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She always smiled,

even while she explored  . . .

and she explored a lot, and

invited others in.

Here‘s the first post of Bonnie’s I ever read, in which she recognizes a “Hudson River gentleman.”

Here‘s Bonnie’s post from September 11, 2006, in which she reflects on getting a second chance just five years earlier.

Here‘s a fun post in which Bonnie explains the derivation of her sobriquet, or nom de paddle, “frogma.”

Here‘s another in which Bonnie raves about one of her favorite places to swim and alludes to the reason she took up kayaking.

One more,  although there are so many more to reread . . . in which Bonnie waxes poetic about the “onolicious” foods–including Spam–of her Hawaiian childhood.  Want some recipes?   Once I met Bonnie and friends for a fun spam night on Fulton Street in Manhattan. Maybe we [whoever you might be] could meet up at one of these places and have some spam and swap memories in tribute to Bonnie?

Some ways in which Bonnie’s life and mine intersected include these:

*she was the second person [and first one I didn’t know] to comment on tugster in early December 2006, when this blog was only a week old.

*she convinced me without explicitly saying so to make the documentary Graves of Arthur Kill.  The way she did it was to invite me to join her kayaking;  we launched from the beach at Conference House.  She even provided me with the kayak to do so.  Later, after Gary Kane and I were working on the documentary, she winked and said something to the effect that she was pretty sure that my imagination would be captured by the derelicts we saw that day….  Here‘s the post I put up the day after our kayak excursion there.

*she inspired me in many other ways.  Here I did a blog post for her.

Bonnie, you will be missed and never forgotten.

See the man on the pier using his cell phone to get a photo?  I wonder what he imagined he was looking at, other than a group on the water on a spectacular December day.  Did he know he was witnessing the culmination of an odyssey?

The Columbia, Snake, Clark Fork, Missouri, Mississippi, [to saltwater] Mobile, Tombigbee, Tenn-Tom Waterway, Tennessee, Ohio, Kentucky, Kanawha, Allegheny, Chadakoin, Lake Chautauqua, Lake Erie, Erie Canal, Seneca, Oneida, Mohawk, Hudson . . .  [I may have left one out].  What do they have in common?

Neal Moore‘s paddled them stringing together a path on his 675-day canoe trip along his 7500-mile route of inland rivers from saltwater Astoria OR to the saltwater Statue of Liberty, an extreme form of social distancing during the time of Covid.   Photos of the last several miles follow.  

Note that the other paddlers traveled to the sixth boro of NYC to join him for the last few miles,

just as they–“river angels”– had during different segments of the 22-month trip.  Some elites of paddling enjoyed the sixth boro yesterday.

From Pier 84 Manhattan to the Statue and back, they rode the ebb.


Why, you might be wondering?  Moore, a self-described expatriate who wanted to explore the United States in the reverse order of the historical east-to-west “settlement” route, sought out to meet people, find our commonalities, our united strength.  Some might call that direction “the wrong way.”

After one circumnavigation of Liberty Island following his paddling up and down all those watersheds, the journey was done.  After unpacking his Old Town canoe, he scrambled

with assistance onto the Media Boat, triumphantly but humbly.


He stepped over onto a larger vessel in the NYMB fleet, for interviews and a trip back to terra firma,

22rivers’ goal completed, for now.

All photos, WVD, thanks to New York Media Boat conveyance.  I have many, many more photos.

For Ben McGrath’s New Yorker piece on Neal Moore, click here.  Also, check out Ben’s book Riverman.  Let me add two more references:  another McGrath article and a book Mississippi Solo here.

Of course, Neal’s whole epic can be traced at his site, 22Rivers.

I first learned of 22Rivers from Bob Stopper, who met Neal in Lyons NY two months ago, and I and posted about it here (scroll).

More links as follows:

Norm Miller, Missouri River guide

John Ruskey, lower Mississippi River system guide who was on the Hudson yesterday.  He’s also the founder of Quapaw Canoe Company.

