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Between spring 2004 and summer 2007, I volunteered about 1000 hours at South Street Seaport Museum, or SSSM, mostly on Pioneer but also on W. O. Decker and Lettie G. Howard. The experience was exhilarating—learning the lingo of schooner sailing and the lines and procedures, rustbusting and painting, all good for maintaining youthfulness and toning up aging muscle. Without my time at SSSM, there might never have been this blog called tugster about a place I imagine as the sixth (and primary) boro.
What pulled me away from volunteering was my sprouting curiosity about all the other vessels and projects and careers in the harbor with more tugboats than I could recall without the assistance of my camera. Downloading my photos after a day’s sail would lead to a night’s worth of googling, to learn what I could about the boats, companies, cargoes, and ultimately the crews. Volunteering there felt focused too exclusively on SSSM and their vessels’ tracks from Pier 16 back to Pier 16. This frustration should not have surprised me, given my lifelong wanderlust and curiosity.
SSSM has stayed with me though. One sweet memory I carry of SSSM is of the stories I heard as a volunteer about the time of creation, creation of the museum, that is. But these stories came in fragments, and the gaps between have triggered lots more questions. The more I heard, the less I felt I knew. A Dream of Tall Ships, covering the time period from 1967 until 1974 in 500 pages, is like a vessel loaded deep with memories filtered through the recollections of Peter and Norma Stanford, founders of SSSM. The account is detailed and peopled with legends from a half century ago, a time when nautical giants were feeling the urge to preserve what remained of commercial sail, both coastwise and global. People like Alan Villiers and Karl Kortum, “ship savers” who inhabit this book, strike me as optimists who could imagine second (or “new”) lives for these old vessels built a century or more before. The Stanfords recall their travels to places like Punta Arenas and the old port of Buenos Aires to purchase Wavertree, one of the tall ships that seem in hibernation down at SSSM today. The photo below–taken from among the over 60 images in the the book, shows Wavertree in the condition SSSM acquired her.
The book describes a time in the history of SSSM and New York City when it seemed that only the brightest future could lie ahead. When SSSM sponsored an event, the most powerful, brightest, wealthiest, and most generous of the city rolled up their sleeves and weighed in. In a timeline of SSSM events in the postscript pages of the book, names appearing include Jack Kaplan, Brooke Astor, as well as Laurance and David Rockefeller. Then there are giants like Pete Seeger and Burl Ives. At a January 5, 1968 meeting at the Whitehall Club to launch SSSM’s James Monroe Luncheons, the pantheon of New York’s maritime industry showed up to listen to ocean historian Robert G. Albion speak. NY political elite like Mayor Lindsay were there, as was the famed naval architect Howard Chapelle.
Real estate struggles existed already back at the creation, but it seemed manifest that SSSM would grow into a premier maritime institution, center of the New York State Maritime Museum, and more. Stanford documents the growing membership. New York was heady with the growing fleet of tall ships and other interesting vessels. Exciting happenings like Sea Day seemed to spread a love of the city’s connection with the sea, an event that predates “City of Water” day.
But don’t take my word for all the memories in this book. I hope enough of you read this book—skim quickly through the too-long segments about martinis and such– and maybe if enough of us start to glow again with embers long ignored, maybe new energies will again start up the dream to make SSSM a street of tall ships that will inspire seafarers of the future.
As I stated earlier, the book has over 60 photos, like the one below showing Wavertree first arriving at the museum, and
this one, showing ARA Libertad docked at the SSSM in July 1969 after delivering a portion of the Wavertree‘s topmast, shattered off in 1910 while rounding Cape Horn. Two other interesting notes about the photo below. First, when the Commissioner of Ports and Terminals tried to block Libertad from docking at the SSSM pier, Libertad‘s Captain Vazquez Maiztegui responded, “Libertad will berth in New York at South Street Seaport, no other place.” Second, at around the same time, Pete Seeger and Clearwater put in there to celebrate her first arrival in New york.
I immensely enjoyed this book. My only regret is that it didn’t contain 160 photos or 1600 photos. For example, on September 20, 1968, a Bronx River Towing tug delivered the vessel today known as Lettie G. Howard to Pier 16; I’d love to know more and see a photo. Square Rigger Bar & Grille is repeatedly mentioned; let’s see at least the facade. I’d be thrilled if an electronic addendum of photos from these early years could remedy this.
