Sparkling renovation of tanker Mary A. Whalen galley

The transformation of the galley will knock your socks off! Decades of paint were removed from steel, bronze and Monel surfaces.  The bulkhead was painted one of its early colors, a light, bright green typical in the 1930's when the ship was launched.

What made this project so challenging (beyond the scope of work) is that we are limited, since February 2012, to just 5 visitors at a time who do not have Homeland Security TWIC cards, and 5 such visitors can only be escorted in and out by our Director Carolina Salguero who has to stay aboard (eg,  not leave for meetings) while they are aboard.

These rules have so impeded access to the ship that they have largely stopped volunteer shipwork (and programs) on the tanker.   What inspired us to take on this big project is that Erika Stetson donated her entire month of December to us (as training for her entry to SUNY Maritime Academy) which broke the back on this work (and fortunately not on her!).

Paint removal and painting volunteers included Carol Salguero (Carolina's mother), Carla and Andrea Oviedo (visiting from Spain), Max Powell (driving 3 hours each way from Waterford for a few weekends), and our advisor Paul Amico.  As this project went along, we also got assistance from The Red Hook Volunteers, FEMA Americorps members, and various individuals.  Peter Guaracci, an actor and teacher, is our latest regular volunteer.

Putting Humpty Dumpty Back Together Again

Putting the space back together was a project unto itself!  Shipcat Chiclet was most engaged during the unpacking of the boxes.  She did not like the noise of the paint chipping portion of this project. Needleguns are not for her!

Metal polishing work

We all delight in the gleam!

The Porthole Challenge

Dear Workboat crew,

Never paint the polished bronze!  SO many layers of paint are on Mary Whalen's portholes and Monel porthole surrounds. 

At first, we hoped to take the portholes entirely out, but getting them separated from the ship's steel proved too much. We are sending the swing plates, nuts, hinge pins and deadlights out for dip and strip polishing. The dogs will be another tedious matter.

Getting the hinge pins separated from the cast iron deadlights, which have corroded and swollen around the pins, has been a project requiring Zen patience, regular application of PB Blaster lubricant, heat, tapping, and prayer.

You can still help! Here is what we still need:

Tile restoration: Replace missing tile. Clean and restore existing tile. The white tiles are very discolored.

Repair of the wood paneled fridge and freezer: glue down some veneer bubbles, some re-varnishing. Change of freon, gaskets and compressors from DC to AC motors (or installation of a rectifier)

7 vintage cabinet latches. We can provide dimensions and details.

Furniture restoration and upholstery work: Restoration of the table stools.  They should have backs. Some of the seats are not original. All should be reupholstered. New back and side cushion for the banquette, and re-upholstery of the banquette seat cushion to match.

Wood refinishing. Some sanding and varnishing of wood shelves and trim and parts of the fridge.

Two vintage fans. One was mounted on a wooden shelf, the other a "wall-mounted" model was on a bulkhead under the skylight. (We can provide dimensions).

Donations as ever!

Thanks!




Sandyversary-Red-Hook-events-Superstorm-Sandy-one-year-anniversary

Red Hook got walloped by Sandy on 10/29/12, but the spirit that was most visible at the one-year anniversary, the Sandyversary, was moxie and mirth.  Cheeky illustrations popped up in a few places.   

Waterline with fish at the home of Chief Urban Designer of NYC's Department of City Planning. He is designing a way to flood-proof ground floors in the future.   

Waterline with fish at the home of Chief Urban Designer of NYC's Department of City Planning. He is designing a way to flood-proof ground floors in the future.  

 There are a lot of chicken coops in Red Hook, and chicken jokes and costumes abounded.  References to the Great Chicken Rescue conducted by the gals of the winebar home/made, Monica Byrne and Leisah Swenson, appeared on their store window, on Heba Deli's next door, and the bartender’s costume at the Red Hook Volunteers Party.

Barnacle Parade

An underground parade, the Barnacle Parade, was organized on short notice. Satirical costumes ridiculed the insurance industry, referred to blown out transformers, jerry jugs, diesel oil spills, and Gowanus Canal overflow. A float depicting a generator loomed over it all. A huge, blue tarp, shaken by a dozen people, was a lo-fi illustration of Sandy’s flood waters. 

 

RHI - Sandy One Year Acknowledgement Anniversary Dinner

We were pretty busy with the parade and our role in the Light up the Shore, so we missed most of Red Hook Initiative's event. If anyone wants to send photos and copy our way, we'll post them!  The proceedings concluded with a visit by Bill de Blasio, now Mayor of New York City, who had a lot of media in tow.

