Boom! History + volunteer day

Time to lower the boom, replace the cables, check, service and maybe replace blocks and paint the boom itself. We finally have a sweet spot to do this. The weather is FINALLY going to give us a long run without rain so it should be possible to get this all done without too many days of disruption.  We get some crane help to lower the boom as the boom winches walked a long time ago.
Project before the start.  Where boom was 11/4/11 Friday morning at 0900.

This project, as so often happens if you are dealing with preserving a historic boat, raised all sorts of questions about what was. So, mixed with the grunt work was all sorts of hypothesizing and checking old photos and plans.

Saturday's s volunteer day had an A team of Mike Abegg, Nelson Chin, Linda Von Voss-Beal (all South Street Seaport people), Carolina Salguero, and supervisor Chiclet. 

While the Seaport has their ship volunteer program on hold, Seaport folks have been stepping up to help over here. Thanks to you all for helping out while you couldn't get on your usual boats!!  

While we have your attention, I thought I'd mention that the Seaport looks very much on the mend after the take-over by the Museum of the City of New York with Susan Henshaw Jones at the helm.  You can follow the progress of the resuscitation of the Seaport on the blog of the group Save Our Seaport, heavy lifters in the cause, here

Where it was Saturday morning 0900 after new volies Jeffrey Jernstrom and Enrico Bazzoni chipped and scraped during Friday
Once the boom is on deck, you start to wonder what all the fittings attached to it were doing, why a bulge here, why a flat bar there. Mike figures out that a run of long shank shackles is a series of fair leads... and they went to the hose winch. But what were the mystery tubular fairleads along the forward edge of the boom?  Carolina and Mike make several trips to the ship plans in the fidley, a photo in the galley, and a photo in the fidley.  
Bob Mattson photo from 1979
Carolina comments that on a visit a while back Charlie Deroko pointed out that the mast and boom in the plans were not what's here now... that they are much shorter and look as if they're wood.  

Mike then points out that in the plans the mast isn't even where it is now - something no one had remarked upon until now. As drawn, the boom was on a pad eye on the ullage trunk, not forward of it; but then again, the drawings don't show the mast on the aft end of the wheelhouse that appear in ST Kiddoo photos...

Carolina hypothesizes that the new longer boom reflects how Mary Whalen's work evolved from delivering to terminals (short boom) to fueling ever bigger ships, necessitating a long boom for reach.

Bingo! Within a day, Carolina has a phone conversation with a Mary Whalen Mate from the 1980s who said that Eklof was very proud of their elongated  "superbooms" used to fuel ships. They found all sorts of ways to add stiffeners, he says, just what Carolina and Mike had been guessing. What a difference thirty years makes. The "superboom" seems mighty unimpressive in comparison to today's hydraulic, telescoping booms.

Mike I-Love-Rigging Abegg prepares to lift the boom with a shackle so we can rotate it to better get at the underside. We'll also clean and grease the pin.

Carolina  & Linda stretch the old boom cable on the dock to measure it.   The boom is not the original one in the ship plan; so until we lowered the whole affair to measure it, we didn't know how much new cable to get.  Amounts to 242' of wire rope.

Ship cat Chiclet assists in the cable measuring process.

Team Abegg & Chin priming the boom. The primer is milk chocolate brown which leads to many jokes about repainting the whole ship brown. Anyone ever seen a brown boat?  Tugster, can you help us here?

The cable measuring team comes up to heckle the boys on the boom. Classic boatwork slogan on the back of that old Wavertree t-shirt there, Mike!

Mike Cohen shows up, a fuel barge goes by, the sun is setting and it's time to get the tools back down below.

Kicking back in the galley after a day's work.

Next thought... might as well lower the mast, while we're at it, and paint that bedraggled thing and redo the mast stays.

Emergency call for help with generator installation + moving stuff

Due to issues in the Red Hook container port, PortSide has have to move a lot of our stuff on the pier tomorrow Monday 8/15. 
If you can help, at whatever hour, please email or call Carolina Salguero at 917-414-0565.

