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Call this a case of the common and the obscure.  See the name on that tanker?

Of course, and we know the name well for his fables despite his and their antiquity.  The crude tanker was launched in 2012.

But how about this one?  I had to look it up.

But if you know sci-fi movies or Swedish epic poetry, you might have recognized it.  If not, I looked it up for you here.  How appropriate . . . a 2008 RORO ship named for a space ship from a poem adapted for film!

All photos, WVD.

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.


Know the city?

Know this city?  The clue lies in WTGB number, 107 v. 105.  And in the nearer, smaller vessel below.

It’s New York and Detroit, two capitals of different enterprises.  Click here for more Detroit police boats.

Both cities have an Ambassador Bridge, although

the one in New York spends less than 24 hours in port whenever she appears.  Bunkering there thanks to Sassafras.

Here’s Detroit’s Ambassador Bridge, Canadian tug John Spence heading southbound in that direction.

But these days, Detroit has some New York doesn’t . .  snow.  After a slight dusting in October that was gone the next day, the sixth boro has sen no snow!  Of course, that could all change very quickly, and to say no snow does NOT mean warm, calm weather.   Snow was blowing so hard across the Detroit River this weekend that this ore carrier couldn’t be identified.  (It’s Lee A. Tregurtha, Baltimore-built.  Thanks Ken.)

Great Republic could.

This is the first year the 31-year-old vessel has operated under that name, ex-American Republic.

CSL Niagara is a fleetmate cousin of the frequent visitor to the sixth boro, Alice Oldendorff.  Note the self-unloading gear.  I’ve gotten over my affection for Alice.

Here are more American lakers, Adam E. Cornelius and

Roger Bough Blough.   Enjoy these additional fotos of Roger Blough, possibly now laid-up for the winter.

Here’s a Baltimore-built classic  Michipicoten.

Many thanks to Ken Bailey for these Detroit fotos;  Will Van Dorp took the sixth boro ones.

More news from Detroit, the owner of the Ambassador Bridge has been sent to jail.  Info here.

Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities has one of the most memorable opening lines in English literature.  Know it?  

Many thanks to Capt. Justin Zizes for this series of shots, morning shots of  a workaholic tug and a fairly recent addition to the  “flying dutchman” vessels aka cruise ships.

Less than two years old, Seabourn Sojourn‘s already logged one complete round the world cruise.   The Seabourn company has its own blog here.

No doubt she’s been pushed around, or assisted, by some of the best.  I count Miriam Moran (1979, 3000 hp)  as among those, based on her non-stop work in the sixth boro.

I hope a few of the passengers that morning paid attention  . . .

which, thanks to the convolutions of my mind, brings us to the USS Quaker City (1854), which happens to be only six years before Michael Moran founded his towing company in New York harbor.    The convoluted connection is this:  USS Quaker City was the vessel that served as setting for Mark Twain’s Innocents Abroad–not really a bestseller today–but a book worth a try.  (Truth:  I read and enjoyed  it about 15 years ago but don’t have a copy on my bookshelf for quick reference.)    Innocents Abroad  is Twain’s irreverent account of a shipboard voyage from New York harbor through the Mediterranean and Black Sea.

So my question:  besides bloggers (of course I of all folks won’t criticize them), are there contemporary mainstream writers aboard vessels like Seabourn Sojourn doing the “Mark Twain” thing?

I hope so, given the exotic stops.  For a mere $49,640, you could have an updated Mark Twain platform, 142 years after Innocents Abroad.  Might that have been a typo . . .  for innocents aboard?

Many thanks to Justin Zizes for these fotos.

Some previous posts with lighthouses can be seen here,  here and here, but  more hide in the archives of this blog.

Question:  any guesses what/where this structure is?  Answer follows.

Dry Tortugas Light on Loggerhead Key–three miles from Fort Jefferson– first illuminated navigators in 1858, this month 143 years ago.

This National Park Service pdf about Loggerhead Key details its interesting history since the 1819 Adams-Onis Treaty, when La Florida was transformed Spanish to United States territory.

