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I can’t leave you on the Gowanus Canal as I did a week ago, so let’s head back.  Here’s a look back; small tug Jimmy moves into our location with a mini mud scow.  Btw, if you’re unfamiliar with Brooklyn’s Gowanus Canal, here‘s a bit of history.

From the inland side of the Ninth Avenue Bridge, we move through, looking toward the Hamilton Street Bridge and the BQE.  NYC DOT oversees 24 moveable bridges;  you’re looking at two of them right here. 

You’ve seen signs of “entering” and “leaving” on terrestrial thoroughfares.  This one on the Hamilton Street bridge is unusual.

We move our load of pilings, old but preserved in whatever you’d call Gowanus water.  Note the curve in the Canal just beyond the bridge.

Every day, hundreds of thousands of people travel atop this Gowanus Expressway/BQE bridge.  Maybe dozens see its underside. 

The Hamilton Avenue Marine Transfer Station has been open for just over three years.  For a look inside, click here.

In a previous post on “trashed universal product,” you can see the outbound transfer stations.  More on the whole process here.

Much more unexpected along the south bank of the Canal Bay are these “sea float” Siemens 76-MW aeroderivative gas turbines.

As much as I can tell, these units have been here for just over a year. 

Here‘s more on Vard Marine’s involvement with Siemens SeaFloat.  These must have been towed in,  Did anyone catch this?

As the spray denotes, we’ve now out of the Gowanus Canal, which may or may not be named for a Lenape chief,  and headed over to a disposal site, but that’ll be another post.  Lots more facts about the canal in the link in the previous sentence. 

Many thanks to James for the trip. All photos, interpretation, WVD.

Here are earlier installments of this.  And if you’re not familiar the the location of Gowanus or its history, check the links embedded.  If you live in the NYC area and drive or take Brooklyn subways, you have no doubt gone over it.  If you’ve wondered where the name comes from, check this alphabetical listing with great old photos.

Last week I had the opportunity to travel up the waterway, thanks to James Stasinos.  Gowanus Bay is marked by the grain elevators, (built in 1922!!), and the storage ship Loujaine.  For a full history of the cement carrier originally called Bahma, click here.

The tug was headed up the canal, as it does several times daily, is the cleanup, which has recently begun in earnest.

A bit farther in, Diane B turns John Blanche before heading across the Upper Bay. 

As we head in, we first head through the Hamilton Avenue  bridge and under the Gowanus Expressway flyover. The passage is narrow and located on a turn.

Here’s the view to port.

Once through there, we weave between a scrap yard and Lowe’s parking lot.

Above and below, that’s the Ninth Avenue bridge.  Like the Hamilton Avenue bridge, passing involves a conversation with the bridge tender.

Here we look over the bridge  and beyond while waiting for the bridge to open.

This is the view to starboard as we wait.

Once through, we arrive at the pickup site.  Note the excavator that could tell stories


of sifting through and removing the “black mayonnaise.”  Nuggets of historical interest are being collected for future display.   It’ll be years before this project is complete.


Many thanks to James for the trip.  All photos, interpretation, WVD.

Once I rowed to the head of the Canal here.  And in November 2013, I traveled up the waterway, and photos of the cargo are scattered throughout posts from late November that year. 

2011 began in Charleston, a great place to welcome a new year.  Strolling around, I encounter the 1962 75′ buoy tender Anvil, 75301, here made up to CGB68013.  In the background, that’s cutter Cormorant or Chinook.

Heading farther north a day or two later, it’s Hoss, sister of Patricia, and now habitat for fish and other sea life.  Click here to see her sink if you do FB.

Still farther north, I see this T-boat, a 1952 Higgins named for a high point in Ireland.

Lucinda Smith, then based in Maine, is currently based on Cape Cod.

Bering Sea, like a lot of K-Sea boat, has become a Kirby boat;  it is currently in Philadelphia.  According to Birk’s invaluable site, this boat was Stacy Moran for a short time.  I never saw it in Moran red.

Thanks to my friend Paul Strubeck, this Kristin Poling needed an assist from Cornell to get through an ice jam.  This is one of my all-time favorite photos.  It looks to me like a submarine in the very deeps.

McCormack Boys was active in the sixth boro back in 2011, and although she’s still working, I’ve not seen her in years.

I glimpsed Stephen Scott in Boston a few months back, but since this photo was taken, she’s lost the upper wheelhouse.

There’s classic winter light beyond Torm Carina, provisioned here by Twin Tube.  Torm Carina is currently in the Taiwan Strait. 

Later Margaret and Joan Moran assist the tanker westbound in the KVK while Taurus passes.  Taurus has become Joker, wears Hays purple, and I’ve not even seen her yet.  I guess it’s high time I hang out in Philadelphia again.

A wintry photo shows McKinley Sea in the KVK eastbound.  In the distance,

notice the now foreign-based Scotty Patrick Sky.  If you want to see her, gallivant to St. Lucia.  McKinley Sea is currently laid up in Louisiana.

Erie Service, now Genesis Valiant, pushes her barge 6507 westbound. 

And on a personal note, it was in January 2011 that I stumbled into a locality that had been attracting me.  I suppose if ever I created a retreat, I’d have to call it Galivants Hideaway.   Here‘s another Galivants Ferry set of photos.

Thanks to Paul for use of his photo.  All other photos, a decade back, WVD.


It’s morning again!  If you can read photo, this is a long one, will take you a while.

Truth be told, I took this photo on December 28, but close enough.  Seeing the magic of dawn light is the reason I often get up in the brutal darkness.

If you want to see something extraordinary, skip down to the ***.

Happy, healthy, prosperous, exciting, adventurous, loving 2021 .

Photo by WVD, who’s done lots of previous “dawn” posts.

If you don’t read photo and need some language, here’s Willa Cather:  “[Dawn] is always such a forgiving time. When that first cold, bright streak comes over the water, it’s as if all our sins were pardoned; as if the sky leaned over the earth and kissed it and gave it absolution.”   

If you need that translated into  . . . say . . . Maori, it’s here:  “Ko te [Dawn] he wa tino murua. Ka tae mai taua makariri tuatahi, maramara mai ra ki runga i te wai, peera ka murua o tatou hara katoa; me te mea ka okioki te rangi ki te whenua ka kihi i a ia ka tino mate.”

***If you can read swarm display drones on a mesh network [that’s a mouthful], take 14 minutes to watch this incredible event from last night in Scotland. If you need to know how it’s done, here‘s an 8-minute behind the scenes.  Thanks to Michele McMorrow for sharing this, and teaching me a new word that has nothing to do with drones:  hogmanay.

I’d forgotten about the Lady Gaga show.  Here’s more


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.


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.

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.

Thanks to Skip Mildrum, here are some photos most appropriate for this day. 

It’s dark and overcast, but lights in the port and on the boats brighten up the night.  Winter began, I’m told, at 0502 this morning.

Early sunset or late sunrise, it doesn’t really matter . . . since the daylight will be getting longer again after today.

Many thanks to Skip for use of these photos.

Last year’s winter solstice post was here. Before that several years I did lighthouses  and before that . . . here.  See how other places do it here.



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January 2021