The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Vane’ Category

frantic note

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By gum, it’s Creek Week.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week, one found himself at a relatively early hour over in Greenpoint at the Newtown Creek Waste Water Treatment Plant’s Nature Walk. I was there to meet the Waterfront Alliance board people, and speak about both the history of Newtown Creek and the things which the Newtown Creek Alliance is working on in pursuance of our goal to “reveal, restore, and revitalize” Newtown Creek.

All that notwithstanding, as is my habit, I was early and luckily enough the Vane Towing Tug Hunting Creek was transiting under the Pulaski Bridge. That gave me something to do while I was waiting.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has always been a bit fidgety, a childhood habit which has never been abandoned. It’s difficult for me to “sit still” which sort of precludes me from photographing birds – which requires you to emulate stalking and hunting. Fifteen minutes with nothing to do is an interminable interval. It drives everybody who knows me crazy.

Hunting Creek was towing a fuel barge, which I later discovered, to the bulkheads of Metro Fuel in Greenpoint.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Vane Bros.’s Hunting Creek tug is a common sight for me. I first mentioned her back in 2013, and a few different views of it making the same transit on Newtown Creek were offered in 2014.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I say it all the time – 60% of everything in life is about “showing up,” and getting there a bit early. The good news is that shortly after the Hunting Creek disappeared out of view, one entered into the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment plant and before the meeting started – the NYC DEP folks invited the Waterfront Alliance group on tour of the facility. That’s where the other 40% of everything happens – lucky circumstance.

More on that tomorrow – at this, your Newtown Pentacle.

Upcoming Events and Tours

Wednesday, August 3rd, 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. –
Glittering Realms Walking Tour,
with NYC H2O. Click here for more details.

Saturday, August 6th, 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. –
Insalubrious Valley Walking Tour,
with NY Adventure Club. Click here for more details.

Sunday, August 14th, 11:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura. Click here for more details.

Sunday, August 21, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
Poison Cauldron Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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

delighted astonishment

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A short trip off of a Long Island to… Staten Island.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over at the St. George Ferry terminal, on the… Staten Island… side of the harbor, one is treated to magnificent views of Lower Manhattan and it’s a pretty sure bet that you’ll see some maritime traffic. Pictured above is the Vane Brothers Sassafras towing a fuel barge, for instance.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One such as myself is always eager to witness a DEP Sludge Boat splashing by. That’s the MV North River heading towards the Port Richmond sewer plant found a mile or so up the Kill Van Kull.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Marjorie B. McAllister also happened by, and the bright red tug was towing a fuel barge. Even when it seems that a tug is pushing a barge, it’s still called “towing.”

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alarmingly low

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Tugboat! There’s a tugboat coming!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Bemoaning a life lived poorly with a ribald song of lament, your humble narrator found himself crossing the fabulous Pulaski Bridge over Newtown Creek recently, whereupon the appearance of maritime traffic entering the waterway sent a bolt of joy up my crumbling spine.

Even feckless quislings can catch a break sometimes, thought I.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One was forced to scuttle at double pace across the bridge, in order to not allow the opening of its double bascule mechanisms to visually isolate me from the passing Tugboat.

Occlusion is frustrating, extremely so.

Accordingly, haste was made for the Greenpoint or southern bank of the Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The NYC DOT, who operate this bridge, will unfortunately not allow me to get close enough to shoot properly, so several lenses were utilized. Swapping out lenses is not something I like to do in a spot like the Pulaski Bridge, where the particulate dust and soot circulating on the air is particularly dense, for fear of allowing contaminants to settle inside the camera itself.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Regardless of risk, a few swaps were made, as I had luckily decided to carry a full kit with me that day. The Tugboat was Vane’s “Hunting Creek.” Hunting Creek has been mentioned here before, in the post “last ounce.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Unfortunately, I was quite far from the Tug, and less than ecstatic about the images produced by my “longest” lens. The next upgrade to my photo bag is going to be a good lens with lots of reach, an expensive proposition. Of course, the simple answer to not having a lens with sufficient magnification or optimal resolution is to simply get closer to your subject.

