Going to a birthday party in Red Hook! Look, I think it's over there...
Yup, here's the place - the Atlantic Basin, in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn. And there's the birthday girl - the red boat with the buff-colored smokestack is the retired tanker Mary Whalen, 70 years old. She now serves as the offices for PortSide NY, and they're throwing her a big party!
The Schooner Pioneer couldn't make it (she's de-rigged and all snuggled in for a long winter's nap) but she sent a young representative with her best wishes!
Another distinguished guest!
Birthday cake carnage and hot cider - good stuff on a cold day
Staten Island Steve paddled over from Staten Island!
On deck on the Mary Whalen.
Tugster Will, of the Tugster blog (one of my favorites) was giving tours. BTW, since links send the viewer out of the gallery, possibly never to return, I've put the link to the Tugster blog, along with one for every boat mentioned in this gallery, in the caption for the last picture in this gallery (which I also think is one of the best).
The ship's in good hands!
The Mary Whalen's intercom system - speaking tubes!
The view from the bridge
The Hooplah Heightens! The speeches begin with...er, I should have been taking notes, but this lady is, I think, representing NYC's Economic Development Corporation (EDC).
This is Roberta Weisberg from the Brooklyn Borough President's office, reading a proclamation with great gusto and verve! I had a notepad in my backpack. Why I didn't take notes is beyond me. Maybe it was that the offer of a Pegasus ride made me scatterbrained...
I know who THIS is, though! This is Carolina Salguero, the founder of PortSide NY. She's also a renowned photographer; the story I've heard is that she did a series on NY harbor tugs for National Geographic and came away from that experience very impressed by vitality of the maritime industry in NYC - and very concerned about the way that that industry was being depicted as dying away as developers moved in on newly desirable waterfront acreage. She founded PortSide NY with a mission of increasing public awareness of the health of that industry, and to help create a bridge between the new residents of gentrifying areas like Red Hook and the workers who were already there.
I think this gentleman was a former owner of the boat! He's delighted she's ended up in such caring hands, and here he's presenting Carolina with some nice pieces of original hardware (that's part of a Mary Whalen towel rack he's holding!), a photograph, and a writing desk he found in his attic.
The last speaker of the day is Sal Catucci, president of American Stevedoring, who's done a lot to help out with a number of the local historic ship preservation efforts. For a time, the Port Authority was really trying to shut down cargo operations on this side of the river and move everything on to Jersey - if not for the tenacity of this gentleman, this stretch of the waterfront would probably be all high-priced condos. With the economy having taken the turn that it has, it seems like the Port Authority's relenting and extending his lease for 10 years (thereby committing to Red Hook's future as a working port) was probably an even wiser move than any of the players at the time (April of this year) may have realized at the time. I've included a link to a good article about the winning of that lease extension in the list of links in the caption of the final picture.
He's been donating the Atlantic Basin mooring space and more, so there were thank-you gifts for him - couldn't quite make out the picture but it looks like a cartoon of some sort, and it gave him a good laugh. The folks from the Lilac restoration project (that's one of the heads of that group in the Lilac sweatshirt) also gave him a big bag of Lilac gear. (Updating the next day - Well, the artist's blog has been revealed, it's quite nice and I've added that link to the list at the end, you can see Mr. Catucci's gift cartoon there!)
The Mary Whalen's galley - a little untidy today but isn't it a nice space? Afraid I didn't get much more of a tour - I would have loved to hear what Tugster Will had to say but one of the first people I ran into at the party was a friend from Pier 63, Pam Hepburn, captain and long-time owner of the 1907 tug Pegasus. She immediately asked if I wanted a ride back to Manhattan - then realized that I live in Brooklyn so probably wasn't going to Manhattan - but if the Pegasus was going to Manhattan and Pam was willing to let me come along for a ride, heck, I was going to Manhattan!
The Atlantic Basin. It was a very quiet day here, it would've been fun if there'd been some loading going on at those cranes, but it's possible that if there'd been much going on, a public event might not have worked out so well.
Mary A. Whalen, riding high at 70!
