We interrupt this gripping narrative to tell you about the Whalen’s 70th birthday party.
It was great! It was a hoot! We were mobbed! The December weather held!
It wasn’t without hiccups, mind you.
There was a bit of a glitch getting setting up due to someone outside the organization being slow to vet some paperwork, so the Whalen did not get towed to Atlantic Basin Friday morning for the Saturday event. Friday towing would have allowed our Friday volunteers to begin setting up the site in Atlantic Basin. But that didn’t happen, we got towed over at 2130 Friday, and I had to get our electrician in from Staten Island as the officially supplied one had gone home at that hour.
After that, our electrical guy, the master of old systems and all-around Mr. Fix-it Ed Fanuzzi, kicked back in the galley and chatted with Scott, a friend who had brought me take out dinner. I sat in the office writing the party program while the two guys drank coffee, smeared Nutella on Lorna Doones and told dirty jokes. “Carolina’s Home for Wayward Boys,” I dubbed it.
Early Saturday morning, while I was still in a pre-caffeinated state, I got a call from our insurance agent Totch Hartge. He was outside on the dock! He came bearing a gift for the Whalen, a brass ship’s lamp.
Next call was good friend and former neighbor Gary Baum. He had just driven his wife to the subway and was wearing a coat over his pajamas. “Howzit going?!” “We’re behind, we got here a day late.”’ He showed up in pajamas to pitch in.
The event caused such excitement that all the volunteers who’d RSVP-ed actually showed up. (You usually can’t be sure of that). Actually, volunteers we hadn’t heard from showed up! We had more volunteers than we needed! Here’s some text from the post-event PR we sent out. Please forgive me for not writing more original copy. Too much to do...
“December 6th, a happy horde of about 500 came from as far away as Maryland to cheer and visit the tanker Mary A. Whalen, home of PortSide NewYork, during her 70th birthday party.
The tour guides were a salty lot: Bob Moore, Vice President of Atlantic Container Line a shipping line that calls on ports both sides of the Harbor, Gerry Weinstein and Mary Habstritt of the Lilac Preservation Project, John Weaver, son in law of Alf Dyrland who had been captain of the Whalen for twenty years, and Will Van Dorp, author of the blog Tugster who sagely dubbed the harbor “the sixth borough.”
The galley and engine room were clogged with visitors of all ages, including former crew members, maritime buffs and rank landlubbers. The latter included one woman who stepped off the gangway to say “where’s the tanker?” but all had a grand time. Former crew members came bearing old photos and boat parts, from the Whalen and other tankers, in an effort to put her back together. Waterfront bloggers from Philadelphia and the Long Island Sound chatted over the wood stove; urban and ship preservationists found common ground while discussing things afloat.”
Guests arrived by water: PortSide partner the tug Pegasus attended, as did one working tug. The luxury yacht Manhattan came into Atlantic Basin for a salute. Two gigs from the Village Community Boathouse rowed over from Tribeca, and kayakers came from two other islands, Manhattan and Staten. Local Red Hook businesses got in on the action: Atlantis, a home furnishings store, loaned their signature six-foot red velvet hook for the café area; Steve’s Key Lime Pie compensated for the lack of a boathouse in Valentino Park (hello Parks Department!) and allowed visiting kayakers to leave boats in their garage. Maritime photographer Jonathan Atkin served as Master of Ceremonies.
Tours ceased during a half hour of formalities when proclamations were presented by Anthony Chiappone of the New Jersey State Assembly, the Brooklyn Borough President’s Office, and Roberta Weisbrod of the Working Harbor Committee. PortSide NewYork and the Lilac team gave Sal Catucci, CEO of American Stevedoring a Historic Ship Hero award—an illustration made by Christina Sun—for helping save historic vessels by providing free berths to three ships Nantucket, Lilac and Mary Whalen .
Carolina Salguero, Director of PortSide announced that most of the missing parts needed for the Whalen’s cannibalized engine had been secured in Seattle thanks to the co-operation of Stabbert Maritime and the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, Derelict Vessel Removal Program which had just scrapped an old tanker similar to the Whalen.
Salguero also announced that the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation had invited PortSide to produce a performance on the Whalen in the Navy Yard, and she asKed for performing arts groups with water-themed work to get in touch.”
After the public left the party, some folks hung around in the galley. Some PortSide volunteers, two tug captains (one came by land and one by sea), some harbor activists. I ordered pizzas and realized as I served that it was all guys. “Carolina’s Home for Wayward Boys” AGAIN I laughed to myself.
I also marvelled at how easy life could be if we got the Whalen out of a containerport or out of an industrial park; because after three years of life that included Erie Basin, Red Hook Marine Terminal and Brooklyn Navy Yard, this was the first time that takeout food could be delivered right to the boat.