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One of my favorite writers from West Africa compares elders with libraries, how the accumulated experiences of our lives get transformed into living, breathing archives.  Because, for me, Harold Tartell is one such person (though in no way elderly) , I’ve decided to devote a few posts to him.  And he gave me permission to do so. Here he poses at the helm of Sturgeon Bay, WTGB-109;  part of the four years (1966-70) Harold served in the Coast Guard, he broke ice aboard Manitou, WYTM-60 along his native river, the Hudson.

Growing up along the Hudson meant seeing a world now gone, like this vessel SS Santa Paula, fresh off the ways of Newport News Shipbuilding in 1958, make her maiden voyage to New York City by way of Albany.   I have my own connection with this vessel, which Harold does not know about;  I’ll reveal it at the end of this post.

A few days ago I included a note at the end of a post, saying I’d been unable to locate the name of a tug detained in the Tripoli harbor.  A few hours later, an email arrived from Harold with not only the tug name but also this foto below.  My “Asso 22 aka twenty-two” had become Harold’s “Asso Ventidue.”  And he sent not one foto but six!  By the way, have the crew and tug been released?

Here’s another recent unsolicited set from Harold in response to an intriguing foto by Steve Schulte I’d stumbled upon;  the four-engined,

four-stack pushboat made me want to head right over to the Mississippi to have a look for myself, and I will

do this once the weather clears and work gets caught up.  Less than a day later, I got 14 fotos of Federal Barge Line’s behemoth sisters, United States and America.

Harold, I’m publicly thanking you for all the help you’ve freely given over the past four years.  You ARE a living, breathing, AND laughing archive.  And much appreciated.

All fotos above from Harold Tartell.

Now my SS Santa Paula story:  if you’ve been reading this blog awhile, you may have seen the icon on the left side called My Babylonian Captivity, my memoir of the four months I spent as a hostage in Iraq in 1990.  I’d been teaching in Kuwait prior to the invasion.  Along the coastal highway in Kuwait was Al-Salaam, a ship, then only a restaurant but previously a floating hotel as well.  The 1990-1 Gulf War damaged it to the extent that it was soon therafter scrapped, right there.  Al-Salaam . . . ex-Santa Paula!

More on Harold soon.

No, the blog hasn’t gone politico-preachy . . . America‘s the name of the push vessel below.  Check out the unusual (at least by sixth boro standards)  of four side-by-side stacks, each stack corresponding to a Cooper-Bessemer LS-8 engine, with a total combined horsepower of 9000 bhp.  Details are these:   170′ x 58′ x 10.3′ and launched in St. Louis in 1960.    For two decades America pushed for Federal Barge Lines.  After that, it went to another pushboat company, was repossessed, converted to a restaurant, casino, and is now in conversion to a B & B.  I want to see this vessel that’s trying on all these post-push vessel roles.

Foto used with permission from Steve Schulte.  Thanks much, Steve.

Summer’s approaching, and I’m feeling a strong urge for a gallivant along the Ohio leading the misi-ziibi and any other  “tight-assed” river tributaries, as John McPhee called one of them.  Can anyone offer suggestions of where to get the best fotos along the central Mississippi and the Illinois?   And while at the juncture, I’m visiting here.

For a list of towboat companies on the Mississippi watershed, click here.

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Graves of Arthur Kill

Click 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.


May 2016
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