dare! and tugboat race & contests

Posted in Uncategorized by bowsprite on 2015/08/31

octopusBlueDarewell, thanks to Pecs for muscling me into drawing mode.

This Sunday! one of the rare chances to see crew inside those tugs come out! in the flesh—and a lot of flesh, at the tattoo contest (which I don’t see on this year’s line up…?)

23rd Great North River Tugboat Race & Competition

Sunday, 6 September 2015
10am -2pm
Pier 84:West 44th Street and Hudson River Park, NYC

10:00am Parade of Tugs from Pier 84 (w 44th st./hudson river park) to the
start line @ Pier I at w 70th st. in Riverside Park South

10:30am Race Starts (runs from Pier I to Pier 84)

11am Nose-to-nose pushing contests & Line-toss competition

Noon Amateur line-toss & Spinach-eating contests

1pm Awards Ceremony

2pm Tugs depart

more information at the Working Harbor Committee’s site.

Wavertree on the KVK

Posted in Uncategorized by bowsprite on 2015/06/05

Thank you to Bjoern and Erik of New York Media Boat and Tugster of the 6th Boro!
Hooray for the South St Seaport Museum and Wavertree.

Read Tugster’s recounting of the epic journey Part I here and Part II here. It was a beautiful ride through the harbor with the majestic Wavertree, with some of our friends onboard and some accompanying her along the way.

Thomas J. Brown pushes Wavertree towards Caddell’s Dry Dock & Repair. The poor, elegant Bayonne Bridge is the background, getting a roadbed lift.

And, as I started to draw, it began to rain…


Sal Polisi, wood carver of the South St Seaport Museum

Posted in Uncategorized by bowsprite on 2015/02/19

chezSalOnce upon a time, by Pier 16, behind a collection of bollards, cleats and a giant anchor (and underneath the FDR drive,) there were two containers that housed the open studio of a wood carver by the name of Sal Polisi. TiconderogaFlat He was a navy man, served on the USS Ticonderoga (CV-14) , and when he retired, he was one of the anchors of the South Street Seaport Museum. People would wander into his wood shop, and he would talk about the museum, the ships, and the history while he carved. He offered free lessons to anyone interested, and his shelves were full of wood chunks in various stages of becoming whales, fish or mermaids (including one never-finished block hacked at by the author, an abandoned whale-wanna-be.)

One day, a big, strong man walked into Sal’s woodshop. “He didn’t look right, he was looking without seeing, asking without listening…” Sal didn’t have a good feeling. Suddenly the man grabbed a large piece of wood, and walked out. “Hey! come back here!” yelled Sal. The wood piece was solid and very heavy, but the man made off as if it was hollow.

Sal called the police, then followed the man as he walked north of Pier 17, and watched in disbelief as the man threw Sal’s wood into the East River, jumped in, mounted the wood, and began to paddle towards the west anchorage of the Brooklyn Bridge.

bridgeswim This was pre-9/11, there was no harbor police stationed at the spot where the man paddled through. It took a while before the police came. The harbor police eventually appeared in their boat, and they pulled the fellow off the log and hauled him off to —? we do not know where. The shoreside police watched, laughed and got into their cars to leave.

“Hey!” said Sal, “What about my wood? I want that wood back!” The cops shrugged and left.

“I was so mad,” he told me later. “That was a good piece of wood! Black Walnut!”

Sal worked in his wood shop for many years until the current regime was given the public land to develop. They assured him he would not be moved, but moved him they did. His shop was razed, and it did break his heart. salwoodshop Fair winds, Sal. We miss you. sal&kids2   USS TICONDEROGA (CV-14)

Name: Ticonderoga
Builder: Newport News Shipbuilding, VA
Laid down: 1 February 1943
Launched: 7 February 1944
Class & type: Essex-class aircraft carrier
Length: 888 feet (271 m) overall
Beam: 93 feet (28 m)
Draft: 28 feet 7 inches (8.71 m) light
Propulsion: 8 × boilers 4 × Westinghouse geared steam turbines 4 × shafts 150,000 shp (110 MW)
Speed: 33 knots (61 km/h)
Complement: 3448 officers and enlisted
Armament: 4 × twin 5 inch (127 mm)/38 caliber guns 4 × single 5 inch (127 mm)/38 caliber guns 8 × quadruple Bofors 40 mm guns 46 × single Oerlikon 20 mm cannons
Aircraft carried: 90–100 aircraft

may 18 – 22: National Stationery Show

Posted in Uncategorized by bowsprite on 2014/05/17

Today begins the National Stationery Show at the Jacob Javits Center.

Do you want to focus and promote your artwork, and try to make a living at it by committing to this trade show–when you know on Wednesday, the ships are coming in for Fleet Week and will pass right outside the building, a monkeyfist’s throw away!?

So, I’ve committed. Here is my bike with all the ship cards and stationery I am presenting. I called the convention center to say I could not find information on how to unload from a bicycle; it was all written for car and truck drop off. The fellow was amused I was biking everything, and asked: “but who will watch the bike when you are unloading?” which I found very charming. I locked it to a lamppost.




I was lucky and missed the rain, but my shelving unit, coming from the flame proofers’, got extra-super, monsoon-flame-proofed. Thank you Urban Mobility Project, Shelly and Joe! It cost 1/9th the quote I got from vans and trucks, and we did not have the interminable wait times for the long vehicular congo line to the elevator in the back. We walked everything in the front doors, exhibition hall level.


Ok: so I had to spend $300 to flame proof my shelves in this modern structure with sprinkler systems. That’s fine, I did it. However, to then allow the NO FREIGHT AISLE be clogged for two days with heavy, immoveable stuffs…this would NEVER be allowed on even the more lackadaisical passenger vessels I’ve worked on. I could not get my things in. But, I was more worried that in case of fire, no one would be able to get out.




I finally made it to my little booth. Here is it, before:








and not quite done yet. I have ship schwag up the wazoo, and still so much to do…meanwhile, just west, past my lovely neighbor Park Soap, I know lies North River, right past that exit sign…and:

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Event: Fleet Week New York Parade of Ships

Location: New York Harbor

Time: 9 a.m. – 11 a.m.


The Corwith Cramer is docked at pier 25, she looks so beautiful.

Elcano just left town:southbound

And, in case of fire, I am running west, and advise my colleagues to do the same.




foggy day on VHF

Posted in Uncategorized by bowsprite on 2014/01/12
Yesterday morning, ice slowed down all the ferries approaching World Financial Ferry Terminal.
This morning: it was all ice and fog.


