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In the first installment of this series, I mentioned photographers.

They/we do trip over each other trying for that perfect shot.  Imagine how many heads and elbows have intruded on my careful framings.

The need to protect electronic/optical gear from rain enforces unusual costumes, quickly ditched when precipitation stops.

The parade attracts automobiles as well as exhibitionists, and this photographer seems to have missed that lovely Chevy passing her by, unless

she was trying to capture this Mercury.

Cars aplenty and supporting causes, and even

tractors  . . . might serve as props for urban cinematic settings….

Finally, mermaids seem to be as opinionated as the rest of the population these days, some even

escorting aliens from far beyond the planet.

For next year, consider putting together a uniform with a friend, or even

bringing your place of employment to the streets of Coney.

By now, I’m looking for photos folks took during the 2018 parade.

All photos here by Will Van Dorp.



The parade lasted at my location from 1300 until 1530 . . . so many more photos–a few hundred–stay in the archives.  This last installment can be called vehicles and politics, although political caricature might be more accurate.

A few days before the parade, my friend Orlando Mendez caught these three vessels headed eastbound, just off the beach.  Yes, three.  Notice the front of the bow of a tug on the far side of the lead houseboat.  Anyone know who that was?

Maybe it was a mermaid trojan vessel . . . since a certain resemblance can be seen here . . .  I don’t know the name of this silvery submarine . . .

Behold the flying merlendas . . .

Andy Golub‘s creations,

a Farmall ratrod,

a Ford red belly,


clever signs,

the repurposed composting true that

allows me to get a self-portrait  (Notice how few spectators surround me . . . .),

floats with

cheery self-takers,

and then the politicizers and caricaturists…

I wonder . . . this looks like the crowned figure made an appearance


All photos by Will Van Dorp.


Yesterday’s post was the lead-up.  The parade never starts until the man with the Coney drum steps out.

This year mermaid queen was Debbie Harry.

After that, it was lots of dancing and music. . . .  click here to listen to Fogo Azul’s Brazilian sound.  See more Fogo AzulNYC here.

I love the beer can on the drum here, and

the edginess of playing an electric oud in the rain . . . Gypsyfunksquad . . . I made a video of them last year here.

The fog and showers seemed to animate the musicians and dancers, and



heighten the colors, like

this fierce contender, whom I

had gotten a close-up of earlier.

I’ll wager there were more people in the parade than watching it, generally a boon for photographers….



Crop rotation mermaids included soybeans, wheat, and  . . .



Colors and hoops and

. .  . crescents or arcs?

Colors abound but

this has to be the strangest dazzling costume ever . . .

All photos by Will Van Dorp.  Tomorrow . . . the odd bedfellows of mermaids, vehicles, and politics.



Here’s the most explicit explanation ever on this blog about Coney Island–part of Brooklyn–and the parade that’s happened there each summer solstice since   . . . time immemorial almost.  Today’s Daily News used adjectives like dreary, gloomy, and unruly to describe the day . . . .  Unruly? . . . we’ve been an unruly nation since even before the merfolk started coming ashore.  Dreary and gloomy . . . we’re talking about creatures who spend their lives in the watery parts of the world;  as they assembled, they seemed delighted to have only some water.  The NYPost actually got the story better this time.  These merfolk musicians played their hearts out in the rain. . .

These danced on sidewalks as they splashed their way to the gathering point . . .

hopping puddles with all their appendages and finery  . . .

But this year I first noticed the checkpoints merfolk had to negotiate  . . .

I don’t know if TSA served as consultant here.  I’ll call the gatekeepers MSA, and

they were pleasant .. .


as were merfolk.

From inside the gathering point, Ford’s Amphitheater, a human version of a hermit crab’s shell . . . some thrashed about,

others–although this may be a terrestrial wearing deepwater shoes– looked longfully out to the wet streets where they preferred to be,

some mimicked rain,

some imitated human material culture they’d seen around the sixth boro,

some rehearsed their music,

and others just showed the souvenirs they’d purchased during their annual shore leave.

