The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Tugboat

marine things

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R.I.P John Skelson.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another member of “Team Bernie” has left us, this time it’s photographer John Skelson. John was a life long Staten Islander who spent a lot of his time on the North Shore along the Kill Van Kull photographing passing ships. Working Harbor Committee alumni, John produced shots for the WHC blog’s Friday feature – Ship Spotting with Skelson. Ship Spotting got John noticed by the NY Times and others, and happily I can report that during his final years he enjoyed a certain notoriety in maritime circles. He’s survived by his wife, Phyllis Featherstone.

That’s John Skelson pictured above, at his office on the Kill Van Kull, just a few months before he died.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week, in his honor, a few of us met up at Skelson’s office to collect a few shots and reminisce. Will Van Dorp from tugster.com showed up onboard the NY Media Boat. Afterwards, we retired to Liedy’s Shore Inn, drank a beer or two, and then headed back to other parts of the archipelago.

You people have no idea how connected all of us are to each other, out there on the edge of the water.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Team Bernie, as mentioned above, was the collection of harbor rats, rail enthusiasts, and antiquarians whom photographer Bernie Ente included on his adventures. Bernie went first, cancer. John Doswell went next, cancer. Skelson just died, cancer.

And you people wonder why I’m so obsessed with what’s lurking in the water. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

John Skelson was a good and kind man, as were Bernie Ente and John Doswell. He, and they, are dearly missed. The collective knowledge which died with them, which will be lost to time, is irreplaceable. Bernie, also a photographer left behind a wife and daughter, who are doing fine last I heard. Capt. Doswell’s wife Jeanne is still one of the operative and moving gears which allows Working Harbor Committee to continue.

And you people wonder why I blog every day, and kiss Our Lady of the Pentacle every chance I get.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s the worst part of growing older – just at that moment when you’ve got yourself figured out, know what and who you actually are – that’s when it comes. All the wasted time and emotional tumult, all the troubles and tribulations, just at the point when you’ve “figured your shit out” is when it all ends. That’s when all that’s left are clothes, papers and possessions, and someone you love finds themselves alone. There’s some truth to the concept that the person that suffers least is the one who died. Saying that, cancer.

And you people wonder why I’m the guy with the sign boards in Times Square that say “the end is nigh.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is Skelson’s Office. The tracks of the Staten Island Railroad are still there, at the corner of Richmond Terrace and Bard Avenue, between the gas station parking lot and the water. A general call is going out to the maritime community to refer to it as such. For those of you interested in photographing the show along the Kill Van Kull, Skelson’s Office is available for new tenants. Bring a zoom lens, and dress warm. Get there early, stay there late. NY Harbor never disappoints.

And you people wonder why I talk about legacy and “passing it on” so much. 

Also, on a completely different note:

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Want to get involved in the future of the Montauk Cutoff? A “visioning meeting” will be taking place tonight (December 2nd) at LIC’s Nomad Cycle (47-10 Austell Pl, Queens, NY 11101), between 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. There will be snacks!

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

December 2, 2015 at 11:00 am

land adjacent

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Reinauer’s Matthew Tibbets Tug, Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned, one is taking a short break – hence the singular image which greets you above. Back soon with new stuff.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 13, 2015 at 11:00 am

swinging and plunging

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It’s all so depressing.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Not too long ago, a humble narrator left HQ and soon found himself at Hells Gate. One always finds it amazing how alone you can feel when surrounded by literally thousands of people, but there you go. Melancholy and regret notwithstanding, it was decided to sit down and watch the surrounding city for a spell from a stationary vantage point.

“Winter is coming” is what was on my mind.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Off in the distance – a tugboat was towing a barge down the East River from the direction of Flushing Bay, and since there was literally nowhere else for me to go, I sat and waited for it to transit.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The tug was the McAllister Girls. The fuel barge it was towing was clearly empty, given how high it was riding in the swirling maelstroms of the Hells Gate section of the estuarine East River.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The background was provided by the DEP’s Wards Island plant, where centrifugal machinery separates a pestilence of filth out of a watery solution which the sewer people refer to as “honey” but the rest of just call “sludge.” In NY Harbor, it is difficult to avoid fecal matter, as the harbor is full of it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The currents in this section of the river, spanned by both Triborough and Hell Gate bridges, are notorious and powerful. Once, Hells Gate was a breaker of ships and consumer of lives, before the Army Corps of Engineers exploded the underwater geology which promulgated the formation of whirlpools and ripping tides.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Even today, it takes a bit of skill – and a powerful set of engines – for Mariners to conquer the cross currents and tidal action of Hells Gate. It’s nowhere close to the historical force of water, spoken about with awe and respect by sailors in the historical record, but this stretch of the river is still fairly treacherous.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

McAllister Girls, of course, managed Hells Gate with little trouble. The tug and barge continued along, entering the east channel of the river and continuing along to the south. Likely, she was headed for Kill Van Kull or Arthur Kill to drop off the empty barge and begin the process of moving another full one to some farm of coastal fuel tanks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It was all pretty depressing though. Winter is coming.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

October 10th, 2015
Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour
with Atlas Obscura, click here for details and tickets

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 1, 2015 at 2:30 pm

hewing in

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A few shots from the Great North River Tugboat Race, in today’s post

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When the wheel of the year rolls around to Labor Day weekend, a humble narrator always has plans.

The Great North River Tugboat Race, produced by the Working Harbor Committee, occurs on the Sunday of Labor Day weekend. This year, 12 tugs raced from the boat basin at 79th street (well, Pier I, technically) to 42nd street right by the Intrepid. The winner, I believe, was the red McAllister tug pictured above.