Tom Hilton, Astoria-based Fisher Poet, whom I met last night.

And at the risk of leaving someone out, here’s a longtime favorite of mine, an account of a rowboat from Brooklyn to Eastport ME by way of New Orleans . . . Nathaniel Stone’s On the Water.

Who’d I leave out?

I only know this is the 5,050th post because the wordpress dashboard aka diagnostics shows me statistics.

Over 10 years ago, I posted for the 1000th time here. It astonished me then that I had made time for posting one thousand times, and you the audience made time to read/see photos for a thousand times as well.   Then together we passed other milestones like 1280.  On the 10-year mark, I announced I’d posted 3287 times here.  The most recent post marking a milestone was the big 4000 here.

The 5000th post passed unremarked upon back in September, but here we are, eight days from the 15th anniversary of post 0001,  with a big 5050, a number of posts that defies my ability to process. 

Could I compress the content of 5,050 posts over a 15-year period of time into –say–a half dozen photos to represent this period of time?  Or could you chose one photo of the +41,000 photos I’ve posted since November 2006 to be a emblematic of this blog?  I can’t imagine how I’d choose, although maybe some of you might.  More on compression later.

In my 4000th post I said, “the number doesn’t matter, because the story never ends anyhow.  …  there’s no one story; not even one person has just one story or even one fixed understanding of a single story, since we –like water– are protean, ever shifting.  No matter . . .   we pursue nonetheless.” 

It’s time to revise that because numbers DO matter;  my life, our lives . . .  are made up of a finite number of days, a limited number of hours to be productive and alive in.

The past year has been tough, with minor but bedeviling challenges, yet I am blessed with continued health and time.  Thanks for reading the blog, showing your ongoing interest in one view of many of New York harbor enterprise and activity involving both regular traffic and transient. Some of you even comment, and your constructive comments add detail and insights germane to New York working harbor, the stuff of this blog.   You make this a virtual community.  It’s especially satisfying when you send in photos.  If I don’t use what you send immediately or at all, it’s because I haven’t figured out when or where to post them.

Finally, thanks to my dear friend bowsprite for creating the 5050 graphic, as she did previous ones.  Check out her Etsy site here and order stuff so that she keeps busy with her variegated and quirky compositions that never cease to charm me. 

Let me follow up on that compression idea from the first paragraph.  I love the 5050 image above because, besides marking this waypoint, it compresses her perception into its chosen rendition:  rivets, hull color, draft markings, stains, dings, and all.  I say chosen renditions because, face it, the machines and people from the floating world of this blog are made up of countless features and details.  There are too many of them to all be rendered.  So illustration, photography, fiction or nonfiction prose, even music or any art requires choosing.   Bowsprite selects what’s in and what’s out and puts them back together– the regular or the haphazard way– guided by the whims of a free moment.  That’s compression aka creativity.

Seriously, bowsprite, I can’t thank you enough.

Related:  If you look at the top of the page, you’ll see a new heading, Publications.  There you’ll find a representative sampling of my publications in the past decade.  Enjoy.  I’m traveling again, so I might or might not post tomorrow.

Entirely unrelated:  If you’re looking to fill a long half hour watching an Australian kayaking to work rather than driving as a means to better understand land forms, human activity, and water flow, click here for Four-Day Commute to Work by Beau Miles.  I hope you enjoy it.  For all of his documentaries, click here.

I’d thought to call this “summer yachts,” but in spite of sublime weather, it’s not summer any more.  “Yachts a million” works too, with these two unusual vessels.  And we’ll start with this one, Magnet.  Now that I’ve learned a little more about this 148′ catamaran yacht, I regret not having walked around to the far side and gotten more photos.  Like NYC Ferry vessels and USCG 29′ Defiant craft, this yacht is made by MetalCraft Metal Shark, and it’s certainly impressive:  it has a range of over 12,000 miles, i.e., round trip across the Atlantic twice!

