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John B. Caddell headed past Governor’s Island this drizzly morning for another load of oil and . . .

almost crossed paths with Mary Whalen, floating ambassador of Portside New York, getting shifted up to Pier 2 to host graduation ceremonies for New York Harbor School, a very special Brooklyn high school.

Notice one of four NYC waterfalls, that lattice structure rising just beyond the white Governor’s Island ferry.

Just south of pier 2 the tow does a counterclockwise 180 degrees; watch the orientation of Taurus and Mary Whalen relative to Manhattan in the background.

Counterclockwise . . .

(Imagine this spin to tango music)

. . . and then once inside the piers



Fancy driving;

precision movements.

Once the bowspring line is on a bollard,

the spin ends. Soon all lines are made fast and gangplank deployed. Behold a spectacular graduation platform for Harbor School, currently a high school in Bushwick. Read a post I did about this school over a year ago.

Taurus backs away and does a repeat

clockwise turn and reports for . . .

the next assignment, another local shift or something longer. Meanwhile, the ambassador, is prepping for pomp and circumstance. Join me in extending congratulations to the high schoolers; I hope these seniors read this to get a sense of the “fancy driving” that set up the evening to honor them. And honored they should be.

To quote Portside’s press release: “In 2004, Bushwick High School’s graduation rate was 23%. It was then divided into three small schools, one of them being New York Harbor School, an Urban Assembly school. Working with the same population of low-income minorities, the Harbor School has achieved new levels of excellence: This year, they expect a graduation rate close to 80%. Almost all graduates have applied and been accepted to college. The 2008 class slogan is ‘Finally, out of the fish tank into the sea.'”

Photos, WVD.

At the appointed hour, a tug sidles up and the deckhand handily lassos the midships bitt on Whalen‘s port side. Step one in “making the tow” is about to happen.



In minutes Mary Whalen and Nathan E. Stewart are ready to tango . . .



with these two connections and one on the stern.


When the order is given, dock lines are cast off and the band strikes up with some march music. Hungry March . . . maybe like the month we’re about to enter?



Whalen‘s Fairbanks-Morse diesel is still dormant but, after drumsticks exit the boots, adequate energy emanates from the percussion and winds as they jam with Nathan E. Stewart‘s twin Cummins, and soon musical spirit and 3200 horsepower move the watermelon red tanker onto the dance floor . . . or at least into the Buttermilk Channel



and then it’s Brooklyn Bridge-bound on the Buttermilk . . .



(to be continued)

So I planned to do a review of Il Tabarro with fotos, and I had a problem, a really big one.



When I tried to get a foto of the cash bar area, Mary Whalen intruded.



I wanted to capture the decor and 1938 fork truck set, Mary crept in.



I wanted a shot of just the mermaids greeting opera goers, and in the background, the lady in black nudged her way in.



When I tried to get a foto of just the river and island background, Mary A. Whalen nosed in.



When a fireboat happened by to anoint the show, once again the Whalen did her thing and loomed.



And check out her bling! Says she in the voice of a very high trafficked blog, “i can has navigashun lights?”

Seriously, I loved the show: singing, costumes and staging, orchestra, lighting, blocking, even the Italian, the unusual venue. But I have to admit, as I watched, a thought that intruded was, “Mary Whalen, you’re such a diva. Your engine is shot. Your systems are way past their prime. But as a hull, you still know how to move. You danced in tempo with the show. With your pitching and rocking, even a little yaw now and again, you captured and heightened the emotion of each moment: alienation, loneliness, sensuality, jealousy, desperation, rage, horror. You got it down. You’re such a diva, MW.” Bravo VPR , bravo portside, bravo American Stevedoring Inc. Bravissimo Mary Whalen.

PS:  The 9/24 New Yorker (page 48) refers to MW as “a Red Hook barge,” and nothing more.  Fie!

Photos, Will Van Dorp.


What’s this red vessel?


>>a sibling of this recently drydocked vessel along Staten Island’s tug alley? YES!

>>the stage for an opera performance, Il Tabarro—Giacomo Puccini‘s steamy opera about adultery and murder on a barge in Paris? YES!

Actually I’m relaying a call for

Volunteers!Sundays, 1-6pm followed by BBQ. Please pass the word even if you can’t join.


Carolina, who says “We could use your help. It’s always fun around PortSide. Folks of all ages, skill and fitness levels welcome.


next chance: this Sun 7/29/07 1-6pm, followed by BBQ
please chip in at least two hours

We are installing PortSide’s offices aboard the tanker, so tasks include refinishing two metal desks, and moving file cabinets, bookcases, and boxes from pier to ship. If we get a lot of people, we’ll do some other work on the ship (moving stuff, putting chafing gear on docklines)

Wear clothes you can get dirty. Bring workgloves if you have them.

When n Where:

aboard the Mary Whalen. Enter gate for American Stevedoring/Brooklyn Marine Terminal at Hamilton Avenue and Van Brunt Street.

Due to port security regulations, you must RSVP so we can get a list of names to the Guard. RSVP to Bring a photo ID to show the guard at the gate. We’’ll pick you up at the gate if you don’’t have a car.


Please pass the word!”

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June 2021