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Thanks to Gerard Thornton for use of these photos.


Steppenwolf, or at least strutting gull.  Beneath the wheel, or at least the wheels of the cranes.  The Glass Bead Game, or at least the metal box shifting enterprise.   Journey to the East, or at least shuttling between east and west and all the other cardinal points . . . .  Maybe a dedicated literature carrier?


I’ll stop here, but I love these moody, Hesse-enhancing photos by Gerard.

I have seen Ernest Hemingway in the boro a few times, and I’m waiting for Thomas Pynchon, although I thought I recognized him more than once.


I’ve written about summertime and about summertime blues–about beating them.  But since you can’t ever step into the same river twice, or gallivant in the same primordial first boro, here’s the 2016 version of trying to capture the sixth boro with a camera on a hot summer weekend afternoon, looking for shade–any shade will do– as much as looking for novel compositions.


These days odd juxtapositions can be found on west Manhattan piers and


beyond, like Eagle and the fast bird and Loveland Island with a pilot on board and some folks gathered on the starboard bridge wing .  For a post I did last year with close-ups of details of USCGC Eagle AND for a book I highly recommend reading about her appropriate by the US post-WW2, click here.  Speaking of piers, here’s an interesting article on the engineering and construction of Pier 57.


Or come for a tour on Janet D Cruises . . .


with four sails set.


Long Beach comes to Bayonne along with a Celebrity ship and a PWC . . . pesky workless canoe?


Flagship Ivy clings for a spell to the bottom over by the VZ Bridge.


Margaret Moran heads for the next job–or the yard, with Queens’ current and future tallest buildings in the background,


while YP 704 sails past Governors Island, which has sprouted some new hillocks frequented by lots of people.


Joan Turecamo exits the Buttermilk west with a light (?) dry bulk barge Montville, which probably recently carried coal.


All photos Sunday by Will Van Dorp.  for some contrast, see this winter set and this.   More of the summer selects, tomorrow.


Tony A sent these first three photos.  What are they?


Here’s the answer. I like the statement . .  the last one above water!  I wonder what else you can say that about.   Whalebacks have come and gone, except this one. Click here for a historical essay on whalebacks that makes an unexpected connection to Franklin D. Roosevelt. If your appetite is whetted, here’s another.   As the the connection between this style and x-bows, click here.


Click here to see El Cheapo’s 4-minute video on whalebacks, including one that served as a passenger vessel. 


Frisia Inn, which was in and out of the sixth boro a week or so ago,  is not a whaleback,



but the bow shares some design features.


It has the same bow as CSAV Rio de Janiero, Conrad S, and others.


Turtle back?

For a number of great vintage whaleback images, click here for portions of Neel R. Zoss‘ book, McDougall’s Great Lakes Whalebacks, including a whaleback automobile carrier called . . . South Park.

Many thanks to Tony for the actual whaleback photos.  For a good closing story on a whaleback whose remnants lie 400 feet below the surface of the GOM, click here.   That whaleback, SS City of Everett, would tow barges and its Captain Thomas Fenlon claimed it could have saved RMS Republic from sinking, offers to do so having been refused by the RMS Republic’s captain.


I could have called this “unusual sail.”

That’s me in the two-person sailing Folbot back in 2002.  I had bought it back around 1998 from an ad I saw in a publication called Messing Around in Boats.  The gentleman who sold it said it had been in his barn for at least 30 years.  When I peeled off a layer of pigeon shit, the skin came off with it and exposed a wooden frame that broke down into pieces four-foot or shorter.  The hull, mast, leeboards, sail, rudder all could fit into a seabag, and I fancied myself, a show-off,  hiking up to a roadless mountain lake, assembling my vessel, and sailing  . . . in the clouds.

When I couldn’t sew a new skin or find someone who could do it–two different canvas shops took on the job and then backed out–I decided to skin it with leftover shrink-wrap boat covers,


reinforce the bow with duct tape, and go paddling.


It worked!  Here’s a blurry shot showing the insides . . . shrink-wrap and plastic strapping.


As time passed, I decided the Folbot could at least as be sculptural until such time that I find a canvas skin maker.


So this is the top of big room in my Queens cliff dwelling, where I should maybe keep some shrink-wrap and a heat gun handy to skin my boat in case the water level here rises.