Little Lady crossing before Jay Michael pushing a crane barge.

On VHF radio: “(Name of tug), 14, can I get a visibility report? thank you.”

Voices, they were all speaking:

“I can see buoy 3 and 5, but not much beyond that.’
“Can you see them?”
“Yeah, you might want to look out, the Evergreen is right behind me.”
Little Lady and Captain Log communicate as they pass each other in complete greyness.
“There’s ice in Morris Canal.”
The buoys have been pushed around by ice and are off-station.

Voices from ferries whose names I rarely hear uttered on 13, calling out today where the fog has collected extremely heavily: around Liberty and Ellis Islands.

Miss New York, leaving Liberty Channel to Ellis Island.”

“Miss New Jersey, I see you. See you on the one.”

“Miss Freedom…” “did you leave the dock yet?” “yes, I’m in front of the Statue:” “Roger that.”

“Miss New Jersey, departing the battery wall for the Statue.”

“Miss Freedom, I’m south of the clock, where are you?”

“Leaving Morris Canal…south of you.”


“I’m at the WR buoy (red buoy marking a wreck at the mouth of the Morris Canal) and I can’t see the Clock!”

 circlelineBkynCircleline Brooklyn
I hope these passengers got sightseeing boat tickets for half-price.

Voices from the Kills:

“you waiting? what time did they say?”
“yeah, we’re waiting.”
“…leaving the Kills, docking at Hess Bayonne”

Voices from the anchorage:

“you heading over to Stapleton?”
“no, Governor’s, the jersey side.”
“Oh, ok,”
“…got a visual on you, one whistle…one whistle…”
“Yeah, Cap, I don’t have you on radar yet, but see you on the one.”

Voices from everywhere, mingling:

“…I’m coming off the range” “sorry, I thought you were taking the greens…”
“I don’t know what’s going on here.’
“…We’re going to make a hard right…”
Traffic calling individual tugs, requesting that they switch to 14.
At one point, the skies cleared and the radio fell silent. But it did not last long.
At night, the silhouette of CGC Sturgeon Bay passes southbound back to her berth in Bayonne, NJ; she’s has cleared the way for self-loading cargo ship Flintersky (flag: Netherland) to go up to Albany.
Fog, thick thick.
Warm, moist, balmy air,
Icy waters. Recipe for thick grey pea soup. Sneert!

waxing moon

Posted in Uncategorized by bowsprite on 2014/01/05


The moon rose set tonight brilliantly silver, big, and thin.

I once learned a good trick which I still use to remember the difference between a waxing and waning moon.

However, it is in German.

The curve of the waxing moon fits into the cursive ‘z’ of zunehmen. Nehmen means to ‘take,’ zu means to oneself, so the moon is taking to oneself; it is augmenting, increasing. It will soon be Full.


The curve of the waning moon fits into the rounded part of the ‘a’ of abnehmen, which means to diminish, decline. (It’s not pretty, but think of ‘abscess’ and how good it is for that to diminish.) The moon will soon fade to New.


Waxing Cresent…Waxing Gibbous…Waning Gibbous…Waning Crescent
(this work has been released into the public domain by its author, Tomruen.)

Danke to my bud, Ray of Zurigo, for this tip, on that clear night in the Ticino so many moons ago.


Posted in Uncategorized by bowsprite on 2013/07/27

It was hard to read the name at first, for rust covered the lettering. But I stared hard, and it was worth the effort:

a crude oil tanker named Compassion.


It was such a good name that it survived two company changes. It was Stena Compassion until 2010, then Newlead Compassion until 2012. It is currently owned by BW Maritime (Singapore). Flag: Bermuda, homeport: Hamilton.

The company also owns a tanker named Compass. Un-ION-ized.

Tanker Compassion
Built: 2006 by Dalian Shipbuilding Industry Group
Length: 748 ft. (228 m)
Beam: 105 ft. (32 m)
Draft: 37.4 ft. (11.4 m)

What good karma to be up in the bridge, high on Compassion.

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.)

♠    ♣   


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…

♠     ♣   

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.

♠     ♣   

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.      ♥     ♦

hawser, line and wire: happy 50th!

Posted in Uncategorized by bowsprite on 2013/02/20

Some tugs are named after rivers. Some after seas, some after trees. Some are named after American Indian tribes.


But the CG has a class of tugs that wins the award for best names: the 65-foot Small Harbor Tug (WYTL).
Named after things normal people call “rope”, and things found on a boat that interact with the “rope,” or, in one case, what normal people call “droop” of a rope, to those who love tugs, these names are little, one-word love poems, odes to the small harbor working tug.

The WYTLs were built between 1962 and 1967, and were employed only on the east coast, from Maine to Virginia. Originally a class of 15 tugs built by different shipyards, 11 are still in service:

  • BOLLARD (WYTL 65614)  New Haven, CT
  • BRIDLE (WYTL 65607)  Southwest Harbor, ME
  • CAPSTAN (WYTL 65601)  Philadelphia, PA
  • CHOCK (WYTL 65602)  Portsmouth VA
  • CLEAT (WYTL 65615)  Philadelphia, PA
  • HAWSER (WYTL 65610)  Bayonne, NJ
  • LINE (WYTL 65611)  Bayonne, NJ
  • PENDANT (WYTL 65608)  Boston, MA
  • SHACKLE (WYTL 65609)  South Portland, ME
  • TACKLE (WYTL 65604)  Rockland, ME
  • WIRE (WYTL 65612)  Saugerties, NY

BITT  (WYTL 65613)  was decommissioned on 4 October 1982, now  R/V Clifford A. Barnes
SWIVEL  (WYTL 65603) , still SWIVEL at Governor’s Island
TOWLINE  (WYTL 65605) perhaps for sale, and
CATENARY  (WYTL 65606), now Growler


And YOU are invited to the 50th birthday celebration of  Hawser (17 Jan 1963), Line (21 Feb 1963), and Wire (19 Mar 1963):

“1 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013: the three tugs will meet at the Walkway over the Hudson and steam north to Saugerties. A Coast Guard spokesperson will be available at the walkway and there will be a photo opportunity there to capture the tugs together on the Hudson River.” USCG Media Advisor

According to Hudsonian’s  & Tugster’s photos, all three have expanded the cabins aft to enclose the stack. So the drawing above is incorrect. Do not use for navigation.
Like one to take home? look here.

