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One of my favorite writers from West Africa compares elders with libraries, how the accumulated experiences of our lives get transformed into living, breathing archives.  Because, for me, Harold Tartell is one such person (though in no way elderly) , I’ve decided to devote a few posts to him.  And he gave me permission to do so. Here he poses at the helm of Sturgeon Bay, WTGB-109;  part of the four years (1966-70) Harold served in the Coast Guard, he broke ice aboard Manitou, WYTM-60 along his native river, the Hudson.

Growing up along the Hudson meant seeing a world now gone, like this vessel SS Santa Paula, fresh off the ways of Newport News Shipbuilding in 1958, make her maiden voyage to New York City by way of Albany.   I have my own connection with this vessel, which Harold does not know about;  I’ll reveal it at the end of this post.

A few days ago I included a note at the end of a post, saying I’d been unable to locate the name of a tug detained in the Tripoli harbor.  A few hours later, an email arrived from Harold with not only the tug name but also this foto below.  My “Asso 22 aka twenty-two” had become Harold’s “Asso Ventidue.”  And he sent not one foto but six!  By the way, have the crew and tug been released?

Here’s another recent unsolicited set from Harold in response to an intriguing foto by Steve Schulte I’d stumbled upon;  the four-engined,

four-stack pushboat made me want to head right over to the Mississippi to have a look for myself, and I will

do this once the weather clears and work gets caught up.  Less than a day later, I got 14 fotos of Federal Barge Line’s behemoth sisters, United States and America.

Harold, I’m publicly thanking you for all the help you’ve freely given over the past four years.  You ARE a living, breathing, AND laughing archive.  And much appreciated.

All fotos above from Harold Tartell.

Now my SS Santa Paula story:  if you’ve been reading this blog awhile, you may have seen the icon on the left side called My Babylonian Captivity, my memoir of the four months I spent as a hostage in Iraq in 1990.  I’d been teaching in Kuwait prior to the invasion.  Along the coastal highway in Kuwait was Al-Salaam, a ship, then only a restaurant but previously a floating hotel as well.  The 1990-1 Gulf War damaged it to the extent that it was soon therafter scrapped, right there.  Al-Salaam . . . ex-Santa Paula!

More on Harold soon.

So I was just minding my own business, when Eagle Boston , over 99,000 tons dwt and 830′ loa, approached.  Like a heron fishing beside the creek, I felt wary, but stayed put as

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it zagged to port and

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zigged to starboard and I ducked low and

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bow watch reported back to the bridge that

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all progressed well, since Sisters assisted spot on and

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the proper flag flew. When I decided I’d seen Eagle Boston close enough,  I  left thinking to get solitude, but when I looked over my shoulder from the new location, I felt like a heron from the Powwow River who feels so chased as I try to pass it that it flies forward a few hundred yards, squawking, and

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so did I intimidated, pursued, stalked even.

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When I landed next  I found myself on the starboard side of the Kill and could document from the Responder side as

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leviathan passed and

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Responder passed and

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the full size of  the vessel

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became apparent as it passed by me again

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and  . . .

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distinction and rules blur.  This time the heron in me stayed put and Eagle moved out of sight.

All fotos taken by Will Van dorp.

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Post written by Tom Briggs, shown above, edited by Will Van Dorp.  Foto above by NMCB 3 Public Affairs.

When [Will] asked that I write something for the blog, I initially thought to discuss my recent trip to the upper reaches of the Euphrates River valley. But what I had seen disappointed the sailor in me:  no dhows or fisherman in traditional dress. Rather,  guys dressed in slacks and shirts, fishing with old fishing poles and hand cast nets from beat-up aluminum boats with outboard motors. Contemporary Sindbads really didn’t look or act all that different from US sport fisherman.

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Therefore, I began to reflect on common ground between my Iraq “trip” and time spent sailing in New York Harbor. My trip was  chaotic,  violent and  dreary. The way to escape this was to relive the peace that I’d found sailing in New York Harbor and the quality of friends that I’d made there. It shocked me that the only people to write me while I was away, other than my wife, were my sailing friends. Others that I’d known for years simply didn’t have the time or inclination to maintain contact.

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I first set foot on Pioneer in February 2006. Despite having an iron (now mostly steel) hull, Pioneer is very much a traditional vessel: sixty odd feet on deck, one hundred feet overall, gaff-rigged, without winches and with only the minimal fittings necessary to operate for public sails. What draws me to her is not conventional beauty  but longevity.  A workboat meant for hauling cargo no more than twenty or thirty years, she survives and sails one hundred  twenty-three years later.
aaaiq3 I first sailed Pioneer in fifteen to twenty knots of wind, what Pioneer LOVES! I was on bow watch as Pioneer pounded through the waves, water shooting up through the hawse-holes, soaking me. I loved sailing from that moment on and I wanted to learn to be a better sailor and so gain acceptance by the volunteer crew. Not all of the volunteers were excellent sailors, not all of them loved the same traditional nautical things that I did, but they were kindred spirits. I can remember nights after sailing sitting in the bar arguing with the chief mate and another volunteer over how to tie a sheet bend and what its similarities are to a bowline. Who does that? What kind of freaks sit and argue in a bar about knots?