And since I’ve invited you into my home, how about more of the tour.  Yes, that’s the stern of the Folbot in the center top of the photo and a spare one-seater kayak, which I cut-bent-glued-stitched at Mystic Seaport, to the left. [They appear not to offer the kayak building classes now.]   Only problem with the stitched kayak . . . the only egress/ingress is out the window, down 12′ onto a flat roof, and then down another 15′ onto the sidewalk.


In a pinch, you could make a kayak using a tarp, willow or similar shoots, and wire.  And in the long ago and far away department, here I was back in January 2005 sewing that kayak you see hanging to the left above . . .  10 hours of just sewing once the skin was on, per these plans.


Bending ribs right out of the steam box and


knotting together the bow pieces happened



prior to the actual two-needle sewing.


These last two pics are not mine but come from a Folbot publication from the 1960s.  The photo below shows what a later-model sailing Folbot–just out of the duffel bag– looked like.


Here’s what the publication says it looks like sailing.



For now, mine remains sculpture.

The top three photos in this post come thanks to Kyle Stubbs, who has contributed photos here before, not to mention many photos on uglyships, which is how we first met.   He’s not Seabart.


I’ll tell you more about this fishing boat in a bit, but that mud says it has been below the surface of the water, and it ain’t a submarine.


Some claim it’s the most famous fishing boat in the world, although that sounds hyperbolic.   Guesses?


It’s Western Flyer, the boat chartered by John Steinbeck AND Ed Ricketts, which served as the platform for their expedition to the Sea Of Cortez aka Gulf of California.  Click here for an interesting article on how marketing removed Ricketts’ name from the Log from the Sea of Cortez account.  The vessel is currently undergoing a $2 million restoration.

Log from the Sea from Cortez is well-worth reading, although my favorite is Cannery Row, in which Ricketts is portrayed as the marine biologist.  For a portion of Log, click here.  My favorite pages in that excerpt are the second half of p. 6 and all of p. 7,  and the second half of p. 14 onto top of 15.

Tangentially related:  the elusive bowsprite has responded to an updated book on the Sea of Cortez here.

Many thanks to Kyle for these photos, taken in Port Townsend. 


I’m thrilled to discover entirely new stories, like this one, which I found after following up some info I’d seen on a historical marker sign in Bath, NC, a month ago.  Click here and scroll to see the historical marker.  I saw it briefly in the headlights but took no photos.

When I googled “floating theater bath nc,” I learned a book had been written about this barge and immediately ordered a copy of the book, where I got the stories, including the one about “G-string” shows, which I’ll explain at the end of this post.  I guarantee you’ll be surprised.  Click here for some details about Prof. Gillespie’s process in writing the book.

James  Adams used two tugs–Elk and Trouper— to move the “floating theater” from town to town in the Chesapeake and the estuarial fingers of North Carolina back in the days when movie theaters and certainly mass entertainment penetrated into all the hamlets and backwaters of this portion of the US.


Although I’d never heard of this entertainment in the backwaters where I was born, it’s fairly well covered with blogposts like this and newspaper articles like this. The Chesapeake Log has done a story.   In fact, there’s a group that wishes to recreate the barge.


Needless to say, any project on the water always faces this danger from its element, among other perils.


November 1929

Between venues, Elk and Trouper would tow the barge, like horses moving the old time traveling carnival to the next town.


Now about “G-string” shows . . . From page 63 of the book, “there were three primary comic characters in the repertoire theater . . .[one was the G-string character], an old man, the geezer.  He was evolved from the 19th century comic Yankee character, sometimes with a dose of the frontiersman thrown in.  …  squeaky male voice and a goatee-like beard.  The cartoon Uncle Sam is a G-string character.”  I’ve looked online for other references to this meaning of G-string . . . with no corroboration.

Who knew?  Edna Ferber and her Showboat . . . which I don’t know well . . . I thought that was based on Mississippi traffic.  The sixth boro and the Hudson have their very own Lehigh Valley 79 Showboat Barge as in here, here, and here.  There was once the floating entertainments of Periwinkle and Driftwood . . .  now all gone.And the whole eastern seaboard has Amara Zee . . . (scroll) Caravan Stage Company.

I think it’s high time Edna Ferber’s story gets reinterpreted as a movie, this time including Elk and Trouper.


