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East River, Hudson River, the Kills… they flow through a metropolis that loves them, uses them, and sometimes turns its back on them. In the latter attitude toward the waters, the metropolis abandons the watersides to the very passionate. Traveling then through the sixth borough gives as many views as a prism gives colors.


off lower East side of Manhattan


off Red Hook Brooklyn


off Williamsburg Brooklyn


off Williamsburg again.

All photos by Will Van Dorp.

Tugs… ubiquitous and of all sizes. Operating 365 days of the year, they’re quite numerous. According to a 2005 New York Times article, about 100 operate out of Kill van Kull, the water along the northern side of Staten Island, the passageway between Upper New York Bay and Newark Bay. Like land vehicles, they need maintenance and repair. Places like Caddell‘s offer this service. And while they are worked on, we have the opportunity to see what a tug looks like out of the water.


Here’s an unidentified tug out of the water. What’s your guess for propeller diameter? Eight feet? What would the size of the vessel be?


Here’s another shot of the same tug without the propellers.


Dry docks of this sort are sunk, the vessel is driven in and positioned, then the dry dock is refloated. A rising dry dock lifts all boats–up to a certain size. Whatever is “on board” goes high and dry.

In summer, lovers of the harbor have a special treat: a diverse collection of traditional sail can be seen. Places on these vessels are available for the general public, charters, school groups, and more.


The oldest of these is Pioneer, above, sailing out of South Street Seaport. Pioneer is an iron (now steel) centerboard schooner built in 1885 to haul sand from beaches on Delaware Bay into Chester, Pennsylvania


Another South Street Seaport vessel is Lettie G. Howard, a 1895 wooden fishing schooner that used to dory fish on the Grand Banks. Now it’s affiliated with a charter high school in Brooklyn and in summer sails between New York and Boston. Both Pioneer and Lettie have crews made up of skilled professionals and volunteers.


A. J. Meerwald‘s homeport is Bivalve, New Jersey. Meerwald, officially New Jersey’s tall ship, was built in 1928 as an oyster schooner. Today it does educational sails on Delaware Bay and sometimes on New York harbor, sailing out of Liberty State Park. Notice the Red Hook sugar mill in the distance just astern Meerwald; see Red Hook now, for it’s transforming.

Here Pioneer and Adirondack race northward at dusk. Adirondack is a recently built schooner replica that sails out of Chelsea Piers.

My favorite: Pioneer. Sail Pioneer next spring after uprig.

Look carefully at this first picture for a while. It seems nothing is there. It’s grayed out. Look at the lower half of the space and something starts to emerge, 92,000 tons and over 950 feet LOA, it’s Norwegian Dawn several miles outside the Narrows, the entrance to the harbor. Imagine operating here without radar. The collision of Andrea Doria and Stockholm happened even with radar albeit radar of 1956.


Here’s the same ship on a clear day, making its usual Sunday afternoon departure for down south somewhere.


Here’s another fog shot, this one from the East River looking down toward the Buttermilk Channel and Red Hook. The ship you can see moving away is one of the sludge tankers that NYDEP uses to transport sewage so that it can be transformed into fertilizer for our citrus and vegetables. Read the sludge link if you’re skeptical. But back to the fog. What you can’t see is about a quarter mile beyond the sludge ship . . . Queen Mary 2 at the Brooklyn passenger terminal. Trust me, QM2 was there at the time of the photo.qm2.jpg

All photos by Will Van Dorp.

Let’s travel through the Kills now, under the beautful Bayonne that graces my blog masthead, up the Hudson, and as far back as Labor Day 2006, a fantastic weekend for the best sporting eventing of the entire year, the annual Tug Races. Here’s where the fleetest roil the waters of the Hudson, an event that warranted an official delegate from the Mayor this year, but demands a whole lot more attention.

Late morning more than a dozen tugs made their way to the starting line, an imaginary marker between the stern of Intrepid and Port Imperial in Weehawken.


All helmsman wait for the signal of the VHF. When it comes,

thousands of horsepower spin enormous propellors (which you’ll see in a future blogpost) and a placid Hudson is transformed.


Anything smaller than the fleetest tug, K-Sea’s Lincoln Sea, and what is NOT smaller than Lincoln Sea, like Urger here, feels that small craft warning should have been posted. Who wins you might ask…


Could there really be any question? Lincoln Sea, the K-Sea tug at 8000 hp, 123 feet LOA. Here is post-race festivities, Lincoln Sea takes on others in its class? It’s Janice Ann Reinauer, 2200 hp and 86 feet LOA.

Tell your friends and see you at the Labor Day 2007 premier sports event in– the world.

Now we’re in Raritan Bay in a part of a channel there called Seguine Point Bend. The channel there runs less than 100 feet off –of course, Seguine Point, near the southernmost point of Staten Island. That part of New York City off the starboard side of the tanker doesn’t fit the stereotypical sense of the City. The tanker is headed into the Arthur Kill, the heavily industrial waterway between Staten Island and New Jersey.


The ship is called Baizo, a Panama-registered tanker. It is over 550 feet long, draws about 40 feet, and is about two years old.

Notice that we are outside the channel, as marked by the green “33” buoy. We felt safe doing this so long as we stayed within 30 feet of the buoy in this case. A chart (map of the waterways) is always open so that the captain can see it.

First we’ll look around the East River, Brooklyn Navy Yard. Alice Oldendorff, a bulk carrier, is a regular there. She hauls such bulk materials as ore and gravel. Notice the bulbous bow and the draft markings.



This self-unloading system allows off-loading of up to 1500 tons per hour to a distance of 210 feet from the ship. She was built in 2000 and is over 600 feet long.

Alice Oldendorff is one of over 200 vessels belonging to the EO group based in Lubeck, Germany. To see where she is located at this moment, check this link and click on “satellite positions.”

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November 2006