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In Friday night excitement about work ending and weekend looming ahead to harness as I chose, I decided to stop by KVK. The spring night was warm. Three men fished and ate sizzling steaks (not fish!) right off a smoky grill, and told tall tales about shark and barracuda there when I inquired about their catch. Two other guys had started on a case of Budweiser and were starting to vent about a co-worker or supervisor. From the smell of BBQ, the beery voices that would vent til the beer was gone, and the warmth, I expected Saturday morning might bring an early summer.

As night fell, Pamir–a vessel that makes regular appearances in NY but whose name is rich in exotic associations–started backing out into KVK, outbound, remarkably silent given the a power plant the size of a small house, revealing not the tugs assisting it but two tugs collected at its bow: the larger Reinauer and the historic Cornell.

The Reinauer turned west and passed Weeks Marine’s Shelby pushing a crane barge eastbound toward Robbins Reef. From the Reef, any destination anywhere is possible on the sixth boro. Cornell lingered a little longer before going that way too, sounding a shrill whistle.

Tractor Ellen McAllister and unidentified partner turn eastbound, ready to assist Pamir . . . to ensure that the equally rosy dawn would find Pamir well out to sea, its crew–recalling the aromatic smoke of the BBQ –eager to regain their hearth fires, wherever they might be.

And I had people to support, something I could do better now that I’d stopped along the Kill on that spring evening before beginning my night work. I had miles to go … As I turned inland Staten Island the unexpected music in my head is the Bob Seger anthem about losing the awkward “lifetime” blues.

Like Alice, the vessel below is a self-unloading bulker. Barkald‘s cargo varies: anything so long as it goes bulk. If you look at the top three fotos in this shipspotting link, you’ll see it could be salt, coal, ore, gypsum, cement,

I’m not sure what cargo Barkald was transferring just south of Outerbridge on the Arthur Kill last week, but

it was a treat to see Dorothy Elizabeth hurry by, maybe homeward.

By the way, Barkald, like Alice, is part of the Canadian Steamship Line fleet. She’s classified as Supramax.

Talking cargoes, read about the cargo longshoreman refuse to offload from a Chinese ship in Durban. Any guess what type of cargo would trigger that sort of reaction? Answer. Bravo to the dock workers.

Unrelated: You may notice I added a site to my blogroll: Ship of the Day.

Also, unrelated: the tug in ice at bottom of this March post is Grouper ex-Alaska, built in 1912! By the time I get up to that lock in the canal, it may have moved west into the big lakes.

Meet Maryland, one Jakobson built tug, 1962 vintage…

Three moods…

Many others possible.

I gladly exchange an hour’s sleep to watch the sun rise over the Arthur Kill. But when dawn reveals a Suezmax crude tanker–in addition to the moist salt air–I know the day holds promise.

Three tugs guide her in. Tractor Lee T. Moran controls the stern of the 149,000 dwt Wilana. Catherine Turecamo is starboard; I couldn’t identify the tug to port.

The foto below was taken only five minutes after the top two and with no manual adjustment of the camera. Perspective works magic.

A few years back, pirates shimmied up the anchor chain of Wilana in the harbor of Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire. Scroll down to case #17. And speaking of pirates, those suspected of briefly holding the French yacht Le Ponant are now in France awaiting the legal system.

So I’ve some questions for anyone who works at an oil terminal like the ones along the Kills: during transfer, is there an odor–unpleasant or otherwise–from the cargo?

We Americans take for granted our ability to re-invent ourselves. I resigned from a teaching job once to become a trucker, a doctor I know gave it up to become a money manager, and one guy working as a custodian in Newark Airport used to be a dentist in Cuba.  My brother who owned a trucking company for a decade tells a story of one of his less disciplined truck drivers who quit and reappeared a few weeks later proclaiming himself a bridge inspector working for the New York State Thruway, a reinvention that did not inspire in my brother a lot of confidence about safe bridges. But ships seem to follow the same. The bulk carrier below entered the Narrows on Thursday as North Star.

Before that, though, she had been Aghia Sophia. What a difference is the set of associations!!

I suppose this re-identification seems strange to me in part because we don’t name things, for the most part. I don’t name my car although some people do. I haven’t named my house, except when I’m talking to my bird.

Dry dock-new paint job-new identity!!  I like that.  At least most vessels like the above aren’t called BCU #xx, as in “bulk carrying unit #37.”

It’s all about maintenance and luck. Pioneer had the good fortune to be spotted and loved by Russell Grinnell Jr.

Not far from where Pioneer got maintained recently lies this nameless workboat. (Correction: Thanks to Jeff, vessel below is Bayou Plaqumine aka Courier. Great fotos and interesting historical info on this Flickr page.)

