Friday, April 29, 2011

Willis Ave. Bridge

Here's an interesting job; This is the tug Herbert Brake with the Willis Ave. Bridge on a scow. It is heading into the canal at Claremont to be cut up for scrap. The captain on the Herbie is Pat Folan, who is an awesome boatman and a great photographer too. Here is his website with tons of pictures of boats and stuff

Back to work!

Dredging in Port Elizabeth, getting ready to flip a scow end for end alongside dredge Delaware Bay.
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Friday, April 15, 2011

Viking Starliner

This is the boat we went to Montauk to look at. Some time this week or next, we'll be bringing it up to Boston. Dad had this boat in Boston for a few years, then it went back to New York for a year. Now he has an opportunity to get again for his business in Boston. She was built in 1963 by Blount in Warren Rhode Island. 97 feet, gross tonnage 99, with a capacity of around 300 people. She has 3 Detroit Diesel engines. I think they are 12-71's but I'm not sure. The center one also runs a bow thruster, which really comes in handy with this boat beacause the old fashioned manual steering is a real bear to handle in a hurry.

I had never been that far out Long Island before. It's a nice place, reminds me of Cape Cod a lot. I'm going to put it on my list of places to go when I have more time to poke around a little.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Port jefferson NY

Waiting for the 8 pm boat at Port Jefferson. Its going to be a long day, stood watch 0001 to 0600, got a little sleep before noon crew change - then drove out to Montauk to look over a boat - won't see home until about midnight.
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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Vissy Paper

This is one of our regular stops on the Brian Nicholas. Often you'll see tugs laying on the caissons to the right of the building as they wait for their oil barges just across the river. We're looking at it from the north. A loaded scow has just been secured there by The Thomas Witte. In this picture we can't see the south side, but what happens is that as the scows get unloaded inside the shed they get shifted to the south through the building to a dock outside where they wait for a tug to take them away. The barge alongside the Brian is a little 90' deck barge that was being used to do some dock construction there.

I have a short video of the approach and the make-up and departure that I will post when I get home.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Tools of the trade

These are a few of the tools that get a lot of use on a tugboat when the weather turns nice. On the left is a needle gun, used to remove loose paint and rust in preparation for fresh paint. the middle tool is a grinder with a wire wheel attachment for cleaning up the surface after the heavy stuff is knocked off. The next one is a grinder with a plain old grinding wheel on it, for those pesky things like old welds, remnants of brackets that have been cut off over the years, fasteners protruding through from the other side of the bulkhead ( that's what we call walls on boats), and other such imperfection that need removing.

Not long after stepping aboard a tug, one becomes intimately familiar with these tools and their use - and the mind numbing rattle of that needle gun doing its thing.

Time to do something about this

This little job has been overlooked for years, and while it's out of the way and covered up by all sorts of equipment, it is time to do something about it.

Mary Alice

When I took a little break from chipping, I came out of my corner and the Mary was alongside transferring some water to us here at Berth 5. I don't know who that is at the rail of the Mary, but that's Mark Browning in the foreground messing around with the water hose.

I'll do a post about the Mary at some point in the future, she's a great boat. I was mate on her for a while before I decided to try a career change last year.

ready for some paint

This is that nasty white bulkhead all cleaned up and ready for some paint. The next step will be some sort of rust converter, or coroseal, or some such product, then a coat of primer, then a nice coat of Donjon blue

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Tug Paul Andrew

Here is the Paul Andrew standing by in Port Elizabeth N.J. The captain on board is Ed Holden, who has been working on tugs ever since he was a kid. His father was a tug captain, as were his uncles - the whole family! His brother runs a tug too I believe.

The Paul is on the small side, at 68 feet, with 1200 horsepower; Despite her small size, she's quite a work horse, and among the best kept boats I have ever seen. Because of the clean burning modern Cummins diesels, she is often used as a dredge tender, keeping the N.O.X. emissions down, which is a consideration on Army Corps of Engineer dredging contracts these days. I've been told that Donjon has a competitive edge because one of our dredges and this boat meet this environmental challenge pretty readily. When I was a mate on the Mary Alice, we had orders not to spend too much time standing by alongside the dredge Delaware Bay unless absolutely necessary because we didn't have the same low low emissions as the Paul did. She was built in 1968 as the Miss Holly by Breaux's Bay Craft of Loreauville, Louisiana. She was previously operated by S.C. Loveland Co. of Philadelphia PA. and is a very well traveled boat.