We have a related emergency need for connect a generator we have installed in the forward engine room. We need the following skilled help:
  • welder to weld new generator in position on old engine mounts
  • plumber to connect exhaust and fuel lines to generator
  • electrician to connect power cord to generator

Michael Abegg (center), Matt Perricone (right), David Black (offstage left)
lower used Cummins 15kw Model 13212E1400 into pre-existing hatch in foredeck underneath one of the vents
In it goes by the hairs on its chinny chin chin
It was since rotated 90 degrees clockwise and is sitting on existing engine mounts

Opening by Frank Hanavan, friend of PortSide

Frank's work lovingly captures light and atmosphere around his two favorite subjects, brownstones and ships. And bicycles, let's not forget the bicycles.  

This Hanavan hangs over the galley sink on the Mary A. WhalenIt is based on a photo by Barry Masterson

Frank says this is his last show for a long time.  We hope not, so come out and buy and keep Frank painting!

Opening info
Monday 7-9pm
@ Mini Bar
482 Court Street in Carroll Gardens
between Luqueer and 4th Place, west side of street

    A painting in the show

A Christmas card from Frank Hanavan

Blue Marlin Blues

Blue Marlin carrying an oil rig
What links the US Cole, the Mary A. Whalen, the Exxon Valdez and the Blue Marlin?  

What related shipping spectacle was conducted in the Upper Bay last month?

Exxon Valdez (R) leaking oil in 1989
The Exxon Valdez spill spawned a powerful piece of regulation OPA 90 which, among other things, banned single-skinned vessels from moving fuel in US waters. 

This regulation would have phased out the Mary A. Whalen, if she hadn't gone out of business due to a scored crankshaft. 

A large collection of operable fuel moving equipment that WAS phased out by OPA 90 was recently sold by Reinauer Transportation to a Nigerian company. That company contracted Dutch-owned Dockwise to send their heavy lift ship the Blue Marlin to take away tugs and barges. It was the Blue Marlin brought the terrorist-damaged US Cole back from Africa.

Loading the vessels, a job planned and choreographed by the Dockwise team, became a 26-day saga of several failed attempts. The spectacle had harbor watchers glued to blogs, a tugcam, and their favorite telephoto lenses. Confused landlubbers ashore were overheard to say that the Blue Marlin appeared to be sinking. They received no help from the mainstream press which made no mention of the visit of this famous ship nor the engineering feats, and crises, running throughout the month of July.  

Reinauer cleverly sold the lot but washed their hands of the loading.  Miller's Launch, a new player in harbor towing, was assigned to load the tugs, McAllister Transportation the barges. (Thank you McAllister Transportation for allowing Carolina Salguero to ride and photograph from your tugs!) A Red Hook outfit was assigned to do the lashing of the barges

Reinauer had the Kristy Anne Reinauer outfitted with a tugcam to watch operations. 

The barges were staged in the Red Hook containerport all near the Mary Whalen, putting PortSide in the cat bird seat to follow the ops, in fact, at one point we were told we'd  have to move the Mary Whalen to make space for shifting fuel barges!

PortSide director Carolina Salguero got back into photojournalism gear and documented the saga. She recently joined colleagues Rick Spilman, Will Van Dorp (Tugster), Jonathan Atkin and Ed Fanuzzi at a Ship Lore & Model Club meeting in making a presentation on the story. Look for an upcoming PortSide TankerTalk that will present this story to the general public. For now, we offer you the following images by Salguero. Will Van Dorp compiled a chronology slideshow, but his narration at the TankerTalk is what will knit it all together (plus he adds some great overheard quotes that capture some colorfully misinformed speculation as to what is going on.) 

The goal was to get four of the tugs loaded near the house of the Blue Marlin, with one tug at the stern, and with all the barges laying athwartships in between.