Again, get the book and read it soon.
Click here for some previous reviews I’ve posted.
Three kings parades happened today in some parts of the world . . . including East Harlem, where camels walk through Manhattan streets. This blog has had a fair number of posts about queens, so here are some kings, though not Gaspar, Melchior or Belthasar.
But here’s Ocean King, a foto I took back in June 2010. I believe she’s built in 1950, and this was the only time I saw her in the sixth boro.
I caught this shot of King Douglas in the KVK in spring 2009; tonight she’s crossing the Andaman Sea.
And finally . . . a stretch, I got this “below the keel” shot of Pe king back in January 2007, a whole seven years ago. Click here to see fotos of Peking‘s first ever arrival in the sixth boro, almost 40 years ago, when there was great optimism about her future.
All fotos by Will Van Dorp.
Here was a post I did in early spring 2013. She went to Portland, Maine for the work, and this morning
she returned to South Street Seaport Museum pier, about 36 hours travel out of Gloucester.
The timing was perfect for me . . . as I’m currently reading A Dream of Tall Ships, Peter Stanford’s account of the years from 1965–1974, when as the subtitle of the book has it, a story of “how NYers came together to save the city’s sailing-ship waterfront.” Well . . . round 1, at least.
Lettie looked glorious in the morning sun, nestling back beside Ambrose, but I couldn’t help looking especially closely at the bow. I’d just read this account the day before in Stanford’s book, a recollection about the vessel then-called Caviare in September 1968
“there was one thing that needed replacing, which not vital to the schooner’s structure, mattered a great deal to her appearance. This was the gammon knee, an oak extension of the stem arching forward under the bowsprit, which nicely completes the sweeping curve of the clipper bow. The old schooner’s gammon knee had been chopped back into a stump to allow a heavy rope fender to be slung under the bow when she’d been adapted for work as a tug.”
Wow! That’s one old foto I’d love to see, this vessel, with a rope bow fender, pushing a barge. Anyone have such a foto?
Lettie‘s back, and so is this fleet. Maybe Lettie‘d love to come out fishing with them? Vessel in the distance is Pati R. Moran. Brown fishboat in the foreground is Eastern Welder.
All fotos this morning by Will Van Dorp.
See it there, the modest red covered barge between Wavertree and Peking? The steel covered barge is called Progress today. Once it transported coffee from ship to shore. I’m making a note to myself: learn more about these.
And right across the East River to the right of the firehouse at Fulton Landing, that modified but still modest white barge used to be Erie Lackawanna 375. It too transported coffee. More on this later. I took this foto 6/16/2009.
Here’s another modified coffee barge, this one just south of Camden, NJ, now the floating office of McAllister in that waterway.
It’s a counterpart to this McAllister office on the KVK. So given all these repurposed coffee barges I knew about, why
did it take me a day short of seven years doing this blog to go to Bargemusic, the EL 375 barge in the foto above? Shame on me, posing in the “shadow selfie” below, for waiting so long to check out this extraordinary barge.
I trekked out there yesterday in spite of the gusty sub-freezing weather to hear some music and have a look.
Jung Lin was warming up on the Steinway, as
was Andy Simionescu.
I didn’t–and one shouldn’t–take fotos during the performance, but during intermission, I went out onto the pier to see the view from the “back” of the stage.
Here’s the obit of founder Olga Bloom–with more info on her barge project– from the NYTimes almost exactly two years ago. From this article, I learn this was her third barge, that it was built around 1900, and that Peter Stamford was instrumental in getting it permission to dock at Fulton Landing. Here’s a spring 1978 article on what may have been Bargemusic’s first season. Here’s a link that gets you an interview with the current president and calendar of upcoming events. By the way, at 2:48 in that interview, a Bouchard tug passes eastbound on the East River.
Credits to those who offered marine trade skills and others can be found here.
Request: the bargemusic site credits a Captain Hearnley as the one to tow the barge to this location. Can anyone say anything about him? Does anyone know the name of the tug or . . . have a foto of that tow? When was the former EL 375 last hauled?
