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One of the year’s disappointments was seeing the figurehead on Eagle, a ship two friends had crossed the Atlantic in. The figurehead is shown below.eagle.jpg
I don’t mean to be critical, and I won’t say what it reminds me of, but for a vessel so lavished with funding, the bird lover and the wood carver in me found that gilt body . . . disappointing. Not that I’d go for the fiberglass figure on this Las Vegas pirate ship.


Of course if I were a perishing, superstitious medieval sailor, I know which “klaboutermannikin” I’d rather follow to the afterlife. But I digress. Eagle, built by Blohm and Voss shipyard in Hamburg, Germany in 1936, is the younger sibling by 25 years of Peking. And check out Peking‘s stem, initials “P” and “L” for the P line, a fleet of nitrate clippers owned by Ferdinand Laeisz; now quiet at the dock after an early life shuttling between Hamburg and Valparaiso and other Chilean ports, less than three months for the 7000 miles each way. Imagine this modest figurehead plunging through the tempest around Cape Horn.


Here’s a sampling of figureheads. But my favorite figurehead of the year is shown below, the defiant grey goose standing on Pioneer’s bowsprit while the wooden jibboom was removed for refinishing; by the way, would you believe me if I said Homeland Security ( aka USCG Campbell WMEC 909) backed off seconds later out of respect for the goose? wacki.jpg

You don’t suppose the crew of this cutter had been interested in taking the goose as a figurehead, do you?

All photos by Will Van Dorp.

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Graves of Arthur Kill

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

Seth Tane American Painting

Read my Iraq Hostage memoir online.

My Babylonian Captivity

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


December 2006