McAllister Port Captain Pat Kinnier dispatches tugs that will move the Reinauer fuel barges on Load Attempt 1

Four of the loaded tugs on Load Attempt 2. This is the after end of the Blue Marlin house, at the stern is another tug, The Maverick, which lived up (or down) to its name on this job and was the SNAFU on Load Attempt 1 and participated in SNAFU on Load Attempt 2

Tug John Reinauer listing over as Load Attempt 2 goes south. At the stern of the Blue Marlin, the Maverick is also listing over.
The Blue Marlin is due back this week or next for another load of Reinauer equipment. The Coast Guard must be reading itself for more calls from the landside public that a boat is sinking in the harbor... 

Good luck to the crews working on this load attempt; and hats off to Reinauer for having only one vessel left for sale.  Their salesperson sure earned a bonus this year. 

11/16/11 update:  The Blue Marlin never returned. Harbor gossip says that this is because Dockwise had a hard time being paid by the Nigerian buyer of the vessels. This is unconfirmed at this time. 

The harbor grapevine also reports the following (also unconfirmed):

In 2011, the Reinauer Transportation Tugs Janice Ann Reinauer, Dean Reinauer, John Reinauer, and Curtis Reinauer, and Boston Towing and Transportation tug Maverick where acquired by Runner Marine Limited, a division of Capital Oil and Gas Industries limited of Lagos, Nigeria.

The tugs where renamed as follows:
Tug Maverick - Tug Alfa
Tug John Reinauer - Tug Bravo
Tug Janice Ann Reinauer - Tug Charly
Tug Dean Reinauer - Tug Delta
Tug Curtis Reinauer - Tug Echo

Chiclet issues 1st ever press release - response to TONY mascot list

PortSide NewYork

contact:  Chiclet

Chiclet says Time Out!
PortSide cat hurls furball at exclusion from TONY list of “Animal mascots of NYC”

Chiclet, ship’s cat at PortSide NewYork, today expressed her resentment at being left off the list of NYC mascots published recently by Time Out New York:

She called some of the mascots “fly-by-nighters who laze around all day, and disappear when there is real work to be done, like catching mice and birds, and supervising humans.”

Chiclet referred to her active supervision of work on the Mary Whalen, the 172’ repurposed oil tanker that serves as office and floating venue for PortSide NewYork.

Chiclet also crowed about her computer work. “I designed the Twitter page for PortSide, although it was under false pretenses – I was led to believe it would attract birds. It took great willpower learning to use the mouse without picking it up it my mouth and offering it to my human, Carolina Salguero.”

Another job Chiclet takes pride in performing is her role as the boat’s official greeter, which was caught on camera last year. “When Charlotte Rampling came on the boat to film an interview show for European television, I hit my mark perfectly, reaching the actress just as she was about to climb the gangway. She reached down and stroked my head right on cue. It was a pleasure working with a real professional.”

Chiclet suggests that next time inclusion in the mascot list should be done democratically. “Make it like the All Star Game, not that I actually know what that is. Let us mascots vote for who deserves to be on the list. And get the humans out of the picture.”

More on my activities below:

Streaming Netflix and looking for Charlotte Rampling who I much admire
Inspecting during NY1 shoot. I'm sitting on their equipment case here.

Helping John Weaver cut foam

Attacking bikinis
Hiding in the pier Savannah

Pipe inspection
Inspecting from the office

Mary A. Whalen gets new and national recognition!

WE ARE EXCITED!  We applied to The NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (SHPO) to see if the Mary A. Whalen were eligible to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and she is!

vintage photo of Mary A. Whalen when she was the S.T. KiddooWe've always said that we wanted to secure a lease before we could justify trying to raise money for the ship (please pick up the pace on that lease, EDC!) but enough things had aligned for us to start moving on getting recognition for the ship.

A first move to be eligible for major funding is to have the Mary Whalen become a NYC Landmark, on the National Register of Historic Places or "be deemed eligible to be on the National Register" a sort of interim status that implies significant documentation work in and of itself.