Length: 65 ft
Beam: 16 ft
Displacement: 72 tons
Power Plant: Upgrading to
500 HP

The Naval Institute Guide To The Ships And Aircraft Of the U.S. Fleet, Norman Polmar

USS Mitscher (DDG-57)

Posted in Uncategorized by bowsprite on 2013/01/24


USS Mitscher (DDG-57)
Ingalls Shipbuilding, 1992
Homeport: Norfolk, VA
Length: 505 ft (154 m)
Beam: 66 ft (20 m)
Draft: 31 ft (9.4 m)

33 Officers
38 Chief Petty Officers
210 Enlisted Personnel

At Stapleton Pier / The Sullivans Pier, Fleet Week 2012. With the Verrazano Narrows Bridge in the background.


Chock-a-block of eye pads…unlike this unidentified ship, with a dearth of panama chocks.

Line handling these days must be damned bitter cold. Oof!

Thanks Tugster and Birk!

tea towel calendars

Posted in Uncategorized by bowsprite on 2012/10/23

Nautical Tattoo Tea Towel Calendars: for the meanings of the symbols, look here at the post written by Owen Burke, Brian Lam of The Scuttlefish.

2013 Ships of NYHarbor Tea Towel Calendar also available. Both designs have unhemmed, raw, pinked edges (zigzagged.)

Printed in North Carolina by Spoonflower. They started making decals, and I have many decals of some of my ship doodles printed on polyester and coated with a non-PVC plastic coating. Peel and stick up. The verdict: excellent quality! more on the decals to come!

Apologies to friends’ NYHarbor ships I have yet to draw! Lilac, J.J.Harvey (and all the beautiful old fireboats), DEP vessels, Swivel, TaurusI’m getting to you, promise!

What is a tea towel? well, i’d be honored to see one of mine in an engine room.  If you work on a vessel pictured, you get 25% off. Thank you!

vhf prose: radio check

Posted in Uncategorized by bowsprite on 2012/09/24

A captain was in the harbor at anchor when he heard the following over VHF 16:

Boater: “Radio check, radio check this is (name of boat).”


Boater: “This is (name of boat), we are here at Sandy Point. I mean, Sandy Hook…doing a radio check. Please respond.”


Boater, with annoyance: “This is (name of boat), someone please respond to our radio check.”

Mystery Mariner, with just a touch of playfulness: “Ok, sure…FUCK YOU!”

Ah, New York Harbor…I do love this harbor.

it is balloooooon!

Posted in Uncategorized by bowsprite on 2012/09/09

oh my goodness. I really sat through this: F Troop.

A more scholarly link here

These navy airships have flown over NYHarbor. Spotted by Tugster this year on 11th June, above Sputyen Duyvil, Hudson River, betwixt Manhattan and da Bronx:

And, a parade of commercial ones, spotted by Control Geek just last week…

lightship ambrose

Posted in Uncategorized by bowsprite on 2012/07/01

Lightship Ambrose LV 87 / WAL 512
Built: 1907 by New York Shipbuilding Co., Camden, NJ
Length: 136ft. (41.5m)
Beam: 29ft. (8.8m)
Draft: 13ft. (3.9m)
Original Illumination Apparatus: three oil lens lanterns
Propulsion: Steam

This lightship was stationed in the Ambrose Channel since 1906, guiding vessel traffic through the main shipping channel just below the Verazzano Narrows bridge, into New York and New Jersey Harbor until 1967. She was given to South Street Seaport Museum by the U.S. Coast Guard in 1968. A light tower replaced it, was hit by ships a few times too many, and, now, the channel is marked by lighted buoys.

Now at the new! improved! South Street Seaport Museum under the fertile wing—nurturing wing?— of the City of the Museum of New York  this lightship was painted in March, and is now being restored and is open for visiting at Pier 16.

The wings of the seaport museum are alive: a new exhibit is up, nautical pieces from another museum I love, the American Folk Art Museum.

And true to the harbor’s spirit, the active gem of the museum, Pioneer, is sailing. Go onboard to sail in the harbor or go and volunteer and learn how to handle lines and many other things that may always serve you well…!

veterans day & tea towel for the engine room

Print your own fabrics! re-upholster your bunk, make cool pillows, and frame your porthole with your own designs!  Spoonflower, is a site based in Durham, North Carolina that prints your designs at their ‘mill’. Read more about them here.

In honor of Veterans Day (today: 11.11.11) they just held their military fabrics contest which I missed, but inspired me to make a tribute fabric anyway. (I never knew the symbolism of poppies until this contest.)

The Ships Ahoy Tea Towel calendar is now available! The fabric measures 21″ long by 18″ wide, but the edges are raw and will need to be finished:

All ships are denizens or frequent visitors of NYHarbor, and run on their own power. I love our historic vessels, but will save those for the Dead Ships Dinner Napkins series.

Here are past Bowsprite fabrics. I am going to do one with egrets and booms, a la Tugster! Have an idea for a fabric? drop a line!

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!

time lapse of new york harbor

Posted in Uncategorized by bowsprite on 2011/06/28

The great Control Geek, John Huntington, has made yet another incredible time lapse – of Upper Bay!


I love how the sailboats are so unpredictable, making loops, turns and spins. When the wind picks up, they get frenetic.

In contrast, the tugs and barges, plow through, steady and true to their course. It is like that in real time, but speeded up, it is very dramatic.

The tugmen sometimes call the sailboats “mosquitos” or “fleas,” but everything looks like waterbugs to me.

This video was shot on saturday when the high number of commuter ferries do not run. The gay pride sailboats go by at the end.

thanks, John!

frying pan, pier 66

Posted in Uncategorized by bowsprite on 2011/06/07

CoastLink Hamburg

Posted in Uncategorized by bowsprite on 2011/05/25

Many, many heartfelt thanks to CoastLink and David Cheslin, Gavin Roser, Antje Wiechern, and Margaret Williamson! Coastlink (headquarters in the UK) is an organization dedicated to the promotion of short sea and feeder container shipping in Europe. An incredibly informative conference was held in Hamburg last month, with presentations from major ports and a few new start-up ports. Representatives from ports in the Mediterranean/North Africa, Russia as well as several ones in Germany spoke.  To hear what was happening in short sea shipping today in Europe was eye-opening and borderline deflating, for we are so very behind in this country.

How many out there would like to band together to purchase a few cranes and open a little port near the train station? On a  large and professional scale, the Port of Workington did it.

