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See the man on the pier using his cell phone to get a photo?  I wonder what he imagined he was looking at, other than a group on the water on a spectacular December day.  Did he know he was witnessing the culmination of an odyssey?

The Columbia, Snake, Clark Fork, Missouri, Mississippi, [to saltwater] Mobile, Tombigbee, Tenn-Tom Waterway, Tennessee, Ohio, Kentucky, Kanawha, Allegheny, Chadakoin, Lake Chautauqua, Lake Erie, Erie Canal, Seneca, Oneida, Mohawk, Hudson . . .  [I may have left one out].  What do they have in common?

Neal Moore‘s paddled them stringing together a path on his 675-day canoe trip along his 7500-mile route of inland rivers from saltwater Astoria OR to the saltwater Statue of Liberty, an extreme form of social distancing during the time of Covid.   Photos of the last several miles follow.  

Note that the other paddlers traveled to the sixth boro of NYC to join him for the last few miles,

just as they–“river angels”– had during different segments of the 22-month trip.  Some elites of paddling enjoyed the sixth boro yesterday.

From Pier 84 Manhattan to the Statue and back, they rode the ebb.


Why, you might be wondering?  Moore, a self-described expatriate who wanted to explore the United States in the reverse order of the historical east-to-west “settlement” route, sought out to meet people, find our commonalities, our united strength.  Some might call that direction “the wrong way.”

After one circumnavigation of Liberty Island following his paddling up and down all those watersheds, the journey was done.  After unpacking his Old Town canoe, he scrambled

with assistance onto the Media Boat, triumphantly but humbly.


He stepped over onto a larger vessel in the NYMB fleet, for interviews and a trip back to terra firma,

22rivers’ goal completed, for now.

All photos, WVD, thanks to New York Media Boat conveyance.  I have many, many more photos.

For Ben McGrath’s New Yorker piece on Neal Moore, click here.  Also, check out Ben’s book Riverman.  Let me add two more references:  another McGrath article and a book Mississippi Solo here.

Of course, Neal’s whole epic can be traced at his site, 22Rivers.

I first learned of 22Rivers from Bob Stopper, who met Neal in Lyons NY two months ago, and I and posted about it here (scroll).

More links as follows:

Norm Miller, Missouri River guide

John Ruskey, lower Mississippi River system guide who was on the Hudson yesterday.  He’s also the founder of Quapaw Canoe Company.

Tom Hilton, Astoria-based Fisher Poet, whom I met last night.

And at the risk of leaving someone out, here’s a longtime favorite of mine, an account of a rowboat from Brooklyn to Eastport ME by way of New Orleans . . . Nathaniel Stone’s On the Water.

Who’d I leave out?

I think I read this story right . . .  NYPD got called in for an unruly large group of champagne brunch passengers.  Excessive alcohol was involved . . .  BEFORE the champagne brunch.  What!@#!?

On youtube, there’s a whole series of these CRAZY Boating Fails . . . .

Then there are Darwin Award winners on the water . . . .

But I’m not immune from ignorance:  a personal story will demonstrate.  When I was about 7 or 8, I really wanted a canoe.  My father replaced the aluminum roofing sheets on a barn with asphalt shingles.  Seeing the sheets on the scrap pile, I imagined reshaping one as a canoe, filing any holes with tar.  I folded one over on itself lengthwise, closed up the ends.  It had no sweet lines but to me it was a canoe and time had come to float-test it.  I convinced my younger sister to get into it and shoved “canoe” and sister off into the farm pond.  I’ll stop the narrative here so that you have time to imagine what could possibly go wrong.

So how about . . .  the fishing hole showdowns . . .

Oh . . . and boat ramps can be drama settings.

Let’s reuse this photo from the East River almost a decade ago.  Click on the photo to get the post.  I recently passed that island . . . U Thant Island, and the fishy leftovers smell from the cormorants was quite overwhelming.

Back to my canoe story . . . The biggest thing that went wrong:  I had not considered water pressure.  No sooner had my sister gotten into the pond when water pressure closed the sides in on her;  I’d not thought to include internal structure to counter the external pressures.  My sister went for an unexpected swim and lives to this day to periodically remind me of my failure.  She can tell the story to raise the drama factor each time she tells it, and I’ve never designed another boat, although I’ve built a few kayaks.

Below, that’s not me, and I’ll admit some foreshortening is present, but

not where I’d put myself.

All turned out well, but be safe and smart out there.

And to end this post on some hallelujahs, click here for a story about good eats stopping a war.  Here’s to sharing our best food!

Many thanks to Ashley Hutto for this photo . . . gotta move a scow across skinny water?  Only five feet at high water?  Here you go.  Ashley took the photo in Tampa Bay.


And thanks to my sister aboard Maraki . . . which departed Trinidadan waters yesterday.  It’s Island Intervention, a Vanuatu-flagged oil well stimulation vessel.