At one time, in fact, Pioneer had no masts although she never had house forward. Seeing the beached and deteriorating vessel below, I’m reminded of fotos of Matthew Brady.

Pioneer was built in 1885, a time when many work vessels were constructed of wood. Again, the identity of these few ribs might be know to someone, but I have no clue. Here’s a link to National Park Guidelines on Abandoned Shipwreck regulations. Most New York wrecks listed are right in the Kills.

Acronyms make language learning the task of an entire lifetime. SDM(R)’s been around for a decade and–no surprise–I’m only just learning it. Any guesses what SDM(R) expands to? A clue is that it relates to the vessel below, which–I’m told–isn’t exactly an SDM(R). I’m not sure who took the foto; it was passed onto me. It’s the first–after over 1500 fotos–to go unattributed. Tell me you took it, and I’ll credit you. It’s a tractor tug, 90′ x 34′ 147 tons and 2400 hp. Hvide Marine in the southeast operates this vessel.

The link here tells the tale, but I’d love to know more of a track record. So, if you read the link, you now know this SDM(R)s a “ship docking module, revolutionary” in its design. As Jed describes the C-Tractor 10 foto, “Stern is left, bow right. Wheels (or drives) are just forward of the ‘midships port hole. When working a ship they place the stern against the unit to maximize wheel wash. If the bow was against the unit the wheel wash would just splash off the unit as the wheels would be too close to the hull and be of no use to the tug.”

If you open any links at all here, you must see this foto of a French SDM(R) of this design on the high and dry. It has ADFs, azimuthing drives forward. Many more tugs and pushboats here. Here are here are Rolls-Royce brochures, but they show only ASDs, azimuthing stern drives, not ADFs.

Below is Orion, the VSP tug (now back in Boston) that started out this series on unconventional propulsion. Notice all the green recycled glass around the drydock, detritus of the “sandblasting” process. Foto thanks to Ted.

Finally, here’s a succinct tug design history lesson link to a Marcon International Inc. article entitled “aesthetics of tug design.” The article includes a foto of a Miki tug design.

SDM(R) is located at this link showing both fotos and drawings showing the fore and aft location of the thrusters aka wheels. The vessel’s vitals: 76′ x 50,’ egg-shaped.

I’ve seen this sign hundreds of times as I drive off the Verrazano Bridge, and I know the reference, but now I see it with opened eyes, thanks to this morning’s context:

nothing unusual at first, an inbound tug pushing a barge. But when the name became visible, it made my day . . .

although I then wondered if the speck on the southern horizon might be chocolate express or maybe creamer express. Hey, “milk train” used to be a common term. Other questions emerged, too, like where in Brooklyn will this sweetness be delivered . . . or maybe this barge carries goodies from southern Brooklyn to be shared with less-sweet places to the north.

Notice how the superstructure of the barge migrates? And pushed by Heron? We have to rename this tug.

By the way, I waited in vain for the Chocolate Express. I know a children’s book writer who could use this name.

Foto note: The top shot could have included the incoming tug & barge if I had stood on the Belt Parkway, but given the amount of traffic, I might not have returned with said trophy foto.

Fotos and some info on five tugs follow. You may notice the locations differ although I’d guess that–as the bird flies–all five fotos were taken within the same two-mile diameter with Shooter’s Island as midpont. As it turns out, all five were built far from NYC but along the same coastline. The age range is 36 years. Only one currently goes by its original name. The difference in LOA between the longest and shortest is 35.’ Answers follow. The tug below in orange is June K.

Eastbound in morning orange is Baltic Sea.

Eastbound in KVK is Michaela McAllister.

Crosscurrent in KVK and pointed south here is Kimberly Poling.

Docked in May Ship Repair Yard is Mary Gellatly. See link here for a NY Times story involving her back in 2000.

So location of build, launch dates, previous name(s), longest, and shortest?

All were built along the Gulf Coast. The oldest here is Michaela McAllister (built 1967 and is also the longest) and the newest and shortest), June K., which was built in 2003 as June K. Here are the previous names:

Baltic Sea–ex S/R Albany and Tahchee; Michaela McAllister— ex Betty Culbreath

Kimberly Poling–ex Jaguar; Mary Gellatly— ex North Service

Unrelated: Check out these wild fotos of a tow taken off the coast of Portugal.

She speeds between a McAllister and a tanker,

dashes past some more tugs,

and carrying the checkered flag speeds westbound in KVK toward Newark Bay. What’s that flag? What missions lie ahead? Check the Sea Ark site here to see what non-orange boats they build.

Unrelated to the speedy Michele Jean, check out “Secrets of the Deep,” John Colapinto’s must-read article from the April 7, 2008 New Yorker magazine, telling of the disputed ownership of “the biggest sunken treaure ever” off Spain. A link to the beginning here.

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