Annoying Spaghetti

Sunday 1/21/07

0530 I wake up with a bad thought – it’s really cold… the forepeak water, did they pump it out? If not, I could have more valves crack like the one I patched with wood slivers…

0800 I arrive at DD#1 and find Charlie already there, I’m to be his scribe recording the audio gauge soundings. I tell him I want to get a fire going in the potbelly and check the forepeak and then I’ll be right along. Yup, there’s water in the forepeak.

0830 I call the very can-do Ernie, who has always said, “call me if you need anything, I can be here in 20 minutes,” to tell him the forepeak water has to go.

0900 Ernie arrives, a tad disgruntled and in new suede shoes. Oops; I shouldn’t have taken him at his word on a Sunday… We begin wrassling with pumps. The box on their power cord comes apart. He gets another. Next their pump won’t work; it can’t push through the frozen fire hose. My idea is to wet the hose to see if that will thaw it enough. I squeeze down the forepeak hatch, to protect Ernie’s shoes, and start soaking the hose. Pump no can do. Next, we try the pump I have aboard, a heavy bronze one with an air compressor hose attached. We lower it down, it won’t move. The impeller must be jammed with rust. By this time, there’s a snarl of pump hoses, ropes attached to pumps, and power cords dangling into the rusty wedge of the forepeak. An annoying spaghetti. It’s a two-man job -- one on deck, one in the hole – to get things out of there because everything fouls on its way up, on the ladder, the internal keel coolers, or steel bracketing. This is a bugger of a job, but the company is good. Ernie and I chat.

Ernie tells me two thought-provoking things, that the lead paint test IS still needed – “it’s procedure now;” and the dock is haunted, “footsteps sometimes follow me up the gangway at night”. If anywhere were to be haunted, the Brooklyn Navy Yard would be it. Thousands have died here: During the Revolution, the British kept prison ships that were really floating death chambers. Some 11,000 died in them, and their bodies were dumped overboard or in mass graves. Bones washed up on the beaches of Wallabout Bay well into the 19th century and caused such distress that they were re-interred in what is now Fort Greene Park where a tower memorializes their suffering. The Mafioso Joey Bonanno reputedly made people disappear here in the 20s. My boyfriend John says the King of Samoa is buried under the dock, because slave labor was used to build the dock and the Samoans would not work without their king… Truth or rumor, I don’t know, and I hope to find time to call the Navy Yard archivist Daniella Romano to ask about the dark side.

Ernie offers to unfoul the bronze pump, and I go to assist Charlie who has, as is his way, methodically chugged on with the soundings even though he hasn’t had the right ladder, me as scribe, or friendly weather. I meet him at the bow, where frozen stalactites reveal more forepeak leaks. Good thing none of that steel gave way while the Whalen was afloat!

Hearing my report of forepeak pumping frustrations, Charlie takes a hammer and smashes a hole in the bottom near the icicles. I’m ready to smash more holes if the bottom steel needs replacing; because what’s become clear is that most of the forepeak water migrated aft to the next space, the pump room engine room, and has flooded over the deck (floor) that separates a watertight compartment and the engine room itself. The limberholes in that watertight space are clogged with rust-mud, so pumping will not be easy.

Ernie fixes the bronze pump and resumes his Sunday by 1125. As I consider the frustration that pulling the spaghetti alone will be, I spot a mustached fellow in very clean Carhartts on the pier, “Are you the K-Sea barge guy?” “Yes” is the echo back. I ask for help.

Tankerman Rick is willing, he’s got time to burn. He’s into his second winter of “standing by” here, another weirdness of the weird Navy Yard that is a world unto itself. The Navy Yard has a co-generation plant. It runs on LNG, but Rick says that if there’s a cold snap down south, the LNG spigot is turned off so the South gets heat. Since the Navy Yard doesn’t want to risk not finding a local fuel barge available if there’s an LGN problem, they keep this loaded barge sitting at the ready all winter. As last winter was a mild winter, they never needed its fuel, so the tankermen never came and went nor did anything besides stand watch on the boat at its isolated dock. He’s eager to talk, “I read two books a week and go for long walks” and wants a quick tour of the Whalen. He, like everyone else who’s seen the Whalen since she arrived, really admires the boat. For me, it’s been a great boost and validation to feel that appreciation by all the staff and visitors at GMD.

Rick and I start pumping the flooded forward engine room. The hose doesn’t reach the rail (edge) of the boat; but given how much he’s prowled around, he knows where there is some ratty PVC pipe. We lay that down on the deck so we can shoot the water past the spudwell hole in the deck, down the starboard side. He leaves to get tend his generator, and I help Charlie until visitors arrive. Boyfriend John Gladsky arrives with more kindling and enthusiasm. Nathan Kensiger comes to photograph. Then Tim Ventimiglia, our museum designer, arrives with Elaina Ganim, his wife, and their beagle Mila. Tim is utterly taken with the Whalen out of water. The grand sweep of her lines is more visible framed by the dock. It will be Tim’s job, among others, to come up with a plan for how to turn the eight cargo tanks, 2,800 square feet, into exhibition space and shape what those exhibits will be. I spend a little time with everyone, with the result that Charlie really gets the shaft and spends most of the day working alone.

Tim & Elaina invite me and John to dinner. We spend a lot of time discussing the revived lead paint issue. I decide to stay the night with them and blog. High time; transforming notes into blog posts has proved challenging after long work days. John heads back to Oyster Bay. The lead testing team is due between 8 and 12 on Monday, so tomorrow will define all that follows.