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On September 28th, we’ll be heading up Newtown Creek, that fascinating waterway that separates Brooklyn and Queens. Motorists drive over it without much notice – on the Brooklyn Queen Expressway, the Long Island Expressway and across more bridges than I can count on one hand.
But, what do you really know about the place?
Join WHC on the Newtown Creek Hidden Harbor Tour® and find out about the creek’s storied past, challenging present and bright future.
The Newtown Pentacle: The Maritime History of Newtown Creek is one largely forgotten in these decadent times, but even now an odd tugboat and barge might be spied making their way down the waterway on any given day.
Property owners were considered to have been blessed by some of the finest industrial bulkheads in the world a mere century ago, yet many of the businesses based along the Creek today ignore this invaluable resource, allowing their waterfront property to decay and decline.
Nevertheless, a staggering amount of maritime traffic is still observed here, and towing companies such as Reinauer, K-Sea (now part of Kirby), DonJon, and Poling and Cutler are regular visitors.
Vast operations will be witnessed by those onboard, many of which are involved in the scrap metal and recyclables trade. Responsible for an enormous amount of cross harbor shipping, companies such as SimsMetal are heavily reliant on the maritime trades for their economic success.
Not all that long ago, Newtown Creek carried a greater tonnage of cargo than the entire Mississippi River.
A tributary of the estuarine East River, Newtown Creek extends some 3.8 miles from its junction with the more familiar waterway, and provides demarcation for the currently undefended border of much of Brooklyn and Queens. Named to the Federal Superfund list, the Creek suffers from a history of environmental degradation and municipal neglect.
An era of great change is upon the Newtown Creek, and this trip will be one of your last chances to see it in its current form.
Come explore Newtown Creek by boat on Saturday, September 28 with Working Harbor Executive Director Captain John Doswell and Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman as your guides.
Boarding begins at 2:30 p.m., and departs at 3:00 p.m. sharp. The 2.5 hour, fully narrated, round-trip excursion departs from and returns to the New York Skyports Marina found at East 23rd Street & the FDR Drive in Manhattan. There will be a cash bar onboard.
by Mai Armstrong via Mitch Waxman for the
Working Harbor Committee
Want to see something cool?
A Hidden Harbor® Newark Bay Tour is in the offing, which will take place onboard the luxury tour boat Zephyr.
Produced by the Working Harbor Committee of New York, a 501c3 non-profit corporation whose mission is to strengthen awareness of the working harbor’s history and vitality today, and its opportunities for the future.
The tour will be departing from South Street Seaport’s Pier 16 in Lower Manhattan, on Tuesday the 10th of September, between 5:30 and 7:30 p.m.
Our vessel features two fully enclosed and climate controlled decks with all amenities. There is an open-air roof deck which offers panoramic views of the incredible harbor of New York and New Jersey. Snacks and beverages, including wine and beer, will be available for onboard purchase on the spacious and comfortable ship.
Hidden Harbor® Tours are presented by Working Harbor Committee in partnership with the New York Water Taxi/Circle Line Downtown.
Visiting Brooklyn’s Erie Basin, then “Tugboat Alley” (aka the Kill Van Kull), our ultimate destination will be the Port Elizabeth and Port Newark container terminals. The Statue of Liberty will be visited on the way home, at sunset.
Tugboats, oil barges, tankers, container ships, car carriers, ocean liners and ferries ply the busy waters of New York Harbor daily, but most of their activity is hidden from land. On this cruise tour-goers will get an insider’s view of New York’s working harbor – the largest port on the East Coast and the third busiest in the nation.
Working Harbor Committee offers boat tours from May to October. Tours are narrated by people who know the harbor intimately – tugboat captains, maritime historians and other experts. WHC’s schedule includes visits to places like the tugboat berths in Erie Basin and Kill Van Kull, container, breakbulk, oil and car ports in Brooklyn and New Jersey, Newtown Creek and many other locations.
The group has been in operation for ten years, and proceeds derived from the tour help to support educational programs for at risk youths, as well as offering free harbor programming for senior citizens.
Onboard our comfortable NY Water Taxi vessel Zephyr, you will be delighted by a never-ending parade of tugboats, cargo vessels, and see the immense cargo handling equipment which lines the shorelines. Hear the realities of keeping a 24/7 operation like this- which employs tens of thousands of New Yorkers- running from maritime experts and harbor insiders.