All photos by Will Van Dorp.  More to come tomorrow and Tuesday.  Click here for previous mermaid posts on tugster.

I’d be interested in hearing from the Netherlands where the Coney Island event has spawned a Dutch version, called Zeemeerminnen parade . . .


With apologies to Johna, here are the pastries, a merman,

a merbike, but no meryak!!  Guess that one will challenge us til next year.

Horns aplenty  (more than in Pamplona Seattle)  feted the solstice, as did

hooks on lures,

harlequins of

many genres,

spiral horned,

orchestrated horns,

harlequins with parasols,

and here . . . beyond the cowboy in blue toga, library maids and masters with a classic edition of Jules Verne . . . .

By the next day, revelry had migrated to Red Hook, where theatrical scenes of fund-raising on behalf of PortSide NewYork took place, involving officers of

someone’s flotilla bearing keys to the city.  By the way, if you can make it to the Community Board 1 meeting TONIGHT by 6 pm, I’ll see you there.  Important! 

And someone commented . .  asking what this mermaidographer looked like, click here and go to #9;  thanks for these to Claudia Hehr.

Cheers.  Summer is here . . . and I may tomorrow be agallivantin . . .

Meanwhile, if anyone got good pics of the librarian mermaid/mermen contingent . . .  please share?

aka  . .  pastries pasties and paint, starting with the self-described  “naked cowgirl.”







put up






See you at south Brooklyn aka Isle of Coney next year.

Happy summertime.

All fotos by Will Van Dorp.

Coney Island–the reef–has existed within the sixth boro since time immemorial, this gathering has occurred since 1983, and tugster has blogged it since 2007, drawn by the natural beauty of creatures–like this one— with

their altruistic sensibilities, their

bio-diversity, their

breathing behavior in dry–if muggy- air, and … more.

But I couldn’t help noticing yesterday that  . . . as the mermaids school on this reef, so does another species . . . camera-bearers.  Even chief-liaison Dick Zigun has cameras turned on him.

And mermaids themselves sport cameras, maybe as mimicry.

But yesterday the camera-bearers were everywhere!

They schooled–dare I say swarmed–each time a seamaid emerged out of the reef.

Not that the mercreatures seemed to perceive threat;  in fact,

 it looked like mutual enjoyment

a case of fun, fanfare,

flourish, and frippery.

And camera-bearers feasted at every turn.

And how do you suppose I got these fotos of

such lovely creatures, who

traveled by a range of


More on that tomorrow . . . and the pasties and paint verson of the story.

OK, all fotos here by Will Van Dorp.

Totally related:  in the third foto from end above . . . one mermaid sported a tugboat atop her hear but my shot was blurry.  Also, I missed a shot of the “librarian mermaids,”  which, if anyone got, I’d love a link or a copy.

In recent years, the villains have included developers and politicians.  Let’s see if you can guess who got pilloried in 2010.  I give no clues, although I will show dirty pictures.

Eeeew!  Sullied skin and scales;  sticky besmirching gunk!

A polluted sea on the sidewalk,

such beauty begrimed,

a beached fowl befilthed by a fouling foam,

a pestiferous plague on pickup and passengers,  and

all drawing out righteous indignation.

Face it . . . many of us  are traumatized  . . .  and what can we do?

In the Gulf of Mexico and many other places our consumption has brewed a cruddy, nasty, soiled, nasty, stinky concoction that

chokes when brought to the mouth.

The sea . .. and the land and the shoreline are

yours and ours.  But how do we claim what is ours?

What must we all do to save beauty from beastliness?

Click here to see Rick (old salt’s) post with a great clip of the becrowning of Laurie Anderson and Lou Reed.  Here’s Lou Reed’s “coney island baby.”  From frogma, musica!

All fotos by Will Van Dorp.

Some related pieces:  a Frank Rich essay from Sunday’s NYTimes that I like, oil spills we don’t hear about,  a cautionary tale from Nigeria where oil has issued forth since 1958, info and pix about the momentous 1969 oil spill off Santa Barbara, and an article about life of the crew of vessel known as OCS-G 32306 integral to efforts at end this nightmare.