Final shot for today, a foto from 8/27/2010 of Volunteer passing bargemusic.
All fotos by Will Van Dorp. If you have never been to bargemusic, you’ll thank youself if you go there SOON.
Here was ASB 2. There might be eight million stories in the naked city, but in its primary boro aka the sixth boro at least half again that number of other stories could be told . . by the collective whoever knows them.
Captain Zeke moves with the diverse stone trade past folks waiting below our very own waving girl and
all those folks waving and taking fotos from the ferry and every other water conveyance.
The 1950 Nantucket‘s back in town . . for the winter.
Yup . . . no one could have predicted these . . .
back when Shearwater was launched in 1929.
A cruise ship shuffles passengers as Peter F. Gellatly bunkers.
Kristy Ann Reinauer stands by a construction barge.
A barge named Progress has returned to South Street Seaport Museum, here between Wavertree and Peking.
Emerald Coast is eastbound on the East River.
Two views of Adirondack, one with WTC1 –or is it 1 WTC or something else–and
another with the Arabian Sea unit.
And Sea Wolf heads north . . . .
All fotos by Will Van Dorp.
Forecast for the morning after the Oscars was for some sun, which I sorely needed. And who’s out . . . William Oscar aka W. O. Decker, for starters.
I couldn’t quite figure out what Sorensen Miller‘s load was. In the background, that’s the Newark Bay Bridge, which doesn’t make it on my fotos much.
Virginia Sue was fishing off Clermont.
John P. Brown moved nine (?) railcars from Brooklyn to Jersey.
Clipper Legacy arrived here yesterday.
Shawn Miller‘s pushing trucks around again, this one all ready for the mid-March holiday.
Taurus light moves past Christine McAllister.
And . . . let’s conclude with another shot of William Oscar, wherever it may be heading.
All fotos this morning before the clouds moved in . . . by Will Van Dorp.
So after work today, I went looking for evidence that New Yorkers celebrate mardi gras. I saw this instead . . . seal?
Not! Unless seals these days carry flashlights and trail markers and have a support
vessels like Linda Ann, herself supported by W. O. Decker and Peking.
Here is one of a series of six posts I did five years ago about Peking, which moved across the bay that day. And half a year back, here‘s a post I did about W. O. Decker and Helen McAllister‘s last waltz. And Wavertree . . . I regret that in my dozen years wandering the sixth boro, Wavertree has not ONCE left the dock. I know some of you must have fotos . . . and good memories of her moves, but I have none.
BUT . . . click here for a mystery vessel with three masts square-rigged in a foto I was given some years back. Anyone want to take a stab at identifying it? The conclusion a few years back is that the foto is “‘shopped,” although it was done some years ago.
My guess is that someone was inspecting Wavertree‘s wet side.
Later I thought I saw a mermaid . . . but I struck out again.
And for the record, after 1700 hr on the E train I finally saw some mardi gras beads . . . worn by a couple going to a party. I had to ask.
All fotos today by Will Van Dorp.
Is Marion M (Greenport, NY 1932) on her own power projecting that potentially gorgeous deck before her? Might she be?
I’ll be straightforward for once: Marion M has been moved away from South Street because the museum needs space. She is for sale. You/your organization can get information on purchasing her by contacting Captain Jonathan Boulware, Waterfront Director, South Street Seaport Museum. His tele and email are: 212.748.8772 email@example.com.
Some specifics on her history accompany bowsprite’s rendering here. Wooden tugboat W. O. Decker (1930) demonstrates that she has the stuff still in her. Decker stays at South Street Seaport Museum. Here and here are two of my many favorite bowsprite illustrations of Decker.
Again, Marion M can be yours. Contact Jonathan Boulware, Waterfront Director, South Street Seaport Museum 212.748.8772 firstname.lastname@example.org I’m told she’s listed in WoodenBoat‘s “Save a Classic” section, but I haven’t seen that yet.
I’d love to see her gussied up to 1932 standards. I’d even put greenbacks and sweat equity in the project. I’m reminded of what the “crazy farmers of Villiersdorp” managed to do . . . or the Onrust project in Rotterdam Junction.
