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I don’t celebrate holidays much, but “old year’s day” I take seriously, to look back and assess.  Today’s post features photos you may remember from 2020.  I chose these from the several thousand photos I put into public domain this year.  It’s a personal and subjective exercise;  on a different day I might choose another dozen from the thousands.  Four of these were taken by others.  And given the name of this blog, I added 45 installments of “random tugs” this year.

My sister took this photo as French Bakery Belen approached her vessel.  I choose it here because its location may surprise you.  I’ll reference the photos below if you want to know context.  My take on this photo is to prepare for surprise;  assume nothing.  I think I should say assume carefully, because we all make thousands of assumptions each day.

Photos of an odd barge came to my attention this year, thanks to Isaac Pennock.   Here it’s pushed southbound in the Oswego Canal;  note the outdoor helm.   From Oswego, it took the Erie Canal and the Hudson River before it transited the sixth boro and puzzled a lot of folks.  The moral of the story is that there’s always a story and it’ll make sense. 

That barge now is here, which I’ve yet to set foot on.  Maybe 2021 will change that.  Click here to see before and after.  Think caterpillar-to-butterfly.

Unlike the salty sixth boro, freshwater inland waterways freeze sooner and stay frozen longer.  This ATB is loading iron ore near Duluth, all that ice notwithstanding.  Today, that same vessel is pushing ore across Lake Superior most likely toward Lake Michigan.  Spend New Year’s Eve at the Soo and you’ll see them transit, definitely more exciting than watching a dropping ball …

The world wide web depends on wires, and they’re under the oceans, and vessels like these operated by US mariners set and maintain them.  Hello everywhere and anywhere.

After an ocean voyage, Sheri Lynn S is splashing into the Saint Lawrence River, and the start of its first river trip since transiting downstream the Yangtze.  It’s been working in the Great Lakes system ever since.

This ghostly white vessel marked a time this 2020 year that everything changed.  USNS Comfort was surely not a silver bullet, but on that day in March, it was a psychological boost.

And here’s an example of what else changed:  note the crew welcoming the docking pilot . . .   masked, as have been essential workers, including those on the water, ever since.

Tugster is fortunate to sometimes physical distance, escape to places where population density is a small decimal of one percent of what it is in the six boros. It’s one thing to be a hermit in the boros, and another thing to be such in places like this.

Up the Hudson, Slater here is about to do-si-do and then promenade grand right and left  all the way south to the KVK for some upgrades.

Pilgrim somehow managed to transit the sixth boro without being detected.  The round-the-world traditional Russian vessel is now on the hard in Duluth, while its mariners raise funds to put it on a truck to the Salish Sea so that it can get back to its starting point in Russia.  I’m amazed that in 2020 this project happened as much as I’m amazed by the warm welcome they received as they traversed NYS on the Erie Canal. Here‘s their website, and there’s a button to push to read in English.

Steve Munoz sent along a lot of interesting photos this year, and I’m grateful.  Below, that’s the September 2001 Great North River Tugboat Race . . . and the water thrusters are on Z-Two. More photos here. One thing I recall from Steve is his observation that as they passed the WTC, no one imagined that a few days on, they would fall, at great human toll.  This gets back to the “assume nothing” and carpe diem every diem.

Since I’ve broached the Latin here, how about this one:  diligenter inspicere.  [That’s for all you Latin lovers.  Did you catch the story about Latin lover number one being a victim of 2020?  If not, we’ve lost a great one.]  If you’ve a chance to read his obit in the NYTimes, it’s a great obit.  Here are two excerpts:  “Reginald Foster, a former plumber’s apprentice from Wisconsin who, in four decades as an official Latinist of the Vatican, dreamed in Latin, cursed in Latin, banked in Latin and ultimately tweeted in Latin, died on Christmas Day at a nursing home in Milwaukee. He was LXXXI. ”  and   “Father Foster was indeed a monk — a member of the Discalced Carmelite order — but he was a monk who looked like a stevedore, dressed like a janitor, swore like a sailor (usually in Latin) and spoke Latin with the riverine fluency of a Roman orator.”  THAT is an obit!!

But I digress, or in Latin my machine translator tells me it might be paenitet, magnum excessu.  

Getting back to the next photo . . . what is that cargo top center of the load?  If you’ve forgotten what those odd pieces of cargo were, check here. More diligenter inspicere in 2021!

Where is the mast of Pilot Boat No. 1 taller than the mast of WTC1 or any other building in the five boros?  It’s interesting to put oneself in the place of a mariner coming into our fair port for the first time.  Thanks for this excursion out to the end of Ambrose Channel to my friend Bjoern and the New York Media Boat.