The world of working maritime vessels and facilities is vitally important to the area’s economic well-being.
Want to know where your Toyota came in? How the ingredients for your chocolate bar got here? How your trash is removed?
Welcome to the Working Harbor.
This tour passes by the Red Hook Container Terminal and visits Erie Basin, home of Hughes Brothers Barges and Reinauer Tugs before crossing the harbor toward Staten Island. It then enters Kill Van Kull, the area’s busiest waterway dividing Staten Island and Bayonne, passing tug yards, oil docks and marine repair facilities.It then passes under the Bayonne Bridge and visits the giant container ports of Newark Bay: Port Newark and the Elizabeth-Port Authority Marine Terminal, where the world’s largest container ships tie up.
On the way back, we pass by Military Ocean Terminal, the 9/11 Teardrop Memorial, the Robbins Reef Lighthouse and more.
The Statue of Liberty, at sunset, is our last stop before returning to Pier 16.
The September 10th Newark Bay tour will be led by Captain John Doswell, executive director of Working Harbor Committee.
Capt. Doswell was a writer, designer, producer and software developer for many years before turning his attention to NYC’s waterfront. He serves on the board of several waterfront organizations and founded Friends of Hudson River Park. In addition, he is a waterfront consultant and event producer. Capt. Doswell runs the annual tug race on the Hudson River, and has been involved with everything from Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance’s “City of Water Day” to “Op Sail”.
Special guest narrator Ed Kelly, executive director of the Maritime Association of the Port of New York and New Jersey, will draw on his long maritime experience to describe how the port works.
“The maritime industry delivers the American way of life. It is essential to the nation’s security and economic well-being,” Ed Kelly has said. But because we have gotten so good at what we do people don’t even know we do it any more. It is hidden away. That’s why tours like this are so important.”
Get onboard with the Working Harbor Committee, and order tickets to our September 10th Newark Bay tour with Capt. John Doswell and Ed Kelly, click here for the NY Water Taxi ticketing page.
Tomorrow’s the BIG day!
Schedule of Events:
10:00 AM Parade of tugs from Pier 84 to the start line
10:30 AM Race starts – Just south of 79th Street Boat Basin near Pier 84
11 AM Nose to nose pushing contests and line toss competition
NOON Tugs tie up to Pier 84 for lunch and awards ceremony. Exhibits, amateur line-toss, spinach-eating contest and more!
1 PM Awards ceremony
2 PM Tugs begin to depart
There’ll be dozens of Working Harbor Committee volunteers manning the race all along the Hudson; along the shore, on tugboats, on the Circle Line 42 Spectator boat, on the Fireboat John J. Harvey, and on Pier 84 where race narration and all the on-shore competitions will take place.
Stop by the WHC tents at the end of Pier 84 and check out the exhibits, tug art and to say hi to Mrs. Capt. Doswell. Pick up a few raffle tickets for a chance to win a beautiful framed, one-of-a-kind waterfront watercolor by Bowsprite. Don’t forget to get yourself a commemorative t-shirt too!
Looking forward to seeing you all tomorrow! Stop and say hi if you see me running around!
by Mai Armstrong for the Working Harbor Committee
Just a short post today, I’m heading out to Governor’s Island for the City of Water Day festivities. Working Harbor Committee is hosting several of the free boat tours, and I’ll be on the Newtown Creek Boat Tour at 11 a.m. with Mitch Waxman plus special guest speakers.
It’s going to be a hot one, so be sure to wear a hat and have plenty of water on hand. Stop by the Working Harbor pop-up tent and say hi to WHC friends and volunteers!
Have a wonderful City of Water Day!
by Mai Armstrong for Working Harbor Committee
I’m sorry to announce that we have to postpone the May 26 Newtown Creek boat tour. Despite our best laid plans, the NYC DOT announced they will be painting the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge over the next 4 months. What this means to us is, at various (unscheduled) times, the bridge could be locked in the closed position for up to 6 days at a time.
From federalregister.gov: The Commander, First Coast Guard District, has issued a temporary deviation from the regulation governing the operation of the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge across Newtown Creek, mile 1.3, at New York City, New York. The deviation is necessary to facilitate bridge painting operations. Under this temporary deviation, the bridge may remain in the closed position for various times up to six days at a time during a four-month period.
Working Harbor Committee’s Captain John Doswell, together with Mitch Waxman, after much calculation and debate over vessel draft and tides, came to the mutual decision to reschedule the trip for the Fall, when the three-hour tour is not apt to be stopped in its tracks barely 30 minutes into the exploration.