An interesting thing about Tug Boats - at least to me anyways - is how durable they are. 1968, 43 years old, and still going strong. This is not uncommon at all, with regular maintenance and up grades, these boats go on and on. My current boat, the Brian Nicholas was built in '66. Most of the boats I have worked on are about this old in fact. How many trucks on the road are that old? Not too many, that's for sure. A quick Google search reveals that the average age of a tug in the U.S. is 38 yrs. old.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Pulaski Bridge Newtown Creek

This Bridge spans Newtown Creek in Brooklyn/Queens our dock is up past that black/red barge you can just barely make out on the left. You can see the man on the scow to the left, wearing the orange coat (just to the left and underneath the left hand bridge abutment). He's there to keep an eye on that left or port side. As we go through, I can't really see anything to my left. I need someone up there to let me know what's going on. With two scows wide like this, there's about 25 feet of clearance on the port side and about 10 feet on my side. Although it's hard to damage at slow speeds like this, it is considered bad form to hit the bridge fendering. On our left side right before the bridge is a small fleet of sailboats, what I like to think of as a floating trailer park (my kind of place!) so I'm favoring the right hand side. Sometimes there is an oil barge just on the other side of the bridge on the right side, and this can make things interesting as you're trying to stay off of that and not hit that barge further up on the left. the first couple of times I did this, it was really challenging, worrying about hitting the sailboats, or the bridge, but after a few times it becomes routine. The thing of it is to have a good man out on your blind side and to go slow enough to have time to maneuver, yet fast enough to have steerage - you need some water moving past the rudders in order for the boat to do what you want. Once we got up to the dock, we had to swap these two barges out with two loaded ones. It goes something like this: Drop the left side one off behind the first one at the dock, then slide up and grab the one in front of that, while holding onto the one we have on the nose. Then we take those two and slide them further up alongside another one sitting at the dock, leave them there and slide back to the first two, put a line on them and move them down to the spot we just opened up. Then we flip that first load back alongside the empty so that they're two wide with the empty to the dock and the load outside of it. then we go back to the other set, flip that empty into the slot we took the load out of, take that second load and put alongside the first load, put them back in push gear and get underway with both of them. That whole thing takes about 30 minutes or so, than another hour and a half or two hours back to Claremont.

From time to time, I'll be posting photos and short posts from my phone, then coming back to elaborate on them later, just so's we're all on the same page here :~)

I think I have a video of an inbound transit to this dock at home. If so, I'll post it when I get a chance.


Two scrappies in push gear. The taller one is set aft so as to see around iot better.
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Test post

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Friday, April 8, 2011

Statue of Liberty

I took this Friday during the D.O.S. run.

Friday! oh wait...........just another day here at work

Oh well, it's 0430 Friday morning. We've got some down time so here I am trying to post some pics, but they are too big. I guess I need to look into this a little bit, huh? I was doing some uploading a few months ago and I used up our data allowance on the air card so I don't want to get into that situation again, the tech guy here will shut us down until next month.

Thursday was another great day at work. We were dispatches to the Dept of Sanitation paper run, which is maybe my all time favorite job here at Donjon. I keep saying I could do this run daily until I retire, but I'd probably get bored with it sooner or later. What it is is recyclable paper which gets loaded unto a scow at 59th street Manhattan, on the Hudson river, and gets taken down to Vissy Paper which is located on the Western shore of Staten Island in the Arthur Kill. It's about 18 miles or so from one dock to the other, and almost always there's a return trip with a light scow.

From 59th street it's a nice ride down along the Manhattan Riverfront, past the Intepid Sea Air and Space Museum, the passenger ship terminal, the Chelsea Piers, and that spectacular New York skyline. Then we jog over to the New Jersey side of the river and pass Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, as we head down towards Constable Hook and turn west into the Kill Van Kull. This where things get real industrial. From here on out it's mostly oil terminals and other kinds of industrial waterfront all the way to our destination.

This took up all of my afternoon watch, which runs from noon to 6 pm. Then it was a quick dinner then off to bed. I had to be up again at midnight for my next six hour watch, but I just tossed and turned until at least 9 - I kept trying to read myself to sleep, but it just wasn't happening. As you can imagine, I wasn't too happy to get woken up at 12, but that's the way it goes. usually there's a couple of those kinds of lost sleep nights every hitch. Such is the life of a boatman here in the big city.............

Thursday, April 7, 2011

One week down, one to go.

This is a light scrap scow on Gate Lines as we're heading into the Hutchinson River. This configuration of tow involves using two lines from the main bitt on the aft deck up to the scow and keeping the scow right up close behind the tug. We do this when the scow is too high to see over or around, and when we have to bring it through narrow passes where there is no room for the boat to be alongside the tow. In this case, we had to maneuver through two bridges which only afforded about 6 0r 8 feet on either side of the scow. Being up close and using two lines from our pivot point to the corners of the barge ensures that the barge stays right behind the boat as we go through these narrow passages.

Geese are a common sight around the docks, they get used to a free meal now and then from the boats.

Finally, back to some real tug boating! I guess it's all real tug boating, but since before Christmas we had been dredge tending in Newark Bay, never getting more than about 2 miles from our home dock.
When we showed up for our hitch last Thursday, we were sent over to Claremont to do shifting work among the scrap scows there. this was because the tug that usually does it was in drydock.

