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on Hell Beach.  I don’t feel comfortable telling the location or identity.  All are safe, but


It’s not just about the loss of a large steel Colvin pinky schooner.  Rather it’s

about lost dreams, abandoned hopes, and disappointment.  One moment is glorious, and the next days and weeks will be wrenching pain.

All fotos taken today by Will Van Dorp.

Here’s a woefully inadequate “just the facts, mam” from Long Island News.  Here are more sordid details . . .  failure to keep watch seems the likely cause.

Here’s more . . . with a fairly extensive set of pics along with a historical context.

OK . . . here’s the vessel.

Back to that foto of the other day, the  third one down here that maybe baffled you . . . made you wonder if it got dropped in by error?    Well, it was taken at Coney Island last summer, the place I usually depict as  here or in fotos like the one below,



Coney Island is the location where the slightly sordid transaction involving tugster took place last summer.  Well, money changed hands although my heart was conflicted,

and folks in the sidelines encouraged me onward, not that I wanted to proceed, of course.  I didn’t want to see where this would lead.

It’s just a kid . . . I thought . . .  .  But this is Coney Island, where the inappropriate is appropriate, a fantasy land where rules are attenuated, or even temporarily suspended, where you’re supposed to see things differently if only for a few hours.

“Go for it!  You can’t stop now . . .”  and even more explicit taunts came from both in front of me and behind me.  I was slipping on a slippery slope, thinking I had resolve

but losing control over it  . . .  “Nah,  I can’t do this,” came the inner voice.

But the jeers rose from the pit and sneers tumbled from behind, and

there was but one way out.  Forward.  I had to see this through.

The invisible tiger was stalking me,

I could smell the feline and hear it breathe,

I proceeded.  To my surprise, when my magazine was empty, I had left beauty

marks . . . scumbling on the shield canvas. . . .   yes, canvas held by my assistant.  Eureka!

You must be thinking  . . . what on earth is this all about?  Simple:  today I turn 59, and Coney Island . . .  and these 6-month-old fotos from Coney Island . . . is my way to celebrate it.  I’m surging forward into a place I’ve never been, and hoping to create order and grace from angst and doubt.  And “Coney Island” after all is the anglicized version of konijn eilandt,” konijn being rabbit, and since–in honor of the year of the rabbit— I could find NO record of a vessel passing through the harbor here EVER with a name like rabbit or hare or bunny . . . .  this is the best I can do.

And that summer’s ritual of trespassing lines of convention . . . that one cannot be repeated.  I imagined I talked with the freak the other day  as he was taking my order at the coffee shop.

Somehow related:  the Manhattan Borough historian has declared Feb 9 to be “alligators-in-the-sewers” day.    I wonder if we can get the sixth boro historian to make such proclamations . . .

Clearly related:  SP-346 aka USS Edgar F. Coney . . . was a NJ-built  WW1-era tugboat.

All but the first three fotos by Faith.

Forces at play include:  sun, earth, season, tide, surf, and many more.  J aka Jamaica Bay is not not more than 10 nautical miles (goose-flying miles) from Manhattan, about the same distance the Meadowlands is, if you continued that straight line between my vantage point and the Empire State Building, then beyond.

Here’s a map.  Doubleclick to enlarge;  see “you are here” and continue clockwise around the indicated yellow path and look toward Duck Point Marshes;   Manhattan is to the northwest.  J-Bay is an NPS area.  Click here for info on the National Parks of New York Harbor Conservancy.

See the Verrazano Bridge on the far side of Floyd Bennett Field.

Osprey respond to all those same forces at play.

On the far side of a pond, a wildlife volunteer (aka midwife?) observes an egret,

a snowy egret, gossiping and waiting . . .  as they all are.

So what’s this volunteer doing?  Note the pendant and the red dot.

After the eggs get laid–prompted by all these forces–

and a thorough burying process happens,

the red-dot mama gets weighed, and all relevant info gets encoded.  I saw a half dozen egg-layers summoned by the forces in a one-mile walk in the preserve yesterday.  A year ago, on the northeast side of J-Bay, the terrapin shut down JFK.  See the story here.

Humans think the terrapin obey signs?    From the volunteer, I learned that another force at play here is an overpopulation of raccoons.  And for hatchlings, predators include wading birds and voracious fish.

Well, it’s time for us all to kick back and enjoy all those same forces at play:  Saturday . . . Coney.    Or if you’re upriver . . .  Clearwater.

All fotos by Will Van Dorp, himself beset by forces and tribal ritual of spring.

For info on terrapin mating, see here and here.

For another rite of spring in the sixth boro, click here.