Ticket holders should have already received an email from Captain John and refunds are on their way.
Please accept our apologies for the inconvenience and look for our rescheduled Newtown Creek boat exploration to take place in the Fall.
by Mai Armstrong for Working Harbor Committee
Bounty. The mere mention of her name brings prickles of tears to my eyes. I still can’t believe that she and two precious souls are lost forever. The hearings to determine what transpired on that fateful day have been a kaleidoscope of disbelief and heartbreak.
gCaptain has been following the investigative hearings closely. Follow the links for their Bounty hearings coverage:
- Day 1: Chief Mate Testifies
- Day 2: Rotted Frames on Bounty
- Day 3: Testimony Highlights the Complexity
- Day 4: The Illusion of Experience
- Day 5: Sins of Omission
- Day 6: The Cost of Waiting
- Day 7: The 17th Passenger
- Day 8: The Whole Truth
Our own Captain John Doswell, expressed his feelings on the tragic event:
I only met Robin twice, two different times, both as Bounty was moored next to the fireboat on previous visits, and then by email several times, mostly about OpSail (we tried to get Bounty in the parade). When the vessel sank and many were quick to damn him, I held back and said let’s wait for the investigation, let him rest in peace. As a writer in Sea History Magazine said, “If he made a mistake, he paid the ultimate price”. But now it seems like a long series of mistakes and bad judgments, some going back months & even years. Hopefully, as the Coast Guard intends, the lessons learned from this tragedy will be helpful in saving future ships and lives. The final report will come out in CG Proceedings Magazine soon, which I get and will pass on at that time.
I do recall the first visit several years ago when Bounty was visibly and shockingly in bad shape. I went below decks. For the movie the steel frames had been covered with fiberglass fake wood, and one was cracked allowing me to see inside to the frame itself. She was generally dirty and not well-kept. Spars were broken and drooping, dirt everywhere. Robin admitted the boat was in bad shape but said he was about to embark on an ambitious plan to upgrade everything.
I saw her again a few years later and indeed she looked much better, almost like new. I think this was after the movie so some $ had been spent. She did manage to run her bowsprit into the back of the stage on Pier 66 – but eventually managed to land alongside John J Harvey. I went aboard again and everything I saw looked good, but I did not do a complete tour below decks, engine room, etc. The testimonies above are shocking to me. I would not have guessed any of that.
Sobering reading. It’s important to remember, Bounty was not a normal case. I believe most tall ships are very well run and I would not hesitate to sail on one in blue water. Bounty was a sad exception. In fact a close friend and also a captain, Maggie Flanagan, will be sailing on two in March, first on the USCG Cutter Eagle, then on Mystic Whaler, and I’m not in the least apprehensive.
As for Robin, I could not draw any conclusions from the two times I actually talked to him. I liked him. But, as Mario said, tall ship crew members and captains are very easy to like & admire. As damning as the hearings are at the moment, you have to assume he meant well and somehow lost sight of reality.
Here is a pic from the 2nd visit – about 2-3 years ago I think – looking very shipshape.
Out of sight, a little damage to her bowsprit from hitting the stage building as she was trying to land. I was there, along with Krevey.
Eventually, after about 30 minutes, she got herself turned around with no tug or push boat to help.
Our heartfelt prayers to the families and friends of their lost loved ones.
by Charles D. Williams
For fair winds and a following sea
The smell of salt in the air,
The feel of their skin as it’s touched by the spray
An albatross soaring above,
Dolphins in the ship’s wake at play
To witness a work of art that only God can create,
The sunset at the end of day
At night a million stars in the sky,
Safe anchorage in an islands lee
When the time comes to die as for all it must,
To awake in Sailors Heaven where nothing ever rusts
And always there would be,
Fair winds and a following sea
by Mai Armstrong via Captain John Doswell for Working Harbor Committee
An update from Captain John Doswell, Executive Director, Working Harbor Committee
In general, most commercial vessels, including historic & educational vessels, fared well in New York Harbor with a few notable exceptions (See this about a tanker run aground on a street in Staten Island).
Most damage was to waterfront facilities everywhere – but especially in New Jersey.