Many thanks to one of our spring interns Stephanie Ortiz,  an Architect in training from Puerto Rico and a Historic Preservation student at Pratt for helping to translate the preservation concepts, digging up the official guide on how to do this, doing additional historical research, and contributing to the whole process.

The process was itself gratifying because we came to realize how much information we had accumulated on the ship since 2005!

She came to PortSide with no history. Nada. Not even awareness of her role in the major Supreme Court decision US vs Reliable Fuel.

Tom Rinaldi, a young history buff working for the Central Park Conservancy, told us about the case around 2007. (This reveals how much more data has been uploaded and is now findable by google than in 2005).

We were able to fill in some gaps in our information via rushed consultations with Charlie Deroko, Norman Brouwer, Gerry Weinstein of Archive of Industry and Steamer Lilac. As Norman has helped write some of the national guides to ship preservation, his help was a real boost. Thanks to all of you!

We will be sharing some of what we learned from them in upcoming posts...

We pulled it all together and  SHPO reviewed our application in record time and wrote back "Great application!" They said they were pleased to hear from us, adding "we've been watching the Mary Whalen." 

Read their Determination of Eligibility letter here and check out her history page.  

The Mary Whalen's eligibility for the National Register increases funding opportunities and visibility for the ship, for PortSide and for Red Hook.

We have related news of PortSide's 2011 summer youth employment program to do restoration work on the Mary Whalen. You can support that via crowdrise. More on that soon!

Flooding bonanza

Saturday night brought heavy rainfall and high winds. Add to that a full moon, and what you get is very high tides which means lots of damage to trees, docks, whatever. And whatever hits the waterway upstream comes down to us.  That can be a scavenger's bonanza. One year I scored a 60' concrete dock, rather new and reeking of fancy marina. The boat PortSide uses for Operation Christmas Cheer is attached to that. (That boats needs a mechanic for small, gasoline boat engine, please email portsidenewyork(at) if you have leads).

Such rains also overwhelm our own CSOs which then discharge street litter and sewage into the waterways.

This morning at 0820, at about high of the high tide, past all the messy flotsam,  I spotted a little float across the way banging into the rag-tag shoreline that is the sad remains of the Hamilton Avenue Ferry.  Quick inspection via binoculars: a float sized to 4x8' sheet of plywood with nice inset corner posts, through-drilled for docklines, bevelled tops to the posts even, a perfect little thing for working on the side of the hull. I called to Army Corps drift boats to see if they were in the area. Nope. No answer on the Gelberman. The Hayward was dispatched to Gravesend Bay.

A little while later, the purr of a small engine caused me to get up and look out the porthhole. A Miller's Launch boat was tending to the area that has a CSO, and I think the gate to the Gowanus Canal Flushing Tunnel. They have a contract with the DEP to tend the CSO discharge areas. Maybe they could bring the float over...

I watched them score a very large double ended fender. I waved them over as they came by. They didn't have a boat hook, so I lent them mine and they nabbed the float for us.

About an hour and half latter, another engine sound outside. This time it was a DEP skimmer boat picking up the floatables.   It reminds me of a baleen whale in that it opens its gullet and take all the little stuff into its gut.

Gullet end to the right, down and skimming

They cleaned up all the yuck that was floating around, a clog of twigs, branches and plastic unmentionables.

Gullet closed and up, stern to the right showing mass of collected wood
Later in the day, the tide was headed out and you could trace the line of the current, an arc of litter spread from the crotch of pier and bulkhead, out past the Mary Whalen into the stream of the Buttermilk.

2000 hrs,  I talked to a tug captain southbound on the Hudson from Albany off Haverstraw. He said "I don't know what you got for Saturday night rains, but up here it was incredible. It's like somebody flushed up in Albany, we're southbound at 13 knots."

Send off to Old Man Winter

Is shipboard life romantic? You decide. Here's some of life on Pier 9B since late December.  

