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I have to disclose that I know Rick Spilman and consider him a friend. His status as a waterblogger he has already established. He has been–as evidenced by second foto second from right)–an active participant in Ear Inn waterblogger gatherings. When I learned Rick had published a novel, I wanted to find some uninterrupted time to read it. I found it today: a cold gray day with a soft couch and a warm but grouchy cat [which you can see if you click on the foto below].
In about three hours, I raced through this very satisfying book. Chapter 1 begins in 1928 in Montevideo and returns there in Chapter 17 . . . a framing device that pays tribute to the best of all tellers of salty tales, Joseph Conrad. In between Spilman the novelist tells a compelling tale of the 1905 voyage of Lady Rebecca from Cardiff to Chile, a five-month journey for the 309′ x 44′ windjammer carrying 4000 tons of coal. Reminiscent of my favorite sea story Moby Dick, the 1905 account begins with the arrival the youngest and greenest crew member, Apprentice Will Jones, age 14. Spilman details the characters carefully as they sign on, jump ship, get replaced by crimps; deftly setting up conflicts. A third person omniscient narrator captures the fine points of the crew and vessel. And excerpts from letters written by Mary Barker, wife of the Captain, recount other aspects of the voyage related to her family and nature on the high seas. In fact, the title of the novel comes from one of her letters: Once I return to England, it is my intention to never again go to sea. … I have truly seen hell around the Horn, and if it is within my power, I shall stay happily ashore henceforth.”
Half the pages of the novel recount the tale of that hell, taking on the Westerlies of 1905 as they threatened to defeat Lady Rebecca and crew. The American crew member–Fred Smythe, who’d arrived in Cardiff via a Kennebec barque sailing out of the sixth boro’s own South Street–repeats a line he’d once heard at a Liverpool pub: “There ain’t no law below 40 south latitude. Below 50 south, there’s no God.”
Hell Around the Horn . . . read it for yourself the next time you have a few hours free and need a great sea story. A bonus is the author’s notes in the back pages, one of which reveals the single degree of separation between Rick Spilman himself and the captain of the vessel upon which Lady Rebecca is based. Bravo, Rick. It’s high time we conduct some more business at Ear Inn.
Click here for a previous book review from about three years ago.
May 30, 2012 . . . around 1000 hrs. I’d forgotten taking this foto until a conversation with Harold Tartell this afternoon. RIP . . . Bounty in that foto was heading for Newburgh, NY. Note the USCG vessel lower right.
Here are more fotos from my harbor jaunt yesterday… Apollo Bulker now lies at the dock in Rensselaer.
John A. Noble passed the Statue on the Upper Bay at midday yesterday.
Lower Manhattan yesterday was a maze of pumps powered by portable generators of all sizes. I’m not sure where this water is being pumped from. But waters in other parts of that area smelled of fuel; people wearing masks–there’s a whole new meaning to Halloween mask now–ran pumps and threw out waterlogged debris from residences and businesses.
Google “John B. Caddell” now and you’ll see lots of stories describing this vessels as a “168′ water tanker” or a “700-ton water tanker.” It’s NOT a water tanker. It was built as hull # 137 for Chester A. Poling Inc. to transport petroleum. Soon after delivery, it was turned over to the Navy and redubbed YO-140. After the war, ownership was returned to the Poling company, and until its sale “foreign” about two years ago. It’s NOT a water tanker . . . it did not transport water as a paying cargo.
It’s remarkable to see the number of government helicopters in the skies over New York–and the military trucks and personnel. This afternoon I spoke with US Forest Service crew in my neighborhood–Queens–clearing roadways: the person I talked to, from Arkansas, had never been in NYC before. He said he was working with USFS crews from Texas, Wisconsin, and Ohio. Thanks, welcome to NYC, and come back sometime when we’re all feeling better.
And finally, attributed to the Daily News . . . LARCs come ashore on Belle Harbor, Queens to assist. Click on the foto to get the Daily News story.
All fotos by Will Van Dorp, except that story and fantastic foto by Vera Chinese the NY Daily News.
After coming home last night, I finally finished reading Rockwell Kent‘s 1929 memoir N by E. Rockwell Kent lived for a time on the curve at 1262 Richmond Terrace (Staten Island) just east of the Caddell Dry Dock. N by E tells the story of his shipwreck on the western shore of Greenland near Godthaab and subsequent struggle to survive. Here are some teaser excerpts.