I hurried on down the Chelsea Piers, though, because I wanted to see Gene Chaser without obstructions to view.  I have yet to figure out if the symbols below the vessel name are more than decorative.  The 182′ vessel was launched last year as Blue Ocean, then soon afterwards, refitted as a “support vessel,” which makes her an unusual work boat. As of her launch, there were seven other vessels on the seas with this design.


Some folks inherit wealth;  the owner of Gene Chaser earned it in a lab.  Dr. Jonathan Rothberg, a chemical engineer with a biomedical focus by training, says he spent six years working in a lab for his Ph.D, six years! sequencing 9000 DNA fragments.  That led to multiple companies, new tools to fight disease, and this “lab/chaser vessel.” 

Rothberg asserts that it chases genes and genetic sequences that underlie diseases. The “chaser” concept came up in an entirely different situation this past week, when I dredged up that name of a short story by John Collier, one that many of you may have read in high school.  I did, and really hadn’t appreciated that all these years later, it would seem so true, as in “be careful what you wish for.”

“Chaser” enters the name because it chases with main yacht, serving as a mobile garage–yes, that’s a four wheeler and some small motorcycles–as well as a lab. Click here for info about and photos of some of the scientific equipment on board. 

Here’s the mothership, actually older and shorter than the support vessel.

That brings us back to the symbols.  They don’t appear to be anything genetic or genomic, but I would really like toknow the answer to that myself.  The fundamental units of our genetic code would involve the following letters, which I don’t see here:  G, C, A, and T, for guanine, cytosine, adenine, and thymine. So I conclude it’s an art project, not a scientific statement.

All photos yesterday, WVD, who’s intrigued by these boats as well as the folks who own and work on them.  I’m also reminded by this vessel —Ocean Xplorer–in the boro almost a year ago. 

And  while we’re on innovation, consider lignin . . .  More on that fuel idea here.


If I knew then (pick a date in the past) what I know now, I’d do things differently.  This is a universal story involving 20/20 hindsight.  In this specific case, I’d have used the tag “Great Loop” whenever it would have applied. 

In less than a short nine minutes, you can meet an unforgettable guy, Great Looper and so much more, who goes by Duker.  Click on the photo below to hear his story, He doesn’t get to a mention of a river trip until about the 3:50 minute mark, but the lead up is worth it too. The idea of a river trip led to his doing the Great Loop on a jet ski.  His trip–Minneapolis to Minneapolis–was over 6000 miles.

Dave Pike did the same loop in a 14’9″ RIB, a Walker Bay Generation 450.  It’s a lot of read but all his blog posts are here. A shorter version of the story can be read here. Steve Chard kayaked it!!  Nat Stone did it and more in a row boat.

I guess I’m tuning into these stories for a reason.  My Omaha trip had complications and didn’t satisfy the wanderlust.  Last year around this day I finished my bike trip along the Erie Canal here.

What I’m reading now is also telling, and I recommend it:  West of Wheeling:  How I quit My Job, Broke the Law, & Biked to a Better Life by Jeffrey Tanenhaus.  An excellent hour-long interview with the author can be heard here. My one-sentence synopsis is this:  The book tells the story of a frustrated urbanite who decides to pedal a CitiBike ride-share bicycle, which he attempted unsuccessfully to lease, from New York City to Los Angeles and discovered where he wanted to move to in the process.   You can order the book here.

Finally, I’m moved by all your responses to my revealing that I’m looking for a path to a sabbatical.  Thanks all.  I did not necessarily mean to turns off the lights here immediately.  I value the community you’ve created by participating too much to just turn off the lights.   Again, thank you.  And a fork in a road/trail/waterway just seems like a fork as you approach it;  once you choose what comes next and proceed, there no longer seems to be a fork until you come to the next decision point.

And unrelated:  I’ve enjoyed many of Sal Mercogliano’s WGOWS, but an installment I find especially interesting is this one about Amazon Prime chartering self-unloading vessels and docking them at non-container ports.  Listen to it here. WGOWS expands to “what’s going on with shipping?”