I don’t make much fuss about Christmas for reasons I explained here 10 years ago;  when I really want something and I can afford it, I just get it.  Of course, I have no problems with anyone going all out with gifts.  Books and experiences make the best gifts.  Experiences . . . teach you and you can remember them forever.

Books . . . you read them once and then read them again or give them to someone you think will enjoy them as much as or more than you did.  See the book cover below . . .  great cover and fabulous book.  Inside you find crisp photos, reproductions of painting of McAllister vessels,  family stories,  . . . even an owners’ family tree that clarifies some of the boat names.  The story starts in 1864 as James McAllister (generation 1) stood on the northeast coast of Ireland about to emigrate across the Atlantic.


One of my favorite stories involves the boat below, launched from Newport News Shipbuilding Co. in May 1909 as John Twohy, Jr, for Lambert’s Point Tow Boat Company.  Renamed J. P. McAllister, this boat served as a platform for the one-and-only Harry Houdini‘s escape from handcuffs and leg irons inside  a nailed-shut, weighted packing case.  Here’s a reference to this event in a recent NYTimes, but in this book, you get two photos of the event and facsimiles of the contemporary news story and the J. P. McAllister logbook entry, all attesting to the tremendous research involved in this beautifully produced volume.

One more great story . . . typical of struggles to divide up ownership in any family business.  When disagreement came to a head in on a cold Easter Sunday morning in 1904, “the partners decided to work out the percentages once and for all by meeting on a tugboat, taking it offshore, and not returning until they had an agreement.”  Now Capt. Jim (generation 2) told his 6 year-old son A. J. to wait at the pier until they all returned.  Which happened to be as night fell.  Here’s how it’s told:   “Capt. Jim … his face covered in blood . . .  jumped off [the boat onto the pier where A. J. had waited all day], grabbed A. J. by the hand, and said, ‘That’s it.  It’s settled.  The issue is settled.'”


Below is one of my many favorite full-page photos in the book.  Another photo a few pages later adds detail not unlike Birk Thomas and collaborators do here.


A book like this focuses not only on a family business but also New York City, with all six of its boros,  and the country.  The photo below shows the McAllister yard behind Ellis Island, real estate taken over in the 1970s for the creation of Liberty State Park.  Today’s margins of the harbor are that way only because of thousands of decisions.


The author, Stephanie Hollyman has a website that highlights an impressive breadth of work.

Click here for ordering info.

Since we’re looking at books, here’s one that might be ripe for updating.   Another one I’ve reread and enjoyed recently is Buckets and Belt:  Evolution of the Great Lakes Self-Unloader by William M. Lafferty, Valerie van Heest, and Kenneth Pott.

The title is such a mouthful that I’ll soon reduce it to GHP&W. Although this blog began with photos and observations of mostly working vessels in the great harbor associated with New York City, the watery part of which I call the sixth boro, the blog followed a course suggested by these vessels to other GHP&Ws. And given then the global nature of water traffic, it seems logical to devote at least a month to other GHP&Ws.

I’ll kick off with this post about a port I’ll likely never visit, the former Aral Sea fishing port of Moynaq in Uzbekistan.  The photos come from Getty Images by Bjorn Holland and Kelly Cheng. Surprisingly maybe, I live in a neighborhood of NYC where Uzbek is the dominant language, which was part of my motivation to read a Tom Bissell book called Chasing the Sea:  Lost among the Ghosts of Empire in Central Asia.  I highly recommend it.

So here are some detail areas of a huge aerial photo print I saw the other day.  Can anyone point to detail that confirms a date?  My guess is somewhere in the 50s or 60s.   The first photo below shows the southeast point of Bayonne NJ.  The peninsula bisecting the top and bottom is MOTBY.  Governors Island is upper right and the Statue is upper left with the southern tip of Manhattan along the top.


Below is a closer up of the lower right corner of the photo above, showing that tugboat, some barges, and two sets of  trucks  at the cement dock.


Note the Statue and Ellis Island.  To the left of it is now Liberty State Park.  The Caven Point Pier crosses the center of the photo and the current Global Terminal is still waiting for fill.


Below is the just capped landfill that is topped by the Bayonne Golf Club.   Lower left is quite the gunkhole with disintegrating watercraft I’d love to see a closeup of.


Remember that all the B/W “photos” above are parts of the same aerial shot.

