attention to these activities?” Really cannot fathom, because it is fascinating. Go and look for yourself: the very best deal of the harbor, the Staten Island Ferries, will take you past the dredging site–for free!

Thank you, Bill & Will!

Oops, this just in: Tugster reports that the Illinois is not there anymore. I’m very sorry, they were never vigilant about their AIS.

You will still see the Dredge 54, but this is how the Illinois looked from one of Tugster’s photos:


Lightning Onboard

Posted in tugs, Uncategorized, watercolor, drawing, boat, sketch, waterfront by bowsprite on 2009/06/11

More thunderstorms to come this week! One tug captain, Joel Milton, recounts an event that occurred one summer afternoon:

“I had just gone below when a tremendous clap of thunder shook the tug and the clean smell of ozone filled the air. It turns out that we became part of the circuit for some of that dangerous, cloud-to-ground lightning. The lightning bolt struck the tallest point on the upper pilothouse — a six-foot radio antenna — leaving only a few inches of charred fiberglass sticking up. The radio attached to the antenna was fried, as was our navigation light panel, but that was it. All in all, we got off pretty easy. But I wondered what could have happened had I been up there when the lightning hit.

Our upper house is made of aluminum and the tug itself, including the mast, is steel. We were in saltwater. The boat did a great job of conducting the bolt into the bay with minimal damage, especially considering that lightning is generally not taken into consideration when vessels are designed. This may sound strange, but it’s true. In any case, I was just plain lucky that I was not in the upper pilothouse.”
Below, a summary of what he had written in WorkBoat magazine:

• Give the lightning a place to go rather than through you. “A mariner has more of a chance of being hit by a side flash from the main bolt. The body is an excellent conductor. If your body provides a lightning bolt with a better path to the ground than a part of the vessel does, then it will likely take it. So the better your vessel can conduct the charge, the safer you are.”

• “All-metal vessels conduct electricity quite well. This makes them less susceptible to damage from lightning and inherently safer for crews. Fiberglass and wooden vessels, however, are very poor conductors. Consequently, the likelihood of damage to the vessel and injury to the crew is much greater. ”

• “Salt water conducts electricity very well, while fresh water is a relatively poor conductor. Vessels in fresh water are much more likely to be damaged during a lightning strike.”

• “Everyone onboard should stay inside. Keep all doors, windows and portholes closed, and stay away from them. Avoid contact with any metal objects if possible, particularly with your hands. Do not hold metal steering wheels, jog levers, throttle controls, searchlight handles, etc., which gives the electricity a direct path through the heart and increases the odds of being killed. Donning a radio headset or holding a radio mike or cell phone is also very risky. And hold off on showers or washing the dishes.”

• “Turn off any electronic devices that are not immediately necessary for safe navigation or communications. Disconnecting radios and GPS receivers from their antennae and/or lowering the antennae may save them from damage, although this is seldom practical. You must also weigh the benefit against the risk to personnel by unnecessarily exposing them to a lightning strike. ”

• “Keep in mind, that lightning can easily strike in the same place again.”

“For those who wish to learn more, two excellent sources of information can be found at and”

Many thanks, Capt. Milton, for permission to use this article which is taken from Workboat Magazine, 2005.

a Whale in Lower Bay

Posted in dredges, lower bay, marine mammal, new york harbor, tugs, whale by bowsprite on 2009/04/13

Michelle Jeanne sent the txt: Traffic (VHF channel 13) reported a humpback whale at Craven Shoals, 9 apr 0822.

Protected by a ring of coast guard and police boats, the whale cut safely across the Ambrose Channel and popped up by the excavator dredge J.P. Boisseau and tugs Thomas Witte and Meagan Ann while they were working at Rockaway Inlet.


Capt. Anthony of the dredge Michigan caught a photo of the popular visitor. The consensus: it was big, even though this one was only 30′. Humpback whales can reach 50′.


photograph by Anthony LoPresti

The Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation requests that should you spot a marine mammal (whale, dolphin, seal) or sea turtle, please call their 24-Hour Stranding Hotline: 631-369-9829, so their biologists can track them.


However, Right Whales, of which there are 300 left by NOAA’s estimation, is protected by federal law, and must be given a berth of 500 yards. A mandatory ship reporting system for North Atlantic Right Whales exists, and the information can be found in this link.peagreen

Thanks–in chronological order of events–Bill, Charlie, Tom and Anthony!

a day on the kill van kull

Posted in kill van kull, tankers, tugs by bowsprite on 2009/03/07


I am fond of the Kill Van Kull—the waterway, not the band (admittedly, I have not yet heard the band.)


Unlike the magical Arthur Kill further on southwest, which is very beautiful if you blot out traces of human intervention, I like the KVK as it is.

The north side of the KVK (New Jersey) is lined with rows of tanks, tubes, and aging docks. Different colors & shapes for different companies.
On the south side (Staten Island) are shipyards, apartment buildings, a salt dock, the elegant, historical Snug Harbor, telephone poles, trees, a passing bus, Tugster’s outdoor offices.
And the meat, the juice, is the traffic that streams by, endlessly, over the water. Containerships and tankers share the road with the littlest boom boats…and tugs galore.