David invited me to speak a bit on New York Harbour as Hamburg is facing the same issues of accommodating the new PanaMax containerships; they lack the air draft problem but have the water depth and dredging issues. It was an educational experience the whole way: a thumbdrive is a “USB stick.” And to them, a torch is allowed onboard: it’s a flashlight, not the open flaming thing we hunt monsters with in the woods. And I will present soon other things I learned from CoastLink. Thank you, again, David and Everyone!

Here is the slide show I presented:


I am an illustrator and have a blog on NYHarbor where I put up stories:

I am also a part-time deck hand on this hydrographic survey vessel.

This auspicious image…

…started off my surveying adventures: the single-beam sonar caught our boat’s wheel wash and the bottom below.

We have surveyed all around this island…

There is water access all around the island of Manhattan, into the boroughs of the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island, connecting New Jersey, and out the Long Island Sound.
To the north runs the Hudson, up the incredible locks of the New York State and Champlain canals. Access to the Finger Lakes region is through the NYS Canal system that is 524 miles long.

Westward are the indomitable salt marshes, the silting arteries of the Passaic  and Hackensack, the very busy Kill van Kull and Arthur Kill, the Raritan river which once connected us to Delaware via a canal now long gone.

Passaic (80 mi/129 km)

Hackensack (45 mi/72 km)

Kill van Kull (3 mi/(4.8 km)

Arthur Kill (10 mi/16 km,)

Raritan river (16 mi/25.7 km)

The East river mingles with the Bronx River, and flows out into the mighty Long Island Sound and beyond. Or, runs inland as the Newtown Creek and the Gowanus Canal. Out the Narrows, the waters flow through Jamaica Bay, Sandy Hook…and out to sea.

East river (16 mi/26 km)

Bronx River(24 miles/39 km)

Newtown Creek (3.5 mi /6 km)

Gowanus Canal (1.4 mi/2.3 km)

Hackensack, Hoboken, Navesink, Lackawanna, Passaic, Raritan, Secaucus, Weehawken… these names tell me where these places are. However, to the Native American tribes who lived here, these names also described the water, which would reveal the food that was to be found there: the fish, the flora, the animals. And as nothing was wasted, it would also mean tools, skins and furs. Water, food, clothing, shelter: all are human necessities. The ships that ply our waters do bring clothing and materials to make shelter. However, food is not transported by water here: it is all flown and trucked in, most of it is brought to one place.

We have a ‘warehouse on wheels’ model. Whatever we need, we call in and order. Our stores operate the same way: including food stores.

“…there is less than a week’s supply of food in the entire food chain, while consumers—in contrast to America before 1960—hold less than a week’s worth of food at home…In their refrigerators.”

We depend upon the fact that the bridges will stay standing, the tunnels will remain clear, and that the roads that lead into the city will not be overwashed by storm surge. And that trucks can continue to roll in, rumbling over the abused bridges, tunnels and roads, burning fossil fuels in thick snarled traffic, beating up the infrastructure even more, and releasing pollutants into the air.

There are initiatives to bring regionally-grown produce into the New York Metropolitan area by water (please see “Alliances” for some of their links). The longest in the game have been the NY Soil and Water Conservancy, The Lower Hudson – Long Island RC&D Council with the USDASustainable Ports, HARVEST, Floating Food, the ShipCoop and others have joined either forces and resources or are working independently, and the number of good people with the desire to contribute to the cause is growing.

Of the models being discussed, the one which is the closest to being assembled and set into action is clean tug and barge work.
Roughly 60% of the tugs in the harbor are involved solely with petroleum transportation by barge, 30% do ship/barge-assist, and perhaps 10% move other things: aggregates (sand, gravel & stone), cement, scrap metal, paper recyclables, dredge spoils.

The tugs and barges are ready.  In some cases there are ships which would be better suited for the job. For example, Ro-Ro’s onto which trucks can be driven and transported. Passenger ferries with freight-carrying capabilities, would another model. However, we have many beautiful old single screw tugs, historic tugs all along the Hudson and up into the NYS Canal System that could take on the shipping work right away.

There are many obstacles, of which the large subsidies to trucking is the hardest to beat. Maintenance of truck-abused roads, bridges, and tunnels, and the costs of traffic congestion, air and water pollution, and accidents: these are all , or mostly, externalized costs not factored into the user-end price of trucking that is paid by a cargo consignee or the retail price of goods and services paid by consumers. A good report is here, published by the US Government Accountability Office “Surface Freight Transportation – A Comparison of the Costs of Road, Rail and Waterways Freight Shipments That Are Not Passed on to Consumers.”

An undeniable physical barrier is that which surrounds Manhattan: walled off waterfronts with no where to tie up:

We have the bollards, but they are lawn furniture.

Where there was once active piers, docks and slips, there is now crumbling remains.

And new construction does not have room for the working vessels. Unless it is a yacht.

Pier 57 was once an engineering marvel: a pier that was built upon three giant concrete blocks, used to receive ship passengers. And today? Abandoned.

The old warehouses of Erie Basin once stored sugar, grain, cotton, spices, flax, hemp, jute, wood, indigo, india rubber, leather, dried fruit, seeds, tobacco,
cocoa, coffee. They also let you drop your cobblestones ship ballast for a fee. Put in your application here today.

All along the waterfront you will find places that once welcomed passenger or cargo laden ships which now no longer do. If the infrastructure to dock a vessel is lacking, we will refit old landing crafts and pull ourselves upon the shore to unload goods. Except that there is hardly any  ground upon which to land. U Thant Island is taken.

Until recently, the waterfront was incredibly important and active:

A good write up is to be found here from Fordham University on how this was lost. The Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 created the Interstate Highway and Defense Highways, essentially a massive subsidy to trucking (the least efficient means of freight transportation that exists besides air freight), relegating rail and shipping to second-class status.

Railroad cars once floated across the river, bringing in raw materials from the hinterlands and sending off manufactured goods back. The Erie Lackawanna terminal, hemmed in by development, has been beautiful preserved and will one day serve as a ferry slip, but is currently used more for film and photoshoots.

The NYNJRail, is the only cross-harbor rail barge service left. Once, hundreds of these carfloats would traverse the harbor daily. Keep an eye out for the Cross Harbor Freight Program.

Perhaps the most beautiful building in the harbor is the Central Railroad of New Jersey terminal.