Prototypes like here, here, and here, regularly take to NYC;  this is a working prototype that left the sixth boro about a few days ago bound for the DR.  I’m just wondering . . . has anyone seen a USV, aka autonomous vessel,  in the sixth boro yet?  And yes, there are many others I could mention, many that I missed.

And finally, a photo I took the other day . . .  a light container vessel in the background . . .  EMPTY . . .  that’s a metaphor for this past year.   Some diligent crabbers clammers are busy in the foreground, bouncing on the Upper Bay on a lumpy day.


If you’re interested in context, here’s the info on those first few photos.

1. This was taken in Barra de Navidad, in Jalisco, Mexico, and Belen is operated by a transplanted Quebecois baker serving anyone in Barra de Navidad interested in French pastry and bread. By the way, Barra de Navidad was the Spanish jumping off point for the colonization and “settlement” of the Philippines, which of course was already settled.

2. Thanks to Isaac Pennock, who tracked down a photo taken in Oswego by Jon Vermilye back in 2008.  The barge is the hull to become SSV Oliver Hazard Perry.


Other years’ retrospectives aka old years can be seen at those links.

One outcome of the covid-modifications for me was that I spent April doing a virtual boat tour guide of the Erie Canal, and in October, I did a bike ride and put together a record at least of that.  You can see both here.  Looking forward to 2021, I may repeat the bike ride.  If you’re interested in joining me, let me know.  Absolutely no plans have been made, and I know a good source for appropriate bikes if you, like me, don’t own one.


With the end of the year coming, it’s strangely difficult to put these posts together.  I’ve chased down several ideas the past few days, and abandoned them.   All these photos were taken in recent days, except one about a month ago.  They strike me as showing the different skies and waters of the unacknowledged boro. 

So, photos . . . like this of Christine M. McAllister, 125.5′ x 38′ and 6000 hp.  She’s returning to town after a rough encounter on Christmas day . . . .  Maybe someone else can tell the story of SS Denebola (T-AKR 289) first hand.  It’s been a while that Christine M. has appeared on this blog.

Soon to be ex-Eastern Dawn, 52′ x 22 and 1200 hp,  crosses the Upper Bay looking all resplendent in the new paint job.

Two Bouchard tugs are stacked up on the far side of Cape Henry, 109′ x 36′ and 5000 hp,  and her DBL 103, 102,000 barrel capacity barge. 

Dylan Cooper, 112′ x 35′ and 4720 hp, waits in the anchorage with RTC 108, around 108,000 barrels.

Genesis Vigilant, 98.5 x 34 and 3000 hp, also at anchor with GM 6508,  80,000 barrels capacity.

And finally . . .  misclassified on purpose, notice several things this windy morning  on the starboard side of OceanXplorer:  a tender, a helicopter, and areas marked ROV and CTD.  ROV I knew, but CTD I had to look up.  Check out this blog post by New York Media Boat.

All photos and any errors of fact or interpretation, WVD, who wishes you all a happy new year, or as my parents would say . . . gelukkig nieuwjaar.

Behold OceanXplorer.  I missed them in a search because I was looking for an Ocean Explorer.  Of the many exotics that have called in the sixth boro in recent years, this one stands out.

She started life as Volstad Surveyor in 2010, a much more spartan-looking workboat, launched at Construcciones Navales Paulino Freire, Spain.  Since then she’s seen major modification inside and out by OceanX, in partnership with BBC’s Blue Planet and James Cameron, who “sailed” to the bottom of the Mariana Trench in 2012.

OceanX is the project of a Queens native named Ray Dalio, in town for a few days. 

Media was invited but somehow tugster was omitted from the guest list . . . at least so far.

Look at this and then see

this labeled diagram from here.  If you do FB, here‘s a story from Good Morning America of the previous boat in operation in mid-2019.

A comparison with Jacques Cousteau has been made;  Calypso was also a made-over workboat, and big money was involved there too.  In the photo below, note the person on the dock off the stern line of the vessel?

All photos, WVD.  Calypso is currently still in rebuild in Turkey, SE of Istanbul.

Several other projects come to mind:  Lone Ranger and Ocearch. If I’ve never posted my Ocearch story, here it is.

Barebones post today . . .  since these photos I took between 1030 and 1130.  By now, 1230, they’ve dropped the pilot at the end of Ambrose and set a course for . . .  warmer weather and

(but first sails need to be raised…

and adjusted.)

… warmer weather in Dominican Republic, where a load of cocoa awaits in that tropical heat, two weeks or so ahead.

