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!


BREAKING NEWS - this may be last year of New Years Eve Steam Whistle Blow at Pratt Institute by Conrad Milster

There is a special event and story in the New Years Eve midnight steam whistle blow at Pratt Institute, deemed an event that matters by the prestigious Municipal Art Society .

This year may be the last year of the New Years steam whistle event.

Event is at 200 Willoughby Avenue in Fort Greene. Brooklyn, NY.

The New Years steam whistle event is a gift to Pratt and the larger world by Conrad Milster, the septagenarian Chief Engineer of Pratt Institute's Power Plant and one of USA's leading experts on steam.  

Conrad has connected his collection of steamship whistles and his calliope to Pratt's steam system as a New Year's Eve event for over 30 years. 

The event is popular with  Pratt's students and is on the A-list of underground NYC events.

Conrad is a beloved by Pratt students and industrial archeologists for preserving the handsome Victorian power plant at Pratt, which when allowed by the institution, he turns into a teaching tool.  Conrad's love of cats, he has rescued dozens, is also legion; and the cats can be seen blissfully dozing in the heat of the plant.

Conrad has traveled the world documenting in photo, video and sound steamships, locomotives and engines and often lectures on the subject. 

PortSide NewYork has had Conrad Milster give a talk and we look forward to doing so again.

In the estimation of PortSide NewYork, if Conrad Milster were in Japan, he would surely be deemed a Living National Treasure, a designation we Americans sadly do not have.

"In 1950, the Government of Japan began to designate certain individuals or groups who embodied intangible national cultural values as living human treasures, just as places or things of great cultural value are designated as national treasures, thus becoming eligible for special protection and support." from

Not to mention that he's a generous and kind soul always willing to share his knowledge which he does with verve, warmth and a wry sense of humor.

Photo by Collin Cunningham from

Photo by Collin Cunningham from