Kudos to NJ for preserving this site, which is now on the State and National Register of Historic Places. Passengers and goods once travelled inland: today, it is a quiet sanctuary, living proof of Nature’s indefatigable force. Nothing we make–with all our might!–is going to last.

Everywhere around the harbor, testaments to the once-productivity of this city are to be found. The Domino Sugar factory is being condominumized.

Old factories built to last, last. But the industries themselves have not.Even upriver,  one can pass by abandoned plants, like the Adirondack Power and Light Company,

or this unnamed carpet factory. Mills, lumberyard, factories have all closed and the towns have never fully recovered from the loss of work.

Small family owned stores that were once plentiful and placed about in neighborhoods have been forced out, replaced by the Walmarts and KMarts which require a car to reach. Public transportation to the megacomplexes do not exist. The youth, lacking ways to getting to the malls, have no easy ways of earning wages, nor any venues in which to social. Gang activity is high in some towns.

The Henry Street Grain Elevator stands behind tanks,

and the old Todd Ship Yard cranes are now decorations for the IKEA shoppers to pass as they park over the largest graving dock that was filled in for their cars.

The loss of industry affects the maritime industry. There was once great a demand for tugs and experienced crews to run them. In the last two years, we lost two women-owned local tug companies.

What, then, does this city produce?

Garbage. Recyclables. Babies.

And  wastes. Here is the Dept of Environmental Protection‘s “honeyboat” bringing sludge from the Newtown Creek to the 134st dewatering plant. The human wastes are treated, dried, pelletized and sold for fertilizer for non-organic salad growers. Yet another reason to go organic.

So, that is what this city produces.

There is shipping activity, and even some short sea shipping activity: small containers on barge.

Oil is moved about, in barges or in small tankers.

Cruise ships, ferries, water taxis, tourist boats are on the water.

The fishing industry is active.

Recreational vessels abound, to the chagrin of the working mariner. Kayakers, swimmers all go in the drink.

Government vessels like this Army Corps of Engineer Driftmaster constantly ply the waters. Coast guard, harbor police (“Harbor Charlie”), buoy tenders, ice breakers drift or speed by.

Restoration of historic vessels is also active. This old lightship is now a popular bar and restaurant.

There is no shortage of dredges, scows and their tugs and supply boats.

The Kill van Kull  (kill is ‘creek’ in dutch) was once at a natural depth of 15-18′, and home to rich beds of oysters, clams, and fishes, surrounded by salt marshlands. Today, this major shipping channel has been dredged to 50′ below mean low water.

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.

This cutter suction head was used to drill through hard bedrock as an alternative to blasting. For videos of how this works, view these dredge animations on the ACOE site.

Here is one of three spare cutter heads, with a total of 52 teeth in each of the helical jaws. The cost of a tooth (which weighs 16 kg / 35lbs) is between $150 and $180 each, depending on size and manufacturer.In the wheelhouse is a large heavy black cabinet which sometimes shakes, vibrates and ‘walks’ around as the cutter head grinds through the incredibly hard bedrock, and at the end of the 12-hr shift, several of the men have to move it back.

Many thanks to Capt. Bill Miller and Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co., and Tugster for the dredge photos.

Where does the dredge spoil go?  as it is contaminated with PCB’s, special environmental buckets and scows are required to transport the spoil. Some of it is mixed with ash and concrete, and turned into landfill. For more information, you can download reports from the USACOE Dredged Material Management Plan for The Port of New York and the State of New Jersey.

Two golf courses have been created with dredge spoil: the Bayonne Golf Club, above, is an exclusive “scottish link” design. Liberty National is the other one.

Thanks to the ACOE of our and our army of dredgers, draft is not an obstacle to short sea shipping within the Harbor.

The air draft is however, an issue for some containerships. The air draft beneath the beautiful Bayonne Bridge varies with the tide between 151 and 156 feet.
(It was the longest steel arch bridge in the world when it opened on Nov. 15, 1931. Look for her sister bridge in the film, The King’s Speech, hanging in the office of Lionel Logue!)

$1.3 billion has been approved to raise this bridge up to 215 feet; and engineers intend to raise it while simultaneously keeping the bridge open to traffic. Many believe the project is necessary in order to accommodate larger container ships being built in anticipation of the widening of the Panama Canal in 2014. Here is the ACOE’s very thorough 69page reconnaissance report, created in 2009, the Bayonne Bridge Air Draft Analysis.

However, there are many who believe the raising of the bridge is an unwise use of money when there are better options.

“…Unlike the European Union, the United States does not have a comprehensive port plan therefore each port on the East Coast, from Florida to Nova Scotia is competing for the next generation of very large container ships. Instead of designating certain ports with deep unobstructed facilities as feeder or hub ports, and creating a fleet of very fast smaller ships to move container cargo to less accessible, but no less important ports in a coordinated way – US ports are competing with each other by building duplicate facilities for the few very large ships that are likely to call on East Coast Ports in the next twenty years.

When the Army transferred the Military Ocean Terminal Bayonne (MOTBY) to the City of Bayonne, those of us with an interest in the port, dredging, and the environment were heartened by the plans that included a state of the art container terminal for the largest of the ships that may call on the Port of NY and NJ (the so called post Panamax 10,000 teu container ships). The Bayonne Local Redevelopment Authority (BLRA) asserted that they would bring a port developer on board who would raise $500 million for a new container port, bringing with it more than 3000 jobs.

Not only could the former MOTBY be the closest port to deep channels – it will save billions of public dollars, avoid the height limitations of the Bayonne Bridge, and reduce the significant environmental impacts that will be caused by continuing to attempt to deepen the dangerous, narrow Kill Van Kull, and dredging more of the contaminated sediments of Newark Bay – the new port on the Harbor side of Bayonne, could be built using the newest most efficient container management technology including alternative fuel and electric vehicles, and direct transfer of containers from ship to trains or ships to container barges, or ships to container rail cars on barges.

The additional benefit of a new container port at MOTBY is its juxtaposition to the Global Terminals, and the Greenville rail yards. The MOTBY Port also creates a cross harbor synergy if the “cross harbor float” system is re-invigorated as is envisioned by the Port Authority of NY and NJ the new owners of the Cross Harbor Railroad. Taking all that into account, MOTBY is the premiere maritime asset in the Harbor and one of the most valuable maritime properties in the world.