As with many things, I really started to enjoy it once we got into the thick of it. It is a bit more intense than some of the other work I've done around here, in that a typical day will consist of a dozen or more more moves within the yard. It's close quarters, one part of the yard has a narrow, shallow canal - and other parts involve sliding the scows in between other pieces of equipment and this requires both deckhands to be up on the scow to handle lines and give steering directions. Because of this, we were "off watches" - working a regular 10 hour day and getting our rest at night like normal workaday folks. I am not really too fond of that arrangement, as I've grown accustomed to watching the world go by 6 hrs. at a time while at work.

So we did that until Tuesday, then we got back on the scrap runs. This is great because it gets us out and about in the harbor. the first run was from Claremont up to the the Bronx river, where we exchanged a light (empty) scow for a loaded one. Boy was it great to be out in the bay again, up through the East River and Hell Gate to Hunts Point and then back down to Claremont. The running joke for the past few months was whether or not we could find these places, or know what to do once we got there.

Things are humming along here on the Brian, we've been suffering some crew problems, which isn't all that uncommon in the business, but we're soldiering on.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Almost ready for some paint!

I think tomorrow I'll be ready to get some paint on the decks finally. Strangely enough, I'm really enjoying this work. It's been three days now of scrape, sand, and vacuum. I'm beginning to see now why some people become so attached to their boats. I'm generally not a real go getter when it comes to maintenance, I much prefer to run boats and leave that stuff to the deck hands, but this past few days has instilled a pride of ownership and a sense of accomplishment. Like I might have said in an earlier post, I'm totally psyched to have a decent looking boat this season. I've got just a little more prepping to do to in the A.M. I thought I was all done today, but there are some areas that looked okay from one angle, but closer inspection shows that they aren't quite ready yet. I'm really focusing on trying to get it as faired and smooth as I can before I rush the paint. To think, I was trying to sell the boat this winter. I think I'm beginning to embrace the "go small, go now" philosophy. Smaller sails, smaller docking fees, smaller upkeep, I'm digging it!

I've been following some cruising blogs, which are very inspirational and entertaining. and

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

More sanding/scraping/chipping

I got in another good day of sanding and prep work for painting the deck and coach roof. I think one more day of prep, and I'll be ready to paint! That deck was some nasty! I can't wait to see that first coat of primer go on.

Moving day tomorrow - the Uncle Buck era is over, on to the next chapter.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Catching up

I spent some time down at the boat yard yesterday, where I was reacquainted with the "rule of threes". This states that any project one does on a boat is going to cost three times as much and take three times as long as originally thought. I thought I was going to do a little sanding on my decks, and then open up a gallon of paint and go to town. What actually happened though is another matter. I spent five hours sanding and scraping, and sanding and scraping some more. I'm about a quarter of the way through the prep work before I will be ready to put some paint on. There is a lot of stubborn, chipped paint on the decks. It almost looks like somebody just slapped some paint on the thing without worrying too much about proper surface preparation. I'm going to need to get a wire wheel to get at some of it. there are a bunch of nooks and crannies around the toe rail that I can't get at with the sander, and hand sanding and scraping it would just take way too long and not really get at the heart of the matter. I hope I can get this little project done before the 31st, when I have to go back to work for 2 weeks! I am totally psyched to have a decent looking boat this summer.

On the work front, my new license came back from the NMC. It was waiting in my mail when I got home. It isn't a big piece of paper anymore, it is all contained in a little passport-sized book now. The MMD is in there too, so I don't have to keep track of a license (how were we supposed t0 keep them in good shape in a sea bag anyways) and a separate ID card. It's all one thing now, and goes right next to my passport, hardly takes up any room, and I stuffed them in a zip-loc baggie to keep them dry. So now I can leave this big clunky binder at home, I need to figure out a workable solution for my radio operators license though. Why does that have to be a big 8"x11" paper instead of a wallet sized card?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Mexican Fisherman

The Mexican Fisherman

An American investment banker was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellow fin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.

The Mexican replied, "Only a little while."

The American then asked, "Why didn't you stay out longer and catch more fish?"

The Mexican said, "With this I have more than enough to support my family's needs."

The American then asked, "But what do you do with the rest of your time?"

The Mexican fisherman said, "I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siesta with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos, I have a full and busy life."

The American scoffed, "I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing; and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat: With the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats. Eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor; eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then Los Angeles and eventually New York where you will run your ever-expanding enterprise."

The Mexican fisherman asked, "But, how long will this all take?"

To which the American replied, "15 to 20 years."

"But what then?" asked the Mexican.

The American laughed and said that's the best part. "When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions."

"Millions?...Then what?"

The American said, "Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos."

-- Author Unknown