Mid North River, they tacked and 

waved at the French Lady and

us . .  on the Media Boat

and they headed for the opening.

Bon voyage.  Many thanks to Bjoern at the New York Media Boat.

All photos, WVD.

More context . . .  see previous installments of Grain de Sail here. For info on their cargo, click here.

 I took these photos back in early August 2019 in the village where I learned to swim . . . Sodus Point.   When I asked a few people about it, I heard that it was a wreck, it was done  . . .  etc. 

The small schooner clearly had been loved at one time.

Last week I learned the good news that the lift had loaded it onto a trailer to take it to a yard for  . . .

restoration!  So I finally googled it, which I’d not thought to do before, and lo and behold . . . it has pedigree!  It was designed by William H. Hand, and launched in Rocky River OH in 1918.  The S. S. S. means “Sea Scout Ship.”  Thirty years ago, it had been trucked to Rivendell Marine, in Monument Beach MA in 1991. 

All photos, WVD, and story to be continued.

Photo and discussion below can be found on FB, John Kucko Digital . . .  December 21, 2020.  By the way, John Kucko is a legend up in western and central NYS. Tugboat in the background is Donald Sea.

Since this post features a sailing post, let me share what I’ve been watching, based on a suggestion of a reader from South Africa.

First a trip from the Falklands to Capetown on an impressive boat this past summer.

Then I learned the name of the boat and the concept developer, Skip NovakHere‘s more Skip Novak.

Then I learned of his latest project . . . 2020 into 2021, appropriate for these days.

Thx, Colin.  This is good winter fare.

A new tug in town . . .  Osprey?  Built in 1961, she’s a sibling of Kodi.  Photo thanks to Tony A.

B & B . . .  it’s Brendan Turecamo in the distance and Bruce A McAllister.  It turns out they are not clones:  Brendan is a year newer, and Bruce A. is few feet longer and packs a few more horses.

Curis Reinauer is the third tug to carry that name.  This Curtis dates from 2013.  The previous one was sold to Nigeria, and the one before that has been reefed.

Emily Ann dates from 1964;  she appeared on this blog just a few weeks ago but out of the water then.

Mister Jim, 1982,  has been in the sixth boro for about eight years. 

Doris Moran, also 1982, is a powerhouse.

Navigator, 1981, is the only boat currently operated by Balico Marine Services.

Gulf Coast, 1982, got her upper wheelhouse up at Feeney‘s on the Rondout.

Patrice, 1999, has so far spent half its life working on the Great Lakes.

Shannon McAllister is a rare one in the sixth boro, but she passes through here once in a while. like this week. She dates from 1991.

Thx to Tony for that first photo;  all others, WVD.

Having seen the forecast for December 25, I did my watch on Christmas eve.    These are the latest sunrises of the entire cycle . . . photo taken around 0745, and the sky was still reddish and offering very little light.   Fort McHenry and survey boat Christina cross. Yes, Christina . . . namesake you know who. 

Diane B was pushing John Blanche deep in the water with heating fuel.

Fort McHenry passes my station.

Ocean Endeavour was heading in ahead of the strong winds . . . or maybe just to be at the dock for Christmas.   Note the Staten Island ferry off her starboard and a tip of Twin Tube off port stern.


By now, it’s a little after 0800.

Twin Tube is the ultimate sixth boro Christmas boat;  there’s no Santa or reindeer, just a competent captain and enough horsepower to get alongside ships.

The reindeer . . . they’re atop the tarped salt pile.   Santa may have abandoned the sleigh, however.

All the above photos were taken before 0900.  The photo below. . .  it’s W. O. Decker, currently getting work done upriver, but ensconced between Wavertree and  work barge Progress a few years ago . .  .

All photos, WVD, who wishes you all Merry Christmas and gifts of life, health, and happiness however you find it.  And one more . .  . bravo to the Normandy crew for the decorations.

It’s winter, and that’s when I did all the previous posts by this name.  It makes sense, since this is the northern hemisphere.   Saint Louis registered Saint Emilion pushes a light A87 for refilling. Poor air quality days have the benefit that backgrounds beyond a half mile are obscured.

On the same foggy morning, Lois Ann L. Moran takes it slow, waiting for its berth.  Brendan Turecamo assists alongside barge Philadelphia.

Normandy assists in keeping the barge off the dock

as  Genesis Vigilant moves astern.


They cross, and the Moran unit goes into the same dock.


Once they’re in, Charleston-registered Sea Eagle sails past with Philadelphia-registered TMI-17. In the distance, Normandy assists the genesis unit into a new dock.