Also, a tip of the hat to Aaron Reed of Crewboat Chronicles for this photo;  it’s Sea Durbin, 43′ vessel from 1950 and built by Alcide Cheramie, and with


very similar lines, here’s Wyoming, a 57’6″ beauty built 1940 by Camley Cheramie, a photo I took here almost three years ago.


I’d love to see her interior.


And here’s another repeat from a few years back . . . I’m still looking for info on her previous life.


Photos not attributed by Will Van Dorp.  For the others, thanks much to Ashley, Aaron, and my sister.

Unrelated, check out this NYTimes story about a Queen Mary –and its namesake from half century ago– moving through NYC yesterday on its way to California.

Of course, there is Tilly, seen afloat here just  a few weeks before she was allowed to sink near Key West.

And then there are a set of ice yachts, built in the Bronx but not listed on this website, although I’m not sure why.


And then there was sub chaser PC-1264–two dozen projects BEFORE Tilly, sold for scrap but never scrapped.


Close up of 1264 starboard at low tide.


A view of her port side . . . three years ago.   But if you go decades farther back in products of the Bronx, there is


this!!  Here’s an article from a 1916 issue of Power Boating (scroll to p. 37) on the Speedway products of the Consolidated in the Bronx.  Besides Consolidated, the Bronx also had Kyle & Purdy and


Here’s a Bronx product of Lyon-Tuttle shipyard, previously Kyle & Purdy.


And here’s another . . .


All photos by Will Van Dorp, who snapped the last three photos above at the Antique Boat Museum in Clayton NY, a must-see for anyone interested in recreational boats.

And although this is a bit late, I’ll be at the midtown main branch of the New york Public Library this evening with Gary Kane to show and discuss our documentary . . . Graves of Arthur Kill.


Springtime . . . and motion gives a renewed sense of life to the watery boro.  Emerald Sea‘s been around all winter, but she’s not moved loads like this.  Diner?  Prefab beach buildings for post-Sandy reconstruction?  Many thanks to Ashley Hutto for this shot taken along Roxbury, Queens.


Eclipse, the huge yacht in the distance has taller masts than Clipper City, the tallest sailing vessel operating in the the harbor.  Eclipse left the harbor Tuesday, headed for Gibraltar.


Schooner Virginia left Wednesday, headed for Virginia . . . by way of Portland, Maine.


Anyone know the manufacturer of the speedboat in the foreground?  In the background is Zephyr, launched 10 years ago from the Austal Shipyard in Mobile, AL . . . and Wavertree, launched 128 years ago in Southampton, UK.


I could almost imagine this boat has a bowsprit.


Smaller workboats seem more commonplace this time of year like Henry Hudson,


this Oyster Bay government boat,


an OCC vessel,


and of course the ubiquitous all-weather sludge tanker North River, frequently mentioned on this blog.


Thanks to Ashley for the first foto, and I’d love to know what that structure on the Weeks barge is.  All other fotos by Will Van Dorp, who feels the urge to go somewhere too.

The title comes from St. Exupery.

Where is this 32′ x 5′ Cornish pilot gig emerging out of okoume?  (Doubleclick enlarges most fotos.)

In the sixth boro of course, in fact on Pier 40.  If you were to bore through the floor and lower your toes, they’d feel the chill of Hudson River water in late winter.   Pier 40 is partly used as parking, athletic fields for budding athletes of all sorts, and docking for fireboats and historic vessels.  There even used to be a trapeze school on the roof.  Hmm, maybe one of these days a digression will prompt me to put more trapeze fotos up.  But I went to Pier 40 this weekend to witness the tremendous efforts of the Village Community Boathouse,

where the Cornish gig is under construction, and where some thirty 26′ Whitehall gigs have been built.

What is a gig, a rowing gig?  Click here for dozens of fotos.

The lines on these boats–with only slight modification–date to a rowing race in the sixth boro in 1824!!  Yes, 1824 when a sixth boro gig called American Star beat a British gig called Dart, racing with 50,000 spectators on the waterfront, an event commemorated annually.  and not recalled solely in New York!   Oh . .  about that 50,000-spectator number . .  NY’s population back then was less than 200,000!   25% of the city never turns out for a baseball or basketball game . . .

An interesting twist in the American Star Whitehall boat story is that it was presented to General Lafayette in 1825 (?)  and has remained in France since then.  Mystic’s John Gardner took the lines off the American Star and constructed a replica, which in turn led to the design of the boats in various NYC community boating programs.

Check out the Village Community Boathouse blog here.   By the way, let’s cheer them on at the Snow Row (and Snow Ball) coming up in two weeks.  Here’s a video of the Snow Row 2010 sans snow.

All fotos by Will Van Dorp.