“Heading into the stream” is what you hear on the radio: tugs pulling barges into the ‘stream’, the federal channel. The channel is cerified to 43′ depth, but most has been dredged to 50′, to be certified 50′ by 2013 [Army Corps of Engineers].


We were working in an area that had been dredged to 45′ several years ago, but needed to be deepened. The job, going inland, was not clay, as was originally thought, but a very soft dirt. The dredge was making cuts and creating shoals at the ends, which rose up and did not make grade.

We left our little survey boat and boarded the giant dredge for a quick meeting. Friendly faces peered over, asking if I needed help making the hitch.

The dredge’s charts that shows the cuts they make is called a progress chart, and this is what the men studied while I looked around. All was neat, tidy and sparse. An ear plugs dispenser was only colorful thing there, amid all the metal and grey. Out on deck and up close, the winches were HUGE, towering in circumference over a crew member.


It was getting late in the day, the dredge crew was tired and anxious, for some had flights booked that afternoon to go back south to their homes. We got back onto the survey boat, two tugs that were on standby moved in, and the spuds were lifted on the dredge barge.


As we moved away from the dredge, we heard a loud bang from a neighboring pier. A tug pulled a barge out quickly and struck another barge, denting it and snapping its line on a bollard. Four men went running to the frayed line, and then one could see how thick that line was!

“Oh, that’s the most dangerous—an empty tanker! The spark from striking steel could instantly ignite the gases, and there would be a huge explosion,” said my boss, matter-of-factly, glancing out the window.

Me, neophyte and naive: “But, we would have survived it?”

“Oh, no. The impact would have killed us, pieces of steel the size of cars. Very dangerous. OK, ready? Fathometer on.”

Thankfully, Towmasters cleared the air with the reassurance that cargo tanks use some sort of Inert Gas System, filling the empty spaces with inert gas produced on board by using boiler exhaust to reduce oxygen that would support combustion. [Oops…I have been corrected. Towmasters writes: “Some (repeat, some) tank barges do have IGS, but they are pretty few and far between. Some of the newer Crowley ATB’s, mostly. Although there may be an exception here or there, I know of no conventional tank barges regularly working New York Harbor that are equipped with IGS. In contrast it’s commonplace on tankships, except for some of the oldest ones.

For an example of what can go badly wrong on tank barges read this post from NY Tugmaster’s Weblog about the explosion of the Bouchard 125 at Port Mobil in 2003.“]

When the day ended, I was dropped off by my bicycle tied up at an abandoned pier, and I cycled past our work site on my way to the Staten Island Ferry.


And, in front of the site, was this sign on the fence…


Indeed no, thank you!

For stunning photos taken on the KVK, please look here at the site of the intrepid kayaker, Frogma, who circumnavigated Staten Island several years ago in a kayak–about 26 miles of paddling!


Posted in tugs by bowsprite on 2009/02/14

Scene from the Waterford Tugboat Roundup last year: W. O. Decker kisses the 8th Sea.


W. O. DECKER (1930)
Hull Material: WOOD
Ship Builder: Russell Drydock. Rebuilt in 2005-2006, C. Deroko et al.
Length (ft.): 47.8
Hull Depth (ft.): 5.6
Gross Tonnage: 27
Net Tonnage: 18

8TH SEA (1953)
Hull Material: STEEL
Ship Builder: American Electric Welding
Length (ft.): 45
Hull Depth (ft.): 7.9
Gross Tonnage: 29
Net Tonnage: 23

See Tugster’s site for more romantic shots:

The science of kissing : philematology. Contribute to science…kiss a tugwoman/tugman.

The Rafts of Troy

Posted in art, junk in the harbor, tugs, vhf by bowsprite on 2008/09/04

In front of the Colgate clock, I spy a raft towing a shattered houseboat. They are colorful, with scrappy sails on dubious masts, and I cannot make out if they are manned by crew, stuffed dummies, or–er–art. And, they say (on 13): “This is a raft, requesting miminum wake and safe passage.”

And, they get:
“You want safe passage, get a real boat.”
“Get out of the way!”

Undaunted, they motor on, and reach the Battery quickly.
Captain 1: “Uh, Mike, what the heck is that in front of you?”
Captain 2: “It’s…a pirate boat.”
Captain 1: (Laughing) “Hahaha, they all got life jackets on.”
Captain 2: “Yeah, I’d wear one, too!”

Captain 3: (in a raspy voice) “I want your booty.”
Captain 4: “Is the idea here to put garbage on the river to see if it floats?”

Raft: “There’s two rafts in front of you, in front of your starboard, requesting miminum wake and safe passage.”
Captain: “Get the hell out of our way!”

They make it past the Battery when at the World Financial ferry, two more assemblages go by. A police patrolboat has sort of stopped one.

In the meantime, the project is at

They started out from Troy, NY, August 15, and will end the 3-week Hudson sail at Long Island City.

The NYTimes described it as “… part floating artwork, part performance, part mobile utopia and seemingly part summer camp for grown-up artsy kids.”

The flotilla is seven strong, all built of recycled motors and–things.
Well! welcome to our friendly harbor!