 

 
 
 

Coffey Park candlelight vigil

A vigil organized by Monica Byrne, Rachel Forsyth, Martha Bowers and others started near 7pm. A pleasant twenty minutes or so of chatting and candle-lighting occurred while the crowd gathered, some of them from RHI's event above. Reginald Flowers asked everyone to form a circle  ("this is a Red Hook circle," someone quipped looking at our misshapen round in the park) and to have a moment of silence. The silence ended when the Hungry March Band, invited by PortSide NewYork with the help of Dan Wiley of Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez office, struck up a tune and stepped out to head towards IKEA.

 

 
 

Light Up the Shore

PortSide NewYork was the Red Hook organizer for Light up the Shore, a harborwide event including NY & NJ, where people lined up with candles and flashlights at 7:45pm, the hour the waters started hitting our city.  On this, we coordinated with The Brooklyn Long Term Recovery Group, who was helping to arrange gathering spots all over Brooklyn.

The Hungry March band led a group of about two hundred people, New Orleans style, towards the waterfront with teens on skateboards and bikes dancing and popping wheel out in the front.  As the throng turned on to Van Brunt Street at Pioneer, a big cheer erupted from the rump remains of the Barnacle Parade partying in front of Bait & Tackle

IKEA graciously invited the community to come to their waterfront and donated 200 candles, hot Glogg (a Swedish beverage that tastes a lot better than it sounds!) and cookies. Fairway donated hot cider and cookies. Father Claudio Antecini of Visitation Church spoke followed by Carlos Menchaca, now our Councilman.  Carolina Salguero of PortSide said "there is a request for group hug, hug someone you know and some one you don't," and after a bout of hugging and more chatting, the crowd filtered away into the night.

 
 

Red Hook Volunteer

The dynamic duo of Monica and Leisah hosted a party at their new venue Atelier Roquette, to honor the recovery work of the Red Hook Volunteers and help them raise money. Over 50 attended what felt like the relaxed after party for a day of Sandyversary events, with some people shuttling back and forth between the Bait & Tackle party and the Volunteers.  The Mother Earth Band (made wholly or mostly of Volunteers) played.  Red Hook is truly blessed to have had this contingent of young people make their way to NYC after the storm and find Red Hook and stay to  help us out. Three cheers to the Red Hook Volunteers!

 
 
 

MARY A. WHALEN's 75th Birthday... some time in Atlantic Basin

Exciting 5 Days in Atlantic Basin & NY Harbor

What a whirlwind!  In just over a month, PortSide NewYork received a White House award for our Sandy recovery work, had our Founder & Director Carolina Salguero receive a National Maritime Historical Society (NMHS) award, and we were able to open the tanker MARY A. WHALEN to the public for the first time in almost three years!!!

News of that NMHS award facilitated PortSide’s being able to move the tanker into Atlantic Basin, which is how, on very short notice, we could to open the tanker MARY A. WHALEN for her 75th birthday.

Friday 5/17/13, some eighty NMHS members came to the MARY A. WHALEN on a NY Waterways ferry as part of a harbor tour of historic ships.  Our Director Carolina Salguero spent the rest of the weekend with NMHS during their 50th anniversary celebrations and annual meeting.

Burchenal Green, President of the National Maritime Historical Society, at the helm of the MARY. 

Burchenal Green, President of the National Maritime Historical Society, at the helm of the MARY. 

For inspiration about how to think of using our harbor, take a look at the National Maritime Historical Society 50th Anniversary weekend events to see how maritime people connect far flung venues - by boat!  The itinerary harkens back to the “Chain of Ships” we once proposed, a series of NYC maritime destinations connected by boat.

With the tanker in Atlantic Basin for the NMHS visit, we asked if we could stay two more days, which is how the ship was suddenly able to be open to the public on Tuesday, 5/21/13, the tanker's actual 75th birthday.


Party report!

The MARY A. WHALEN was open for public tours during a hot Tuesday afternoon, followed by a public party with “cake and remarks” from 5-7pm, with an evening after-party capping it all off.

TankerTour visitors included the great surprise of crew descendants: Hans Hansen, son of the engineer Hans Hansen who worked with Alf Dyrland, the Captain for 20 years, brought the engineer’s granddaughter Ingrid Hansen for the first time since 1968. She was about 9 when she last visited and remembered that women were not welcome aboard at the time. Some things have changed!

We also received visitors from PS 29, the school for whose Super Science Saturday fair we created our simple “Simple Machine” machine and installation, a highly interactive exhibit we would like to bring other schools and public events. (School staff & parents, please get in touch to help shape programs for the next year!). 

PortSide use of the tanker as a social mixer to bring maritime and inland people together was sure evident during the party!  