Toward the close of my second year aboard Pioneer, I received my deployment orders to Iraq. I considered this exciting news since I had volunteered for the deployment. But as departure grew closer, I got nervous and my friends from Pioneer were there for me. They took me out to restaurants all over the City and gave me a going-away party that I’ll always remember. And when I was deployed they wrote  letters, sent  packages and did everything that they could to remind me that there existed another world that I would go back to one day. I can’t say how much of a relief it was after working a twelve to fourteen hour watch in Iraq, to go back to my SWA (South West Asia) hut, tie knots, read letters and listen to sea shanties on my iPod. It sounds odd to me now, but my friends helped me keep my sanity then.

Three middle fotos by Will Van Dorp.

Welcome back, Tom.  I offer the foto below: a scene of dhows, Iraqi tugs, and wooden date barges somewhere along the Shatt.  It comes from a postcard given to me by Umm Majed, my Iraqi Arabic teacher, a woman with a 1001 stories that need to be heard.

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Jed captured these shots of Half Moon several leagues south of Albany.  Might it be what Henry’s welcome party saw 399 years ago?

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A closer-up shows a little of the polychrome that had been designed as ostentatious, to show the discretionary wealth of the VOC.

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The fierce leeuw figurehead sets the fall foliage ablaze.

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Half Moon–the name and logo–speaks of the anti-Spanish “commercial” alliances the Dutch formed.  One Dutchman Jan Jansen, slightly later than Hudson,  in fact turned pirate, sailing with the Moors to prey on the Spanish.

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If you’re wondering what the window under the moon and stars leads to . . .

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it’s a magical cabin.

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Check out the latest on henrysobsession . . . now that we have a glitch out.  Channeling the man through 400 years is as tough as  . . . some other research projects threatening to drown me.

All fotos unless attributed otherwise by Will Van Dorp.

Tom-a new friend who introduced himself as a friend of a friend- contacted me last week with a research question that has no immediate connection with the sixth boro although–if you’ve visited this blog–you know how I’ve developed this fluid sense of what the boundaries of the sixth boro might be.  He wanted to know if I could locate a foto of a certain “blue tugboat.”  He gave the name as Yenagoa Ocean.  I love research challenges and the fotos below make evident my find.  I then asked Tom what was so interesting about this vessel.  Answer follows.

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Yenagoa Ocean aka Yenegoa Ocean, ex-Nico Shindagha and Spartan Tide 91 of Tidewater Marine, came off the ways in Aberdeen in 1975, and worked in the Persian Gulf until recently sold to ESL Integrated Systems, a Nigerian company who took possession in Dubai and sailed for home until . . .

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it was hijacked by Somali pirates.

Tom’s story follows here, but the gist of what he writes is  . . . what you’re looking at above is now a pirate ship, in fact, a  mother ship.  So, next time someone asks what a pirate ship looks like, remember Yenagoa Ocean.  Forewarned is forearmed.  Talking about second lives . . . .

Oh, my “captain” title in Tom’s article,  . . .  his idea.   :)  Thanks, Tom.

Thanks to Kaya for the Iphone foto below.  Kaya intrigued me by stating he wished to ride the lady’s wake, literally.  Given her top end of 34 knots, her final wave–wherever that may form–could be formidable.  I hope the soon-to-appear QE3 designers improve her speed rather than her make-up.

Compliments of Ron, at balloonist level,  see QE2 process southward as

QM2 creeps into place as QE2‘s maid.

Compliments of bowsprite, QM2 shows herself no slouch, a truly flashy maid, pirouetting on her axis at the confluence of Morris Canal and the North and East Rivers where

she holds station allowing the Dann Ocean Towing boat to push some cement through.

The cement salute is a unique feature of this ceremony, maybe the crosscurrents of the tow compound the challenge of surfing QE2s wake.

Anyone identify the gray hull in foreground shooting water?

Moran tugs escort the elegant lady past QM2.

Dubai lies over the horizon for QE2.  Honestly, given the lines and speed, I hope the inertia of the Palm

Jumeirah agree with her in her second life.  Dubai is located on the west lower end of the Omani Horn that juts northward in the Gulf.  By the way, in the background  from L to R, Verrazano, the heights of Staten Island, and Lady Liberty on ex-Bedloe‘s Island.  It’s remarkable how narrow QE2‘s waist seems at several miles distance.

QE2 herself has surfed a remarkable wave created by Hurricane Luis back in 1995.

See Newyorkology‘s take here with video.

Winter–it makes me think of other times and places. The fotos below show tugster a decade ago in New Hampshire sailing a Grumman canoe. Spars, sail, leeboards, and rudder now adorn my apartment.

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This was a ship of fools; neither helmsman nor crew really knew much about sailing canoes .

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The only unpleasant canoe sailing experience I had involved capsizing in the middle of a lake, and having to swim a swamped canoe to shallows.

