The MARY turns 80! PortSide turns 13!

before we purchased her. after years of restoration work. 

before we purchased her. after years of restoration work. 

MARY A. WHALEN: unique, historic, relevant, handsome, beloved, 80 years old!

PortSide NewYork: innovative, resilient, inclusive, 13 years old!

Our ship MARY A. WHALEN made history! She turns 80 on May 21, 2018, and we invite you to come for art-making and TankerTours on Sunday May 20.  She is the only oil tanker in the world open for public programs!  Come get to know her and PortSide NewYork! We turn 13 this month!

Historic significance of the MARY A. WHALEN

The seas are safer, thanks to a 1975 Supreme Court decision, U.S. vs Reliable Transfer, which decided that in cases of marine accidents, the party at fault is held fully responsible. Prior to that, damages were split 50/50, which was not a good deterrent for bad operators. This resulted from the MARY A. WHALEN going aground on the Rockaways during Christmas 1968.

She is the last of her kind in the USA and on the National Register of Historic Places. 

She is an important artifact of Red Hook, Brooklyn history having been built for Ira S. Bushey & Sons. “Bushey's” was at the foot of Court Street and closed in the 1980s before the internet could recognize its fame. PortSide is working on that!

The MARY is one of the few museum ships in the USA that is steel-hulled, engine-powered and not a Navy vessel. She represents innovation in shipbuilding as an early example of lap-welding, the technique that followed riveting and preceded modern butt-welding. Sounds geeky, but it’s an important evolution! She is a rare surviving example of a bell boat. You think parallel parking takes skill?  Imagine docking with the complicated bell communication from wheelhouse to engine room. As an oil tanker, we use her as a powerful platform for explaining the history of petroleum fuel consumption and how it grew. 

PortSide NewYork programs on and off the MARY make history!  

We were founded to create a new way for NYC to revitalize its waterfront by using maritime activity from working waterfront to public programs.  PortSide connects people of all ages, incomes, and backgrounds to the harbor, with a special focus on connecting NYC’s economically and socially distressed communities. Our goal is to create a maritime center with building space, a berth for the MARY and for visiting vessels, including workboats.  On that mission, we have overcome tremendous challenges since being founded in 2005, including 10 years working as a pop-up which ended on May 29, 2015.  Help our 2018 business plan to expand ashore by telling us what programs you'd like us to offer! Check out our awards at bottom.

Program highlights:

PortSide creates some of the most innovative waterfront programs in NYC.  We continually create NYC harbor firsts.  Our range covers activities for elementary school students and important contributions to NYC waterfront policy plus programs for the general public in analog and digital realms.  Inclusion is a major theme.  We have job training programs and want to create a pipeline to marine careers.  Some highlights:

Hurricane Sandy: Our crew stayed the ship and our mariner skills protected the MARY from breaking free and damaging the property of others. We kept our floating office safe and brought it ashore to help the Red Hook community at a Sandy aid station that we ran for a month, followed by a virtual one. PortSide earned a White House “Champions of Change” award for our Sandy prevention and recovery work, as well as honors from the NYS Senate.

Our Sandy work led to our being appointed by the Governor’s office to the Red Hook NY Rising committee which created a resiliency plan for our neighborhood. We were on a panel to create a resiliency art project working with the Mayor’s office. We created a deep resiliency flood-preparation guide. We proposed to FEMA that they create a program to mark the high water level of Sandy. FEMA and NYC OEM teamed up to create this program and such a sign will be installed in Atlantic Basin before hurricane season 2018. Stay tuned for event info!

We continue to grow and innovate. You can join us as a volunteer, board member, fundraiser and/or donor.


  • White House & NYS Senate honors for Sandy recovery work
  • National Maritime Historical Society Preservation Award
  • Appointed by Governor’s office to Red Hook NY Rising committee
  • Our founder Carolina Salguero listed in NYS Senator Velmanette Montgomery salute to local women leaders