Hip Hop dancer Ze Motion as photographed near the stack of the MARY A. WHALEN by Jonathan Atkin

Hip Hop dancer Ze Motion as photographed near the stack of the MARY A. WHALEN by Jonathan Atkin

We had the maritime consultants, authors and artists Barry Parker, Rick Spilman & Frank Hanavan, along with community members, families with kids, and Ian Danic, a board member of River Project, with his pet giant macaws. 

Frank Hanavan did some turkshead bombing of our gangway rail and strung up ship flags to great effect, assisted by architect and Museum Designer Paul Alter, who peered into the cargo tanks and expressed an interest in being the man to redesign them for exhibit and function space when we're ready to do that.

Also attending was the Federal Disaster Recovery Coordination team involved with New York State's Sandy recovery.  We met them thanks to winning the White House award and are talking to them about how to bring resiliency preparedness resources to Red Hook. 

Roland Lewis lead a contingent from the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance. Dan Wiley from US Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez' office and Jim Vogel from NYS Senator Velmanette Montgomery spent a long time with us, and we were glad to have our prospective landlord John Quadrozzi of GBX-Gowanus Bay Terminal aboard with his wife Xiomara.

As if the macaws were not visual enough, maritime photographer Jonathan Atkin provided more eye candy by running a photo shoot with three magnificent dancers.

Access limitations at our normal berth in the Red Hook containerport had prevented Atkin from getting dancers to the tanker for weeks; so with just two days notice, he assembled three of them to further his Hero Project, an inspired photo concept he created to use dancers to bring attention to the cause of historic ships.

After the party shoot, one dancer tackled his bird phobia with one of Ian's macaws – the MARY A. WHALEN is consistently a place where extraodinarly things happen - and the hip hop dancer Ze Motion, who dances for Madonna and major sponsors, offered to donate a dance performance to PortSide. 

 

What's in a name

The tanker’s 75th, and our new website, are the occasion to introduce the new way we will refer to the tanker.

We’ve been calling her “the Whalen” for short since that was what our Director Carolina Salguero first heard her called in 2001; but we have learned that all former crew members call her “the MAR,Y” and so from here on in, so shall we.

That's a good lead in to note just how rare and precious the MARY A. WHALEN is as well as what PortSide has done with her.

According to Norman Brouwer, a noted maritime historian, the MARY A. WHALEN is the only oil tanker in the world re-purposed as an educational and cultural center. Once the Sandy-damaged tanker JOHN B CADDELL is scrapped next month, Norman says the MARY A. WHALEN will be the last surviving coastal oil tanker in the USA.

What was a sizeable fleet of coastal oil tankers, a type of vessel type which was significant to the war effort during WWII, was destroyed in the course of duty, sunk as artificial reefs, scrapped or , years ago, exported to third world countries.

 

Some behind the scenes photos - what's involved in moving the MARY

It's great to be a tanker!  We could use our own boom to lift aboard a portasan and take it with us, sparing us the cost and hassle of having Royal Flush deliver. The tug RED HOOK approaches, makes up the tow, we haul in our shorepower cord, we pass the container ship pier of the Red Hook Marine Terminal, MV Cape Race as we enter Atlantic Basin, John Weaver attaches the shorepower cord adapter for Atlantic Basin, coming back home at dusk with Red Hook Volunteer Mike Elders on deck, crew of tug SASSAFRAS docking the MARY.

Special thanks

Profuse thanks to the Port Authority, EDC & BillyBey for greenlighting our stay in Atlantic Basin within days.  At this time, we would also like to welcome BillyBey to Red Hook as the new operator of Atlantic Basin. Our visit was their first vessel call in Atlantic Basin, and it was an auspicious start!  Thanks also to Metro Cruise Services, the operators of the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, for their help with the fencing we used during the TankerTours and tanker birthday party.

Thanks to the Red Hook Volunteers for providing essential set-up and break-down labor. If you want to help Red Hook’s Sandy recovery, please come volunteer with them!  Sandy-damaged businesses, home owners, tenants and NYCHA residents are still being helped by them.

We only recently learned the MARY A. WHALEN's actual launch date was May 21 due to research by noted maritime historian Norman Brouwer, the man who basically wrote THE guides to historic ships and some of our national preservation standards for them. Thank you, Norman!  

Vane Brothers tugboat RED HOOK

Vane Brothers tugboat RED HOOK

Special thanks to Vane Brothers for donating the tow between our current berth in the containerport and Atlantic Basin!!!  We were very excited to be towed to Atlantic Basin by their brand new tug, the RED HOOK, named in honor of our favorite neigborhood.  Vane's NYC operations are based at the former site of Ira S. Bushey's in Red Hook where the MARY A. WHALEN first began her working life, which provides a great reminder of how the working waterfront in Red Hook has a long, and living, history - and we are part of it!