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Two and a half decades ago (almost) I was entering New Hampshire from Quebec and was stumped:  the US border agent brought his face to about a foot from mine and asked: “How does someone from Massachusetts (my drivers license) and someone from Maine (her drivers license)  meet?”  I knew he wanted a short, convincing answer, and I thought in paragraphs and chapters even.

This shot immediately reminded me of  that experience:  how does a tugboat from San Francisco and one from New York end up lashed together, no longer floating,

cradled on the broad back of Mighty Servant?  The answer is . . . it’s complicated and it’ll take paragraphs and chapters to relate.

And I certainly don’t know much of the story.  What I do know is that at 0902 today, here’s what I saw.

The barges loaded yesterday were still being secured, crew fine tuning as they would a huge

musical instrument.  What music would you like the Mighty Servant to play today?

0951 hr . . .  Charles D. McAllister and Gabby Miller brought their various powers to bear on the travelers.

Centurion and Hercules have pleasingly different bows.

Note the small boat (Bobby G?) preparing Centurion’s entry.

Even Bohemia comes by.

1047 hr . . .  shoehorning is happening on the far side as Albermarle Island passes with a load of Ecuadorian fruit.

From this angle, Mighty Servant thusly loaded reminds me of an ocean going sidewheeler, like SS Savannah.

By 1047, she seemed loaded and I couldn’t tell if

the deballasting aka raising had begun.

More may follow.   All fotos by Will Van Dorp.

Oh . . . sorry, Johna.  I could say I picked her up hitchhiking . .  . to spice up the story.  The truth is we were coworkers in a publishing company and that led to some fairly spiced up waterborne adventures;  we were just returning from a jaunt up the St. Lawrence northeasterly from Quebec City.   If you want more on her . . . Diana, a major true love and heartbreak, you’ll have to read My Babylonian Captivity.  Diana is not her real name.

So, I watched today until a bank of clouds slid in and turned all light monochromatic.  While watching, thoughts that came to mind included . . . “mighty patient” you have to be to load such a vessel, or watch it.

0851 hr . . .  Gabby floats all alone on the Bay . . . that bodes well.  Mighty Servant 1 has been in port less than a week.

0922h.  Mighty Servant spins with the beginning of the flood tide.  Once in place, she will be mightily served.  Note the orange tender hanging from Mighty’s port side.  I’ll call it Lesser Mighty.

And some lucky end-o-seasoners heading south catch a rare view.

0943 hr . . . RTC 105 arrives, pushed by Bruce A., house up, and then

0954 . . . house down and she leaves the barge in the able hands of Gabby and Linda L. Miller.  There’s an invisible Ellen on the far side also.

At the same moment, the orange tender aka Lesser Mighty  delivers

the tower crews to their stations to winch the load into place.

1002 . . . Lesser delivers line handlers onto the RTC 105 as well.

1021 .. . Ellen and Bruce approach

with mighty patience and care.   Note the gray towers on the far side.

1058 . . .  Note the additional Miller boat, Barbara,  in the foreground and the next barge in the distance.

1107.   Lines gets shuttled between RTC 105 and Servant by Lesser.

Whatever was the snafu, the barge gets hauled off, then back on, and line shuttling gets shifted to Bobby G.,  a small Miller boat,

who makes stuff happen,

who weaves a web, and who earns the nom-de-guere More Than Lesser Mighty Servant.

1225.  By now, the lines get snugged, Ellen, Bruce, and Bobby G move over toward the next barge.  And a thick winter cloud moves in.  With cold fingers, I leave for other projects, but the loading goes on.  Maybe I’ll return tomorrow early.

Mightily done, crew!

This article in gCaptain prompted this post:  it could be called to trust or not trust . .  the knot.

A tug waits inside the Narrows like this every day, many times.  This time it’s Ellen McAllister.

As the vessel enters the Narrows . . . I’m guessing way before this for the other pilot . . . access is ready.

Tug sidles up and alongside, matching speed, and then

the docking pilot goes out to start the climb.  Notice the container vessel crewman waiting up top.

This is where you want to be 100% . .  10,000 per ten thousand times sure all goes well.

Once the docking pilot is safely on board, a whole new set of challenges begins.

All fotos taken last Sunday by Will Van Dorp, as Sea-land Meteor arrived.   By now she’s left a handful other ports and is rounding the bend defined by Key West and  and headed into the Gulf.

Here was the first in this series.

Size matters.  I love watching the line handlers shift lines over to the bollards.   

As a vessel arrives at a dock, lines are at ready so that no time is wasted. 

Trust and communication are a must, even if no common language exists.  And as winter approaches,  this work becomes less and less comfortable or forgiving.

Kudos to the line handlers. 

All fotos by Will Van Dorp.

If that wheel is working, then it can’t be anything in the sixth boro.  These fotos of the steamer Natchez come from Capt. Justin Zizes.

who took them here in the proximity of the Greater New Orleans Bridge.  Natchez the hull is a half century newer than her engine and machinery.

Tug in the foreground is Angus R. Cooper.  I’m not sure what the pusher tug with barge is.

Pauline M . . .  resembles at least a half dozen knees-prominent sixth boro tugs.