Hunting Creek pulled away, towing a fuel barge to some destination eastwards, but I knew that eventually… she had to come back.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Hunting down anything along Newtown Creek is my speciality, as well as finding the best spot to view it from, so your humble narrator was waiting with a medium reach but high quality lens attached to my camera when Hunting Creek made its way back towards the East River and the greater harbor beyond.

What? I like photographing tugboats.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The warning horns that Pulaski was opening sounded and the tug maneuvered into its course. Tower Town in LIC is really coming along, incidentally, and views like the one following will soon be a happy memory.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

They’ve already blocked out the Chrysler Building. When Greenpoint Landing gets going, we’ll lose Empire State as well.

That’s what I saw on Newtown Creek one day last week, when one set out to cross a bridge and walk about in the radiance of the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When I was walking home – through Greenpoint – I almost stepped on this flat rat, which kind of ruined my day. Curdling horror notwithstanding, the sight shocked me back into a looming sense of depression and reinstated the familiarly manic state which I was hoping to alleviate via the perambulation across the Pulaski Bridge and the banks of fabled Newtown Creek.

I guess it’s true what they say – “A Feckless Quisling just can’t catch a break these days.” People say that, right?

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

2014 Walking Tours

Up Next: 13 Steps across Dutch Kills, at Newtown Creek with Atlas Obscura, Saturday, April 5th – click here for more information and ticketing.

last ounce

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A short Maritime Sunday visit with the Vane Bros.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Vane Brothers’ brand new Tug Magothy recently rolled past me at the exit from Kill Van Kull, while onboard with the Working Harbor Committee. Vane started out as a Ships Chandlery in 1898, down in the port of Baltimore. They’ve become a towing company over the last century, and operate a fleet of tugs and barges in the ports of New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Norfolk, and Charleston.

from vanebrothers.com

The tug Magothy is the fourteenth in a line of Patapsco-class tugs. She was designed by Frank Basile of Entech & Associates, and is under construction at Thoma-Sea Boat Builders’ West Yard in Houma, Louisiana. The Magothy is 100’ long, with a 34’ beam, and a depth of 15’. Her gross tonnage is 99 tons. She is powered by two CAT3516, 2100 horse-power engines with Kort nozzles.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Oyster Creek, as seen on the same Working Harbor Committee Newark Bay tour, steaming along on the Kill Van Kull. Many of my photographer buddies abhor white tugs, decrying their lack of contrast with the sky and water, preferring the pigments and color ways of McAllister, Reinauer, and Moran tugs (all incorporate reds). Me, I like the challenge of getting the exposure right.

from vanebrothers.com

The Oyster Creek is a coastwise 3,000 horsepower towing vessel measuring 90’ long, 32’ wide, with a 13’ hull depth. Powered by two Caterpillar diesel engines, she is dedicated to 30,000-barrel tank barges. Her gross tonnage is 99 tons. The Oyster Creek is named for the Oyster Creek cove and tributary stream in Maryland.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Vane sent the Hunting Creek and Red Hook to compete in the 2013 Great North River Tugboat Race. Here they are just about crossing the finish line. Official results not handy at the time of this writing,

from vanebrothers.com

The Hunting Creek officially joined Vane’s ranks on February 3, 2012. Since then she has been a bunkering workhorse in New York Harbor. The sixth in a series of eight from Chesapeake Shipbuilding in Salisbury, Maryland, she is a 3,000 horsepower vessel, measuring 90′ long, 32′ wide, with a 13′ hull depth. She was designed by Frank Basile of Entech and Associates of Houma, Louisiana, and is named for the Hunting Creek cove and tributary stream in Maryland.

Upcoming Tours

Saturday- September 21, 2013
13 Steps Around Dutch Kills Walking Tour with Atlas Obscura- tickets on sale now.