So who was the villain here?

My gratitude to all the performers for their theatre of grief.

Coney Island has such a distinct culture that the sixth boro (the watery parts between the five terra-boros) should just annex it.

Very introductory but fascinating  history of Coney’s evolution can be had in these short articles by Lisa Iannucci, Jeffrey Stanton, and Laurence Aurbach Jr. One theme of these articles is that Coney has a rich history of  inverting the genteel norms, entertaining rather than uplifting, dissolving the distinction between audience and performer, and (for a holiday) legitimizing some folks’ ideas of the illegitimate.  (Some of those phrases come from the lecture by Goeff Zylstra recently at Alongtheshore.)  It sounds like the alongshore of Coney makes a candidate for the capital of the sixth boro, and the Mermaid Parade its official holiday.

May these few fotos whet your appetite!  Doubleclick enlarges.  More tomorrow.  I took this foto almost immediately after arriving yesterday, and I was so happy I could have gone home satisfied.  Mermaids exude such grace!

Dick Zigun, mayor of Coney,  leads off the 20th annual parade.  Thanks for ALL your efforts, Dick and crew.  Oceans of appreciation to all the performers!

King Neptune and Queen Mermaid aka Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson ride the ceremonial cart.

Charm and


Fun for all ages, youngsters

of all ages:  THIS is the circus that has come to Coney.

Beplumed posteriors and

profiles,  they have given me a smile I can’t erase for days, months even.

Those black smudges . . . yeah, the parade did have its dirty parts, but for that, your patience until tomorrow is required.

All fotos by Will Van Dorp.

Tugster has never devoted an entire post to a book, until now.  But not every book is this much fun.  I chose to do this review not because I was asked or because I plan to start reviewing books as a routine feature  (although I might).  I read a book that was a great, light, winter-cabin-read that you might like too.  It’s The Forgotten Voyage of HMS Baci, whose complete title goes on as “The Quest of Sir Edmund Roberts for Sea Maidens & Masters in the Seven Seas.  The Companion Volume to the Sea Maiden Paintings by Robert Kline.”

One of the fascinating currents in the novel is the dialogue between an ancient sailor and the adventuresome, aristocratic naturalist, so I could lengthen the title even more to “or how Sir Edmund, not a sailor but yet a good sort for a gentleman, gets an education albeit reluctantly from an old, grizzled, besotted salt called ‘Gnarly Dan.’”  Of course, Sir Edmund had schooling in the arts of painting, sciences, and artillery;  Gnarly Dan just complemented that with observations from  those watery areas where Sir Edmund was ignorant.  An even longer sub-sub title appears on page 10, but you might search that out yourself.

In the first chapter (called “Sighting One,” since the novel is divided into 57 sightings of sea folk), Kline describes Dan as “good hearted and garrulous, filling all voids with words . . . crafted to disseminate his boundless knowledge of all things nautical real or imagined.  He spoke at length and without pause of distant lands, whales, flying carpets, magnificent storms, strange peoples, and fantastic animals.”  He was so verbose that “[this] source of sea maiden lore [produced] more words than the average individual hears in ten lifetimes.” Understand, though, only toward the end of the novel did  Sir Edmund become receptive to Dan’s wisdom;  on one occasion early on, the aristocrat, burdened with all the class biases against a sailor’s empirical knowledge, promised Dan that, “if you have the temerity to open your mouth one more time I shall kill you dead.  Here.  Now.  Not once, but twice.  And the second time will be more painful than the first.”  Silence ensued, for a few minutes.

More on the dialogues of Sir Edmund and Gnarly Dan later, but this tale is ambitious in its search for fun.  Take the second word of the title:  forgotten.  In the world of the novel, this voyage is forgotten aka suppressed, redacted out of official history to avoid some national embarrassments such as the following:  HMS Baci was previously known as  . . . HMS Bounty.  You’re thinking . . . but Fletcher Christian and his mutineers burned Bounty after retreating to Pitcairn Island.  Not true in Kline’s novel . . . it’s a cover story.  Likewise, did you ever hear about the oldest US warship USS Constitution being hijacked and sailed by bloodthirsty pirate called Naughty Nat and his crew including the nefarious twins Naughty Natalie and Nasty Natalie?  Again, that story was suppressed, redacted, and since then forgotten.  On the circumnavigation chartered by Sir Edmund, Baci also crosses paths with a certain HMS Beagle engaged in some obscure scientific expedition of its own and an American vessel named Pequod, obsessed with its own commercial or otherwise quest.