The (pre-real estate meltdown) plan proposed by the Bayonne Redevelopment Authority (dubbed the Peninsula at Bayonne Harbor) is for high rise housing and offices, with a yacht harbor in the last huge graving (dry) dock in the harbor, and only a minimum amount of port commerce space, what appears to be one cruise ship berth…”

excerpt from Bridging the Gap by Andrew Willner

An obstacle to short sea shipping is the lack of many small ports distributed about, and the lack of infrastructure: piers, docks, cranes, ramps, storage facilities. Pictured above are the ports we have, and a very good listing of all the port facilities and their facts can be found here.

In NYHarbor, it is illegal to handle cargo without going through the International Longshoremen’s Association. I believe the going rate is $250 a lift: taking a container off a ship and setting it on wheels. Rolling and then transferring the container onto a smaller vessel would be another $250. Depending on where the vessel would be going, it might almost be worth it.

Jones Act. I’m not able to hold any sort of discourse on this complex subject but I surely can refer you to good people who can, and who would argue very intelligently for both sides of the case: those who want to upkeep the Jones Act to protect American workers and shipyards, and those who want to repeal or amend the Act to allow cheaper, foreign built ships to operate.

I can only say that if the Jones Act was completely repealed, many of my friends would be out of work, unable to compete with trained, cheap foreign labor, and we would lose what little manufacturing knowledge and ability we have.

Above: Union Dry Dock, before a captive audience.

More obstacles: policies that stack all odds against water transportation and lack of funds to change policy.

MARAD does not recognize the Hudson River, canal systems and the Sound as corridors, and will not approve new project designees until funding becomes available; MARAD will advise when they are accepting submitals. A meeting with the City Council revealed that they would like to see an full economitive study or white paper on watertransportation of regional produce, but do not have the funds to support one. The USDA has zero’d out all funds for the Hudson River Foodway Corridor initiative for this year. Coffers are bare.

dear Rigmor from Bornholm DK stands in front of a MARSEC sign at the Staten Island Ferry Terminal.

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.

Dept Homeland Security’s TWIC program (Transportation Workers Identity Card) is a redundundant ID card, issued by Lockheed Martin, and not terribly popular with some mariners, as compiled here. You cannot move about waterfront areas without one, but you cannot move anywhere with one, either.

“The National Terrorism Advisory System, or NTAS, replaces the color-coded Homeland Security Advisory System (HSAS). This new system will more effectively communicate information about terrorist threats by providing timely, detailed information to the public, government agencies, first responders, airports and other transportation hubs, and the private sector.”

Though not an obstacle as much as a frustration, new piers are being constructed for strolling of park goers and not for working mariners. However, it is a wonderful, hopeful beginning. It would be very good if those with funding to build such projects would consult with marine experts. Understandably, as park piers were not initially constructed with marine industry in mind, we’re happy with what we get.

Eagerly awaited new piers have large yokohama fenders appropriate for big ships hanging over water of depths of 6 to 10m. Tiny gates too small for ship brows and ramps are placed in front of pile clusters and bollards, and pier furniture blocks the entrances. However, they absolutely do deserve praise for building piers.

Crumbling, yet working, piers is what you will find in the Newtown Creek and the Gownus Canal:

“One of the most polluted industrial sites in America…containing years of discarded toxins, an estimated 30 million gallons of spilled oil, and raw sewage from New York City’s sewer system.  Newtown Creek was proposed as a potential Superfund site in September 2009,  and received that designation on September 27, 2010…Since there is no current in the creek, sludge has congealed into a 15-foot-thick (4.6 m) layer of “black mayonnaise” on the creek bed.”

3.5 mi (6 km) long, the Newtown Creek has vessel traffic going to the fuel tanks, pumping stations, waste treatment facilities, and recycling facilities.

Excavated in 1881 for commercial shipping and barge traffic, the Gowanus Creek became the Gowanus Canal. Lined with small industries and neighboring residential areas with chic bars and restaurants, it is a navigable channel: 7,500′ long, 100′ wide, and of depths from 4′ to 16′.

For over a hundred years, oil refineries, machine shops, gas and chemical plants, soap makers and tanneries all indiscriminately dumped industrial pollutants; compounded with discharges, storm water runoff, and sewer outflows, this water body ranks as the nation’s most extensively contaminated, pushing the Environmental Protection Agency to designate the Gowanus Canal a Superfund site on 2 March 2010. Read more on the ACOE’s Gowanus Canal and Bay Restoration Study.

However, the bridges work: here is a well-organized listing of the bridges. A call to the USDOT at (201) 400–5243 at least 4 hours in advance will insure that an operator is there to open the Hamilton Avenue Bridge, unless it is under maintenance.

According to the New York State Highway Bridge Data, “Based upon data submitted to the Federal Highway Administration in April 2010, about 12 percent of the highway bridges in New York State are classified, under the broad federal standards, as structurally deficient and about 25 percent are classified as functionally obsolete… ”

The incredible New York Canal System is an inland waterway that runs 524 miles into NY State, connecting the Hudson River, Lakes Champlain, Ontario and the Finger Lakes, the Niagara River and Lake Erie, passing through 25 counties and close to 200 villages, hamlets and towns. Depth and height restrictions are found here.

The locks are well-built and well-cared for, maintaining the equipment seems to be a source of pride with the operators. If the power went out, the locks would still work. “It would take 6 of us,” one man told me, “but we’d get you through.” Look here at Tug44‘s homage to the beautiful equipment and machinery!

There are many small regional farms located near water. We have the best land for producing dairy, and yet large subsidies to giant agribusinesses make milk from states across the continent ubiquitous and cheaper in the stores. The land upstate produces the best apples, yet in stores, apples from Washington state are trucked in and carried.

As one observer said at an Outdoors America conference on supporting upstate farms: “This IS a homeland defense issue!”

But the challenges goad us into being more resourceful:

(source unknown: pls notify us of owner of this photo, thank you)

if these good fellows had TWIC cards, we’d be set.

(source unknown: ditto)

And, we are willing to try anything. We might even have to go to the Big Guy: maybe Santa would let us charter his rig for off-season rates so we could ship by reindeer and sleigh:

photo: Bill Bensen

all other photos either by Capt Joel Milton or Christina Sun©2011

I have two other wonderful hosts to thank: Vielen danke e grazie to Hamburg urban planner and lighting designer,  Mario Bloem e Donata for food, shelter, technology and true friendship–

Mario: “No, Christina. NO more than 30 slides, otherwise it will be like those friends who show you their vacation photos, and if you bore them, it will be bad karma.”


frazil ice

Posted in ice by bowsprite on 2010/01/13

Sorry, no sound. The slushing of the salty icewater is mesmerizing, but the camera picked up too much wind. This is taken just north of pier 40 on North River where the noble fireboat McKean and the beautiful steamship Lilac, the old USCG lighthouse tender are docked.