And here's the 1907 Tug Pegasus. Wait for me!
On board the Pegasus
Pilothouse windows. Pam actually skippered this boat as a working tug from 1987 through 1997; in 1997 the Pegasus was retired from working and Pam threw herself into a concerted effort to restore the boat and turn her into a travelling educational exhibit (although that term seems to oversimplify somehow). Anyhow, the Tugboat Pegasus Presevation Project has been doing a beautiful job - just look at that wheelhouse. Beautiful, isn't it?
And there's Capt. Hepburn! All ashore who's going ashore!
So long, Mary A. Whalen - happy birthday!
One last shot of the birthday girl -
Out of the Atlantic Basin & into the East River
Loading cranes. For size perspective, see the church steeple, the parking lot lights & the NSCSA shipping container? It's really fascinating watching these giant cranes loading a container ship - they pick up a container at a time in a big clamp (you can see it on the red one), and then they set that container into place as neatly as a bricklayer adding a brick to a wall.
Looking up the East River from one of the hatches. The rivets are one of the clues that this is a very old tug - modern tugs are welded.
Capt. Pam giving a young visitor a tugboat driving lesson. Michelle actually drove us most of the way! Michelle's left hand is on the steering mechanism - this tug doesn't have a wheel, more of a little joystick.
Cruising on up the West Side, looking back at Battery Park City, the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Staten Island & the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. Michelle's driving a nice straight course, isn't she?
Pam Hepburn, captain & chief restorer of the Tugboat Pegasus.
The Pegasus is now moored in the Morris Canal (having been displaced from her Chelsea Piers location at the same time as the barge shut down & I moved my kayaks to Brooklyn), but tonight she's dropping us joyriders off at Pier 40. Surprised to see the John D. McKean here - this is a working FDNY fireboat & was based at the Gansevoort Peninsula when I was paddling this area. The John D. McKean is herself of a very respectable age, built in 1954 & still hard at work!
And here's the Lilac, which I mentioned earlier in the gallery. She's a decommissioned Coast Guard lighthouse tender, keel laid 1932, into service in 1933, retired in 1972 & quite remarkable in that she was never converted to diesel, she's still a steam powered vessel. She's non-operational at this point, I believe, but the Lilac Preservation Project does intend to restore her engine to working condition.
Pamela took back the helm as we approached Pier 40, and now she's working through some final docking manuevers. Look at that water churn!
Now here's something you don't usually see on a boat, because it's usually hidden away inside - this is the aft end of the Pegasus's steering system. See how the pivoting plate has cables hooked at either end? The movement of those cables are directly controlled by that little joystick up in the pilothouse - it was fascinating watching this move back & forth, responding so precisely to those directions from the wheelhouse.
Back on shore.The photographer up there is actually a kayaker/sailor who I've known through NYCKayaker for a long time, he actually lives pretty far up the river so I'd never met him in person - but it turns out that he knows Pamela and had actually started his day by meeting her and her crew in Jersey City and riding over from there. It is a small world, the Hudson!
Thanks for the ride!
Isn't she handsome? And that's the end of the day. For more information on the boats and people mentioned here, here are websites: PortSide NY and the Mary Whalen: www.portsidenewyork.org
Tug Pegasus: www.tugpegasus.org Tugster: www.tugster.wordpress.com the Lilac: www.steamerlilac.org Nice post on the John D. McKean: http://www.tug44.org/tugboats.trawlers/fireboat-john-d-mckean/ Schooner Pioneer and other ships and boats at the South Street Seaport: www.southstreetseaportmuseum.org/index.aspx?lobid=850
Good article about American Stevedoring's winning of a 10-year lease in April '08: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/25/nyregion/25redhook.html?partner=permalink&amp;exprod=permalink
And of the same preservationist family, although not mentioned in this gallery, the retired fireboat John J. Harvey: www.fireboat.org AND ONE MORE - see Mr. Catucci's gift cartoon and some really nice ship watercolors at http://bowsprite.wordpress.com/ (thanks Tugster!)
Browse in good health!