The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Tugboat’ Category

doomed intuitions

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It’s National Chocolate Cupcake Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Legend has it that on one particular evening Mose the Fireboy, who was the legendary “sachem” and hero of the Bowery B’hoys gang in 19th century NYC, heard that a sea serpent had appeared on the East River. Mose, a giant whose legends are similar to those of the gargantuan lumberjack Paul Bunyan, rowed out onto the river and plucked the leviathan from the water with his bare hands. Strangling the monster in his iron grip, Mose then skinned the great beast and brought his prize to McGurk’s Suicide Parlor – a bar formerly found on the west side of the Bowery, nearby Cooper Square at east 4th street. It’s said that the skin hung over the bar afterwards, as a totem of the mysteries of the harbor and testament to the great strength and power of Mose. Mose supposedly could extinguish blazes by clapping his hands and was known to smoke three cigars at the same time. If his horse wasn’t pulling the fire wagon fast enough, Mose would pick up the horse in one hand and the wagon in the other and carry them. Mose the fireboy was apparently quite a fellow, so much so that he was a regular character appearing in Bowery theater productions centered around “life in our town.”

The largest known specie of eel, incidentally, is the European Conger, which is known to grow to lengths of nearly ten feet and achieve body weights of up to 240 pounds. They’re native to the eastern Atlantic Ocean and tend towards the European coastline. They’re carnivorous, feeding on all sorts of deep sea critters, and have been found at depths of up to 3,840 feet. The American Eel is a relative dwarf in comparison, achieving lengths of up to 4 feet and body weights of up to 17 pounds.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The largest living crab, and largest arthropod as well, is the Japanese Spider Crab. Large specimens can spread their clawed arms out to span 18 feet, and they can weigh as much as 42 pounds. Closer to home, the American Lobster (Homarus americanus) is known to achieve weights of 44 pounds and body lengths of two feet – excluding their claws. Both are members of the Malacostraca class of crustaceans, whose ancestors first appear in the fossil record during the Cambrian age. All sorts of large marine animals are spotted in the East River from time to time – including cetaceans like Whales and Dolphins, large bony fish and living fossils like the Sturgeon, and occasionally sea turtles.

The leatherback sea turtle is the largest extant turtle and fourth largest living reptile, and can be found in nearly all of the world’s ocean waters. Leatherbacks can grow to nearly seven feet in length and achieve body weights of up to 2,000 pounds. Sea Turtle ancestry dates back to the Triassic age.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In 1895, the NY Times offered reports of a sea serpent of more than 100 feet in length moving quickly through New York Harbor about a half mile from shore. According to the testimony of one Willard P. Shaw of Wall Street, it repeatedly raised its head out of the water more than ten feet above the waves. Shaw’s story was confirmed by other witnesses.

This sounds like the sort of thing we would need Mose the Fireboy to handle.

Who can guess, all there is, that might be sloshing and swimming around down there?


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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 18, 2017 at 1:00 pm

leaden coffin

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It’s National Pancake Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Note: Flickr seems to be having some issues today, so if the shots in today’s post don’t appear or display “broken” image link icons, it ain’t me.

Last week, I took a new friend over to “Skelson’s office” on the Staten Island side of the Kill Van Kull. My new pal, who is a photographer that I met during the lowering of the Koscisuzcko Bridge truss during the summer, had never been to Kill Van Kull and given that she’s into shooting the same sort of maritime industrial stuff that I am…

“Skelson’s office” is a section of the Staten Island shoreline that another photographer buddy of mine named John Skelson, who has left this world, used to haunt and this was officially his “spot.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

While we were at Skelson’s Office, the usual parade of tugs and barges sailed past, including the gargantua you see in today’s shots. That’s a Jersey City based Weeks Marine maritime crane, specifically the 533. Its boom is 210 feet long and it has a lifting capacity of 500 short tons. That’s 5,392 “regular people” gross tons if you’re curious. If you click over to the Weeks site via this link, you’ll see a space shuttle dangling off of it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There were two tugs guiding the crane along the Kill Van Kull, but the big one doing the actual towing was the Katherine, pictured above. My new pal had her mouth hanging open as this unit passed by, as you don’t see this sort of thing every day.

