Sorry for the late posting friends, I find myself struggling to find my words this morning. The WHC family received terrible news last night.

John at the helm. Photo by ©Phyllis Featherstone


Our dear John Skelson passed away yesterday, and suddenly our beloved friend is gone.

Most of you know John from his weekly Friday “Ship Spotting with Skelson” posts, brimming with his photographs of tugboats moving huge containerships up and down the Kill Van Kull.

John’s tugboat photography on exhibit on board Lilac. Photo by Mitch Waxman


John’s generosity spread beyond sharing his photos with us. John and his bride Phyllis would attend every Hidden Harbor Tour that they could, helping with holding signs and answering questions at dockside.

On board, you would always find Skelson on the bow – what I have always called – the photographers spot – taking photos and talking “shop” with fellow harbor enthusiasts and greenhorns alike.

Headed out to the bow. Photo by Mitch Waxman


What you may not know is that the Skelson’s would journey from their home in Staten Island into the city to photograph our indoor events like WHC’s annual fundraising gala and our “film night” in the early spring, and as some of you have read, even write posts about them for this blog.

At work on the bow. Photo by Mitch Waxman


John Skelson featured in the New York Times

At the annual Tugboat Race, you would find John hard at work, shooting the mighty vessels as they churned up the Hudson, capturing the expressions of all the kids competing in the spinach-eating contest, photos of lines in mid-toss, the tugs tied up at Pier 84…

John leading his annual photo walk along the KVK. Photo by Mitch Waxman


When I got the news last night of his passing, my first thought was steeped in denial. “But, Barque Peking is going to be hoisted on a heavy-lift ship in the spring, I thought. You can’t miss that, John!”

It saddens me to think he will not be working at “the office” that day.

John Skelson at “the office” on the Kill. Photo by Mitch Waxman


Fair Winds and Following Seas, John Skelson. I am richer for having known you. Rest in Peace my friend.


by Mai Armstrong