The first light in the Dry Tortugas-a place to stock up on turtle meat-was first lit in 1826, but according to the tour guide, that brick light tower was razed in 1877 because its location too often directed approaching vessels over reefs to their doom.

Fort Jefferson-the unfinished coastal fortress also known as the second largest masonry structure on Earth (after the Great Wall of China)–would never have been started if the US government had heeded the 1825 recommendation of US Navy Commodore David Porter (adoptive father of the future Admiral David G. Farragut!!) because of its lack of fresh water and stable bedrock for foundations.  Four years later, the US government accepted the recommendation of the next Commodore–John Rodgers–and began construction of the structure that failed in the ways Porter predicted and was obsolete before it approached completion.

By the way, Porter had an intriguing career, including being prisoner of both the Barbary pirates (1803-5)  and the British Navy (1814) but also  Captain of US naval vessels, court-martialee after his unauthorized invasion of Fajardo, commander-in-chief of the Mexican Navy (1826-29),   and US ambassador to the Barbary States and Turkey.  Imagine someone trying to do those things in that order today.

In the foto below, notice the different colored bricks.

The iron light tower  built into a wall of Fort Jefferson served from 1877 until 1912.

The bricks of different colors reflect the origin of the brick:  again . . . according to the tour guide, bricks produced in the South before the Civil War have resisted time well.  After 1861, bricks came here from Maine (!) and have fared less well in this climate.

If you imagine you see window air conditioners where guns should be, you are NOT imagining that.  National Park Service employees live inside the Fort and have added contemporary creature comforts.

Dry Tortugas is 70 miles west of Key West; only six miles out is Sand Key Light, shimmering astern of Western Union beyond the green buoy.

Key West Light–through various remodelings– has stood here since 1847.

Less than a block away is the house where Hemingway lived in the 1930s.

You might call it a “cat house” today, where the dozens of poly-toed cats have names like Picasso and Dickinson and Truman . . .

A mariner who shall remain nameless claims to have briefly sat in Hemingway’s chair and typed on his keys.  Well, be advised . . . that’s just not possible any more.

Time for a few Hemingway quotes?    “There is no rule on how to write. Sometimes it comes easily and perfectly; sometimes it’s like drilling rock and then blasting it out with charges.”    And   “The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.”

But check out this title!   I’d imagined he’d say something like “There is no way to make good pictures . . . the best way to make them is  . . . to make them.”

At least Hemingway had taste in naming his boat . . . which I hope to see some day, not easy to do because Pilar is at Finca Vigia in  Cuba.  More fotos here.  Pilar was once in Brooklyn!  Brooklyn’s Wheeler Shipyard (I believe it was in or near the Navy Yard) made out a bill of sale to the writer on April 18, 1934 for a “38-foot twin cabin Playmate cruiser” with “one [75 hp] Chrysler Crown reduction gear engine” and “4-cylinder Lycoming straight drive engine” for trolling for a grand total of $7455.  For a thread on a discussion board related to Pilar, click here.    Pilar was Hemingway’s q-boat.

My question is this:  How did Pilar get from Brooklyn to Key West?  Did someone make a delivery by water?  Ship?  Train?   And does anyone know if Valhalla, Pilar’s sistership, has been restored after its accidental sinking in 2007?

So that first building . . . here’s the rest of it as seen from Jacksonville Beach.  It’s the 1946-built Art Deco life saving station, not a lighthouse at all.  A beauty though.

All fotos by Will Van Dorp.

D … as in departure …  moment 00:00 for me, the observer with a camera over on the other side of the Kill, fascinated.    This foto is an arbitrary starting point for this series.  I love it about digital fotos that snap-time is recorded in the file.  By this instant, crew on Torm Carina have Margaret Moran‘s towline on.

00:03   Three seconds later, the same crew makes their way forward to stand by at Torm Carina‘s forward docklines.

00:45  45 seconds later, crew is standing by.