Why not swing over to working harbor to check out the official results? My colleague John Skelson also has a whole series of shots of the race running there as well.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After the race, the tugs get into a “tug of war” competition. They go nose to nose and push each other around. This contest is about a lot more than just raw horsepower, it’s about the skill of the captains and how they handle their boats.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Far and away, my favorite part of the Great North River Tugboat Race is the line toss competition. During this part of the event, the tugs come in at speed towards a bollard on the pier, and deckhands throw the heavy rope at it in an attempt to “get it in one.”

There’s also a spinach eating competition, because as every sailor knows – you’re strong to the finach if you eats your spinach.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

September 20th, 2015
Glittering Realms Walking Tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, click here for details and tickets

twining tightly

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Tugboats, tugboats, tugboats – in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A recent Working Harbor Committee excursion to Port Elizabeth Newark was particularly photogenic. We’ve entered into “that time of the year,” wherein the angle of the light emanating from the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself is propitious to photographic pursuit. From now until mid November, and again in the March to June period, the light is just right.

Pictured above are the Liberty Service and Marion Moran tugs at full steam on the Kill Van Kull.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Kirby Moran, which is a new boat for me, with the Bayonne Bridge as back drop, was observed over in Newark Bay.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

DonJon Towing’s Emily Ann was headed north in Newark Bay, with the titanic Global Marine Terminal behind her.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Not sure which tug this was, as I couldn’t spot a name or IMO number on her, but she was docked at Governor’s Island – on the south or Buttemilk Channel side, with some old French chick standing behind the barge she was tending.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of Buttermilk Channel, Mary H. was towing a fuel barge past Atlantic Basin when I spotted her. I know where Mary H. was likely headed for – East Williamsburg’s Metropolitan Avenue – and the Bayside fuel depot found 3.1 miles from the East River on the English Kills tributary of my beloved Newtown Creek.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

September 3rd, 2015
Newtown Creek Boat Tour
with Open House NY, click here for details and tickets.

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 24, 2015 at 11:00 am

hath looked

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The Tug Sea Lion, at Newtown Creek, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When one was onboard that Anchor QEA excursion mentioned last week (the post with the shot of those cool storm clouds blowing in), the Sea Lion tug appeared. She was towing an empty garbage barge, and navigating down the East River. Whenever one of these towing vessels nears my vantage in this part of the harbor, even one as loathsome as myself can grow excited.

The backgrounds which they move against are… iconic… to say the least.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Freedom Tower, or One World Trade if you must, has assumed this sort of iconic “gravitas” despite its relatively short period of tenancy in the skyline of the Shining City. Thing is, if you are after instant recognition, nothing beats either the Empire State or Chrysler buildings for saying “New York City.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sea Lion entered Reach A of the Newtown Creek, heading eastwards. I’ve asked around a bit about the whole “Marion or Reach A,” “Reach B,” thing, btw. My maritime chums, and in this case an actual Ships Captain, have all related that the “reach” thing is how far you can navigate based on a single compass heading.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sea Lion was witnessed delivering it’s empty barge to SimsMetal, and exchanging the thing for a filled up one. The cargo onboard the barge is full of recyclable materials which the company will process at one of its other facilities.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

July 12th, 2015
Glittering Realms – Greenpoint, Brooklyn Walking Tour
with Newtown Creek Alliance, click here for details and tickets.

July 26th, 2015
Modern Corridor – LIC, Queens Walking Tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, click here for details and tickets.

tricky twists

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Part of America’s Maritime Super Highway, Newtown Creek is.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Some of my friends in the “human powered boating” community (kayakers, but they prefer the “human powered” nomen, and trust me on this – don’t argue with the kayak people, as they are kind of like a cult) had an event a couple of weeks back. Long Island City Boat House and Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, and a few Queens based organizations including Green Shores, paddled from Anable Basin on LIC’s East River frontage over to North Brooklyn Community Boat Club on Newtown Creek in Greenpoint and they asked me to get shots of them doing so.

Me, I’m a maritime industrial guy. Kayak shots ain’t my kind of thing, but if a friend asks for a favor…

After capturing their departure from Anable Basin, I headed over to the Boat Club in Brooklyn’s DUPBO (Down Under the Pulaski Bridge Onramp) and along came the tugboat Dory. Whew, praise Superman.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A 1978 vintage tug, Dory is owned by Coastal Gulf and Marine Transport of Syossett, New York. You can find out all the details on her prior owners, tonnage, and onboard capabilities at the excellent tugboatinformation.com site. Dory was towing an empty barge eastward along the barge, and I would hazard the guess – based on the sort of barge unit employed – that they were heading for either Brooklyn’s Allocco recycling or Queens’ SimsMetal recycling.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Kayak Crew arrived, and the sun set over DUPBO. Pictured above is the Pulaski Bridge, and as the North Brooklyn Boat Club folks acted hospitably towards their guests from the North the sky grew dark.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Luckily, just as a humble narrator was packing up the lenses and camera, Dory returned and was towing a flat top barge while headed westerly towards the East River. Score!

As a note, it’s referred to as towing whether the tug is pushing or pulling.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Also, as a note, this whole environmental craze – epitomized by a tree growing from the Brooklyn side of the fabled Newtown Creek – tends to be ruinous in certain shots. Freaking nature, occluding the Empire State Building. Bah!

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

July 12th, 2015
Glittering Realms Walking Tour
with Newtown Creek Alliance, click here for details and tickets.

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 30, 2015 at 11:00 am

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