The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘United States Coast Guard’ Category

inconceivable orbit

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wǒ jiào Thursday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

To start – that’s a ship, not a boat, since it can launch either of the two boats it carries. A ship can launch a boat, a boat can’t launch a ship, and how big the thing is doesn’t qualify it as either. Secondly, that’s the United States Coast Guard’s WMEC-909 Campbell. Campbell is a 1986 vintage “medium endurance cutter.” The white hull paint signifies that it’s part of the USCG’s ocean going fleet, and its mission includes law enforcement, search and rescue, enforcement of laws and treaties, fisheries law enforcement, alien and migrant interdiction, drug interdiction, and Homeland Security.

It was spotted at the Brooklyn Navy Yard where, to my eye at least, work on and upgrades to its avionics, radar, and other electronics was underway. That’s all the gear on top of the wheelhouse, btw.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The SSI Marvelous was also spotted at the Navy Yard. It’s a bit less glamorous than a military ship, of course, given that it’s a “bulk carrier” freighter. It was built in 2013, and is currently flagged by the Marshall Islands.

“Flagged” indicates the supposed port of call for a ship, but as you’d imagine, where you flag your boat has a lot to do with not paying taxes or having to oblige health and safety laws for your employees. Let’s just say that if Gilligan’s Island existed in the real world, Mr. Howell’s heirs would have an empty office building stuck on it today, one whose phones forward to other offices in LA or Beijing. The international shipping community is populated by fairly grotesque and ultra corrupt characters, but y’all keep on focusing in on Jeffrey Epstein and people drinking baby blood. Distractions abound, huh? Don’t notice the man behind the curtain, nothing to see here…

There’s a concrete company at the Navy Yard, and you often see large cargo vessels like Marvelous here.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A “response boat small” was observed a little further south on the East River, this one being operated by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation’s “Encon” Police. I’ve written about the “response boats” quite a few times in the past. Basically, post 911, it was decided to use the “weapons platform” concept to create a basic maritime chassis which the various Police and Emergency Responder agencies could customize to their uses. Coast Guard has a version of this craft with an M60 machine gun bolted to the bow, FDNY has versions that spray water, the NYPD have theirs rigged for towing and ramming. There’s three versions of these – response boats small, medium, and large.

Back tomorrow with something different at this – your Newtown Pentacle.

Speaking of different… what are you doing this Saturday on August 7th? I’ll be conducting a WALKING TOUR OF LONG ISLAND CITY with my pal Geoff Cobb. Details and ticketing available here. Come with?


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 5, 2021 at 1:00 pm

chiseled above

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USCG Katherine Walker on the East River.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recent endeavor found a humble narrator onboard a novel hybrid ferry boat, on the East River, while the United Nations was in session a couple of weeks back. The boat I was on was running under electric power, which is a game changer as far as noise and vibration, but since I was onboard the thing I didn’t get any shots of it. What I did get, however, were shots of a relatively new (by Coast Guard standard) bit of our National kit. Launched in 1996, that’s the USCGC Katherine Walker (WLM-552).

A Keeper Class Buoy Tender, the boat is 118 feet long, powered by two CAT 3508 TA Diesel engines, and its propulsion is provided by Ulstein/Rolls Royce 360 degree steerable Z-Drives plus a 600 HP Electric Bow Thruster. Her homeport is Bayonne New Jersey. The vessel is named for a former and quite heroic keeper of the Robbins Reef lighthouse, which is found at the intersection of the Hudson River and Staten Island’s Kill Van Kull (Constables Hook), Katherine Walker.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

“The Keeper of the Robbins Reef Light” carries a crew of 24 and sports a crane which is rated to ten tons. She can do light icebreaking duty, but after encountering any pack ice over 35mm thick, they call in a purpose built icebreaker. Coast Guard ship hull colors indicate their missions – Black hull – aids to navigation, White hull – maritime law enforcement and other safety-at-sea missions, Red hull – icebreaking. All vessels under 65 feet in length are classified as “boats” and operate near shore and inland waterways, and are usually painted “Coast Guard Orange.”