Well, I do, but there you go.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Found some garbage lying along the shoreline, and since I had to urinate, the big red letters made for a decent enough target. Great, again? America is great, now.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The show continued along the Kill Van Kull and we spent a couple of hours hanging out and photographing the tugs and barges and container ships passing by Skelson’s Office. If you want to see this sort of thing for yourself (I mean tugs and maritime industrial goodness, not me pissing on the word “Trump”) check out the link below for the recently announced Working Harbor Committee boat tour of both Kill Van Kull and Arthur Kill on October 15th.


Upcoming Tours and events

Exploring Long Island City, from Luxury Waterfront to Abandoned Factories Walking Tour,
with NY Adventure Club – Saturday, October 7th, 1 p.m. – 3 p.m.

Long Island City is a tale of two cities; one filled with glittering water-front skyscrapers and manicured parks, and the other, a highly active ground transportation & distribution zone vital to the New York economy — which will prevail? With Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

The Hidden Harbors Of  Staten Island Boat Tour,
with Working Harbor Committee – Sunday, October 15th, 2 p.m. – 4 p.m.

A very cool boat tour that visits two of the maritime industrial waterways of New York Harbor which adjoin Staten Island and Bayonne in New Jersey – The Kill Van Kull and the Arthur Kill. There will be lots of tugboats, cargo docks, and you’ll get to see multiple bridges from the water – including the brand new Goethals Bridge. I’ll be on the mike, narrating with WHC board member Gordon Cooper details here.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

September 26, 2017 at 11:00 am

shrewd guessing

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It’s National Cream Filled Donut Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over the Labor Day weekend, on September the 3rd to be exact, our Working Harbor Committee presented the 25th Annual Great North River Tugboat Race and Competition on the Hudson River. It was raining at a pretty good clip, which kind of sucked, but… tugboat race. I mean… tugboat race.

That’s a brand new tug above, the Capt. Brian A. McAllister.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As is usual for the tug race (this is my seventh or eighth time photographing the event), I was onboard the “official” race boat, but due to the inclement weather and a variety of other conditions, one wasn’t in the best place to shoot the actual race this year. Normally, I like having Manhattan in the background, looking northwards across the competition. Construction barges and other maritime impediments forced the race to occur in the west channel of the river this year, so all you got for background is New Jersey.

No offense to New Jersey is intended, of course, but y’all haven’t got an Empire State Building on your side. It seems nice over there though.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My favorite part of the Tug Race, from a photographic perspective, has always been the line toss competition. That’s Donjon towing’s Mary Alice Tug in the shot above.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This rope was a thrown from a tug based at Millers Landing, the Susan Mller.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Mister T tug also gave it a go.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This one was hurled by a crewman of the tug James William.


Upcoming Tours and events

The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura – Saturday, September 23rd, 11 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Join us on the wrong side of the tracks for an exploration of the hidden industrial heartlands of Brooklyn and Queens, with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

September 14, 2017 at 11:00 am

raiding contingent

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It’s National Sponge Cake Day, followed by the Night of the Living Dead, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A bit of a personal milestone is reached today, as I’ve now been amongst you all for some six hundred months. The last eighteen thousand two hundred and sixty three days have been a mixed bag, overall. Lots of boredom and pedantry, which has been punctuated by pulse pounding terror. Every now and then, one or two of the four hundred and thirty eight thousand, three hundred odd hours which I’ve experienced on this mortal coil hasn’t totally sucked. I’ve met good people, bad people, and have generally gone out of way to try and not hurt anyone who didn’t deserve it.

For all of those times when I’ve been a total asshole to someone during the roughly twenty six point three million minutes I’ve been on this planet, apologies are offered.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s lessons I’ve learned, and mistakes I’ve made which I strive not to repeat. When I was born, Lyndon Baines Johnson was President of the United States (I’ve got a certificate from the White House some where congratulating my parents on my arrival) and the Woodstock festival had just wrapped up. I clearly remember a moon landing, and the Watergate investigations being broadcast live on all three television networks.