All the events that follow actually happened;  watch the photographic evidence.  Before working this week one day, I had a rendezvous with Bowsprite along the KVK for spotting ships.  Like many folk especially along the sixth boro, Bowsprite and I can shapeshift.


Not seeing Bowsprite, I sat on a convenient rock to make fotos of a tanker.  My aging eyes read the name as  Ice Babe.


I turned to the east when I heard some friendly hissing;  how appropriate on this hazy day to see a haze-colored swan.


The swan swam on, and to my delight, I saw the bimonthly Brazilian orange juice tanker, Orange Wave.  Remember I told you about my drinking habit here?


Suddenly I sensed I was no longer alone on that rock;  Bowsprite had appeared . . . out of nowhere, it seemed.  She was alternately drawing Ice Babe (she insisted the name was Ice Base, and her eyes are better than mine), and brushing some KVK seaweed off her shoulder.  And where was that swan?


As Orange Wave neared, Bowsprite’s ever-moving brush started to transfer the juice vessel’s lines onto a page of her sketchbook.


The magic of the swan-white tanker, swooping bow like a curved neck,  gliding over the hazy bay . . . came swimmingly into her sketchbook.


HanJin Portland . . . when it arrived with its polychromatic deckload, the spell seemed broken.  Bowsprite suggested she’d walk me to the ferry.  Why didn’t she say . . .”let’s go to the ferry,” I wondered.


About a quarter mile from the ferry, she asked me to carry her sketchbook, then waded into the bay.  She distracted me my pointing to a strange sign inland.  When I turned back to her,


I saw only this swan.  It swam northward, and then took


flight.  With quickened step, I made for the


ferry.  And went to work.

Photos of or by WVD.

J . . . jaded. Jaded I am sometimes after being jostled and jerked around, about to be jettisoned into the likes of Newtown Creek.  Like the joke is on me because I’ve given and given more and have’t gotten any.  Done the same things so long I can’t tell if I’m doing them or just dreaming.  It’s rained so long I’ve forgotten what the sun looks like.  I swig some wine and it tastes like water.  I make a lunch, but can’t take more than two bites.  Jaded, humdrum.  Kind of like the Staten Island ferry that ever only shuttles back and forth, back and forth between St George Staten Island and Whitehall Manhattan.

Then a friend tells me he saw the Staten Island ferry up the East River.  Another friend swears she saw it gallivanting up the North River.  Can’t be, I think.  So this morning I see a strange distant vessel east bound on the KVK.


I think . . . that color I know, and


the shape is about right, but  . ..  It turns out this ferry Michael Cosgrove runs on the Long Island Sound.


Once the spell is broken, my eyes are opened.  Bow watch on Zim Shenzhen is a freckle-faced red-headed boy, and


on Turkon Furth is a young woman.  And up on the bridge


is another.  What if –my jaded spell broken –I found myself seeing the unexpected with every glance!


And so many mariners were women that a man on a ship would draw  attention.


Anyhow, the impact of seeing Michael Cosgrove was that I turned . . . from jaded to almost jolly.  Seaweed on rocks turned glossy jade green, and even the water rats, scurrying around their habitat looked a shiny, healthy, happy nuanced gray.  I still had to go to work, but at least for a spell, I felt better.  Stopping by the river on the way to work . . . always a good idea.


All fotos by Will Van Dorp.  Remember . .  click on fotos to expand them now.

Most likely “H” comes tomorrow.

I wanted to do a sixth boro version of  “A is for aardvaark, B is for …” post, but because each foto, no matter what other “A” word I called it, kept pointing toward “attachment,” I’ve have changed my mind, given in to the pressure.  So this is a reflection on  . . .” attachedness.”  Responder demonstrates how the quintessential assist looks;  I know I’m asking for trouble here, but this is a fairly “normal” ship assist attachment.

aaadatch3Of course, I couldn’t meditate on “A” and not encounter Alice Oldendorff;  While discharging her thousands of tons of aggregates, Alice is attached to the dock, lines on bollards.  The lengths of cable involved in working Alice boggle my mind too;  a attaches to b, which attaches to c, etc.   Further, in an invisible way, I’m attached to Alice, although less than I used to be AND less than I could be once again in the case that Alice reconsiders, and  . . .  (sigh).


Bel Espoir 2 attaches to Bounty, which itself attaches to Pier 66, which . . .   By now, I assume both vessels have detached themselves from the sixth boro as they head up to new attachments in Boston.  See you up there maybe.


Ellen McAllister nuzzles against an unlikely partner, an APL President ship;  Ellen does its work without a tangible attachment.  I stop short of calling this abnormal.  Yup, stopped short.