Below is a video from the Christmas blizzard where Carolina and her brother Antonio get ready to put out another bow line due to 50mph winds whipping around the end of the shed and hitting the bow. A few hours later, the winds were pushing the ship so far off the pier, they decided to raise the gangway on the boom so the gangway didn't come off the pier. We've kept the gangway rigged to the boom, which has allowed us to raise it and protect it from wake damage at high tide. This has given the office crew an athletic interactive feature they use several times a day, and Chiclet has become expert at catapulting herself off it at high tide. 

In order to spring the spring that has not sprung, we offer this tribute to Old Man Winter on what he does for us on the Mary A. Whalen!  
Block the view
Coat everything
Have us go for salt from the pile
Prevent office staff getting carpal tunnel by having regular shoveling breaks. Here, Dan Goncharoff demonstrates excellent shovel technique.
Provide opportunity for Smoke 101, or How to Use the Damper, a
short intensive class for Stephanie Ortiz, our planning intern from Puerto Rico.
Beat up on the gangway chainfall until it snags, kinks and chokes and 
needs rescue lubrication. Thank you ASI for sending this forklift 12 minutes after the request!
Oblige us to call Rich Naruszewicz of the Captain Log for diesel fuel deliveries to run the galley stove. Like the mail boat, he comes with sea stories (Brownwater Edition) new and old (he used to be a tankerman on the Mary A. Whalen).

Attract better dressed shovellers on Volunteer Days! Here Claudia Steinberg, who writes about design and fashion for the New York Times and German publications, joined a shoveling committee, needed after our director Carolina Salguero was hit by a truck in January and couldn't shovel for most snowfalls after the blizzard. 
Set off the ship colors so nicely
Make lovely patterns, such as this March snow where the frames under the deck, warmed by the sun the day before, are still warm enough to melt the damp coating of an early morning.

Petrolero con Salseros (tanker with salsa musicians)

PortSide's home, the tanker Mary A. Whalen, performed magnificently during the 2nd annual Concierto Tipico in Sunset Park. The can-do Edgar Alvarez of Fiesta VIP produced the event which is sponsored by City Councilwoman Sara Gonzalez. See our video here.

Bracketed by brightly colored inflatable kids rides, the Mary Whalen's hulking steel self held a powerful allure.

Over 400 peop
le toured the tanker, many of whom had never been on a boat before.

We gave tours in Spanish and English.

NYC Councilwoman Sar
a Gonzalez invited PortSide to bring the tanker for this event.

Several of the bands toured the ship, as did kids, a great grandmother and the pina colada ven

At the end of the day,
Councilwoman Gonzalez and headliner Willie Colon stopped by for a photo op and to sign autographs for our crew. Some survivors of the Mermaid Parade joined us too.

Many people hoped the tanker would become a regular feature at Brooklyn Army Terminal pier 4 (aka the 58th Street pier). We told them all to come check us out in Red Hook's Atlantic Basin July 1 to Aug 24.

Thanks to a dynamic group of volunteers who had great team spirit and who made the day a success and lots of fun:

Diane Cho in the galley, Ray Howell engine room, Terry Reilly in the wheelhouse, Michele Kogon office monitor and copy editor, Iris Abra gangway reception (5 hours in the baking heat!), Maria Diaz tour guide and networker and quicker picker-upper, Mina Roustayi indefatigable guide in Spanish, Dan Goncharoff tours and deck monitor, John Weaver video and Official Fence Dismantler and Remantler.

Above is Amy Bucciferro playing air guitar on PortSide's photo-op wrench with boyfriend Matt Perricone, owner and captain of the Cornell, looking on. Amy works at PortSide one day a week. Thanks to the historic tug Cornell for towing us there and back for free!

We left the southside of Pier 9B at 0900, passing a containership unloading in the Red Hook port...

and returned at 2200 hours to the northside of 9B where we had the crippled Del Monte container ship as a neighbor on the southside of Pier 9A . They were there for about two weeks undergoing repairs. It was a long but glorious day!

