The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

minute glimpses

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One last stop at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, this time with FDNY.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over the years, there have been plenty of shots offered at this – your Newtown Pentacle – of the Marine 1 unit (and their boats) here at the Navy Yard, but all of those photos have been shot from the deck of a boat. For today’s post, here’s what you can see from the landward side.


Marine 1 was the first Marine Company formed in the City of New York. We have moved several times over the years (find out more on our history page). We are on call and respond to 560 miles of waterfront surrounding the City of New York. These waterways are among the busiest in the world, used for both shipping and enjoyment. Along with the other two fireboats and a total of four small rapid response boats, we protect the people of New York as well as those visitors who are just passing through.

Marine 1 is manned by a crew of seven; an officer, a pilot, two engineers, and two firefighters.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Like all boat yards, the winter is a great time to see what their “rolling stock” looks like, as a significant number of their boats are up on blocks awaiting the attention and repairs of ship wrights and mechanics. The large steel structure at the right of the shot is a boat crane, used for lifting vessels in and out of the water. Notice the fact that it’s in Fire Department red, and you’ll know who owns the thing.

from wikipedia

On the eve of World War II, the yard contained more than five miles (8 km) of paved streets, four drydocks ranging in length from 326 to 700 feet (99 to 213 meters), two steel shipways, and six pontoons and cylindrical floats for salvage work, barracks for marines, a power plant, a large radio station, and a railroad spur, as well as the expected foundries, machine shops, and warehouses. In 1937 the battleship North Carolina was laid down. In 1938, the yard employed about ten thousand men, of whom one-third were Works Progress Administration (WPA) workers. The battleship Iowa was completed in 1942 followed by the Missouri which became the site of the Surrender of Japan 2 September 1945. On 12 January 1953, test operations began on Antietam, which emerged in December 1952 from the yard as America’s first angled-deck aircraft carrier.

The US Navy took possession of PT 109 on 10 July 1942, and the boat was delivered to the Brooklyn Navy Yard for fitting.

This boat was sunk in the Pacific in August 1943 and became famous years later when its young commander, Lt. John F. Kennedy, entered politics.

At its peak, during World War II, the yard employed 70,000 people, 24 hours a day.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There was more than one SAFE boat on display at the pier, and these are vessels that I am just fascinated by. Every one of the “services” (Coast Guard, NYPD, even Park Police) has a version of this boat. It adheres to the modern procurement system followed by Federal authorities which describes individual vehicles as all purpose “weapons platforms” that can modified or customized, on a task specific basis, for a particular agency or entity. The Coast Guard has an M60 machine gun mount on theirs, NYPD has a towing system, the FDNY a water monitor (a fire hose).


Developed in a direct response to the need for additional Homeland Security assets in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks, the Defender Class boats were procured under an emergency acquisition authority. With a contract for up to 700 standard response boats, the Defender Class acquisition is one of the largest boat buys of its type in the world. The 100 boat Defender A Class (RB-HS) fleet began arriving at units in MAY 2002 and continued through AUG 2003. After several configuration changes, most notably a longer cabin and shock mitigating rear seats, the Defender B Class (RB-S) boats were born. This fleet was first delivered to the field in OCT 2003, and there are currently 357 RB-S boats in operation.

The 457 Defender Class boats currently in operation are assigned to the Coast Guards Maritime Safety and Security Teams (MSST), Maritime Security Response Team (MSRT), Marine Safety Units (MSU), and Small Boat Stations throughout the Coast Guard. With an overall length of 25 feet, two 225 horsepower outboard engines, unique turning radius, and gun mounts boat forward and aft, the Defender Class boats are the ultimate waterborne assets for conducting fast and high speed maneuvering tactics in a small deployable package. This is evidenced in the fact that several Defender Class boats are already in operation by other Homeland Security Department agencies as well as foreign military services for their homeland security missions.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Apologies are offered for the late posting today, for it seems that the heavy snowfall has affected the Time Warner Cable infrastructure which allows them to deliver Internet access to Newtown Pentacle HQ. The signal has been fading in and out for the last twelve hours or so, which I guess is kind of understandable given conditions here in the frozen zone.

Tomorrow, we go to the edge of the known world, see you then.

from wikipedia

The Yard has three piers and a total of 10 berths ranging from 350 to 890 feet (270 m) long, with ten-foot deck height and 25 to 40 feet (7 to 12 meters) of depth alongside. The drydocks are now operated by GMD Shipyard Corp. A federal project maintains a channel depth of 35 feet (10 m) from Throggs Neck to the yard, about two miles (3 km) from the western entrance, and thence 40 feet (12 m) of depth to the deep water in the Upper Bay. Currents in the East River can be strong, and congestion heavy. Access to the piers requires passage under the Manhattan Bridge (a suspension span with a clearance of 134 feet (41 m) and the Brooklyn Bridge (a suspension span with a clearance of 127 feet (39 m).

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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 22, 2014 at 12:16 pm

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