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So I planned to do a review of Il Tabarro with fotos, and I had a problem, a really big one.


When I tried to get a foto of the cash bar area, Mary Whalen intruded.


I wanted to capture the decor and 1938 fork truck set, Mary Whalen crept in.


I wanted a shot of just the mermaids greeting opera goers, and in the background, the lady in black nudged her way in.


When I tried to get a foto of just the river and island background, Mary Whalen nosed in.


When a fireboat happened by to anoint the show, once again Mary Whalen did her thing and loomed.


And check out her bling! Says she in the voice of a very high trafficked blog, “i can has navigashun lights?”

Seriously, I loved the show: singing, costumes and staging, orchestra, lighting, blocking, even the Italian, the unusual venue. But I have to admit, as I watched, a thought that intruded was, “Mary Whalen, you’re such a diva. Your engine is shot. Your systems are way past their prime. But as a hull, you still know how to move. You danced in tempo with the show. With your pitching and rocking, even a little yaw now and again, you captured and heightened the emotion of each moment: alienation, loneliness, sensuality, jealousy, desperation, rage, horror. You got it down. You’re such a diva, MW.” Bravo VPR , bravo portside, bravo American Stevedoring Inc. Bravissimo Mary Whalen.

PS:  The 9/24 New Yorker (page 48) refers to MW as “a Red Hook barge,” and nothing more.  Fie!

I finally got up there, where the ironclad Monitor was built, where Exxon spilled 1.5 times the amount of oil spilled they did in Prince William Sound, where ghosts of the Mespeatches remain.


Juxtaposing nature and industry hasn’t privileged the Creek, although rehabilitation efforts of the NTC Alliance deserve great applause. Note in the Alliance link the first foto shows Cheyenne.


An old tanker friend greeted me there.


More blogging on the Creek to follow.  See Miss Heather’s perspective here.

Meanwhile, check out the Oct 2007 issue of Harper’s page 59 ff. for another “creek” in my life: “The River is a Road: Searching for Peace in Congo.” It’s a “must-read” for river life. I did this trip over three decades ago and have never forgotten.

Disclosure: I’ve never claimed to be in the tug industry although I’ve often considered trading in my profession to start a new life as a deckhand and go up the chain. Too bad life is so short or I’d do it. There is a precedent: in 1986, I resigned from a college teaching position to learn to drive semi, and I ended up a few weeks later hired to teach student drivers the intricacies of double clutching and backing. Anyhow, I’m dredging up this ancient history to make a point: namely, tugs excite me. They have power and style. Politicians and CEOs, who are reputed to have a power and style, do not excite me in the same way. Check out Hornbeck‘s incomparable Patriot Service below, one of my favorite recent fotos.


Or in their fleet check out Gulf Service …


or Stapleton Service escorting Calusa Coast . . .


or Sea Service.


Style and power! Nowhere could those qualities better be witnessed. To you all in the industry, my hat’s off. That’s why I fotograf and blog. Had I been born on Staten Island rather than farm country, I might be at the helm. Other fleets soon.

As a farm kid, I used ladders on silos, grain bins, and haymows. Painting barns and picking fruit could not happen without them. We expect them on fire engines and contractor trucks. Only recently did I notice their ubiquity on tugboats and around the waterfront.


On Turecamo Boys, lashing holds a wooden ladder to the rail.


Look closely for the ladder lashed in same location on Janice Ann Reinauer.



Taurus’ ladder is lashed to the rail.


Pushtug Glen Cove has one. They serve as cheap and flexible means of access onto barges and anywhere else.


Most Erie Canal locks have ladders visible only in an empty lock chamber.


Hard hat divers take a ladder to their workspace maintain pilings,


an aluminum stairway to the bottom of the harbor.

Waterborne vehicles have no brakes, but they do have fenders and wheels.  Check out Urger’s wheel.


Pioneer’s wheel has same design in metal.


Schooner Anne’s not surprisingly features carved designs.

USCG Eagle (ex-Horst Wessel) has three wheels in tandem, six sets of hands at the wheel.


So, here’s the wheel of the tug Cornell.  Why only stubs left where spokes once projected?


So I stood on Peebles Island, across from the eastern terminal of the Erie Canal, examining the Tug Roundup, happening around the brick Waterford Welcome Center with its large round window. Musicians played bluegrass and traditional canal songs on the stage improvised on the blue-and-gold canal barge, Grand Erie, a government boat. W. O. Decker, sporting a new growth of pudding, headed south on another 30-minute tour.


Looking for a spot to photograph the fireworks from, I struck up a conversation with some local guys drinking beer on Peebles, trying to get their sense of this gathering of working, restored and replica tugboats. They wondered where these tugs came from and whether the Erie Canal served as route for “really long distance” boats. I told about a certain ketch Maraki that traveled through here once on its way to Lake Michigan after having sailed around the world. I asserted that Maraki was not even very unusual in this feat. Then, this black-and-mustard vessel with unstepped masts motors by, like something emerging from a time discontinuity.


On the nameboard we read “Royaliste,” as if the name explained anything of this surreal passage. It appeared to be something two centuries-plus old juxtaposed with vessels , all of which flaunt diesel or diesel/electric where some–the oldest–like Decker and Urger once moved under steam. “Royaliste, I don’t know it,” was all I could say.