Let’s have a fun month with lots of GHP&Ws.  And not to be too prescriptive, I’d love photos from a variety of GHP&Ws in Asia and Africa, mostly lacking in my previous 2900+ posts.  Of course, here and here are a few posts I’ve done on African ports; here,  Asian; and here and here, South American.

While I’m asking for collaboration, I have a chance to replicate a trip on a major African river that I originally did in 1973-74;  what I seek is leads to a publication that might be interested in the story and photos. The trip is pricey, and if I can sell a tale with photos, I can offset some of the expense. Anyone have ideas or connections?

If you haven’t read it yet, here’s my Professional Mariner article on “barging” in the area of the St. Lawrence River called the Thousand Islands. Since there’s plenty of reading there, I’ll just make this mostly a photo post.  LCM owner Jake Van Reenen took all but the last three photos in this post.

In February, the LCM and everything else “afloat” is actually ice-trapped.   Folks who live year-round on the islands travel by snow machine.


By late March, the ice has turned to liquid, and navigation starts to resume on the Seaway. 


It’s April and houses on the islands need a visit from the fuel truck.


In May, folks from “away” begin to return, sometimes bringing their own supplies.


All manner of vehicles travel to the Islands in early June, when


I visited.  The photos below I took  . . .


As we traveled with an empty fuel truck back to Clayton, we took the stern of


Vikingbank, headed upbound for Duluth!! for grain.


Captain Jake and deckhand Patsy Parker.



Summer and early fall photos from Seaway Marine Group will follow.

If you’re interested in reading a great book on Andrew J. Higgins, the developer of these boats, try this one by Jerry E. Strahan.

For my post on another LCM cleaning up Sandy debris, click here. For my post on repurposed LSTs, one I’ll be traveling on tomorrow, click here.

This follows the post where I got to spend four times as long on Long Island Sound, a truly remarkable place.  The trip last week brought sights and surprises enough to warrant a repeat trip soon.  Here, a bait boat (?) passes a renowned Plum Island facility.  Back to this later in the post.


We’re headed to New London, the name of this RORO/WOWO.


Here Marjorie McAllister tows RTC 60 past Little Gull Light.


The only house on Hobbs Island in Groton needed to have a story, and I found one when I learned it was built by the Hays family, who wrote this book a friend gave me for my 45th birthday.


Here Mary Ellen departs New London for Orient Point, passing New London Light.


Amistad awaits, for sale at the dock.


Sea Jet  . . . takes on passengers for Block Island, a place I need to visit soon.


Since our destination was Blount for the wind farm vessel ribbon cutting, I wanted to get a photo of the newly launched replacement for Capt. Log.   Click here to see the plans and specs.


Chandra B, coming to the sixth boro soon.

At the dock just south of the I-95 bridge, it’s 100′ scalloper Chief, also for sale.


Electric Boat 2 does patrols around the pens,


which enclose a submarine.  Now look closely at the tail vertical stabilizer.  Now look at the one in this “news” story about a submarine getting stuck in Shinnecock Canal.  If not the same sub, then it’s at least the same type.


But if you start thinking about it, Dan’s is having way too much fun.  This story and this one are clearly boaxes, spoofs about boats.  When I heard the story about Shinecock, I thought maybe the Hamptons PD had gotten ahold of this one, which I spotted on the North fork just a few summer months ago.


Heading back across to Orient Point, you can line up New London Ledge Light with Race Rock Light, in the distance.   Tours for Ledge are available in the summer, when the ghost is around.


On a leg between Newport and Oyster Bay, it’s KnickerbockerWisconsin-built by a shipyard that started out doing fish tugs!  If you’re not familiar with fish tugs–of which Urger was one–go to Harvey Hadland‘s site.


Now here, back near Plum Island, is a surprise.  I figured it was a fishing party boat, but Justin suggested otherwise, and indeed he was right.  M. S. Shahan II IS a government boat, owned by Department of Homeland Security!!


And a final shot of Plum Island just before we return to the Orient Point dock, of course, it’s Cape Henlopen, former USS LST 510



By the way, I am still looking for folks with connection to this vessel as LST-510.

All photos here 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.

Tale of Two Marlins

Blue Marlin spent 600+ hours loading tugs and barges in NYC Sixth Boro. Click on image for presentation made to NY Ship Lore and Model Club, July 25, 2011.


December 2016
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