The South Street Seaport Museum’s schooner Pioneer was safe up river anchored near Verplanck (where Capt Doswell took her last year during Tropical Storm Irene) but we hear the marinas up there, as in other locations, are in shambles and/or gone.
photo: Working Harbor Committee
Back at Pier 16, Pioneer’s floating dock is fine, but you can see in the photo above, the huge camel for it floated up and over the pier railing and got stuck there. The same thing happened to the lightship Ambrose – ship fine, camel on the pier.
South Street Seaport Museum lobby after the flood waters receded. photo: via SSSM facebook page
The two tall ships at the South Street Seaport Museum were fine, thanks to good shipkeeping by the Museum’s Waterfront Director, Capt Jonathan Boulware. The schooner Lettie G Howard was well out of harm’s way in Mystic CT. As for the Museum itself, although the exhibits and artifacts are all on higher floors and suffered no damage, the Museum’s tenants and programs, as well as the lobby & mechanical equipment were hard hit. For the complete story and how to help, click here.
Meanwhile at Classic Harbor Lines at Chelsea Piers, operated by WHC Steering Committee members Sarah and Susan Greer and Meghan May Hart, and owner Rick Scarano, a great WHC supporter, the boats came through fine. But Rick & crew had a tough time keeping the floating docks in place. And the Classic Harbor Line office and stock room were ruined by flooding, with about 4 feet of water filling the building, which sloshed everything around.
According to Bill Buckley at our Hidden Harbor Tour partner New York Water Taxi & Circle Line Downtown, again the boats came through fine, but facilities suffered. Gus Markou, CEO at Circle Line 42nd Street and another great tour partner and supporter of WHC, said the story was much the same.
Sandy Hook Pilots. photo: Richard Drew/AP/Corbis via New York Magazine
The large container and ro-ro ships that we see on our tours all went to sea for the event, and area tugs found safe places to hide – The Reinauer tug fleet holed up in Erie Basin according to VP Bert Reianuer. We saw the Sandy Hook Pilots boats spend the evening stemming the tide in the North River, an option that was considered for John J Harvey before we decided on Pier 25.
Other historic ships came through well, according to their owners or keepers. The steamer lighthouse tender Lilac and historic tug Pegasus were fine at Pier 25, and the Showboat and Museum Barge (Lehigh Valley No 79) and tanker Mary Whalen (PortSide NewYork) fared well in Red Hook – but again facilities – and the neighborhood of Red Hook, among others – suffered much damage. And, as mentioned above, Pier 66 Maritime was not damaged, nor was the historic lightship Frying Pan, nor Manhattan by Sail’s boats Clipper City or Shearwater.
As for the NY Harbor School on Governors Island, falling trees spared the school building and the fleet docked at Brooklyn Navy Yard survived. Captain Aaron Singh reported, “Our boats survived the storm with little to no damage. They are in good shape”, thanks to the efforts of faculty, staff, and students.
For the latest on the state of New York Harbor from the NY Times, Click Here.
After the storm: Sun coming up on the city & Pegasus from stern of Harvey. photo: Renee Lutz Stanley
But even with relatively good news about many vessels, this was a destructive event on a historic scale that has brought great loss and misery to so many, including entire towns, especially in Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens and many other waterfront areas in NYC and New Jersey, where many of our readers live, and our hearts go out to all those who have suffered from it.
Pleas for help are coming from many neighborhoods around New York and New Jersey. We can’t list them all here but please check websites and twitter feeds for information on how you can help in your area.
If you would like to help but don’t know where to start, here is the Red Cross link for Hurricane Sandy. (Click Here)
by Captain John Doswell, Executive Director, Working Harbor Committee
Have you watched this amazing short film by Jessica Edwards about Tugs? Join her as she gives us an intimate glimpse into the world of the marine towing industry in our working harbor. Our very own Capt. John Doswell, in addition to consulting on the film, makes a cameo appearance towards the end, around the 8 minute mark.
TugsFilm.com: Set against the backdrop of one of the world’s busiest harbors, “Tugs” is an ode to the hardest working boats on the waterways and the people who pilot them. Once filled with scallywags and salty dogs—rugged seafarers who virtually lived on the water—the marine towing industry in New York City has matured, but the traditions of family, community and hard work persevere. “Tugs” admires the legacy and longevity of these boats and the strength of their position in the country’s history and future.
Jessica Edwards‘ films have screened at festivals around the world including Sundance, SXSW, Hot Docs and on PBS’s documentary series POV.
by Mai Armstrong for Working Harbor Committee