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On canoe sailing, check out Chineblog.com here. Also on my blogroll. Tim does nice work with traditional sailing (and other human-powered) craft in waters far from the sixth boro, like Madagascar. Especially enlightening for me are his January 2008 posts on traditional wooden boats from Iraq, a fascinating country where I spent four months before the recent wars. Wasn’t life better for the marsh Arabs back then? Has their water-based existence been wipe away?

Fotos by Allison.

A long-standing genre, so to speak, within ship modeling is ships in bottles. Friends in Massachusetts sell their bottle craft for over $1000 each. Since I was a child, I wondered how they got the ship inside the bottle. Was the bottle cut open and then invisibly reglued after the ship was inside? This was a version–at a certain age–of my wondering how babies got in “there,” a puzzle solved long before the ship-in-bottle one. Finally, in my 30’s I grew aware, fondly listening to these modelers’ descriptions of the meticulous technique involved in inserting the vessel inside the vessel, stepping the sail rig with thread then cut.

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Lacking the patience for this fine craft, I hereby launch a sub-genre of blogging ship fotos: ships on walls. If you’re wondering . . . No, I was not driving while fotografing, DWF.

Wall vessel exhibit A might be Al-Hofuf, named for the Saudi oasis town home to star-crossed lovers Laila and Majnoon, unrequited love like a certain blogger and a certain Alice. That’s the Layla Eric Clapton alluded to, but I digress.

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Here’s another, although this tug, Barents Sea, to be profiled later, on a wall next to a graving dock. I love these obscure bodies of water K-Sea calls up in their fleet names, but again I digress.

So I’ll digress one last time: these fotos remind me of stories I heard from my father. A herdsman/dairy farmer all his life, he spent his adolescence in wartime Netherlands milking cows in a pasture beside a canal. Sitting on a one-leg stool beside the cow, he looked upward to see canal traffic pass as he mindlessly handmilked the small herd that was his charge. Oh the weirdness of living in the low country: looking up–skyward–to see a ship pass. Hmm: shades of Chris van Allsburg‘s Wreck of the Zephyr, one of the best kids’ books ever, Zephyr being a sailboat named for a wind. Buy the book for someone–maybe yourself–this season.

Oh, and send me your “wall vessel” shots so that we can develop the range of this foto-subgenre.

Short post here inspired by Amy. Thanks, Amy!! Question: Does anyone know a source of fotos taken from Erie Basin or the harbor dating from the 1970s and before and showing the sugar plant in operation?

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I took the foto above in summer 2005 from Erie Basin, as I first saw it. Intrigued, I then did some research and learned about a fire and a Ferdinand Marcos connection and an impending sale of the space. We need more non-linear structures on the waterfront, arcs rather than all linear horizontals, diagonals, and verticals.

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Gone! It’s not that I “fetishize” the post-industrial, but public art with curves on the waterfront and intended to be enjoyed from both land and water . . . it’s great. Long ago, I lived near Jeddah, and their Corniche (coastal avenue) had old fishing boats propped up on plinths as public art. My Jeddah fotos (prints) are deep in a trunk of random snapshots. See a link here here for Jeddah waterfront art. Scroll through: I especially like the Mustafa Senbel piece. Some of these pieces are enormous, consumable from a boat 1000 feet off, just as the sugar dome used to be.

Today and tomorrow begin with the same dance but take divergent courses. See the man in blue on the catwalk just forward the base of the deck crane? Imagine his dance partner: She’s large, 45,ooo dwt tons large . . .

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What do you suppose the “L” word here is? Or maybe “el…”

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Bolero is the dance . . .

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…Wait! That’s tomorrow’s post. For now, “L” is the logo of the company that transports some US oil into New York. If you check the naming system on their fleet list at that link, you’ll see a lot of dance influence. It must be the Caribbean influence on that Gulf oil. By the way, you can find the answer in the link below, but first, among US oil imports, what is the proportion of all American (non-US) oil we purchase to all Middle Eastern oil? And considering three regions–the Americas, the Middle East, and Africa–how do they rank in terms of sources of US oil imports?

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Here’s the link. Totalling the American countries v. the Middle Eastern countries, I get 2.5 times more from the Americas. Ranking . . . I get Africa as second and Middle East third.
Oh . . . the crewman in blue on Bolero? Either he went aft to get his handkerchief and castanets, or he’s been consumed in the dance, as often happens. Get your tango shoes ready for tomorrow!

Thought you’d find a “10” reference here, eh?

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Graves of Arthur Kill

Click to order your copy of Graves of Arthur Kill, by Gary Kane and Will Van Dorp. 3Fish Productions.

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Seth Tane American Painting

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My Babylonian Captivity

Reflections of an American hostage in Iraq, 20 years later.

Henry's Obsession

My imaginings and bowsprite's renderings of Henry Hudson's trip through the harbor 400 years ago.

Tale of Two Marlins

Blue Marlin spent 600+ hours loading tugs and barges in NYC Sixth Boro. Click on image for presentation made to NY Ship Lore and Model Club, July 25, 2011.

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