01:07   Just over a minute later, shore crew stands by to release the line on command.

15:40  Note that 15 minutes in, bow lines have been released and taken aboard the tanker. Margaret Moran throttles up to take slack out of the tow line.

17:21  A little later Joan Moran throttles up to move tanker stern away from the the dock.

19:16  Pilot and tanker crew monitor from the starboard bridge wing.

19:25  Margaret’s crew maintains a slow steady pressure.

21:38  I’ve no clue why this member of crew is stationed here, maybe he’s just taking a break, standing by.  My attention gets drawn to people, though.

26:40  Tanker has left the dock area and is proceeding westbound on the KVK.

30:22  Tanker passes R. H. Tugs with Margaret and Joan as escorts.

These fotos were taken on 1/27/2011 by Will Van Dorp.  As of this writing on 2/11/2011, Torm Carina is off Galveston, where … at sunrise today, Friday, the air temperature is not that much different than it is in NYC.

Realizing my role as outsider here, I know there’s a lot I don’t see, which reminds me of Mark Twain’s brilliant observations in “Two Views of the River.”   (…) mean I’ve taken liberties and edited Twain, for which I hope to get some forgiveness from Mr. Clemens.

“…when I had mastered the language of this water … every trifling feature that bordered the great river… , I had made a valuable acquisition. But I had lost something, too … which could never be restored to me …. All the grace, the beauty, the poetry, had gone …! I still keep in mind a certain wonderful sunset which I witnessed when steamboating was new to me. A broad expanse of the river was turned to blood; in the middle distance the red hue brightened into gold, through which a solitary log came floating black and conspicuous; in one place a long, slanting mark lay sparkling upon the water; in another the surface was broken by boiling, tumbling rings, that were as many-tinted as a opal; where the ruddy flush was faintest, was a smooth spot that was covered with graceful circles and radiating lines, ever so delicately traced; the shore on our left was densely wooded, and the somber shadow that fell from this forest was broken in one place by a long, ruffled trail that shone like silver; and high above the forest wall a clean-stemmed dead tree waved a single leafy bough that glowed like a flame in the unobstructed splendor that was flowing from the sun. There were graceful curves, reflected images, woody heights, soft distances; and over the whole scene, far and near, the dissolving lights drifted steadily, enriching it every passing moment with new marvels of coloring.

I stood like one bewitched. I drank it in, in a speechless rapture. The world was new to me, and I had never seen anything like this at home.

But as I have said, a day came when I began to cease from noting the glories and the charms which the moon and the sun and the twilight … upon the river’s face; another day came when I ceased altogether to note them. Then, if that sunset scene had been repeated, I should have … should have commented upon it in … this fashion: ‘This sun means that we are going to have wind tomorrow; that floating log means that the river is rising, small thanks to it; that slanting mark on the water refers to a bluff reef which is going to kill somebody’s steamboat one of these nights, if it keeps on stretching out like that; those tumbling ‘boils’ show a dissolving bar and a changing channel there; the lines and circles in the slick water over yonder are a warning that that troublesome place is shoaling up dangerously; that silver streak in the shadow of the forest is the ‘break’ from a new snag, and he has located himself in the very best place he could have found to fish for steamboats; that tall dead tree, with a single living branch, is not going to last long, and then how is a body ever going to get through this blind place at night without the friendly old landmark?’

… the romance and beauty were all gone from the river. All the value any feature of it had for me now was the amount of usefulness it could furnish toward compassing the safe piloting of a … boat. Since those days, I have pitied doctors from my heart. What does the lovely flush in a beauty’s cheek mean to a doctor but a “break” that ripples above some deadly disease? … Does he ever see her beauty at all, or doesn’t he simply view her professionally, and comment upon her unwholesome condition all to himself? And doesn’t he sometimes wonder whether he has gained most or lost most by learning his trade?”     (1883)

And I will content myself to see this from the other side . . . .

Unrelated but reminiscent:  See a C tractor close up on Mage’s Postcards.  Thanks, Mage.