Branding - not the cattle

post by John Weaver of PortSide NewYork

RAZORFISH: The very name conjures a creature slicing through the water so rapidly and with such precision as to leave no perceptible wake!!!
Unique indeed!!! As s
o, equally unique, is Domenic Venuto, Managing Director, of the aforementioned RAZORFISH.

A devoted fan of PortSide NewYork and an outstanding practitioner of the art of “Branding”, Domenic has come aboard to lead our core group in the exercises that will result in a re-branding of our enterprise.

As well as we know who we are, the personality, thrust, and mission
of our efforts needs to be more accurately telegraphed to those we wish to serve and those who are increasingly approaching us to get involved.

As a veteran
of 25 years in the “Ad” business, I have experienced this kind of effort in workshops and “brain sessions” many times over. This one was a standout being so expertly led, engrossing, and conducted in the maritime atmosphere of the Mary Whalen’s galley which we all look forward to sharing with visitors more often in the future.

Editor's Notes: Domenic is working independently with PortSide on this branding exercise.

John Weaver of PortSide was staff Director at WABC-TV. He turned to producing and directing commercials for twenty five years, becoming a Senior Vice President at Young and Rubicam before he retired.

Photo captions:
branding words submitted for consideration
Domenic Venuto and John Weaver
Dan Goncharoff and board member Jeanne-Marie Van Hemmen

Water at 18 Degrees

Maybe some people can finish posts in chrono order, but not around here. Life and Work get in the way!

Back to Sunday 1/10/10

It's just 18 degrees at 0930, but all PortSide water is liquid!

The water drum in my rowing machine froze up a few days after I got back from the holidays on 1/2. It was more important to get the Whalen's water "systems" unfrozen first, so personal fitness was far down the To Do list.

After two days with heat tape under a tarp, the large cylindrical ice cube was again liquid despite it's being 18 degrees outside. The machine is an unheated room with open window in the shed, so yahoo heat tape!

'twas also Chiclet's first day outside after her first heat cycle. If only we could use cat heat to warm things on the boat!

But no. Feline heat applied itself more towards the knocking over of manuals in the office as desperate aforementioned feline tried to look out a porthole.

Were there courting toms lurking behind the headlog? Not that I could spot, but hope springs eternal in the hearts of all the gals on board!

She'll be fixed on Jan 24, but who knows when the Mary Whalen's water systems will get fixed. The interim systems seem under repair all the time during the winter... No one is going into the water tank under the galley floor this time of year to bang off the loose cement wash and re-cement it. That's a task for balmy days ahead.

WaterRower lifestyle as advertised

Actual WaterRower lifestyle here

PS. thank you Pam Hepburn of the Tug Pegasus for the hand-m
e-down WaterRower machine. I'll provide enthusiastic testimonials for anyone considering this machine.

Nitey Nite!

Ice Capades

We shut down the PortSide office and the Mary Whalen for 10 days over Christmas and New Years. What does that mean when re-opening the boat Saturday night 1/2?

Ice Capades, eg frozen everything.

The interior of the boat was 30 degrees when I returned and turned on space heaters. Soaking rags were frozen where I left them (kind of handy that one!). The water line supplying the galley sink was frozen. I ran around with a torch and flashlight and ascertained that it wasn't frozen at the elbow where the line comes through the overhead in the tool crib where the line perforates the deck, it wasn't frozen on the line that ran from water tank to that through-deck fitting.

Inspection the following morning revealed that the 6-foot tall water tank, aka "the body pickling tank" up on the boat deck was, for the first time, frozen inside blocking the valve - downside of no water running for 10 days and me not being here to smash ice in the tank.