This foto comes compliments of Lauren Tivey, a poet from Vermont College of Fine Arts.  Question:  where/what?   Note the person in doorway just behind the lion “figurehead.”  Answer below.

Since my goal here is to post unexpected fotos, enjoy this shot of the befigured Patty Nolan, a unique tug itself towing something different last summer.

Behold the sixth boro’s own Dal Lake or Sausalito or Lake Union.    Guess where?

Behold the glorious Gowanus!

And some of its exotic fauna.

These last three fotos come compliments of intrepid paddler Vladimir Brezina, whose fotos have appeared here, among other places.

Lauren’s foto at the top is a restaurant on a barge on West Lake in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province . . . just south of Shanghai.

Doubleclick enlarges.  Note the NYC skyline above the Staten Island horizon to the right.

Baykeeper the organization uses this 30′ skiff made with

cedar planks over oak

frames as their patrol craft.

See the builder’s name stamped into metal on the upper left.  The Pedersen family has built wooden skiffs in Keyport (pearl of the Raritan Bayshore)  for three generations.  This Star Ledger article from a few years back shows work in the Pedersen shop.

The top foto comes thanks to Andy Willner;  the others by Will Van Dorp.  NY/NJ Baykeeper has a Facebook page, as does American Littoral Society.

Related:  Riverkeeper also has a wooden patrol boat, I. Ian Fletcher, which I wrote about here back in 2008.

Lots of references to Keyport and Raritan Bay can be found in Mark Kurlansky’s The Big Oyster, which I’m rereading.  I’ve also recently read Jack Jeandron’s Keyport.

To follow on posts earlier this month featuring fishing vessels in North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, I offer a vessel that operates in New Jersey and New York, right in the sixth boro in fact.  Miss Callie is less than 60′ loa and more than 30 years old.  Here a bit more than a week ago, she worked just off Ellis Island, and

in January 2010, Miss Callie last season just off Bayonne’s MOT.  How would you  imagine her homeport?

Less than 15 miles from the Narrows, Miss Callie and

a whole other fleet

reside on the

mostly hidden

banks of Comptons Creek, which flows into Raritan Bay.

All fotos by Will Van Dorp, who thinks you’ll enjoy spending a half hour to watch this short video on building a Sea Bright skiff.  More great accents, too, esp. starting about 15 minutes in, along with interesting references to post-Volstead Act activities.   Here’s an article about another Jersey shore boat builder.

More surprises tomorrow.

Both my parents spoke with accents that marked them as from “away.”  When I’m “away,” my accent advertises that fact.  Accents vary from locality to the next (Outer Banks or  Tangier Island in the same way that boat designs–or at least names of designs– might.   Take an arbitrary  (maybe)  400-mile (as the gull glides) stretch of East Coast:  Southport, NC to Crisfield, MD.

Let’s start with Elbert Felton, master of Solomon T,  who generously invited me aboard his 1938 restored workboat, and

after giving me a short tour of Southport harbor, agreed to do “donuts” so I could foto Solomon T from all angles.   Notice Oak Island Light

in the background.

Solomon T and Alice Belle share some of the same lines;  Alice Belle retains the mast Solomon T once had.  Any guesses on Alice Belle‘s  build date?

You’re right if you said 1946.  Here’s another shot of Alice Belle.

About 150 miles up the Banks, I caught this other shot of Koko coming in from the Hatteras Inlet.  Although Koko is registered in Hatteras, her boatwright is listed as Leland F. Helmstetter, Jr., based some 200 miles farther north in Virginia’s Eastern Shore.

Mr. Helmstetter is also listed as builder of Bay Raider, also on the Eastern Shore.  I took this foto and the

next in Harborton, VA.  From Harborton, it’s a dozen or so miles through Little Hell to Onancock, home of John Mo’s fantastic Mallard’s Restaurant for absolutely fabulous crabcakes.

From Onancock, you can head up through Bullbegger up to the Crisfield, MD, once called “sea food capital of the world.”  Read all about it in William Warner’s 1977 Pulitzer-winning Beautiful Swimmers.    The boats below . . . are examples of the  Chesapeake Bay deadrise, as I would say is Koko, no matter where she works.

Hear more on blue crab life cycle here.

Here’s another.   For more closeups on the crab business in Crisfield, click here.

In the short time I visited, I saw no Hooper Island draketails, and there must be other types out there, for another day.  For now, last shot, also in Crisfield, a pushboat with an outboard.

All fotos here by Will Van Dorp, who can’t wait to return to this 400-miles stretch.

For now, enjoy an accent from the edge of the sixth boro.  Or one like my parents had.  Finally, here’s a short video on the accents of five of the NYC boros;  as anyone who listens to the VHF knows, the sixth boro has thousands of accents from everywhere.

Hmmm . . .  heading downeast from here would be another great place to document workboat designs and accents.

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June 2023