How I long to return to the graveyard:  not the words of a misanthrope or exhausted vampire at all.  See frogma’s gallery here.  She has both graveyard and lifeyard pics of ships, as well as one of tugster afloat.

But for now, this is the final weekend to see Polybe + Seats production of A Thousand Thousand Slimy Things performed at the Waterfront Museum and Show Boat Barge, a sixth boro treasure featured numerous times before sometimes referred to as Lehigh Valley 79.

Final weekend for the play:  see a full review of the play here from the Brooklyn Rail.

For my part:  I bought a pair of tickets because I was intrigued by the following mixture:  the real-life setting of Weeki Wachee Springs State Park (WWSSP) and

its struggle to remain financially viable as a roadside attraction featuring mermaids  (Click here to see the real WWSSP mermaid roster.),  and

spacey electronic music and wild costuming inside the exquisite barge built in 1914, and

the rich language of Samuel Taylor Coleridge   “Alone, alone, all, all alone,    Alone on a wide wide sea!   And never a saint took pity on     My soul in agony.
The many men, so beautiful!    And they all dead did lie;      And a thousand thousand slimy things Lived on; and so did I.”   along with a smattering of Herman Melville, Rachel Carson, and Henrik Ibsen‘s Lady from the Sea, and

creative staging using objet-trouves of the very material that makes up the North Pacific gyre as studied by Charles J. Moore‘s Algalita Marine Research Foundation, and a crazed solitaire traveling on an iceberg named Jake, and

superb dancing and line delivery, and

what more can I say about the performance other than that it mesmerized me with 90 minutes of magic!  See a trailer and buy tickets here.

And after it was over, I got a glimpse of Rich Samuelson’s show called “Tugboats and Waterfront Scenes.”  Artist’s reception is on the barge Saturday, May 22 from 3 til 7.

And it’s all in Red Hook, historic port of yore.  And if you can linger near the barge, go across the street to

Sunny’s Bar and relax.  Believe it or not . . . a cobblestone street in NYC where grass grows between the stones!

And remember . . . the mermaids of Coney Island will come ashore and parade in just over six weeks.    You know who you are . . . keep that Saturday free.

All fotos, Will Van Dorp . . . who needs to learn to take better indoor shots without a flash.  :[

Here’s a previous post showing the interior of Lehigh 79.

Unrelated:  Here’s the info for Working Harbor Committee‘s first tour.

Sunday March 14, Red Hook (Brooklyn) and looking to the southwest.  The bulker beyond Houma is Darya Shanthi, Weeks crane 529 offloading  salt.

Sky darkens quickly over Staten Island.  The dark plume apparent beyond  the Bayonne can be seen

zoomed in here, probably from the Bayway refineries although it looks like an ominous cyclone.  For a real waterspout foto, see this old tugster post.  Notice the Upper Bay’s  jade green water, like some tropical lagoon where coconut palms might sway and firefishes play.  In fact, didn’t Rudyard Kipling write a poem about Gowanus Bay, and something like “across the fetch from Gowanus Bay, where the sturgeon fishes play, and the dawn comes up like thunder turning Jersey into day.”  Right?

Clouds swollen and unstable with fluids, which they are, move

northeast.  Time to get back under cover.

Time elapsed in the top five fotos is less than an hour.

Below, Monday March 15, Rosebank (Staten Island) and looking northward toward a Manhattan moisture encased out beyond tanker W-O Ashley Sea.

Monday March 15,  St George (Staten Island) and looking at the aftermath on the bulkhead of the storm of March 12-today.  Gusts recorded at JFK Airport topped out at 66 mph with 4–6 inches of rainfall in the metro area.  Breezy and

(to coin a term) debris-y.  Stuff in the water that should never have been there got spewed onto land and

stuff like this ladder that should have stayed fastened down floated with the tide.  Imagine this debris multiplied one million fold floating in the EGP of the Pacific.