Could any of this have drifted down by some shaking going on upstream? See Tugster icebreaking on Rondout Creek with Matt and the tug Cornell.

ice breaking on the raritan river

Rare is the chance to go up the Raritan! and judging by the virgin ice, rare are the visitors in january. The Raritan once was connected to the Delaware river by a canal upon which goods, coal & sailors traversed.

This survey boat works all year ’round, and often has to break its way through the ice. The tide was coming in that morning, and at the mouth of the Raritan River, the boat cut easily through the slushy saltwater. However, as we got further into fresh waters, the ice thickened,  the boat was thrown around more, sometimes settling on top, then sliding off to the side before breaking through. The sound was disconcerting. By 4″ of ice, we were becalmed–er, be-iced:

Then, standing out there, one could see how lovely the Nature is, fields that go on and on, silent, vast. However, we were not alone:

the fish population include (but are not limited to) largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, sunfish, catfish, trout, chain pickerel, american eels, carp and yellow perch. An occasional Pike and Musky have been taken out of the Raritan as well. The tidal portions of the river host migratory salt water species such as striped bass, fluke, winter flounder, weakfish and bluefish. Many nesting birds and water fowl make their homes in and along the length of the river. Crustaceans such as blue claw crab, fiddler crabs and green crabs are also found in the tidal sections of the river. Crayfish can be found further upstream. —wikipedia

We also saw huge mounds, made by beavers? muskrats? some sort of mound-builders. Industrious & industrial-sized!

This Sayreville Power House, the only building for miles around, is right next to the Sayreville public boat launch, surrounded by marsh grass and landfill. Electrical wires cross the horizon, the NJ Turnpike cuts the water. Still, there’s enough of solitude out here to imagine what it must have been like once upon a time.

(what is it? in the video clip, the structures visible when the birds are overhead in the sky are the transducer and the GPS unit mounted on the bow of the hydrosurveyboat, the Michele Jeanne. Upon the job site, the black transducer is lowered into the water and the white bulby Trimble DGPS antenna is placed right on top.)

a nautical bestiary


– a ring or hoop of wood or metal.


– not exclusively nautical, but rare is the ship without this; sounds like:
“I dont %&$&# LIKE sailing! Why don’t I go to the crafts festival and just take the train and meet you at the next %&$&# port?”
or “The hosting yacht club is serving ¿%&$&#what???”
or %&$&#! %&$&#! horse cock for dinner again??”


– wooden (usually) platform buffers between a ship and a pier; way deeper and heavier to move than you think. On this camel by Passenger Ship Terminal pier 90, rope was shredded into a soft nest, eggs were laid, and the parents-to-be waited while warships of Fleet Week 2009 tied up a few feet away.


– a heavy beam projecting from each bow of a ship for the purpose of holding anchors.

clamshell dredge


-an anchor is said to be cockbilled or a-cockbill when hung vertically by its ring stopper from a cathead ready for use, or, temporarily, during the recovery process.

constrictor knot

– not well known, but according to Hervey Garrett Smith, author and illustrator of the wonderful book, The Arts of the Sailor (1953), the constrictor knot is superior to most comment seizings or stoppings: “…quicker, neater, and can be drawn up more tightly. The harder you pull the two ends the tighter it grips, and it will not slacken when you let go…It can be set up so tightly that is is almost impossible to untie, and makes an excellent whipping. (The slipped version is easy to untie.) …Its superior construction and usefulness leads me to believe that it ultimately will achieve the popularity it rightly deserves.”

cow hitch

– also known in days of old as a lanyard hitch, the cow hitch is today more associated with any knot which is not a recognized maritime knot as used at sea; a lubberly hitch. Folks must be forgetting to use those lanyards.


– sideways maneuvering into a cross current or wind to compensate for drift.
To “catch a crab” is to make a faulty stroke in rowing that causes the blade of the oar to strike the water on the recovery stroke.


crow feet

crow’s nest




– pilings lashed together with heavy cable upon which vessels land to moor. Usually, one piling is called a dolphin, a group of more than one pile is called a cluster, as in “put out a line over the second cluster off the bow.”  When neglected, provides fine nesting for birds of the harbor.

donkey engine

– a steam-powered winch to hoist sails and anchors on old schooners; an auxiliary engine on a sailing craft (which does propel the vessel) is still sometimes informally known as the donk.

elephant foot

elephant table – (help! cannot find this one!)


fish tackle

– a large hook used to assist in maneuvering the anchor from under the cat-head, and brought to the side or gunwale, or to launch and recover boats.

flounder plate

– a triangular steel plate used as a central connecting point for the tows, bridles, and towline.


– the wedge-shaped part of an anchor’s arms that digs into the bottom. Sometimes painted yellow to lure full frontal admirers.


– made by twisting together two or more rope-yarns. A Spanish fox is made by untwisting a single yarn and laying it up the contrary way. (But, why? ¿por qué?)




– the state of a vessel when, by any strain, she is made to droop at each bow and stern, bringing her center up. Opposite of sagging.


horse cock

– “phoney baloney”. Mmmmm.



marlinspike, a marlinspike hitch

– a tool for opening the strands of a rope while splicing.


– a weighted knot wrapped around lead or a ball, found at the end of a heaving line. Illegal in NYHarbor. ME variety is especially lethal: you really won’t know what hit you.


– a seizing to prevent hooks from unshipping. Sling hitch on the hook’s back, go around the bill, make turns, wrap with frapping turns, then a set of riding turns, finish with a square or reef knot. Notice how Hervey Garrett Smith draws the same hook three times; that is love.

pelican hook

– a hook-like device for holding the link of a chain or similar, and consisting of a long shackle with a hinged rod which is held closed by a ring.

pigtail hook

– a screw hook having an eye in the form of a spiral for holding a loop, chain link, etc., at any angle. I am not fooled: this was designed to snag my sweaters.


– rope running across the shrouds horizontally like the rounds of a ladder and used to step upon in going aloft.


– curved cut in edge of sail for preventing chafing

rhino horn

– slips through a hole in the bow ramp of the LCU or LCM to hold the landing craft in position while vehicles embark/debark.

sea cock

– a valve to open a pipe to allow suction of sea water into your vessel either to supply fire pumps or for cooling if your engine is cooled with raw water. Also used generically.