Saturday- September 28, 2013
Newtown Creek Boat Tour with the Working Harbor Committee- tickets on sale now.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

shaking encumbrances

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“follow” me on Twitter at @newtownpentacle

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recently spotted, the tug Nanticoke, plying NY Harbor. Upon reading the name “Nanticoke,” your humble narrator grasped for some meaning behind this enigmatic arrangement of ordinary vowels and consonants. Knowing that the Vane company often names its vessels after inland and coastal waterways, a certain river came to mind.

from wikipedia

The Nanticoke River is a major tributary of the Chesapeake Bay on the Delmarva Peninsula. It rises in southern Kent County, Delaware, flows through Sussex County, Delaware, and forms the boundary between Dorchester County, Maryland and Wicomico County, Maryland. The river course proceeds southwest and it empties into the Chesapeake at Nanticoke, Maryland. The river is 64.3 miles (103.5 km) long.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Nanticoke was on duty with a barge, heading south toward Staten Island from some origin point northwards on either the Hudson or East Rivers. A fuel barge, who can guess what sort of volatile cargo might have lurked within it, vouchsafed by Nanticoke?

from vanebrothers.com

The Nanticoke is 95’ long, with a 34’ beam, and a 15’ draft. Her gross tonnage is 99 tons. She is powered by two CAT 3516, 2100 horsepower engines with Kort nozzles, and maintains running speeds of better than 12 knots. Featuring a model bow and square stern, her fuel capacity is approximately 90,000 gallons. Potable water capacity is approximately 9,000 gallons. With accommodations for seven crew members, the Nanticoke is dedicated to 50-class tank barges on the coastwide trade.


– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Maritime Sunday staff here at Newtown Pentacle HQ offer a wave of the hand and official shout out to the Vane Brothers Nanticoke cast and crew. Huzzah!

also from vanebrothers.com

The Vane Brothers Company has served the maritime industry in the Port of Baltimore and the U.S. Eastern Seaboard for more than 100 years. Today, we are comprised of five divisions operating out of the ports of New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Norfolk, and Charleston.

Written by Mitch Waxman

February 17, 2013 at 12:15 am

partly delirious

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recently spotted as it plied the estuarine expanses of the East River, the Vane Brothers Sassafras Tug. Your humble narrator was onboard an East River Ferry, heading from Manhattan to Greenpoint, and spotted the tug moving iconically along the strait.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In the dim past of industrial supremacy, this was one of the busiest stretches of aqua firma in the world, and it is truly a condemnation upon our modern civilization that the passing of a tug and barge along its expanses is something remarkable. A blogger of a century ago would have been limited to monographs, of course, but such a creature would have found very little to say about such a thing. In modernity, it would be like commenting on the passing of a common truck.

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Upcoming Walking Tour- The Poison Cauldron, with Atlas Obscura

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Meetup at the corner of Kingsland and Norman Avenues in Greenpoint at 11 on Saturday, August 25th.

We will be exploring the petroleum and waste transfer districts of the Newtown Creek watershed in North Brooklyn. Heavily industrialized, the area we will be walking through is the heart of the Greenpoint Oil Spill and home to scores of waste transfer stations and other heavy industries. We will be heading for the thrice damned Kosciuszko Bridge, which is scheduled for a demolition and replacement project which will be starting in 2013. Photographers, in particular, will find this an interesting walk through a little known and quite obscure section of New York City.

Be prepared: We’ll be encountering broken pavement, sometimes heavy truck traffic, and experiencing a virtual urban desert as we move through the concrete devastations of North Brooklyn. Dress and pack appropriately for hiking, closed toe shoes are highly recommended- as are a hat or parasol to shield you from the sun.

Bathroom opportunities will be found only at the start of the walk, which will be around three hours long and cover approximately three miles of ground. Drivers, it would be wise to leave your cars in the vicinity of McGolrick Park in Greenpoint.

Click here for tickets, and as always- a limited number of walk ups will be welcomed- but for safety reasons we need to limit the group to a manageable size. Contact me at this email if you desire further details.

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