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The 1968-built  Chemical Pioneer is a long- and multiple-lived vessel.  Here‘s a photo of her, then known as C. V. Sea Witch, in 1970.  She entered history books in the sixth boro on the night of June 1 into 2, 1973, most of you likely know the story of her tragic encounter, fatal for 16 mariners, collision and subsequent fire with SS Esso Brussels, loaded with Nigerian crude. Fire engulfed both ships and as they dragged anchor under the VZ Bridge, threatened the integrity of the bridge.

Thanks to Steve Munoz, here are photos of Esso Brussels taken several months later

at the Todd Shipyard in Hoboken, which closed two years later, part of a cascade of lost shipyards in the sixth boro.

Later that year she was towed to Greece, where she was rebuilt and emerged from the shipyard in 1974 as Petrola XVII.  She carried the name Petrola--with various number suffixes–until she was scrapped in 1985.


Here’s the rebuilt C. V. Sea Witch, now called Chemical Pioneer.


Many thanks for these photos to Steve Munoz, who had been aboard McAllister Bros. with his uncle Capt. Bob Munoz.  I could have called this “Thanks to Steve Munoz 20.”

Unfortunately, the disaster of early June 1973 has not been the only one in sixth boro history.  NY Tugmaster’s Weblog devotes a post to some of these, with three most horrific ones occurring in the month of June.  Many thanks to Capt. Brucato for compiling these with links to the final reports.

Interestingly, the hull of PS General Slocum was converted to a coal barge, and it sank in December 1911.  Texaco Massachusetts was towed to a shipyard,  repaired,  and returned to service, as were two attending tugboats, Latin American and Esso Vermont.  Dramatic photos of the Texaco Massachetts/Alva Cape post-collision fire and rescue efforts can be seen here. Alva Cape was eventually towed 150 miles SE of the Narrows and sunk.

My camera is an opportunistic feeder, and when I saw these (anyone know what they are?) on my way to the water, the camera demanded I linger.  And as I did, I

noticed some orange movement, also unidentified, so I needed to have a closer

look.  Hardly, I thought.

High and wet, it was–I supposed–headed for

sea.  Except . . . why the rumble

of chain, I asked, hoping the crewman had his feet firmly planted.

Or was he trolling for some gargantuan surface feeder?

By the time I’d followed around a point, the hook seemed solidly held in place by a gargantuan bottom, and my camera had just missed a pallet of supplies hoisted off the capacious decks of ABC-1 (See it high and dry in the sixth foto in that link).  Here’s a Don Sutherland article about ABC-1‘s owners.

And as I came around, I spotted another craft on the Un-Stealthy One‘s portside, but I got a clear shot only after

the man standing on the foredeck of Nicholas Miller swung outward from the ladder  he had just descended.  Notice in the foto above anchored off Stena Stealth‘s portside . . .  Chemical Pioneer, not far from where it, as  Sea Witch 37 years ago lost its steering and created its fireball and a major oil spill, by sixth boro standards.

Services need to be rendered before the conspicuous tanker heads for sea.

I hope my camera captures some real stealth in the next post.

Catchups and followups and accountclosings by the end of this month.

All fotos here by Will Van Dorp.

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March 2023