The same invisible attachment exists here between Margaret Moran and her charge.  And if you look at the ship’s bulbous bow, you might be as surprised as me to see the amount of algae attached there.  Maybe some fleets need to invest in bowmowers.


Standard equipment on all tugs is the axe; Responder below has two.  And the reason . . . obviously to effect a really quick detachment.


All fotos by Will Van Dorp.

Soon we’ll move on to “B is for bow . . . or bulb…”  and so through the alphabet.  Before that, I’ll probably return with A2.

If you’re new to the blog, use the the search window to get the back story on Alice Oldendorff and me . . . or not.

A friend many years ago called me an “obscurantist,” and I guess that since I couldn’t tell if he meant it as an insult or compliment, the obscurantist was him.  But I can tease with only glimmers of my meaning or a truth, so I’ll be blunt:

I’m a morning baby;  at 5:30 am  I turned 57!  Here‘s what I posted  two years ago.  Today I do all my routines at home and work;   most folks I chat with along the way don’t even know it’s the very beginning of my 58th year, but I’m fine with that.  Even people that know it’s that milestone for me have their own routines, obligations, and deadlines.  A crewman on Aegean Sea or any other vessel heads out even if it’s his birthday or that of one of his loved ones.


Someone on that Bouchard unit off the Battery might just have to swing on the hook no matter that it’s one of those days.  He probably has other ideas, wishes for the day:  so do I although my long list contains only a few items.


Yet as one of my favorite songs puts it,  . . . “there are planes to catch and bills to pay . . .


Thanks to Mike Lesser for catching this shot of an unidentified tug heading north past Ossining.  Birthdays remind me of motion, of how time is running out.  And that makes me hate to waste  time, urges me to have those experiences now.

When my Dutch celebrate a birthday, he or she who has the milestone buys the drinks. Since drinks don’t travel so well through the worldwideweb, here’s an alternative, suggested by frogma.  She “tagged” me a week ago here.  And her rules say, go to the 4th folder in your archives and choose the 4th foto.  Comment on it.  Then “tag” four fellow bloggers and ask they do the same.  Email me if you’re confused with those directions.  Here’s my foto.


I took the foto of John A. Caddell in Newtown Creek, the legendary stream that divides Queens from Brooklyn.  The trip–September 2007– engrossed me . . . and I mean that like it sounds.  I was fascinated and repulsed.  Wikipedia has great info, a foto of Caddell, and fantastic external links.

And I hereby tag the following four waterbloggers:  my dear bowsprite, my southwestcoast friend mage,   the peripetetic captain  ken e. beck, and my new irreverent friend zeebart of uglyships.  More from zeebart soon.

So, no postponing  my friends, no putting off in anything.  Thank you all for reading this blog and responding in all the ways you do.  And now I’m off in search of the next adventures.


Post written by Tom Briggs, shown above, edited by Will Van Dorp.  Foto above by NMCB 3 Public Affairs.

When [Will] asked that I write something for the blog, I initially thought to discuss my recent trip to the upper reaches of the Euphrates River valley. But what I had seen disappointed the sailor in me:  no dhows or fisherman in traditional dress. Rather,  guys dressed in slacks and shirts, fishing with old fishing poles and hand cast nets from beat-up aluminum boats with outboard motors. Contemporary Sindbads really didn’t look or act all that different from US sport fisherman.


Therefore, I began to reflect on common ground between my Iraq “trip” and time spent sailing in New York Harbor. My trip was  chaotic,  violent and  dreary. The way to escape this was to relive the peace that I’d found sailing in New York Harbor and the quality of friends that I’d made there. It shocked me that the only people to write me while I was away, other than my wife, were my sailing friends. Others that I’d known for years simply didn’t have the time or inclination to maintain contact.


I first set foot on Pioneer in February 2006. Despite having an iron (now mostly steel) hull, Pioneer is very much a traditional vessel: sixty odd feet on deck, one hundred feet overall, gaff-rigged, without winches and with only the minimal fittings necessary to operate for public sails. What draws me to her is not conventional beauty  but longevity.  A workboat meant for hauling cargo no more than twenty or thirty years, she survives and sails one hundred  twenty-three years later.
aaaiq3 I first sailed Pioneer in fifteen to twenty knots of wind, what Pioneer LOVES! I was on bow watch as Pioneer pounded through the waves, water shooting up through the hawse-holes, soaking me. I loved sailing from that moment on and I wanted to learn to be a better sailor and so gain acceptance by the volunteer crew. Not all of the volunteers were excellent sailors, not all of them loved the same traditional nautical things that I did, but they were kindred spirits. I can remember nights after sailing sitting in the bar arguing with the chief mate and another volunteer over how to tie a sheet bend and what its similarities are to a bowline. Who does that? What kind of freaks sit and argue in a bar about knots?