I was a weird and lonely kid, and some things never change – even after nearly one point six billion seconds.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One is lost and deep in a “reminisce” today. Trying to remember their faces and to forget all the slings and arrows. Trying to appreciate what I’ve got, and lost, and the pageantry I’ve experienced. Overall I’ve been fairly lucky, as people of high quality who are “above my pay grade” are in my life. Also, I’m thinking about dead friends, and family.

Tonight is the Night of the Living Dead, so perhaps I’ll be seeing some of them as they try to batter in my door to feast.


Upcoming Tours and events

DUPBO Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with NYCH20 – Thursday August 24th, 7 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Explore Greenpoint and Hunters Point, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

America’s Workshop Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with Atlas Obscura – Saturday August 26th, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Explore the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek in Long Island City, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

August 23, 2017 at 12:00 pm

secret assemblages

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It’s National Mac & Cheese Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Well, I guess it’s kind of been “Creek Week” around these parts this last week, so let’s finish things up with a tugboat!

As mentioned in Monday’s post, one has been desirous of capturing a few last shot of the old Koscisuzcko Bridge before its deconstruction is engaged, just for the record… y’know? While setting up my gear for a night shoot, the Donjon Tug Brian Nicholas, which appeared in Wednesday’s post briefly, suddenly appeared. I hadn’t affixed the camera to the tripod yet, so I got busy with the clicking and the focusing.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Brian Nicholas has been in many, many posts at this – your Newtown Pentacle – over the years. Just below is my favorite ever shot of this tug, from 2012.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Some 75 feet long, with a gross tonnage of 104 GRT, the Brian Nicholas is owned by DonJon towing and powered by 2 850 HP engines. Brian Nicholas was built in 1966 and retrofitted in 2010 as a “green tug.”

from docs.google.com

This past June, Donjon completed the top-to-bottom refit and replacement of the main engines, generators, gears and related equipment of its tug Brian icholas. The refit was performed in house at Donjon’s Port Newark, New Jersey facility under the supervision of Donjon’s Gabe Yandoli and Robert Stickles. As a result of the refit, the Brian Nicholas is now a “green” tug, compliant with all applicable EPA and Tier 2 marine emissions regulations.

The rebuild included a repowering of the main propulsion with Cummins K38-M Marine engines, which were specifically developed by Cummins to meet EPA and Tier 2 marine emissions regulations. The new engines also meet the IMO, MARPOL and EU Stage 3A requirements. Similarly, the generators were upgraded to incorporate John Deere 4045TFM75 engines, also Tier 2 compliant. In addition to the replacement of the aforementioned engines, the project required virtually total replacement of exhaust lines and routing of new control lines and panels in the engine room and wheelhouse.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Brian Nicholas was towing a barge of what looked like shredded metals and construction debris, which would mean that it’s coming from one of the waste transfer locations found along the English Kills tributary further east.

As I’ve said in the past – whether they’re pushing or pulling, tugs are always towing – that’s what the term is.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Brian Nicholas was headed for the East River, and ultimately it would likely head over to New Jersey, where the recyclable metals on its barge could be packaged up, loade on a container ship, and be then sold on a global commodities market.

See you next week, with something completely different, at this – your Newtown Pentacle. Also, I’m doing a tour of Dutch Kills tomorrow – come with? I’ll show you something cool.


Upcoming Tours and events

13 Steps Around Dutch Kills Walking Tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance – July 15th, 10 a.m. – 1 p.m..

The “then and now” of Newtown Creek’s Dutch Kills tributary in LIC, once known as the “workshop of the United States.” with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

The Poison Cauldron of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with Atlas Obscura – July 22nd, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m..

Explore the hellish waste transfer and petroleum districts of North Brooklyn on this daring walk towards the doomed Kosciuszko Bridge, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


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odd pantaloons 

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It’s National Fried Chicken Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pondering just what the hell I’m doing with my life is something that happens everytime I cross the Pulaski Bridge, for some reason. As a matter of fact, existential pondering on that subject is a mental activity reserved specifically for crossings of the Pulaski Bridge, and a point is made of not wasting time on such matters elsewhere. I have other locations around Newtown Creek, all of which are assigned to different sets of worries, such as pooping my pants whilst conducting a tour and figuring out how to deal with the public shame and embarrassment (I worry about that at the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge) – but that’s another story.

