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I wanted to spotlight a blogpost that raises the interesting question that I’ve used in my title.  And I’ll limit my answer to small boats:  it’s about aesthetics.

The sleek launch Suwanee below (31′ loa x 4′ beam!!) (Notice Elizabeth standing waaay back by the stern.)  celebrates a century since launch this year.  Built in Clayton, NY, where it now resides at the Antique Boat Museum, Suwanee carries a four-cylinder Volvo engine.  Could this design possess the same beauty if it were built of anything but wood?  Frogma might think it a large kayak sporting a Volvo.


More wood:  Chasseur, tender on Pride of Baltimore II, shows its intrinsic beauty, especially here juxtaposed with the versatile inflatable piled inside.


Next exhibit:  Grayling lives a new life (built in 1915 in Boothbay 64′ loa x 12′ beam) after a career as a Downeast seiner and sardine carrier.  I may have seen her pre-conversion 20+ years ago in Massachusetts.

aaawdgr1Below, also in the museum up in Clayton is an Algonquin birch bark canoe built along the St. Lawrence in the 1890s.  If I could spend a few months learning to build one of these, ah, …contentment.  In 1975 John McPhee wrote a good book on a traditional canoe builder in New Hampshire/Maine.


I’ve owned a wooden boat and enjoyed every minute working on the wood, but I admit  eventually, my coins were all spent and my friends thought me a fraud for never leaving the dock, and someone paid me to take possession.

All fotos here by Will Van Dorp.  If you see a stunning wooden boat, send me a foto.  From me, more wood later.

Doesn’t that look like the Staten Island shore out beyond this color foto of Utrecht?  And the towline stretches taut with 3100 gross tons of steel, a hull that wants to sprint its 16 knots and some:


the bark Peking, late summer 1975, approaching the Narrows for the first time ever, as its previous route took it around Cape Horn.


Let’s walk around the foto a bit.  Invisible on this foto, some of the missing spars lie on deck.


The 1975 paint scheme differs from from that on the 1929-30 foto, and from the current one.  The assist tug appears to be a McAllister.


And on its 17-day passage from the UK, a “riding crew” rode Peking, there to stand watch and perform any as-needed functions excluding anything involving navigation, as Peking had non-functional rudder and no means of propulsion.  Several people are visible on deck below.  Lots of questions come to mind:  would a “dead ship” in general and Peking specifically have a generator on board?  What navigation lights are required?  What damage control would they have anticipated?  How different was radio communications tug-to-Peking 34 years ago?  Did watches include bilge and hold checks?  Who was this crew and what specialties did they have?  Did they take any fotos, and if so, where might those fotos be?


Peking masts are all steel;  topgallants were shortened.


What tales the crew of this tow must have told!  I’d love to learn more of the details of Peking‘s most recent passage, recent although 34 years ago.

Thanks to John for sending a link to the story (and many pics)  of Bear, which after a long life and many roles, sank while under tow from Halifax to Philadelphia for conversion to restaurant on the Delaware, a role currently played by Moshulu.  If you’ve seen Peking, you must visit Moshulu–and eat there to see the tweendecks.  Moshulu launched seven years before Peking also for the nitrate trade but from Scotland.

I’m curious:  any readers who know the ports of Chile today . . . is there recollection of the time a century back when these large commercial sail vessels arrived and departed with raw materials from the the Atacama Desert?  I’d love to hear.

Many thanks to Charlie Deroko for images and information.

I almost called this post “mystery tug,” but I’ll identify it as the Wijsmuller tug Utrecht built in Dunkerque, France in 1956.    Fort Wadsworth places the background as Staten Island, and the Verrazano dates the photo as post-1964.


The Wijsmuller site here has great fotos that give historical context of their tows and tugs, going back to 1826!  I will not identify Utrecht‘s tow today.  The only clue I’ll give is that 34 years elapse between the foto at top and the one below, showing an unidentified McAllister tug (Charles D. ?) escorting British Tranquillity outbound the Narrows.  British Tranquillity transports oil for BP.   Answer soon to the Utrecht tow question.


Top foto compliments of Charles Deroko;  bottom one, Will Van Dorp.

Quick post:  Bowsprite caught this bulker and sent it to me before she sped off to green climes south of palm tree heaven.  I can’t make out the name of this vessel (Thanks, Kaya, who identifies it as Karine Bulker.) but I know it’s a sister vessel of Pasha Bulker that, due to mismanagement, made an unauthorized shore visit in June 2007.  I love the pink here:  vessel, Colgate clock, sunset on the Watchung Mountains.   Other sights around the harbor include






Amazon Brilliance.