Toward the close of my second year aboard Pioneer, I received my deployment orders to Iraq. I considered this exciting news since I had volunteered for the deployment. But as departure grew closer, I got nervous and my friends from Pioneer were there for me. They took me out to restaurants all over the City and gave me a going-away party that I’ll always remember. And when I was deployed they wrote  letters, sent  packages and did everything that they could to remind me that there existed another world that I would go back to one day. I can’t say how much of a relief it was after working a twelve to fourteen hour watch in Iraq, to go back to my SWA (South West Asia) hut, tie knots, read letters and listen to sea shanties on my iPod. It sounds odd to me now, but my friends helped me keep my sanity then.

Three middle fotos by Will Van Dorp.

Welcome back, Tom.  I offer the foto below: a scene of dhows, Iraqi tugs, and wooden date barges somewhere along the Shatt.  It comes from a postcard given to me by Umm Majed, my Iraqi Arabic teacher, a woman with a 1001 stories that need to be heard.


Update from Pete E of the “Liners list” via Mage, avid, dedicated reader and commenter on this blog:  “Once again NY Waterway came to the rescue in NY waters.  The first boat to arrive following the US AIR plane’s ditching was Hudson River-class THOMAS JEFFERSON captained by Vince Lombardi.  She was on the scene within 2.5 minutes.  They rescued 56 passengers from the right wing.  I think MOIRA SMITH (not NORA SMITH as reported in Daily News) was second to arrive, but don’t know how many she rescued.  Brittany Catanzaro, female captain of GOVERNOR THOMAS KEAN, arrived next and took off 24 victims.  According to Alan Warren, NY Waterway had fourteen boats on the scene.  If anyone knows the names of the other ferries that participated, I’d appreciate a list for STEAMBOAT BILL.  Circle Lines’ new CIRCLE LINE MANHATTAN was commandered and used by the NYPD. She arrived on the scene much later than did the NY Waterway ferries, yet somehow Circle Line seems to be getting the press NY Waterway deserves.”   PETE E.    Also, see real-time USCG video of the landing and minutes thereafter from Peter Mello’s SeaFever blog here.

Thanks so much, Mage and Peter.     What follows is “snow day” post.

Whenever snow “pounds” a region, lots of folks hope to get a snow day.  I know I do, although the hyperbole of TV meteorologists makes me immediately nauseous.  As a kid I learned that even if we had a snow day relative to school, farm work  still needed doing.  In fact, some occupations associate “snow day” with  a sense that the same old tasks will be just that much harder to do.


I took this series of fotos on my way to work last Friday morning when snow limited visibility to  a quarter mile.


The irony of the meteorologese  term “snow pounding” is that though collectively snow may significantly impact  people from a safety or productivity point of view, the impact of an individual snowflake makes  –say– a butterfly landing  on your shoulder seem like a tectonic disturbance measured in Richter scale.  Does a device exist that can measure the momentum exerted on you by one snowflake landing?  Would the force be expressed in micronewtons?  nano-butterflys?  yocto-fruitflys?


Light tug turned out be be Cape Cod.  (Digression:  Any guesses on its year of build? other vitals?)


Snow pounding or not and naked eye visibility reduced, work awaited south of Howland Hook.


Maybe for crews, jobs harder to do give greater satisfaction, and


on snow days, decreased visibility screens urban decay, makes river banks seem more pristine, mysterious.  And despite instruments that see through the snow,  knowing what lies around the bend doesn’t predict what could transpire in moments and months ahead anyhow.  Like last Friday morning, who would have guessed about a jet splashing into the river a few hours and a few miles away.

Cape Cod vitals:   1967 vintage, an excellent year (if I judge from my life).  Loa/deep draft/wide = 102′   13′   28′   HP . . . 4290 and in spite of its name, etc., it spends a lot of time in the six boro.

Related to yesterday’s post, here’s NOAA info on sea ice types to add to comments from Jed and towmasters.

Necessities, sometimes they go lacking.   What if you need something, a necessity?   Say . . .  it’s your turn in the galley and you want to bake  bread and discover the yeast’s gone bad . .  . or you’ve scrambled eggs and discover you’re out  of salt . . .  If you’re on land—easy.  If you’re in mid-ocean–impossible.  If you’re on the sixth boro, it’s a challenge, but


places exist


to come ashore to grab those


quick provisions so that


the next task gets done with renewed energy.  Here’s such a place, and there should be many more such places and next to big supermarkets.  Necessity, the mother of … intervention.

Related only through the authors, check out Henry’s channeled solstice thoughts here.

Tomorrow, more on the boat show.

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March 2023