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Back in 2008, I read an article in the NY Times about some “Working Harbor Committee” and their tours around NY Harbor. I quickly checked it out on-line and signed up for a trip… Phyllis and I were hooked, and to date we made every trip we could.

Capt John Doswell’s narration will be missed… ”On the Hip, Port, Starboard, in push gear”, and let’s not forget the Hughes Barge “fireworks” story in Erie Basin. Fair winds Dos, you will be missed.

Robert IV in “Push Gear” Buttermilk Channel 2009. Photo by John Skelson

Evergreen Ships unloading at Maher Terminal Port Elizabeth 2009. Photo by John Skelson

Pilot Boat #1, “New York” in the KVK 2009. Photo by John Skelson

November 14, 2009 saw a Saturday day trip, and unfortunately, the remnants of a hurricane was passing, with lots of rain. Photo of the new Catherine C Moran laying over for the storm, on her delivery trip south. Photo by John Skelson

Golden Florence 2009. Photo by John Skelson

Ross Sea (K-Sea). Photo by John Skelson

MSC Ornella out to sea 2010. Photo by John Skelson

Cape Cod in Newark Bay. Photo by John Skelson

Hughes Barges in Erie Basin… We all know the story!!! 2011. Photo by John Skelson

Ellen S Bouchard 2011. Photo by John Skelson

Heavy Lift Ship Blue Marlin 2011. Photo by John Skelson

Discovery Coast 2012. Photo by John Skelson

Lynx in Newark Bay 2012. Photo by John Skelson

 

Capt. John Doswell and Mitch Waxman discussing the trip. Photo by John Skelson

 

All photos from WHC Hidden Harbor tours, 2009-2012.

All photos by John Skelson, generously shared with the Working Harbor Committee

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Dear friends and readers:

My apologies for having been silent over the past two days. As many of you have heard by now, we have suffered a devastating loss.

Captain John W. Doswell, our captain, our North Star, our guiding light passed away on Friday 2 January, 2015 and the WHC family and the whole waterfront community has been reeling from the news.

I have barely parsed the news of his passing and am now faced with this daunting task of writing a eulogy befitting of my friend. So many things to say about Capt. John…where to start?

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Capt. John Doswell. photo by Mitch Waxman

 

Captain John W. Doswell

John Doswell was a bona fide superhero. He created beauty from decay, he restored life to stagnant waters, he built people into a community, where before there was none.

You could always find John working. The man never stopped doing. There were piles of documents neatly stacked in the “dungeon” – the basement office from where Capt. John would steer the constant stream of waterfront projects, events, educational programs, working harbor tours and more. With that wry smile of his, he worked tirelessly on, even when he discovered he was ill.

John was so passionate about the ‘6th boro’ he dedicated the last decade of his career to our waterfront. He founded Friends of Hudson River Park, and Pier 84 is what it is today because of him. He was an integral member of many illustrious waterfront organizations and committees – North River Historic Ship Society, Community Board 4, Save Our Ships New York and the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, to name a few.

He was one of the original group of friends who bought the Fireboat John J. Harvey, and helped to restore her to working glory. He was onboard the fireboat, pumping water onto Ground Zero on 9/11 and he was onboard (with a flask of hot chocolate under his arm) safeguarding her during Hurricane Sandy.

But for me, he was the ‘guy who made things happen’. As executive director of the Working Harbor Committee, John would orchestrate the most amazing extravaganzas. 22 years of Tug Boat Races, international ship visits (including a 16th century replica of a Spanish Galleon), OpSail 2012, where part of the challenge was to find berthing for dozens of vessels from around the world.

Only one man could make it all happen. Doswell.

John would narrate every single harbor tour, enthralling boat-loads of passengers with details about the workings of our magnificent harbor, peppered with stories of lighthouse keepers and fireworks disasters. The thought of never hearing his ‘fireworks story’ again as we approach Erie Basin, makes me immeasurably sad.

If you wanted to know pretty much anything about New York Harbor, you could ask John. I will always regret not asking John more stuff. I thought I had more time.

But beneath all the hustle and bustle stood this really great man. Smart, funny and sincere, John was a kind, loving and supportive husband, father and friend.

His love and passion for the waterfront paled in comparison to his love for his daughter Jhoneen and his life-partner wife Jean. In perfect sync, they were always together, whether working to save a historic ship from scrap or traveling together to exotic seas. Their love and respect for each other so evident and beautiful.

John, always gracious, welcomed everyone with open arms and an open heart. He never spoke an unkind word about anyone, or lost his temper, that I know of. His positivity permeated everything he did.

Every obstacle was a challenge we could overcome, every set back merely a springboard to success, in every dark cloud he would see only the silver lining.

We have lost a great teacher. We have lost a great leader. We have lost a great man…

Fair Winds Captain John.

-Mai Armstrong

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