“We lay, caught in the angle of a giant step of rock, keel on the tread and starboard side on the riser; held there by wind and sea; held there to lift and pound; to lift so buoyantly on every wave; to drop–crashing our 13 iron-shod tons on granite. There, the perfection of our ship revealed itself; only, that having struck just once, she ever lived, a ship, to lift and strike again. … wind, storm, snow, rain, hail, lightning and thunder, earthquake and flood.” (page 132) Some time later, the three crew save what supplies they can and scramble up the rocks to safety. Kent again: “The three men stand there looking at it all [including the wreckage of their vessel Direction] … at last one of them speaks. ‘It’s right,’ he says, ‘that we should pay for beautiful things. And being here in this spot, now, is worth traveling a thousand miles for, and all that it has cost us. Maybe we have lived only to be here now.’” (144) And later “It was clear to us that the boat would remain on the ledge and even be, at low tide, partly out of the water. She appeared to have been completely gutted … the forecastle hatch now stood uncovered and every sea came spouting through it like a geyser, bearing some quaint contribution to the picturesque assortment that littered the rocks and water. Books, paper, painting canvas, shoes, socks, eggs, potatoes: we fished up what we could.” (148)
Somehow Kent found himself ennobled in that personal disaster. There’s hope. It’s also a good read.
Last foto here passed along by Justin Zizes Jr . . partly submerged fishing boat in Sheepshead Bay.
I haven’t seen much float these days, although water–current like this part of the Colorado or ancient/gone /imagined –is here.
Imagine the water that carved out this canyon north of Moab.
The bed of a dried-up sea might look like this, with
swash marks left by the receding tide.
The names in a place like Arches reflect the preoccupations and experience of the namer. So for fun . . . I’ve been renaming features . . . like the Martian Iceberg at sunrise,
Tattooed Belly . . . .
Named per existing map or your own imagination . . . the beauty entrances. I’ll probably re-read Desert Solitaire once I leave here and break free of the spell. Check the book out if you’re interested.
Otherwise . . . you might read this commentary. Sorry I can’t translate.
All fotos by Will Van Dorp.
Surprise, lunacy, and freebies commingle in this post. At one point, my perspective shifts a half dozen miles also.
0859 . . . as seen from the “swimming pool” aka Faber Park, Staten Island-side just east of the Bayonne Bridge. That’s Shooters Island (see a then/now post I did here) off the bow of Zim Qingdao. Here‘s something to know about the place Qingdao.
that looks like a kid! Could this be a contemporary Zim Family Robinson . . . sans the shipwreck of course!!
0940 . . . I’ve jumped onto my horse and raced over to the Brooklyn side of the Narrows. What directed my attention to the Brooklynside base of the VZ Bridge was ships’ horns: one long blast . .. danger! Is it this? At least six “smokers” . . .
I was half expecting these invulnerables-whose engines will never stall maybe– to jump the bow wave . . . . NYTugmaster links to a WSJ article on “playing in urban commercial waters” here.
Unrelated: Want a free boat ride on Saturday, tickets are available here at 7 pm today. Actually, there are no truly free boat rides; support historic vessels of your choice.
If you’re looking for a thriller to read this summer, try The Ship Killer. Bonnie gave me hers . . . after I’d noticed in prominently displayed at my local Barnes & Noble. There’s info here, and I agree with the first review there by Jim A . . . except I’d go farther and say it’s like Moby Dick . . . but you get inside the whale’s twisted mind just as you get inside Ahab’s lunacy. I was predisposed NOT to like it, I didn’t BUT it was a thrilling ride.
And speaking of thrillers . . . here’s an American jetski adventure stopped by Russian tanks and helicopters, from a blog yesterday.
Two and a half decades ago (almost) I was entering New Hampshire from Quebec and was stumped: the US border agent brought his face to about a foot from mine and asked: “How does someone from Massachusetts (my drivers license) and someone from Maine (her drivers license) meet?” I knew he wanted a short, convincing answer, and I thought in paragraphs and chapters even.
This shot immediately reminded me of that experience: how does a tugboat from San Francisco and one from New York end up lashed together, no longer floating,
Even Bohemia comes by.
From this angle, Mighty Servant thusly loaded reminds me of an ocean going sidewheeler, like SS Savannah.