Unrelated but NYTimes article about resurgence: Cross-harbor rail about to expand exponentially on the sixth boro!!
… of course with boats, the number of “second lives” can astonish you, and (as for “last,”) see the note at the end of the post. Helen’s tenure as “tryin ta be” museum artifact at South Street was more like a fourth life* already!
Anyhow, we knew departure would happen, just not when the day was. But when I happened by minutes after nine this morning and I saw this . . . my plans for the next few hours vanished . . . .
0923 hr . . . Decker heads out to confer with Responder, who has often moved South Street vessels, including Peking four + years ago.
And I’d really enjoy hearing your comments on any experiences you’ve had in the long life of the beautiful Helen (ex-Georgetown, ex-Admiral Dewey). Does anyone have fotos to share of Helen docking vessels during 1992 OpSail?
“Last” . . . well, many boats have second, third, etc lives. Helen is headed back to the McAllister yard; SSS Museum needs to focus on fewer vessels. What comes next is as unknown as . . . tomorrow.
Related: Here was a previous significant day in SSSM involving major passages with the McAllisters.
* As to Helen’s previous lives, she was built in Port Richmond, Staten Island as Admiral Dewey for Berwind-White Coal; see p. 8 of Erin Urban’s Caddell Dry Dock: 100 Years Harborside for a foto of Admiral Dewey.
Since I woke up this May morning from a dream about attending a meditation session, the logical choice is to start my day writing a post that reflects upon–well–preservation. Two weeks ago I wrote about the Alwyn Vincent project. To quote the site, “she’s finally out,” and on the steel wheels ‘n rails of a synchrolift.
She was getting her “haircut and a shave” even before she stopped moving. When all logistical arrangements converge, the late 1950s tug will travel over-the-road 60 or so miles to its new life, as a functioning steam tug on a freshwater reservoir.
To support the self-described ’Bunch of Crazy Farmers’ (personified by Andy, in orange below) who now own the tug, the Alwyn website says they “selling space for banners of about 1 metre square, at R5 000 ($US 639.30). The advertisements are mostly in connection with agricultural products and services, partly because everybody knows who are responsible for saving this historic vessel! Partly also, it’s because those are the firms we know, support and can ask!”
I suppose they’d accept US sponsors as well; book your space on the hull! Contact Elma on email@example.com
told some of the story. A sister vessel–New York Central #16–was saved only to end tragically at the Bourne Bridge rotary in Massachusetts, just six years ago.
The late Don Sutherland told of spending the last night aboard #16 . . . I wish I’d recorded his telling that story. I have recorded Norman Brouwer telling the story of buying this pierside house from #16 from the late John J. Witte, and I hope to share details of that project soon.
Not everything can be preserved . . . On Friday I caught Cheyenne –a current Witte (officially DonJon Marine) tug–heading from the East River into the Upper Bay pushing a load of (I believe) fine scrap, chopped up pieces bound for recycling. Just a week ago, Cheyenne was pushing some preserved vintage jets.
Some valuable artifacts might not be saved much longer unless dreams convert into reality and $$; others like Liemba and Yavari seem to live way beyond their expected lifespans in spite of their being out of the spotlight.
Which brings up this part of a dream: Partners in Preservation is dangling cash $US 3 million, and . . .<<<Tug Pegasus (1907) and Waterfront Museum Barge aka Lehigh Valley 79 (1914) have teamed up in a grant application for $$ for preservation work each vessel needs. As a component of the decision-making about who gets the $$, Partners in Preservation have a “socialmedia-meter” running from now until May 21. To help Pegasus and Lehigh Valley 79 register high on this “meter,” you can do two things from wherever on the planet you may be: 1) befriend them on Facebook and get dozens of your friends to befriend them as well, and 2) vote DAILY here. DAILY! Seems like a crazy way to run an election, but . . . that’s social media and in this case, the cause is worthy.>>>
And later this afternoon–1300–1700h I’ll be down on Pier 25 minding the plank between 79 and Pegasus, as part of Partners in Preservation “open house” weekend.
Thanks to Colin Syndercombe for the Cape Town fotos; all others by Will Van Dorp.
Sort of related, here’s a “tale of two projects” post from about a year ago.