As to tools, the 1831 expedition uses a diving bell. While put into Hamilton, Bermuda for repairs and refitting after a skirmish with pirates that also claimed the sanity of the initial Captain Fitzwillie, Sir Edmund discovers an experimental diving bell devised in 1690 by Edmund Halley, he of the comet fame. Many of the dialogues between naturalist and salt take place inside the bell, with references there and elsewhere to Archimedes, Leonardo DaVinci, William Congreves, David Bushnell, and the USS Constellation.

Having gone insane, Captain Fitzwillie gets replaced by none other than his wife, Constance Daphne, described initially as “one of the largest women in London”  . . . one who “made but three friends in her adolescence, they being breakfast, lunch, and dinner.”  After the erstwhile captain’s demise, Constance Daphne Fitzwillie put everyone including herself on half rations and “pounds fell from her like days from the calendar.”  Soon the half-starved Bacis were “to a man prepared to follow their ‘newly svelte’ captain anywhere.”  And in rousing the crew to battle, she says, “I have never known a man to use his cannon” . . .  uh . . . so well . . .  and “It’s a pleasure to see you handle your balls and guns with such skill.  My crew gleaming with hard-won sweat and manhandling so much heavy iron is in my thoughts at night.”

Fantastic facts gleaned from the dialogue between Gnarly Dan and the skeptical naturalist include courting habits of sea maidens and masters (a female sea maiden has all the control although a lake maiden is submissive to lake masters), a sea maiden chooses only one mate for life and if that love is lost, she will “rips out the page involvin’ love from her chart book . . . and nary love again.”  He also describes a sea maiden’s transformation during pregnancy (her hair turns white for the duration then returns to its normal color post-partum), and even child care.  Listen to Gnarly calm Sir Edmund when the naturalist sees hundreds of “unattended” sea babies and fears the worst:

“They mum’s ‘d be out there. They’s hobnobbin’ an; catchin’ up on sea maiden news.  They all meets here, then leaves the young ‘uns on the island an’slips off for a watch or two ta just be together an’ chat.

Sir Edmund was adrift. “Why would they do such a thing?” he inquired, obviously at a loss.

Gnarly Dan looked at the naturalist as if he’d been born that morning.  “Has his Honor ever been in close quarters with a little ‘un day after day?  … Them mums needs ta get away or they’ll go daft.  At last count I got ‘bout a dozen little nippers me self an’ a good three year voyage is a nice break.  It’s why I goes ta sea.”

Kline sprinkles an ever-so-subtle environmental subtext in relation to some lost sea babies led to their mothers by a sea turtle.  Sea maidens leave a trail of bubbles for the babies to follow, we learn;  each bubble contains a mother’s sweet air, her unique breath, to lead the baby back home; however, the “river of whale blood and viscera” trailing a vessel like Pequod disrupts the bubble trail and babies get “as lost as a blind man inna gale,” although “all yer sea creatures takes care a one another.”

Robert Kline also does the artwork shown here.  Each chapter begins with a line drawing of the maiden, master, or baby sighted in the chapter, but the giclee prints are much more attractive.  The prints caught my eye and led me to the book, which I’m glad I bought.  I went through the 245 pages in less than two days because it offered me what I wanted around New Year’s, a tall tale.  And with the companion art, Kline gives a new sense to what’s today called the graphic novel.

I’m moved to paraphrase Ecclesiastes 3:    “A time to every purpose: a time for labor and a time for sleep,  for gales and for calms, for pralines and for hard tack, for coffee and for grog.  And a season for every type of book:  a time for Moby Dick and a time for HMS Baci.”

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