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’.
These lines were heard on various channels of VHF (very high frequency) marine radio. Vessel names (where possible) and times were jotted in sketchbook margins or envelopes. All tugs have been changed to protect the innocent. or guilty.
vessel X: “Oh, Yooooohoooo!”
vessel Y: “Yeeeeeep?”
vessel X: “I gotta go move the buddha, so I’ll be right back.”
vessel Y: “Ok.”
vessel X: “And he’s gonna move it boat style, not boom style.”
vessel Y: “As long as he don’t get used to it.”
Ah! translation in the comments section! thank you, Yooohoooo!
middle of the night, buddy 1: “Look at at that moon!”
buddy 2: “Ah! I forgot what it’s like to do oil.”
buddy 1: “You still smoking?”
buddy 2: “Ha ha…well…I quit today. But I think I’ll go back now that you mention it.”
My absolute favorite VHF moment is here, “Are you angry?”
Farewell, USS New York!
0740h, ch13: “Warship 21, Warship 21, changing speed to 10 knots, over.”
background: 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 :
(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.
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.
At 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.
Meatball 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.'”
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).
12:53pm, this just in over VHF ch13:
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.”
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.
Little Flying Dutchmen joined the parade:
Cargo ship Ocean Atlas steamed south alongside the Sloop Clearwater, calling out 5 bells to warn sailing vessels ahead:
Ocean 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.)
This 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.
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.
KP: “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.”
Which 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?”
The DEP’s North River, going on North River after the security zone is in effect.
to be continued…
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:
2232h, June 18, 2009 On VHF channel 13:
A man called out to the cargo ship, and was answered back: “Djibouti.”
“Yeah, Djibouti, I’m coming over, they dropped me off on the wrong ship, or I got on the wrong bus, they’re going to bring me over now.”
Good Heavens! where is the man?
2355h: Ships called out to each other, warning them of a Yokohama in the water. “We see it, thank you.”
I had heard whales were used as fenders, but I had thought this meant the way camels coddle the cruise ships, and dolphins stand at the mercy of the Staten Island ferries…but, indeed, in Japan, they used once-live, real whales–until the town of Yokohama came up with these BIG black, heavy industrial strength rubber fenders.
One small working boat captain found a new Yokohama floating in the water. It measured 6′ in diameter and 8′ long. He got a line on it, towed it home, and very quickly found someone who offered to buy it from him, but upon examining it, he noticed it was property of the USNavy. The Yokohama was valued at the time at $17,500 (probably now, about $20,000). The prospective buyer had offered $10,000, but as it was government property, our gallant captain filed a salvage claim, which entitled him to 10% of its value. He towed it to the Navy Yard, who seemed reluctant to take it back, but 6 weeks later, he got his govt check for $1,750 and this good story.
Peconic Puffin had put in a request to see things move a bit on these pages, and so I am happy to oblige…
I. Every Boat Show at the Jacob Javits Center at the end of the year, you can find me tending some table for some historic vessel.
During one break, I was herding a small group of children who went straight for the luxury yachts. They launched off the swim platforms and shot up, climbing up all gangways, waving from the sundecks, peeking into cabins (—oh, sorry, I mean staterooms), examining anything set out in the galley, testing silk pillows, crowding into the cockpit. The yacht salespeople would insist that the children be accompanied by an adult, that everyone take off shoes, and would bear with us with various levels of tolerance until the whirlwind would move off to the next boat.
We wandered through luxury yachts, sailing boats, and ended up on the other side of the convention hall. Still full of energy, the children charged up one boat where two men were talking. I lumbered after them, and asked the men if they wanted us to take off our shoes.
They looked at me and said, “This is a fishing boat.”
We all had a good laugh. You can tell which side of the bar I’m sitting at for happy hour.
II. The chief mate of the Amistad was in town and stopped by to visit. He picked up my VHF, and looking at the fleet of fishing boats said in a faux-Bayridge Bklyn accent: “Tony, you there? Tony–you there?”
“You know someone there?”
“No, but there’s always a ‘Tony.'”
What are they fishing for? we are not quite sure…
The VHF marine radio is a potpourri of accents, a lovely collage of voices.
On channel 13, bridge to bridge, captains call out passing arrangements: one whistle is “I intend to pass you on my port side,” two whistles, “I intend to pass you on my starboard.”
One evening, a few months ago, the Cosco Bremerhaven, out by the 29 buoy called out to another ship. In a crisp, tight Irish accent, the captain of the Bremerhaven requested to meet the captain of the oncoming vessel at 1 whistle.
The response, in a warm, drawling, very VERY thick Brooklyn accent, came back: “Yeah, well, we’re just gonna pull over here in the channel and give you more room, and let you go by over here.” My heart warmed with his hospitality to the foreign captain.
A moment of silence, and then in the Irish accent: “I’m sorry, sir, could you repeat that?”
(Indian accent, proper and polite): “British Lines, to the Dela rosa…British Lines, Dela Rosa.”
(American accent): “Dela Rosa.”
(Indian accent): “Uh, what are your intentions, sir? are you angry?”
(American): “Yes, we’re anchoring.”
(Indian accent): “Oh, well, could you please give us some room?”
(American): “Will do.”
(Indian): “Thank you, sir…”
Beautiful accents…”dulcet” is how NYTugmasters describes the lyrical southern and cajun accents.
It’s not just voices one hears. One midnight, a captain announced his plans to go to sea. In the background was a quick whiff of Jimi Hendrix.
Another time, some poor captain shared his wheelhouse with some very noisy machinery, so that whenever he spoke on the radio, he seemed to be accompanied by a bagpipe quartet.
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 http://www.switchbacksea.org/
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!