Finally you know what day it is today;  here‘s my tribute.


I’ve thought about using this title quite often, and I surely have a lot of candidates, my personal ones, to include here.

Know the tug(s) from the photo below?  Really the most seldom seen is the nearer one, the one with escape ropes mounted on either side of the wheelhouse egresses.

Pacific Dawn I last saw over six years ago here.  She tends to follow dredging projects, which might possibly have brought her in the other day. 

I’ve seen Delta a lot on AIS, but I believe I should consider her a “never seen” by me.  So voila!

Here she passes the seldom seen Ypapanti and the some to be no longer seen Pilot No. 1 New York.  I could be wrong about the last part of that statement.  

Delta also tends to follow dredging projects, it seems to me.


Have your own “seldom seen”?  Let me know.  All photos here in the past week, WVD.

As you know, I’m just back from a trip.  A few months back, I’d considered taking the bird with me, a la John Steinbeck with his dog.  But he would not have been an easy companion, and since some work was involved, I thought it better to go without Charley, one of Nigel’s many names.  Others included Nigelina, pippit, the Kroc, Haji Naji, and more.

Nigel had many friends; really that cat is lost these days, as am I.

They discussed politics and played games, re-enacting human struggles.

Since he was at least 40, he outlived several generations of other house animals, hundreds of generations of goldfish had we kept those.

Some birds scared him, like “big pella” as this night heron who perched on the rail of the boat to look inside would be called in “tok pisin” language.

This big smelly guy in the middle would just disgust him.

I met the green bird when I was 20 years younger even than in this photo, as this example of technology

will show.  How many of your current friends have you known since 1986?  I met the bird in 1986, and he moved under my roofs in 1992.

He was ever helpful;  he’d lend tech support on the Mac, he’d measure up problems, and answer phone calls.

He’d have zoom calls with his hierarchy long before we humans thought of that.

Tech savvy he certainly was . . .  telling a very skeptical black cat about psychedelic music.

He loved many types of music, including opera when I met him.  Here he was experimenting with glass resonance, attempting to shatter his glass bowl.

I should have done my version of travel with Charley, given that he’d intimidate

even the most brazen, and unfortunately I met some brazen jokers on this past trip.

And he will be missed.  He’s planted beside a blue road under trees green with leaves and noisy with birds;  I suspect at night, he and other denizens of that woods dance by the light of the moon.  I’m sad he’ll travel no more on the avenues and trails of the living.

But some day . . . we will travel together again .  …

Until then, farewell, fly far, my winged friend.

All or most photos, WVD, who’s posted about many other birds here.

Fred left us yesterday, and he will be missed.  Click on the photo below to see the source of this photo and read the context. Fred was a hilarious and complicated guy:  born in Germany, raised in Canada and in the north country of New York State.  I first met him on the Hackensack River in Secaucus, over by Snake Rock.  After he retired and moved back to the north county of “Fort Ed’ard,” I would see him each year at the Tugboat Roundup.  In fact, I alway had a berth on his boat at the Roundup.  

From my perspective, Fred’s opus really was his website, the travels of Tug 44, named for his trawler, and accessible by clicking on the image below.    In this screenshot below, you see only a partial list of his categories.  Drill down to each of the categories, each of which contain almost infinite subsets of information.  

Fred contributed to a number of tugster posts here.  I know there are even more, but I’ve not always been consistent with my tags and categories.  When I thought I knew the canal, Fred showed me there was so much more to learn, leading me to return again and again.

My first email contact with Fred came here in 2007, and our exchanges about the Dutch boat Livet led eventually to my meeting him in Secaucus.

In recent years, Fred had turned to wildlife photography and took many stupendously beautiful photos of “critters” in the north country here.  If this is the only link you look at today from Fred’s site, you’ll be a big part of the afternoon admiring these.   

Blogposts I did with photos I took from tug44 over the years are too many to post, but here are a few:

2014 and before I knew I would crew on Urger.