And the list could go on, but not tonight.

I predict that at least one faithful reader will dislike my again resurrecting the use of “random” in the title, but these are snapshots in time along the marine artery I like to call the sixth boro.  If I devoted 168 hours per week or 8760 hours per year to monitoring the sixth boro using a series of cameras, I’d still get a random sampling of the machines that move raw and converted materials around this part of the globe.  Similarly, traveling along shipping lanes into and out of the boro, one would also encounter a random sampling of vessels.  So here goes: looking east in the KVK reveals  Sichem Mississippi by the bow and


and its stern looking west. That’s Falcon (built 1978) in the background.    Eitzen Chemical is a Danish company dating from 1883;  Sichem Mississippi was launched in 2008.


Ice Blizzard also dates from 2008.


White Dolphin is a Panamax tanker, built in China in 2003, showing the Italian flag, and one of several vessels frequently calling in the sixth boro managed by Scorpio Ship Management.  Notice the boom surrounding the tanker.


Anchored in Gravesend Bay are Volunteer and Eos, a crude carrier built in 1993.  Eos is the dawn goddess, referred to repeatedly in the Odyssesy as the “rosy-fingered one.”


Below, a closer-up of Volunteer (ex-Energy Altair) 120′ loa x 37′, 4860 hp. and  built in 1982.  Anyone have fotos of her as Energy Altair?


Fotos taken along several miles on either side of the Narrows and during the past few weeks by Will Van Dorp.

And to my faithful reader (and everyone else) who dislikes my “random” this and that posts, with respect I send this link to some random quotes on life.

No, here Peking gets escorted up the East River a mere 14 months ago, almost like a human nonagenarian, for a 97-year-old she was when my partner Elizabeth caught this portentous shot.  Portentious, maybe?  Even the tug name–McAllister Responder–sounds like an anonymous institutional care-giver, as in “Hi Peking.  I’m on-call as your responder today.  I hope you’re having a lovely day.”  No offense meant to Responder (ex-Empire State, ex-Exxon Empire State);  it’s just that here the name adds to the pathos of this scene.  But despite the leaden water, the monochromatic palette imposed by the threatening, dark sky,  a few spears of hope zapped through, for at this point, some thought she might receive more than a make-over;  she might be fully rebuilt with new structure as well as cosmetics, we hoped.


Alas, 14 months later, to this passerby, Peking still languishes in a form of ship purgatory.


Recently Joe sent me these fotos, taken at sea by his uncle Frank sometime in 1929-30.  It’s Peking mid-Atlantic:  a vital cog in an economic machine, working sail that sprinted the seas less-trafficked  today between Northern Europe and Southwestern South America, a “fast” one-way passage taking over two months.  Northbound to European industries, she carried nitrates, a vital raw material in producing fertilizer and explosives.


A few years after these fotos, Peking came off the high seas into the confines of the River Medway to Shaftesbury Homes–aka the National Refuges for Destitute Children– and re-named Arethusa, appropriate maybe, since the original Arethusa was a shape-shifting nereid who transformed herself into a stream to avoid the advances of a suitor more powerful than she.  By the way, Shaftesbury Homes still exists, still performs a variation on its function to provide a practical education for young people otherwise destined to a purgatorial life of poverty.


Here, 80 years ago, she still breathed vigor, flexed steel sinews, a titan of merchant sail as expeditious as steam power.  On that day 14 months ago, I put my ear to her deck, and for a few seconds I thought I heard raspy breaths, felt a flutter that could have become a pulse, but


I now suspect I was mistaken.   Can I, might the armies of willing hands perform CPR on Peking and coax some vitality back?  Might transfusions help?

A hero of mine, Joseph Conrad wrote these lines in “The End of the Tether,” Chapter 6:  “A laid-up steamer was a dead thing and no mistake;  a sailing ship seems always ready to spring to life with the breath of the incorruptible heaven; but a steamer, thought Captain W, with her fires out, without the warm whiffs from below meeting you on her decks, without the hiss of steam, the clangs of iron in her breast–lies there as cold and still and pulseless as a corpse.”

Conrad might just have been wrong about sailing ships:  the last lines on Peking need still be written, and I cringe to think what these words may tell.  For now, we keep watch.

The artistic Bowsprite infuses the lines and colors of Peking with new energy here, as she starts a series on the moribund barque.

And if you try some Spanish, here’s naveganteglenan‘s post from Spain on Peking.

Many thanks to Joe for sharing these black-white family fotos.

Spring 2009  promises the start of an invasion of Dutch culture to the sixth boro.  Who knows . . . we might be renamed New Amsterdam before year’s end, since Wall Street these days needs a face lift.  But that’s another story.