More may follow. All fotos by Will Van Dorp.
Oh . . . sorry, Johna. I could say I picked her up hitchhiking . . . to spice up the story. The truth is we were coworkers in a publishing company and that led to some fairly spiced up waterborne adventures; we were just returning from a jaunt up the St. Lawrence northeasterly from Quebec City. If you want more on her . . . Diana, a major true love and heartbreak, you’ll have to read My Babylonian Captivity. Diana is not her real name.
No phantasmagoria today, just the cold hard facts, or in this case . . . the wet, crumbling ones: exploring Binghamton felt like visiting a hospice. Hopes to see what remained in the engine room were dashed halfway down the companionway below the main deck. Nasty cafe au lait post-Irene river water, at least five feet of it at this point, barred the way. It didn’t seem a heathy or productive place to snorkel.
In this section of the menu, I love the last sentence of the fifth paragraph: “She took the population of the eastern United States eight times around the world,” and she did so without leaving that section of the river between Barclay Street pier (now no more) and Hoboken. Fotos of Binghamton at work can be found in Railroad Ferries of the Hudson: and stories of a deckhand by Baxter and Adams, which I highly recommend.
The craziness of the internet where nothing dies is illustrated by this restaurant review of Binghamton. Wonder what would happen if you called that number to make a reservation.
name I’ve heard, I can’t recall it. (Note: thanks to Les, pantograph gates, they are.)
On the floor of the main deck . . . lay this 3′ x 4′ foto of an unidentified happy couple from maybe not even that long ago who chose this vehicle to take them to “that other side . . ,” a foto soon to be obliterated by . . . the river and time.
the serene before Irene. As of Friday, the USCG Captain of the Port announced the following: “Commercial deep draft vessels greater than 300 gross tons are not authorized to remain in port alongside a pier after 1800 on Saturday, August 27, 2011. All vessels must be out of Bay Ridge, Stapleton, and Gravesend Bay Anchorage Grounds by 1800 on Saturday, August 27, 2011. Only one barge per commercial mooring buoy, with a tug in the vicinity, is authorized after 1800 on Saturday, August 27, 2011…”
NYC officials dictated that 300,000 residents of certain low- lying zones evacuate. Public transportation will cease at noon today, Saturday. From the morning NYTimes, find these other announcements. Doubleclick enlarges most.
the 1958 Black Knight, the Goudy & Stevens yacht featured here three years ago . . . then also running from a storm albeit a thunderstorm that time.
… is that a terrified face appearing like stigmata on the second porthole from the right, and a grinch-like demon on the one to its left? … will ride it out at the dock. I hope the “custodians” in the SSSM offices know our eyes are on them as those same eyes are on the vessels left at the dock.
And who will be in the harbor . . . I’m guessing these folks and ones like them–police, Coast Guard, mariners working on the big ferries and certain private commercial vessels … For frequent updates, read Hawsepiper, Paul the pirate, a scholar who works on an oil barge. Paul . . . if you could get me keys, I’d move your truck outa Zone A.
Be safe. I’m staying on high ground inland.
Since I posted here a half month ago about WIX-327 USCG cutter barque Eagle, visiting the sixth boro, I’ve read Capt. Gordon McGowan’s The Skipper & the Eagle, which details the months he spent in 1946, post-war Hamburg, refitting Eagle (his orders were that appropriating Eagle and getting her safely to the US should happen at NO EXPENSE to taxpayers in this country). If you need a good read, to end the summer, this is it. McGowan’s success depended on many things, maybe the foremost of which were Eagle‘s seaworthiness and the brotherhood of the sea that bridged the divide between Capt. McGowan of now-christened Eagle and Kapitanleutnant Barthold Schnibbe of ex-Horst Wessel.
A hurricane struck Eagle on the final leg of the journey–between Bermuda and New York. As Irene approaches, consider these excerpts from McGowan’s book, written about the experience of being in an open bridge, exposed to wind, rain, and wash.
“In the rising seas the swells were beginning to overtake us, each crest coming in from a slightly different angle, and delivering a wallop to the underside of our old-fashioned overhanging counter” (195). [McGowan added six additional helmsman to the two then on the three linked wheels.]
“Whitecaps had long disappeared nd been replaced by angry streaks gouged on the breast of the waves by the claws of the wind. Puffs became roaring blasts of wind. The average velocity rose above fifty knots. This brought another change. The streaks on the surface vanished, giving way to clouds of spray as wavetops were sheared off by the wind … The stinging pellets of water fly horizontally downwind” (196).
