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First, thanks to Michele for helping me find a way to adjust photos here so that they enlarge when clicked.

The KVK is one of those places where mariners can be seen working:  no gate pass or special access required.  They might be preparing the gangway, all harnessed in

as a shipmate operates the controls.

Different ship, same job.

Maybe they’re out of the wind, ready but talking.

They might be on watch high above the city,

maybe wondering about those people on shore

 . . . cold weather and fishing or taking photos.  Often they never leave the ship here;  in fact, because of covid-19 many haven’t left the ship in months even though local mariners, essential workers, come and go.

  This has prompted actions of concern and the Neptune Declaration, which you can read here. Please click on the link and see who the 300 signatories are.

International mariners face one state of privation;  US citizen Jones Act mariners face another . . . working in winter cold and finding ingenious ways to get the wind off their face.

All photos, sentiments, WVD.  For more info on how covid-19 has affected shipping, click here.

Unfortunately, I can’t go back and adjust all the “non-enlarging photos” back to October. 


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.


 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.

I’ve seen this tug before, but each previous time it was either engaged or more than a mile away, and this tug, large in spirit but not in actual dimensions . . . at a distance of over a mile, well . . . loses detail.  This time is it really close and light.

So here are photos from my fortunate encounter the other day.  Guess the dimensions?

She does share some lines with an older but larger sibling, product of the same G-H yard, Benjamin Elliot.


Seeing her pass, each time she passes, I remembered a song.

It was a great day.

All photos and sentiments, WVD

Thanks so much for voting.  This post will end the “candidates”  soliciting feedback for my 2020 calendar.  The calendar is now a “go,” although voting will stay open until December 21, ie, if you are just hearing about this and have not yet voted–one winner for each month–you can still express your choice, carefully telling me which choice is for which month.

The options for October follow:






The November possibilities are






And that’s it.  The December photos have mostly yet to be taken, so the onus for that month is jointly on you all and me.  To repeat, here are the guidelines for a December photo:  a qualified photo for polling must involve a vessel and a non-verbal detail(s) identifying it as having been taken in a December.

Thanks for your help.  I’ll keep you updated on the calendar.

All photos here by Will Van Dorp.

A big thanks for reading and VOTING.  Once again, see the December 5 post for instructions. Today’s post has only two months, so your vote will be two letters.  Ask your friends to vote.  Voting hasn’t closed for previous installments, and I won’t close the voting until  December 21.

Here are the August choices.




September was a hard month to whittle down to three.  So I offer more choices here than for any other month.








And that’s it for today’s voting;  remember that today’s vote will be only two letters, one for August and one for September.

To complete the calendar, there’s one more post of options coming tomorrow.  I’ve received proposed photos for the December page, but photos are still solicited.

All photos in this post by Will Van Dorp.

Thanks for responding to the poll.  Some trends emerge, which made me give the photos a second look.  If you missed the rules from yesterday’s post, click here.

I’m astonished by the top vote getter:  the January photo B, a shot I took on  . . .  and one I almost withdrew from the set at the last minute because I’d taken it outside my usual range.  It might interest you to know it shows the 1949 Wilfred Sykes, named for the president of Inland Steel for most of te 1940s, a few miles below the Soo locks.  Sykes is considered a streamlined [I call it art deco] bulk carrier, the first built after WW2 on the Great Lakes, according to the erudite folks at boatnerd. For more info, click here on the Duluth Shipping News site.

Here’s what I propose for the December calendar photo:  you send a photo to my email.  See left navigation bar for the email address.  Here are guidelines:  a qualified photo for polling must involve a vessel and a non-verbal detail(s) identifying it as having been taken in a December.  I hope that’s ambiguous enough to keep it interesting.  Whoever sends in the chosen photo . . . to be determined no later than December 21, also gets a photo credit and a free calendar.  Another option is for me to choose a December photo from a previous year.  See what I’ve done in the previous 13 Decembers in the archives;  the location near the bottom of the leftside navigation bar allows you to select any month going back to November 2006.

Here are the May choices.




June offers





July can be





Again . . . see yesterday’s post on the easiest format for feedback . . .

First, happy sinterklaas day.

Here’s my goal for the next few posts:  since it’s the time of year when some folks think of making 2020 calendars, I’m asking you for feedback on various photos for a possible calendar.  I realize unanimity is impossible.

I’ve quickly gone through my archives month by month and chosen a few “favorites” and as I said . . . gut reaction.  I repeat . . .  no ponderous thinking, just gut reaction.  For some months a “few” means three;  for other months, it comes down to more.   I’ll take your feedback into account qualitatively  . . ie, I’m not just tallying.  So you can help out with a straw vote, a show of clicks .  .  if you will.

Here are the January photos, labeled A through C, that caught my attention using the “gut reaction” test described above.




Here are my February selections A through C.




For March there are three picks, A through C.




And the last one for this post, here are my April nominations, A through D.





If you choose to give feedback, it would be sufficient to write simply C, B, C, D . . . for example; meaning the third photo here for January, the second for February, etc.  If you wish to state reasons for your choice, that would be most welcome.

Posts for the next three days will cover the rest of the year.  Thanks for helping out by weighing in.  Bribes are always welcome as well.

All photos and felonious suggestions by Will Van Dorp.



November 2009 saw the USS New York (LPD-21) arrive in her namesake city for christening commissioning. Just faintly, the name is visible on the stern.

I also went up to the Lyons NY dry dock in November 2009 and caught Urger, then in seasonal layup. Five years were to go by before I did my season on this Barge Canal tugboat.  May she return!

Firefighter was still working in the sixth boro.

Stephen was working then too, and she’s still working today.

Cape Ann’s Essex Creek is hardly the sixth boro, but you can get there from here . . . . and Essex MA is one of my favorite places, although –truth be told–I’ve been there only once since 2009.

Some miles north of Essex Creek is the Piscataqua River, and back then these were the horses in Moran’s stable on Ceres Street:  Carly A. Turecamo, Mary M. Coppedge, and Eugenia Moran.  Carly‘s now in Maine with Winslow, Eugenia is maybe laid up, and Mary M. is still working there . . . but again I’ve not been there in almost two years.

And finally . . .  she who need not be named alongside a dock in Philly.

Any since we’re on the retired undefeated speed champion, let’s zoom in on the “crow’s nest” in these next two photos . . .

Not my photo although I felt like talent that day . . .   Here and here are more photos from that day, in 2014.

This last photo is by Chris Ware.  All others by Will Van Dorp.


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August 2021