When Henry Hudson arrived in the sixth boro in September 1609, he commanded a jachtOnrust, expected in the boro in September 2009, is also a jacht design.   Besides jachts, other Dutch sailing vessels include fluiten, pinasen, galjooten, botters, gundels, hoogaars, skutsjes, punters, schookers, and the list goes on.  See some fotos here.  The fotos below,  compliments of SeaBart, first officer of Smit Kamara, show an annual skutsje sailing event in the Netherlands called Skûtsjesilen.  As a child, I imagined these boats part-fish, given the large varnished leeboards that look like fins and hawses like eyes.  See really high-resolution fotos here.


More fotos here and here; read the fotos, not the language.


Check out the really exciting racing here in this video complete with the shotgun start.   In this video, check out the crashes and fans.


So as the Dutch invasion happens this year with respect to the 400th anniversary of Hudson’s arrival in the boro, imagine skutsje racing in our fair boro had transformation to New York never happened.


Finally, March 25 is the 400th anniversary of Henry’s departure from Amsterdam, headed here by way of northern Norway, Sable Island, and Virginia.

Again, all fotos here compliments of the irreverent Seabart.

Let’s hope you don’t conclude this blog has gone to the dogs . . .  first wenches and now this.  But doghouse is the word I hear most often in reference to the aft-facing cabin that offers good visibility of the winch and tow  as well as protection from weather and parted wire.   Notice the variety of styles, sizes, and locations of these cabins.   Barney Turecamo has the triple-pane model mounted center, whereas


Comet‘s is starboard with a roof-mounted spotlight, all of which describes


Gulf Dawn‘s, which also features an AC.


I’m not sure what the small dome on Wilcomico‘s roof is, but it adds steel lattice glass protection.  And notice its portside orientation, unlike all the previous examples.


Falcon‘s doghouse is more capacious than the upper wheelhouse.


To follow on Nathan Stewart‘s winch fotos from yesterday, notice the controls, a


full set of them plus ability to monitor two channels at least on the VHF.


Finally, for now, Nanticoke, one of Vane Brothers Patapsco-class tugs, as is Wilcomico, uses the doghouse as a location to display the IMO number.  Here’s gCaptain’s take on IMO’s.


More on this later . . . since many “tug” boats do not have winches, and not all that have winches have doghouses.  Is there a rival term to “doghouse,” since Nanticoke and sister vessels are powered by Caterpillar 3516s . . . Cats . . . it could become complicated.

One week until the equinox!  And if you missed my late addition to yesterday’s post, Henry’s posted from Amsterdam;  check out his eagerness to get back to sea here.

All fotos by Will Van Dorp.

I recall once hearing a crewman talk about the “wench.”  She was on the aft deck making a strange noise, he said.  He had me intrigued until I realized he was talking about the towing machine, like the one below on Nathan Stewart.


Nathan Stewart has a double-drum winch.


So does Turecamo BoysProfessional Mariner has a great introductory article on towing winches here.


To wind the wire rope onto the drum neatly, a winch has a level-winding device


Notice that on each of the fotos above, one drum has wire rope and the other, what a farmer like me might call rope.  Here’s a clear article on “rope.”  Oh, I know I’m going to be corrected for my use of the word “rope,” which might mean nylon and high-strength materials marketed as plasma and spectra that might be twisted or braided.


Lots of tugboats have no winches.  Check June K.   There’s a capstan but no winch.


More on this later. Now about the “wench,” I guess she just lives in sea chanteys and my mind.

All fotos by Will Van Dorp.

Unrelated:  Henry’s sent in another message across the seas of time from the docks of Amsterdam.  Check it out here.

As I post, Allie B steams eastwards 96 hours out of Boston bound for Gilbraltar and Romania.  One site I read recently refers to the type of information that follows as heritage;  other domains might call this previous lives or even aliases.   So, before carrying the Allie B name, the vessel bore these colors as Express Explorer.  Search “consort” and escort” on this blog to find other Express Marine boats.


Identical lines, same steel, different colors . . . she was Janet Graham of Gulfcoast Transit Company.


This was the original vessel–Gulf Inland’s Gulf Whale–launched in 1977 by Quality Equipment, Inc. of Houma, Louisiana.   Right here read vessel names and history of Gulf Inland Towing and other fleets subsumed with it under a different name today.


So here’s my question:  if a crewman with perfect memory who worked on Gulf Whale in –say–1978 walked through Allie B today, what details of the vessel might appear unchanged after 32 years?  What components still remain from the original launch other than steel plate?

All fotos and most info here compliments of Harold E. Tartell.

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March 2009