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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.


Today the sixth boro and environs face Henri, whose story is yet to be told.  August 26, 2011 . . . I was at the Staten Island Ferry terminal, and these Hurricane Irene signs were up.  When Irene’s story was told, it had done unusual damage upstate far from salt water;  here’s more.  Some repairs took until 2016 to complete.  From here I took the ferry to Whitehall in Manhattan, and then over I walked to South Street Seaport, where I wanted to see storm preparations.  See the story at the end of this post.  

In late August 2011, I was documenting a slow decomposition, getting footage of what became a documentary film called Graves of Arthur Kill. Gary Kane was the producer;  I was the director, or something.  If you’ve not yet seen the documentary, you can order it by clicking on the disintegrating wooden tugboat image along the left aside of this blog page.  Some of the vessels in this post are discussed by multiple sources in the documentary.  Keep in mind that these photos and the footage in the doc recorded these scenes a decade ago, almost to the day.  Hurricanes, freezing and thawing, and just plain daily oxidation have ravaged these already decrepit vessels for another 10 years, so if you were to go to these exact locations, not an easy feat, you’d see a devolution.

I’m not going to re-identify all these boats–already done elsewhere and in the doc–except to say we saw a variety of boats like this tanker above and the WW2 submarine chaser alongside it.

Other WW2 vessels repurposed for post-war civilian purposes are there.  More were there but had been scrapped prior to 2011.

See the rust sprouting out from behind WW2 haze gray.

In the past decade, the steam stack on this coastal ferry has collapsed, and the top deck of the ferry to the right has squatted into the ooze below.

Some steel-hulled steam tugboats we never managed to identify much more than maybe attributing a name;  they’d been here so long that no one remained alive who worked on them or wanted to talk about them.

We used a rowboat and had permission to film there, but the amount of decomposing metal and wood in the water made it nearly impossible to safely move through here. We never got out of the boat to climb onto any of these wrecks.  That would be if not Russian roulette then possibly some other form of tempting fate.

Most emblematic of the boats there might be this boat, USS ATR-89, with its struggling, try-to-get-back-afloat stance.  She was built in Manitowoc, WI, a town I’ve since frequently visited.

Wooden hulls, wooden superstructure . . .  I’m surprised they’ve lasted as long as they have.

Since taking this photo in August 2011, I’ve learned a lot about this boat and its four sisters, one of whom is now called Day Peckinpaugh

I’ve spent a lot of hours this month pulling together info on Day Peckinpaugh, launched as Interwaterways Line 101;  the sister vessel above and below was launched in July 1921 in Duluth as Interwaterways Line 105. The ghost writing in the photo below says Michigan, the name she carried during the years she ran bulk caustic soda between the Michigan Alkali plant in Wyandotte MI and Jersey City NJ via the Erie Canal.  Anyone local have photos of this vessel in the sixth boro or the Hudson River?  I have a photo of her taken in 1947 transiting a lock in the NYS Canal system, but I’ll hold off on posting that for a few weeks when the stories come out. What you’re looking at above and below is the remnants of a vessel currently one century and one month old. 

The Interwaterways Line boats were designed by Capt. Alexander McDougall, who also designed the whalebacks of the Great Lakes, like Meteor. Here‘s a whole blog devoted to McDougall’s whalebacks.

This ferry used to run between Newburgh and Beacon;  on this day in August 2011, we just rowed our boat onto the auto deck.

At the beginning of this post I mentioned Hurricane Irene and going over to South Street Seaport Museum.  Two of these vessels here have seen a lot of TLC$ in the past decade. That’s a good ending for now.  Helen, with the McAllister stack, is still afloat and waiting.

All photos in August 2011, WVD.

A final sentiment on Graves of Arthur Kill . . . Gary Kane and I set out to document what was actually in this much-discussed boneyard;  we wanted to name and show what existed, acknowledge what had existed but was already gone, and dispel some of the legends of this place.  We were both very proud of the work and happy with this review in  Wired magazine.  If you still want to write a review, get in touch.  It would be like writing a series review of Gilligan’s Island, but still a worthy exercise.


During this part of August 36 years ago, Freeport boat builder Al Grover was headed for Europe, one of my favorite local stories.  Hear him tell parts of it here, and yes, he fell overboard during the trip.  Yes, he went to Europe in one of his own 26′ boats.


He had three Evinrude outboards strapped onto this transom for the crossing;  while the boat was on the other side of the Atlantic, of course he had to follow that huge coastline to overnight in the cove in front of Evinrude‘s ancestral home. There are lots of photos and a map in the link in the previous sentence. The inventor of the first practical and reliable outboard engine came to the US from Sweden when he was about five.

All photos in Freeport NY, WVD.  Pay respects to his feat along the nautical mile there.

Have a favorite local sea story?  We know there are more than commonly known.  Leave it in the comments?


But first, a reader “read” my mind and asked a question about the image below from this post a while back:  what are the square “hatches” directly below the wheelhouse glass?  Are they square porthole covers?  Another question while we’re back at this image, did that “upper wheelhouse” design work well?  How much additional visibility did a helmsman get?  Did they leak?  How was it raised/lowered?

Canal users have experienced some “section closures” this summer due to gear breakage, rainy-induced flooding, and wall collapse and subsequent low water.   A healthy attitude for canal transits is a willingness to smell the flowers, explore the small towns.

In the photo above, the small sailboat is second from the left.  Bravo to anyone who does long journeys in a 25′ sailboat, as here in the port of Lyons.

Next stop, Port of Newark saw a two-week “making merry” as shallow areas to the west made it prudent to stay put between E-28B and E-29.

Rarely has Newark seen this many boats, tied up on both walls.


To the west, water levels were still low between E-29 and E-30, because of a breach.

And this has to win some awards for Bob, as a heron stands guard while Knotugal enters.

All photos, Bob Stopper.  And for full disclosure, these photos were taken in Wayne County NY, where I grew up.



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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.

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October 2021