I’m all ‘effed up. 

Anywho, that’s the Mary H. Tug entering Newtown Creek while towing a fuel barge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Mary H. is a regular on the Newtown Creek, working for the Bayside Fuel people whose facility is coincidentally found alongside the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge, over on the East Williamsburg side of the world. Technically speaking, Bayside Fuel is on the English Kills tributary and if memory serves – they’re 3.1 miles back from the East River.

Personally, I’ve always thought it pretty cool that tugboats service an industrial dock some 3 and change miles deep into Brooklyn, but that’s me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A bunch of the photographers I know have been doing the aerial drone thing of late, so this view of a tug has become rather commonplace in recent years, but I still prefer doing the old fashioned way – finding a high vantage and waiting for it to come to me. I worry about losing my technical edge when I’m over on the Hunters Point Avenue Bridge, if you’re curious. You don’t want to know what I worry about on the Borden Avenue Bridge… brrrr.


Upcoming Tours and events

13 Steps Around Dutch Kills Walking Tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance – July 15th, 10 a.m. – 1 p.m..

The “then and now” of Newtown Creek’s Dutch Kills tributary in LIC, once known as the “workshop of the United States.”with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

July 6, 2017 at 11:30 am

failing light

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It’s National Hazelnut Cake day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the tug Sea Lion in the shot above, hurtling across the Kill Van Kull with an industrial section of Bayonne, New Jersey and the skyline of Lower Manhattan providing a backdrop. One hasn’t been focusing in on the harbor all that much in recent months for one reason or another, but it’s nothing personal, rather it’s an “art” thing. There’s only so many ways to frame and shoot a passing vessel, when you really get down to it. I’ll figure out some way to make it interesting again, as I was trying to do in the shot above by shooting “wide open” and going for depth of field rather than my normal “tack sharp” narrow aperture method for maritime shots.

Sea Lion is looking pretty good, given that she sunk a few years ago off the coast of Long Island – check out NY Media Boat’s page describing that disaster.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Passing out of the Kill Van Kull, and into the Upper Bay, three McAllister tugs were observed “wrassling” a cargo ship into position for it to exit NY waters. There’s two tugs pictured above, the Eric and Bruce A. McAllister’s, and the third one was on the other side of the cargo ship.

I was onboard a NY Waterways boat hired by the Working Harbor Committee for a tour of Newark Bay, in my capacity as the group’s official photographer. These WHC trips have become quite a melancholy experience for me in the last few years, as I spend most of my time onboard reminiscing about a few buddies whom I always enjoyed hanging out or working with on these excursions that have left this mortal coil – Bernie Ente, Capt. John Doswell, and most recently John Skelson.

Absent friends… lift glasses… clink.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I didn’t observe the usual post op ritual which the WHC crew enacts this time around, heading over to a hole in the wall bar on Pearl Street for a pint to compare notes about the trip. Queens was calling, and given the intensity of my schedule during the month of May, I was of no mind to delay getting home to our Lady of the Pentacle and Zuzu the dog.

The 5 line carried me from Lower Manhattan to the 59th and Lex hub, where an R line transfer was enacted, which carried me home to the rolling hills of almond eyed Astoria.


Upcoming Tours and events

Newtown Creek Alliance and Riverkeeper Visioning, June 3rd, 1-4 p.m..

Imagine the future of Newtown Creek with Riverkeeper and NCA at the Kingsland Wildfowers Green Roof (520 Kingsland Avenue in Greenpoint) details here.

Newtown Creek Alliance History lecture with NCA historian Mitch Waxman, June 3rd, 5:00- 7:30 p.m.

An free hour long lecture and slideshow about Newtown Creek’s incredible history at the gorgeous Kingsland Wildfowers Green Roof (520 Kingsland Avenue in Greenpoint) followed by a walk around the roof and a Q&A – details here.

Green Drinks Queens LIC, June 5th, 6:00- 9:00 p.m.

Come celebrate UN World Environment Day with Green Drinks: Queens on the LIC Waterfront! This year’s theme is “Connecting People With Nature.”details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 1, 2017 at 11:00 am

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