Someone this morning compared the storm with the “great white hurricane of 1888,” that had gusts of 80 mph and 40″ of snow in metro New York.  That link in the previous sentence makes an interesting read.  By the way, assuming a conversion of water to new-fallen snow as 1 to 6, that 6 inches of rain would have been close to 37″ of snow.  Right?

But it wasn’t, and weather for the weekend predicted (for those who don’t mind some goosebumps) t-shirt temperatures.

For Matt Soundbounder’s take on the storm from his perch on City Island, click here.  For bonnie frogma’s record of dead umbrellas and sunken sailboats, click here.  For the NYTimes slideshow of storm damage in the area, click here.

All fotos by Will Van Dorp.

If ever I knew this poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley, the spouse of Mary Shelley, who authored Frankenstein then I’d forgotten it til a stranger–a compelling stranger– recited though not as an invitation the second half for me :

“See the mountains kiss high heaven.       And the waves clasp one another;        No sister-flower would be forgiven        If it disdained its brother;       And the sunlight clasps the earth.       And the moonbeams kiss the sea:       What is all this sweet work worth           If thou kiss not me?”

Bravo P. B.  Shelley!!

Here’s a hypothetical how-to PB might have appended:  Approach and watch signals.  Some signals are not visible yet real.

Establish first contact.  Time for subtlety has expired.

Move to the other side.  It might offer more frisson than the first.

Send out other tendrils of contact.

Allow  pressure and tempo to build;  then surge

even more, as one.

See bowsprite’s 2009 V-Day wish rendition here.

For loosening Affinity from her mooring and whirling her out to the open sea, compliments to the crew of Miriam Moran!  And to the stranger, merci.

All fotos by Will Van Dorp.  Add  V-Day sentiments?

I’ll never claim to know all the sixth boro stories although I’ve chosen as a goal to hear more of them.  Savannah has a great waterfront story.  See if you can figure it out from this set of fotos;  I will explain at the end of post.  Call this . . . what’s Flo Mar’s tale?   Call her Florence Martus, if you want, and click here for the spoiler if you wish, but indulge me and see the fotos first.  She did get a Liberty ship named for her.  Be a sport, and follow the fotos.

She waves at Hoechst Express,  whose crew wave back, as do

crew on YM Los Angeles, once they see what they’re seeking.

So is it the friendly waterfront, the large hotel windows convenient for … er … flashing, accidental or intentional, something else?  But anyhow, crews seemed vigilant

binoculars at the ready to find waving folk,

waving girls maybe,

and then they wave back with exuberance no matter the ship.

Crew of Morning Chorus not only waved but also shouted audible new year’s greetings to lubbers reveling alongshore.

So Savannah’s hospitality has gotten enshrined.  So the story of Flo Mar, as reported in Savannah & the Georgia Coast by Jim Morekis goes like this:

“Beginning at age 19, Flo Mar–who actually lived a few miles downriver on Elba Island–took to greeting every passing ship with a wave of a handkerchief by day and a lantern at night, without fail for the next 40 (plus) years.  Ship captains would often return the greeting with a salute of their own on the ship’s whistle, and word spread all over the world of the beguiling woman who waited on the balcony of that lonely house.

Was she looking for a sign of a long lost love who went to sea and never returned?  Was she trying to get a handsome sea captain to sweep her off her feet and take her off that little island?  No one knows for sure.”

Now I began by denying expertise about New York stories, and  harbor folk  surrounding the sixth boro may very well have characters as compelling as Flo Mar.  I just don’t know them.  Anyone throw out some names?  Of course, New York does have a very impressive waving girl of its own aka Lady Liberty, as I wrote about here.

One of my favorite New York City novels begins to enlarge the intriguing truth of a failed writer named Herman Melville working out his last days as a night (the insignificant shift) customs inspector in the harbor.  Melville actually held this post for 19 years starting around 1866.  The novel,  The Night Inspector by Frederick Busch, is a great read if you’re trying to see the sixth boro of another era.

Photos, WVD.

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