Using one rubric (which is fairly colloquial and elastic) to decide “what’s a ship and what’s a boat,” the USCG classifies the Walker as a ship due to being over 65 feet and because of that crane, it can indeed launch a boat. On the Harbor, the saying goes “the difference between a ship and a boat is that a ship can launch a boat, but a boat can’t launch a ship.” If the Coast Guard – a well armed branch of the United States military – tells you that something is a ship, however, you’d be foolish to argue with them. Only idiots argue with people armed with high caliber weaponry.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

During the United Nations summit in Manhattan, there were Coast Guard ships on duty in the East River and just off the southern shoreline of Roosevelt Island all week. Earlier in the week I had spotted the CGC 108 Thunder Bay in this spot for instance. I have to imagine they were participating in Homeland Security duties for the UN events, but that’s strictly a presumption on my part. Can’t imagine they were fishing.

Katherine Walker, whom the boat is named for, was a keeper of the Robbins Reef light, as mentioned. Mrs. Walker was the light keeper for thirty years, following the death of her husband, and raised her family on the tiny spit of land which hosts the light. Check out this wikipedia page for more on her biography and heroic story. Apparently, a statue of her will be erected on the coastline of Staten Island nearby the St. George landing of the Staten Island Ferry in the near future.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 8, 2019 at 11:00 am

city guard

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Happy Day, Veterans.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A single shot of the United States Coast Guard on patrol today, as a reminder to not forget that they’re out there right now in the wet and the cold as you’re reading this. It’s not about sentiment and then, it’s about existential and now.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 12, 2018 at 12:17 pm

ancient mariners

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Eleven and a third (.35 actually) score years ago today, Alexander Hamilton and the Congress created what would become the United States Coast Guard. A humble narrator has never been one to omit offering a “happy birthday” salutation, and I don’t plan on starting now. I’ve probably had more contact with this branch of the military than any other over the years, and I can tell you – based on the sailors and officers I’ve met – the Coast Guard is staffed by some of the most dedicated and patriotic people I’ve ever met. Happy 227th Birthday!

from wikipedia

Created by Congress on 4 August 1790 at the request of Alexander Hamilton as the Revenue Marine, it is the oldest continuous seagoing service of the United States. As Secretary of the Treasury, Hamilton headed the Revenue Marine, whose original purpose was collecting customs duties in the nation’s seaports. By the 1860s, the service was known as the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service and the term Revenue Marine gradually fell into disuse.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In New York Harbor, the USCG vessels you’re most likely to see are the “SAFE” Boats which provide security to ferry and pleasure craft, as well as patrolling some of the more extant industrial and cargo port areas. They also work closely with NYPD’s harbor patrol in assisting boaters in distress. Maritime security in the age of terror is no laughing matter.

The hull colors of Coast Guard vessels indicate their missions. On the “ship” side; Black hull- aids to navigation, White hull- maritime law enforcement and other safety-at-sea missions, Red hull- icebreaking. All vessels under 65 feet in length are classified as “boats” and operate near shore and inland waterways, and are usually painted “Coast Guard Orange.”

from uscg.mil

The Coast Guard is the principal Federal agency responsible for maritime safety, security, and environmental stewardship in U.S. ports and waterways. In this capacity, the Coast Guard protects and defends more than 100,000 miles of U.S. coastline and inland waterways, and safeguards an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) encompassing 4.5 million square miles stretching from North of the Arctic Circle to South of the equator, from Puerto Rico to Guam, encompassing nine time zones – the largest EEZ in the world. As one of the five Armed Services of the United States, the Coast Guard is the only military branch within the Department of Homeland Security. In addition to its role as an Armed Service, the Coast Guard is a first responder and humanitarian service that provides aid to people in distress or impacted by natural and man-made disasters whether at sea or ashore. The Coast Guard is a member of the Intelligence Community, and is a law enforcement and regulatory agency with broad legal authorities associated with maritime transportation, hazardous materials shipping, bridge administration, oil spill response, pilotage, and vessel construction and operation.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the national conversations which we should be having, incidentally, involves the age and condition of USCG’s fleet. Most of the defense budget ends up flowing towards the “head of the spear” services like Air Force and Navy, Army and Marines. There are serious structural issues in several of the USCG’s older vessels due to age and weathering, and we need to begin the funding fleet replacement for them so as to continue their mission.