“The early skirling and piping of the fresh gale through the rigging had risen in volume and in tone to belowing and shreiking. The vast sound seemed to fill the world. Voices of men died away and became inaudible. Lips moving, neck cords and veins standing out recalled the silent movie days. Here were faces transmitting thoughts by expression alone. Here was sound without sound. It pressed upon eardrums and bodies as a solid thing. The singleness of this mighty roar brought about a solitude … The voice of the storm was more than a roar. There was a sharp tearing sound–the ripping of the fabric of the gates of hell … The fore upper and lower tops’ls were the first to go. One moment they were there; a second later they had vanished. It seemed incredible that all that remained of the broad spread of sail were these ragged little ribbons” (200).
“I turned to the idea of heaving to. The ship had begun to dive and wallow like a wounded wild thing. Each time a wave overtook us I looked apprehensively astern. As the stern began to lift on the face of a wave, the bowsprit dipped deeper and deeper until it disappeared from sight. When each crest swept from aft forward, the stern settled deeply upon the back on the wave, and the bowsprit pointed toward the sky” (202).
Sorry . . . you’ll have to read the rest. Then there’s also Drumm’s book, which I haven’t read.
All fotos taken Friday by Will Van Dorp, who might not post tomorrow.
A South Street Seaport update: Pioneer and Lettie G. Howard have departed for Kingston.
No . . . this site is NOT transforming into a book emporium. But I can make some recommendations, good reading whether you’re on the water, at the beach, or in a house . . . The last time I revealed this much about my bookshelf was in 2007 here and here.
Numero uno: A “must read” We the Drowned . . . I guarantee it’ll be the most enthralling and fastest 675-page novel you’ve ever read. Read a review here. I’ll even send my copy once a few more friends have read it; my copy was sent to me by Les Sonnenmark, a frequent commenter here. It’s a saga of 100 years of lives of folks whose starting point is a Danish Baltic Sea island town called Marstal featuring naval prisoners of war, St. Peter’s triage style, mariners by sail and steam and diesel, Samoa, Greenland, Captain Cook’s shrunken head, haunting red lights (and more) for a character who survives World War II aboard convoy after convoy in and out of Murmansk, and some poignant stories of loves lost and long deferred. This is a story of resurrections. Hear an interview with the author, Casten Jensen, here. Read an interview focusing on storytelling craft here.
Unrelated: can you identify the sailing and diesel vessels here? Identification to all will be at the end of the post.
Second suggestion: Fire on the Horizon (267 pages) by gCaptain‘s very own John Konrad, with Tom Shroder. This book walks you minute by minute through the last days of Deepwater Horizon, with compassion for the crew and their families. You will learn much about a drillship, of which many exist today. Konrad and Shroder tease out responsibilities of BP, TransOcean, and Halliburton. I hadn’t known until reading this book of John Konrad’s unique qualifications to write this book: he learned of the blowout while in the Southern Ocean, delivering a similar Korean rig called Deepwater Ascension from Korea to the Gulf of Mexico; moreover, he knew some crew aboard Deepwater Horizon. Konrad shows his knack for telling a tragic story quite well, throwing in compelling backstory along the way. In the first 50 pages alone, you’ll learn something about offshore drilling in 1896, SUNY Maritime, and the Hyundai shipyard in Ulsan, Korea. In our age of petroleum and time of peak oil, this book will leave you with greater understanding.
Third suggestion: Also related to the blow-out of last summer, A Sea in Flames, (352 pages) by Carl Safina. In the preface, Carl Safina calls this “a record of a technological event . . . a chronicle of a season of anguish . . .” It’s an informal book in which Safina records his observations and vents. He, like Konrad and Shroder, makes the arcane world of deepwater drilling understandable and interesting to the layperson; in the first 50 pages, you learn about the decisions made throughout the six months of drilling at Macondo, which he compares to a “high risk pregnancy.” Safina’s voice evidences his ecology background (Ph. D. from Rutgers and President of the Blue Ocean Institute), and he’s clearly fuming, incensed; he reports statements from officials from BP and government agencies and then (as if we were watching or listening to some broadcast news with him) we hear his reactions . . . be they sarcasm or refutation. He acknowledges his anger, though: e.g., “I am not impressed with the Coast Guard so far. Admiral Thad Allen becomes to me a one-dimensional talking head: the Thadmiral. Does he deserve to be a caricature? Of course not; does anyone? But in my anger, that’s what happens” (96). And he’s particularly angry about private security guards interdicting the public from . . . public parks . . . when they are officially open (207-10). Ultimately, near the end of the book, Safina reports on having coffee with Allen and another of the caricature’s in the book, Dr. Jane Lubchenco, NOAA administrator; here . . Safina listens and in his reportage, transforms what had been one-dimensional into nuanced people. And I admire that. Read the book.