– a kind of hitch or bend, used to shorten a rope temporarily.


snaking, snaked whipping

– snaking protects against chafing of turns on whippings at the end of ropes.


– fenders that were once upon a time real whale bodies, but today, are BIG black, heavy industrial strength rubber bumpers. One captain’s fender story is here.


– oops. another wildcat coming up…


– rigging of old ships were wormed, parcelled and served and lasted as long as the ships, or longer. Worming is the laying in of small-stuff between the strands of rope to fill in spaces to prevent moisture and rot. Parcelling is spirally wrapping rope with narrow strips of old canvas soaked with rigging tar, overlapping to repel moisture. Serving covers the rope by tightly winding marline or hemp against the lay. Heavily tar, and maintain regularly.

Worm and parcel with lay
Turn and serve the other way

zinc fish

– a “sacrificial anode.”  Metals (e.g. your propeller) in salt water, experience a flow of electrical current. The slow removal of metal is called “electrolysis”. Zinc is used as it has a higher voltage in the water so the current will tend to flow from it than from your props.

beasts of weather and water conditions:

dog days, ox-eye, mackerel scales, mares’ tails, white horses…

other waterborne beasts:

frogma, peconic puffin, the beagle project, the horse’s mouth (if any otters I missed, please do drop a lion.)

Look here for a beautiful post of hardworking animals here on the USCGC Escanaba!

Thank you, again for everyone’s help! drawings will be added, and please report any missing strays. Thank you!

the Schooners of New York Harbor

Posted in NYHarbor, schooners, watercolor, drawing, boat, sketch, waterfront by bowsprite on 2009/04/19

Overheard on VHF, on two different occasions:

  • Princess to the sailing boat, Adirondack coming out of Chelsea Piers.”
    Adirondack to the Princess, we’re at North Cove, going south. You want the Imagine.”
  • Adirondack, by the Statue, this is the tug and barge coming up on your stern…”
    No response. It is not the Adirondack, but the Pioneer at the old buoy 31 (now 35), with no other schooner in sight…

What ship is that?

Well, should the old girl not readily show you her derrière bearing her escutcheon (plate with the boat’s name), below are some of the schooners (et al) of NYHarbor, drawn more or less to proportional scale, with some identifying marks, so you can call her by name:


Schooner Pioneer:
Built: 1885, in Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania
Docked at: Pier 16
Material: Steel Hull, Iron Frames
Length: 102 ft.
Breadth: 22 ft.
Draft: 4.5 ft. (w/centerboard up) 12 ft. (w/centerboard down)
Mast Height: 76.6 ft.
Sail Area: 2,737 sq. ft.
Passenger Capacity: 35

It’s very easy to spot the Pioneer: look for the orange jimbuoy at the stern. She has a beautiful bow, one of the classiest in the harbor—a clipper bow— with a proper martingale permanently cocked to starboard from a docking mishap. Black hull and masts, white booms and gaffs, wooden bowsprit.

Her topsail is the grimy-est sail you would ever be called upon to hoist, redolent of grey-brown subway rats’ pelt. It’s only brought out in very light winds and training sails. Pioneer also has a fisherman’s sail, stretched from foremast to mainmast— also a vanity sail— taken out only when the crew clamor to learn how to set it.


Schooner Lettie G. Howard:
Built: 1893 in EssexMassachusetts
Docked at: Pier 16 (update: now at Mystic Seaport, CT)
Material: Wood hull, masts, spars
Length: 125.4 ft. / 38.22 m
Breadth: 21.1 ft. / 6.43
Draft: 10.6 ft. / 3.23
Sail Area: 5,072 sq. ft.
Crew: 7-9

Lettie is lovely: a forest green with topsides, booms, and blocks all a buttery yellow. Look for the notch midships. I know this notch well: on the first day of my first Lettie trip, racing towards the Georges Bank, I would prop my head in this notch (only while offwatch, of course) and vomit. Wooden masts, white bowsprit.

Lettie is so shipshape I believe even her baggywrinkle is drycleaned periodically.


Schooner Adirondack:
Built: 1994, Scarano Boat, Albany, NY
Docked at: Chelsea Piers
Material: Douglas Fir , cedar, teak, and mahogany.
Length: 80 ft
Draft : 8.6 ft.
Sail Area – 2,000 sq. ft.
Passenger Capacity: 49 passengers

Adirondack’s signature telltale marks: the plumb stem and the canoe stern. White hull, bowsprit, booms, gaffs & masts.


American pilot schooner Imagine: (now renamed Adirondack III)

Docked at: Chelsea Piers
Built: 1997, Scarano Boat
Length: 78 feet
Passenger Capacity: 49 passenger

White hull, trim, bowsprit, booms, gaffs & masts of Port Orford Cedar.


Sloop Clearwater:cleartiller
Docked at: 79th st Boat Basin
Length: 106 ft
Mast Height: 108 ft.
Sail Area: 4,305 sq. ft.

Clearwater is green-hulled with thick black trim, black masts, and has a huge white boom, white bowsprit. Very rare is her large tiller, carved in the shape of a fist. One person might be able to steer her dead ahead, but it takes several crewmembers to turn the boat.


Schooner Shearwater:
Built: 1929, Rice Brothers Shipyard, East Boothbay, Maine
Docked at: North Cove
Materials: Wood; Teak, Mahogany, Native White Oak Georgia Pine
Length: 82.5 ft
Beam: 16.5 ft
Draft: 10 ft
Mast Height: 85 ft

She’s still a schooner: Marconi rigged, not gaff like the others.

(More that I missed! artwork to come)

Schooner Clipper City
Docked at: Pier 17, NY

Sloop Ventura:
Docked at: North Cove, NY

Schooner Mary E.:
Docked at: City Island, NY

Schooner Liberty:
Docked at: Liberty Marina, Jersey City, NJ

Schooner Richard Robbins:
Docked at: Lincoln Harbor, Weehawken, NJ

These are some of the schooners that live here. Many friends come through: Mystic Whaler is here, at the 79th st Boat Basin, the A.J.Meerwald and the When & If, from NJ, and many others. If you are feeling the desire to own a fine schooner, this one is for sale: the Rosemary Ruth.
Photos here from Tugster. Great photos and writing on Frogma: go there and type in Rosemary Ruth and Schooner Ann!


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 432 other followers