The Seneca, pictured above, is a relatively new ship for the Coast Guard – even though it was launched in 1984.


Upcoming Tours and events

We’re cancelling Saturday the 5th’s Insalubrious Valley tour due to a forecast of scattered thunderstorms with lightning expected.

The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance – Saturday August 5th, 11 a.m. – 1;30 p.m.

Century old movable bridges, the remains of a 19th century highway between Brooklyn and Queens, and explore two of the lesser known tributaries of the troubled Newtown Creek watershed. For the vulgarly curious, Conrad Wissell’s Dead Animal and Night Soil wharf will be seen and described, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

Brooklyn Waterfront Boat Tour, with Working Harbor Committee – Saturday August 12th, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.

Explore the coastline of Brooklyn from Newtown Creek to Sunset Park, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman, Andrew Gustafson of Turnstile Tours, and Gordon Cooper of Working Harbor Committee on the narrating about Brooklyn’s industrial past and rapidly changing present. details here.

The Poison Cauldron of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance – Sunday August 13th, 11 a.m. – 1:30 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.

Two Newtown Creek Boat Tours, with Newtown Creek Alliance and Open House NY – Wednesday August 16th, 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.

The neighborhoods surrounding Newtown Creek are home to the densest collection of these garbage facilities anywhere in the city and collectively, the waste transfer stations around and along Newtown Creek handle almost 40% of the waste that moves through New York. Join Newtown Creek Alliance’s Mitch Waxman and Willis Elkins  to learn about the ongoing efforts to address the environmental burden that this “clustering” has caused. details here.

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.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

four winds

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New York Harbor, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sunday last was the Waterfront Alliance’s “City of Water Day” and your humble narrator conducted a free Newtown Creek boat tour for the festival. My tour was one of several that emanated from Governors Island, but “City of Water Day” is a citywide event and there were all kinds of interesting diversions happening in every Borough. Governors Island is a bit of a pain to get to, but luckily, after concluding my duties – an East River Ferry was just about to exit the island and then follow it’s normally scheduled itinerary, which includes a stop in LIC at Hunters Point. Deciding to “get out of dodge” and head home, and possessed of a serious desire to not get on the Subway, the ferry seemed like an ideal option.

One purchased a ticket and hopped onboard, brandished the camera, and waved it about as the boat headed North along the East River.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Along the way, a United States Coast Guard Cutter was spotted. It’s decidedly irregular to see a white hulled Coast Guard vessel in this part of NY Harbor (white hulls are generally assigned to ocean going vessels in the Coast Guard). You’ll regularly see black hulls during winter months (ice breakers) and orange hulls do harbor security work all year long so they’re commonly observed.

One suspects that the Cutter was in the inner harbor because the President happened to be in NYC on “City of Water Day,” and they were performing some sort of security job but that’s a guess.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the CGC Ridley (WPB 87328), an 87-foot Coastal Patrol Boat Marine Protector Class vessel. She’s based in Long Island Sound, and everything you could possibly want to know about her can be found at this page at uscg.mil.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The East River Ferry continued along its normal route, offering the usual fantastic views which have gained it a dedicated clientele amongst the hordes of tourists which populate it on weekends. Offered above is a shot of the Freedom Tower rising behind Moisef’s Manhattan Bridge, as observed from onboard.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

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

As detailed in this recent post, my camera was destroyed in an accident.

For those of you who have offered donations to pay for its replacement, the “Donate” button below will take you to paypal. Any contributions to the camera fund will be greatly appreciated, and rewarded when money isn’t quite as tight as it is at the moment.

Donate Button with Credit Cards

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