And a thousand miles to the northeast and fully accessible by water . . . a foto from Detroit,  thanks to Ken of MichiganExposures, showing  Wisconsin-built, New Jersey-powered Canadian-flagged bulk carrier Saginaw.  Meeting Saginaw is mailboat J. W. Westcott.

And finally, back in the sixth boro, some fotos from John Watson . . .  ATB Brownsville spinning with barge Petrochem Trader, East Coast, First Coast, Sarah Ann,  and Nahoku.

Navigator?  Sea Shuttle?   Anyhow, bound from Rhode Island to Virginia.

Again, thanks to Justin, Ken, and John for sending these along.

Maria J. Turecamo (1968)  and Hercules  (1961), side by side, and my psychic tells me Hercules may be about to set out on a long cold journey, over water.   Given the name, I’m inclined to wonder what Hercules 12 labors were/are and where on that list this journey fits.

Scott Turecamo (1998) and

Reinauer Twins (2011) wait with their respective barges.  Twins holds the distinction of being the newest tug in the sixth boro.

Norwegian Sea (1976) waits, but

Meredith C. Reinauer (2003) is on the move, as

is McKinley Sea (1981).

And most of them could carry Augie on davits as a tender.  Anyone know the age of Augie, here at a dock upriver?

Finally, another foto of Byrce Kirk operating Patty Nolan (1931) and still running.

Foto of Augie by Dave Williams, Patty Nolan by Seth Tane, and all others by Will Van Dorp.

Someone emailed me to say thanks for recent fotos of Giulio Verne and now Blue Marlin redux.  But Blue Marlin, of my “summer haze” Groundhog series, is currently off China (see her environment at the end of this post) and this is the older, smaller sister Mighty Servant 1.

You can find the exact dimensions here, but basically, compared with Blue Marlin,  Mighty Servant 1 is 115′ shorter, 43′ narrower.  These fotos were taken from Fort Wadsworth;  if you’ve never been, this is a great time to visit the Fort, both for its own sake and for watching this loading job.  Given the time of year and stretched-thin funding of everything including the NPS, check out their gift shop.

It was interesting how many of the crew were visible as it entered the Narrows.

I sincerely hope lessons were learned and this loading happens quickly.  These cradles seem more robust than the ones on Blue Marlin.

If you didn’t follow my Groundhog Day series, this machinery ties the floated-on units in place when the vessel is

submerged for loading.

This is dangerous work;  a quick read here about Mighty Servant 2 and 3 provides ample evidence.

Seriously, if you have needed a nudge to get down to the water, these

next few days of crisp clear air are ideal.

Wear your woolies.

Click here for a “speedy” float-on involving Rowan Gorilla VII and Mighty Servant 1.  Be advised that the actual-time “deballasting” is, as Rod says, “like watching slow-drying paint dry.”

Below is a screen grab off AIS.  Blue Marlin is in there somewhere.  But what ARE all these other vessels!@!#$!, especially the purple ones?

All fotos by Will Van Dorp.

Recognize the profile?  The gulls swarmed as harbingers, like those that preceded Moby’s rise from the depths?  Doubleclick enlarges.

She comes in like a discriminating predator, leaving Patuxent and Brownsville to continue on their various ways.  I do wonder if any crew on those vessels got any fotos.

As she passes Swinburne and Hoffman, her anchor dangles at the ready, like a claw.

She inches into the deepwater to

settle in and lie in wait.  That’s Stephen passing far on the east side of the channel.

Let’s hope things go faster than they did six months back.

All fotos by Will Van Dorp.  More soon.


Notice the Village Voice icon has disappeared.  Tugster didn’t get their nod.  Thanks for voting.  Although it would have been nice to win, winning is not why I blog.

You know the song;  I decided to adapt it like this.

“On the first tides of Christmas, my true loves spoke to me . . . of  propellers in a parts tree.

On the second tides of Christmas, my true loves gave to me, two honey boats, and  . . .

… three schooner sails,  . . .

… four ferry boats,  . . .

… five safety rings,  . . .

… six sailors sailing,  . . .

… seven short sea shippers,  . . .

… eight bunkers pumping,  . . .

nine scows a dumping,  . . .

… ten dredgers digging,  . . .

… eleven lighters lightering,  . . .

…twelve tugs a pushing, . . .

and pushing and pushing . . .

Happy holidays, and maybe the Village Voice will employ it in this song.  Here’s the original, if you don’t know the Twelve Days . . . song.

All fotos by Will Van Dorp.

Same idea only different . . . check out frogma.

For a low-emissions all-weather pilot boat, the Dutch port of Rotterdam  looked . . .  to the US.  Kvichak has built for many ports.  Fotos courtesy of Fred Trooster.

So would that be a Dutch pilot in middeck with the bare-shoulder uniform?

Sandy Hook Pilots, serving the port of New York, have gotten some of their boats, like Yankee,  just up the Sound at Derecktor Shipyards in Bridgeport.

Docking pilots travel in  . .  tugs like Laura K. Moran.

Click here for a link to vessels carrying pilots in a number of East Coast ports.  A highlight of 2011 has to be the ride on an Edison-Chouest C-Tractor, thanks to JED.

Unless otherwise credited, fotos 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 2011