All photos, WVD.

AIS said an MSC vessel was arriving, but when I saw it, I was surprised.  I’d never seen an MSC RORO.  MSC is the world’s second largest container line, and besides a cruise line, which I saw in Havana  and which I believe does not call at US ports, container transport is all MSC does.  This is quite unlike the largest container line, Maersk, which has over 900 subsidiaries, including tugboats and offshore work vessels.

By the way, any guesses on the others in the top ten by teu moved and how they’re ranked?  Answer below.

It seems that MSC has been in the scheduled deepsea RORO trade for only a short time, and although it’s likely that MSC Cristiana has called here before, this is my first time to see her.  I think of ROROS, like this PCTC, as boxy, but this photo with MSC Chritiana juxtaposed with a real trash container barge shows what boxy looks like.

Guess how many cars she carries?

Ellen has a hold on that recessed shell bit.


The paint scheme reduces the boxy look of this vessel, but


I didn’t know when she was last painted.  I’d say this 2011 RORO is due for a repaint. 

All photos, WVD.

She carries 6,700 ceu [car equivalent units].

Top ten are:  1. Maersk, 2. MSC, 3. Cosco, 4. CMA CGM, 5. Hapag-Lloyd, 6. ONE, 7. Evergreen, 8. OOCL, 9.  HMM, 10. Yang Ming.  More on each of those here.  If you’re a regular here, you’ve seen at least one of all of these lines’ vessels.

It also means that you can be on a highway or at a rail crossing anywhere in the US–or other country–and you’ll see containers of these lines.

First you might want to watch these three videos of this vessel traveling from France to the US.  They merit subtitles like setting out,   riding the storm,  and fooling around.  All the talk is in French, but you don’t need to understand to catch the spirit.   OK, here’s a fourth clip with more great sailing.

When I posted part 1, I wasn’t sure I’d get to visit the boat. You also can visit the boat by “buying” a free ticket . . . a crowd control protocol.  As soon as some sail repairs are complete, the schooner heads south to the Caribbean to pick up coffee and cocoa beans, then to France, back to NYC . .  etc.  They call it a virtuous circle, not triangular trade.  The virtue part of the trade is delivery of humanitarian goods from NYC to parts of the Caribbean, e.g., school supplies . . . 

The cutaway below shows the hold, between the masts.  There’s space there for 28 pallets, 50 tons.  A photo of the hold I took follows eventually below. 

Grain de Sail is a prototype.  It’s referred to as a VOTAAN 72, seventy-two feet loa, and VOTAAN is the acronym for “V oilier O céanic de T ransport tr A ns A tlantic i N novating“, which translates as “innovative [cargo] transportation by trans-Atlantic sailing,”  which, IMHO alludes obliquely to the fact that the point is to carry cargo, in this instance, wine, up to 18,000 bottles of a number of varieties of it. Here’s an interview with Matthieu Riou, U.S. Wine & Spirits Director at Grain de Sail, vessel name and company name .  As to it being a working prototype, designers in France are already working on the follow up, a 50-meter sailing ship with five times the capacity.

Although Marseille is the port of registry, the home port is Saint-Malo in Brittany. Many more details on the vessels, its sails, and its captain can be found here. The captain, Loïc Briand, joined the project as a way of doing something different after years of working on North Sea wind projects.

The vessel can fly seven sails:  mainsail, foremast, staysail, ORC, solent, genoa and asymmetric spinnaker.  It also has a 115 hp Nanni engine, used only for maneuvering in port. 

Here’s the open-though-protected helm, with stowage space for harnesses and helmets, and forward of that

is the enclosed cockpit.  Children of Grain de Sail employees by in France have sent along their stuffed animals as proxies for themselves seeing the oceanic marvels.

And finally . . . this is the hold.  Attention has been paid to secure cargo stowage on motor vessels in designing this hold.  Pad eyes abound, and air bags are placed in voids to prevent cargo shift.  A custom hand truck (yellow and festooned with straps) stows very low profile.

Here’s a shot of the cargo being loaded into the hold, and

Showing scale, here Matthieu and Stefan Gallard hold their logo, and

topside, there’s more.  L to r, it’s daughter with bowsprite, Laurent Apollon, Capt. Loïc Briand, and yours truly . . .  WVD.  And to the right, the gwenn-ha-du, the flag of Brittany.

Again, see above for tickets to visit the boat in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.  No wine is available for sale on the boat;  that was offloaded in Port Elizabeth last week and “resting” after the voyage.  You can get info on that purchasing here

All color photos, WVD.

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December 2020