2013 and again

A favorite is this one from 2009, when I first learned firsthand what craziness ensues when you have a potato gun primed with hairspray and an armory of 50-calibre radishes . . . .

Hilarious, complicated, generous . . .  Fred, you leave a hole in the universe.

When this tow came off Oneida Lake headed west, 

I wondered how many folks would interpret this incorrectly, that this was a tow and not a push.

Ditto . . . heading into lock E-23.


Of course, regular readers of this blog know precisely what is going on. After a long hiatus at the dry dock in Waterford, Urger has been pushed across the state to the dry dock in Lysander to be hauled out and mothballed, maybe and hopefully to be revived when the time is right, like a cicada or a future astronaut traveling light years in suspended animation . . . .

For more people than not in the “canal corridor” of New York State, Urger is without doubt that best known tugboat, the only one that thousands of New Yorkers have set foot on . . . . 

Who is that unmasked fellow with a t-shirt that reads “tug boating is a contact sport”?

I have it on the best authority that exactly five years ago yesterday, he was in the Urger wheelhouse piloting the now nameless vessel through this very same lock, very much mechanically alive.


All photos yesterday, WVD, who offers this post as contribution to #URGERjourney.

Edna A has appeared on this blog by that name;  it was also here as HR Hawk

September 11, 2001 was one of those days that changed you. Without a doubt, no matter where you were or what you were doing, you remember that day. We are still in its aftermath.

It recast me too.  That morning I was at work in a Brooklyn three-floor building five miles from the Towers, across the East River. A friend called before 0900 to tell me to look out a west-facing window.  I watched for some seconds, black smoke pouring from near the top of one of the towers. Concluding it must have been an accident, maybe a small plane or a helicopter, I got back to work. Shortly after 0900, the friend called again, frantic, and told of reports that two hijacked planes had crashed into the towers; more hijacked planes were in the air, she said. I returned to the window, and now much more smoke, yellowish gray, blanketed both Towers. For me, the rest of the day was a blur, inconceivable sights in the distance across the river, swirling rumors of horrors.

We all have our take on that morning, even hundreds and thousands of miles from lower Manhattan. Mostly I don’t talk about 9/11 much, and I’ve not yet gone to the museum located there now, likely I’ll never go. I’ve mostly avoided reading about that day although I have read widely about the wars it spawned.

I made an exception when I was asked to review Jessica Dulong’s Saved at the Seawall, a re-issued version, paperback. In a preface added to this version, DuLong writes that “only after years of avoiding conversation about my time at Ground Zero did I finally make my peace with the human need for September 11 stories. Chronicling catastrophe necessarily creates a distance, a remove.”

She interviewed at least 75 people who were involved in the immediate aftermath, some on the island but many more at the seawall and farther out in the harbor, the sixth boro, on boats.  A list names all the boats that evacuated hundreds of thousands of people from lower Manhattan, but her book chronicles what occurred from the perspective of rescuer and rescued alike.

Flipping through pages as I write this review, I notice that 150 pages into the book, she’s recounting events not even two full hours after the first plane hit. The details are palpable, and told with skill.

In the epilogue, DuLong states that reflecting on rescuers that day has “reconstructed my faith in the human soul.” Their acts “struck me less about heroism and more about pragmatism, resourcefulness, and simple human decency. If you have the wherewithal, you step up.”  I’d see it as a variation on the international code, written and unwritten, that mariners have a duty to rescue those in distress at sea;  in this case, when the USCG issued a call to “all available boats,” mariners in the harbor responded and rescued people in distress on an island in distress.

I’m grateful Jessica DuLong interviewed the folks in this book, recorded their experience before memory could distort it, and then meticulously reconstructed that morning from dozens of perspectives. I was especially surprised to see a half dozen people I know interviewed in the book, people whom I’ve never heard talk about that day.

I highly recommend reading this book.  You can order it from the publisher here.

Previous book reviews can be seen here.

If you want the International Red Cross view on this, click here.


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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.


January 2022