As it bore southward into the Hudson toward Troy, we read the stern, “San Francisco.” For info on this apparition, click here, and about its route to the Erie Canal, see this link.

Royaliste’s passage reminded why I write this blog. Tread wary along the canal towpath; you never know what you’ll see. So keep a camera in your pocket.

This follows on the Dutch Mystery. I savored Golden Re’al as an unexpected pleasure at the Waterford Tug Roundup. Golden Re’al is classified as a hagenaar, which has a similar meaning to “panamax;” a hagenaar (or “haagenaar”) is the maximum size that fit through the canals and under the bridges of Den Haag. I presume this sizing existed at a given time in Dutch canal and “air draft” history. At this link, compare hagenaar to Amsterdammer or Brusselaar. Golden Re’al is a 1903 two-masted aak; notice the mainmast, mounted to a hinged stand, folded forward.


The wheel connects to the rudder via cables. See below (two fotos down) for cable conduits along the deck.


I admit to being partial to leeboards. Notice the pulley between the aft end of the leeboard and the fender. We’ll trace it back to the helm.


Port and starboard pulleys with cranks control depth of each leeboard. L-shaped handle midpoint lubricates prop bearing. “Tunnel” conduits running aft outboard each pulley housing contain rudder cables.


Forward portion below houses a spacious galley. Notice the traditional tiles on backboard of gas stove.


Stove heats the saloon. Back aft under the helm is a cabin and engine compartment.


I’d still love to see the interior of that aak on the Hackensack. And here‘s another Dutch boat in North America project near Albany, looking for volunteers. Scroll through for a drawing of the “yacht,”  Onrust.

When I wrote about Dorothy Elizabeth in July, I raved about her rebirth. If you didn’t read this article by Don Sutherland then, read it now for the fantastic story of ex-Gotham, ex-Christine Gellatly, and ex-Mobil 11. Last week I learned of the special equipment pictured below with white neckerchief, as photographed by Rich Johnsen.


I took the foto below; “best mascot” winner’s name is Gotham, I’m told. Not Christine or Mobil.


As to the speediest for 2007, Lucy Reinauer.


I’m guessing, Mary Whalen once looked maroon, but now it’s Moran‘s trademark color.


Notice the greenish-black hull and the yellow slip-proof platform at the bow around the H-bitt and the staple at the stem,


maroon steel warmed up by brightwork like a yacht,


crew energy maintained in a world class galley,


wire neatly laid on winch for ocean towing,


one of two huge EMD engines in this immaculate engine room (consider each of the treads on the companionway one foot above the previous),


Turecamo Boys heads to the next job. Turecamo Boys recent high-profile jobs include helping tow White Sea back into Ambrose Channel (here, go to p. 15) and logging more hours than any other assist vessel in 9/11 evacuation. The Moran towing story goes back at least to Michael Moran, an erstwhile mule driver along the Erie Canal who bought half interest in a harbor tug in 1860. Moran achievements include sending the first vessel into Havana harbor after the Spanish-American War.

I’ve used the “trawl net” or “line locker” concept to catch up on odds and ends.


The above foto shows Minerva scrawling her wise prose high atop Grand Central Terminal, the house the Vanderbilts constructed. So what might she write? Anyone interested in collaborating on a new blog called “Minerva’s blog?” Details below.

His hairy-cheekedness stands atop the Terminal also, his Elvis phase. Book recommendation: Commodore by Edward J. Renehan Jr. I just finished it: what I enjoyed was the detail-over half the book–deals with the cutthroat business of running ferryboats in the “sixth borough” in the early days of steam. Vanderbilt actually started the business with a sailing craft called a periauger. Is there a historically minded group in the northeast planning a replica periauger? Maybe a fitting enterprise with some Vanderbilt cash? I know Cornelius would love it!


Below is a closeup of some reefers and some info. Here’s some eco-container news.


Finally, these sacks of cocoa beans (or coffee or styrofoam peanuts??) evidence that the set and props are nearly ready for opening night of Il Tabarro. Can there be a better example of merging industrial and cultural use of the waterfront and access? Ticket purchase info at the link two lines up.


So here’s the concept of Minerva’s blog: she’s angry because unlike was the case in 1914, the East River and its passing ship traffic are no longer visible. In her anger, what perspective might she take on what she now sees daily? We could hold annual “Minerva awards” parties for blogs capturing some aspect of commercial water life! This excites me. Minerva Maids with magnificent plumes marching in the Mermaid parade!!


Second idea: Since Minerva would choose to read to catalyze her writing, what would she have on her bookshelf? I owe this idea to Adam, who put together a fabulous CD of sailing music this summer.

Please send in your favorite reading (fiction and non-fiction) using near coastal or harbor setting or themes, commercial water, and let’s limit suggestions to works written in or about the past 100 years only, i.e., Whitman and Melville are out.

My preliminary suggestions, in no particular order:

Tugboats of New York George Matteson

Fugitive Deckhand Fred Godfrey

Looking for a Ship John McFee

Grey Seas Under Farley Mowat

Captain Jan Jan de Hartog


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