I’d love to hear your reading suggestions . . . in part because I’m fishing for my next book. I always can fall back on rereading the standards by Herman Melville, Joseph Conrad, Farley Mowat, or Jan deHartog . . . but would rather have my horizons expanded.
Otherwise, in summer the temperature makes it a whole lot more comfortable than winter to just while away some hours doing the Otis Redding thing . . .
All fotos by Will Van Dorp in the past two weeks.
Oh . . . right . . . here’s another review.
When I got to the wreck Easter morning, as you know, I spotted a seal. In the fog and from a distance, I first imagined it another creature–one more typically associated with Easter but for some reason with a flattened tail and sleeping on the beach. I gave it wide berth, but when it turned
and looked up, I noticed it was either a deformed bunny sans ears OR NOT an Easter bunny but rather a seal that seemed to has a sense of boat survey work, the clue being that it was reading Colvin’s Steel Boat Building, Vol. 1.
Having with me a silkie speaker of Halichoerus grypus aka hooked-nosed sea pig, I thought I’d ask a few questions via translation. After dispensing with initial interview protocols, I learned that ᐅᒡᖪᒃ , as this young male gray calls himself, witnessed Le Papillon arrive on the beach and was calculating odds of it rolling off the beach in like but reverse manner. ᐅᒡᖪᒃ demonstrated as he spoke, and
after astounding me with jargon like panting, racking, hogging, sagging, and hogging some more, he grew quiet, pensively stroking his juvenile whiskers. “Sooner . . . would have been better than now, but, in my not-so-humble seal opinion, it needs a strong vessel . . . of several hundred orca-power at least (must be how seals calculate terrific torque) to wrestle the pinky free of this entombing sand and
I turned back once while leaving; ᐅᒡᖪᒃ must have felt bad. My translator told me she heard him mutter something about “I can’t believe I said that. I need to learn a bit of tact with these terrestrials.” Then, he said something about heading for South Street Seaport next . . . . hmmmmm!
Here’s a game: I show part of a foto, and you might try to identify the vessel . . .
an answer of Marion C. Bouchard would have been correct. Doubleclick enlarges most.
Let’s start here. Although I didn’t take this foto, I did refer to it recently on this blog. Note the logo. Any guesses?
those can’t be superhigh steamer stacks, can they?
angular hull profile
tiny tires as fenders, or …
Terrapin Island has a stack forward of the house.
The unique Odin tailed by Ross Sea over by the Goethals Bridge. Ross Sea seems to sprout a massive starboard stack here. Anyone know whose stacks those really are?
Lois Ann L. Moran
Huge tires, actually, on the gargantuan Atlantic Salvor.
And here’s the final one. It’s Break of Dawn. When I read that the tug that had the misfortunate to take the job of towing Mobro 4000, I assumed it was a local independent tug, not a fleet sibling of Dawn Services. This blog has run fotos of Baltic Dawn and Atlantic Dawn.
For a fuller story of the motivations behind the “garbage job,” read this, starting from p. 243.
For the artistic story behind the children’s book, see this link for the series of decisions and sketches involved in creating the story. As a disclaimer … I haven’t read the book and realize some controversy surrounds it, but check out the Amazon page video about the author’s process in creating the artwork. To me, one important story here is an honest ambitious crew doing a job that captures them, transforming them into pawns of a diverse, far-flung, and powerful interest groups.
The Break of Dawn fotos come thanks to Harold Tartell. All others by Will Van Dorp.
And talking about being pawns . . . my account of my time as a hostage in Iraq exactly 20 years ago is reaching its climax on the Babylonian Captivity site. If you’ve not been reading it, my detention lasted from August until December 1990; to read the account in chronological order, see the note upper right on the homepage.