I checked the weather. Temp would be over freezing on Tuesday 1/5. I decided to wait it out. I'm doing better with the impact of winter weather this year. I used to fume about how much time it took from what I thought was Real Work (in the office); but maybe I'm now understanding that saving, and guarding, the Mary Whalen so she's not plundered as she was in Erie Basin, requires being aboard, slowly fixing systems, putting up with interim solutions. I also have to say that the ski pants Mum gave me for Christmas are making winter life aboard a lot easier. Warmer legs may account for higher spirits.

Monday afternoon, diesel for the galley stove ran out. With that, the galley temp would not get above 40 given the weather. There's just so much a space heater can do in a space with cold air above, below and behind it. John Weaver would be in the office by late Tuesday morning and with his van he could go fill up the diesel jugs, so that wasn't so long to wait.

By Monday afternoon, I realized that my "Whalen Life in Winter skills" were really rusty. I'd forgotten that when it's 20 degrees and blowing hard out of the N or NW, the cold air comes right up the galley drain freezing exiting water unless it comes down hot and in quantity. By pouring out dregs of tea, dollops of water, toothpaste spit, I'd frozen up the drain. By end of Tuesday, the galley was ringed with dirty dishes from me, Weaver and Dan Goncharoff working in the office, eating lunch and drinking tea and coffee.

Temps were not soaring, so Tuesday,
I started calling tugs to get a delivery of some warm water to unseize the Body Pickling Tank. After that, Weaver would shroud it in a black tarp, something we didn't get to during December craziness. Thank to the crew of the tug Taurus and K-Sea for the water delivery!!! I ran the hose down a steel pipe so that I could direct it to the mouth of the valve; and in just minutes, there was running water!

Here's a photo from one of last year's Big Freezes. That time, we'd frozen the valve OUTSIDE not inside the Body Pickling Tank, and so to prevent losing water when we took the valve off, I attached a flexible cutting board to a mop handle with zip ties. This I slid into the tank while Weaver unthreaded the valve, and the suction jammed it against the fitting quite tightly, thank you very much....

Tuesday afternoon, 1/5/10, I climbed down the hatch in the galley to see the galley drain. Damn, stupid moi. I should have torched that pipe as soon as I deduced that it was frozen. I'd cracked the valve that Ed Fanuzzi had installed last year. Replacing that would be another item on the to do list.

Here's Ed working on that valve last year.

(Note: Body Pickling Tank photo above is part of the PSP (PortSide Sustainability Project). In the warmer months, we collect rainwater off the pier shed roof and pump it up to the boat.)

Krumkake-a Norwegian Christmas tradition

John Weaver here:

As stories go, this one has more than its share of nostalgia. Going back in history, there was a time when the S.T. Kiddoo was re-christened the Mary A. Whalen. On that occasion, command was given to Captain Alf H. Dyrland. It was 1958.

Alf Dyrland’s story goes back, across the Atlantic, to 1931 and the fishing village of Skudeneshavn on the southernmost tip of the island of Karmoy just off the southwestern coast of Norway. That year, having completed his seventh grade studies, 14 year old Alf went to sea as a “cabin boy.”

We dissolve to Christmas, 1979. Alf was retired after twenty years as Captain of the Whalen and yours truly, courting his daughter Karen, was a guest for the holiday in the house he built in northeast Connecticut. Of the many ritual observances associated with this holiday, perhaps the most intense, as well as joyous event was the baking of traditional Christmas cookies…Norwegian Krumkake.

The recipe was handed down from Alf’s mother. The batter, mixed and chilled overnight, was cooked by Alf on the stovetop using the iron from his mother’s kitchen and rolled into its cone form on a hand turned wooden dowel. You can find recipes for Krumkake on the web and in Scandinavian cookbooks. Alf’s has a wrinkle or two that are special and, in as much as the holiday always was a gathering for an extended family, it produces between ninety and one hundred cones.

Alf taught me how to bake and roll, and Karen prepares the batter from her grandmother’s recipe. For a few years after Alf died (1996) I used the old iron. Then an electric Krumkake baker became available and we purchased it at one of the last surviving outposts of Norwegian culture in Brooklyn, “Nordic Delicacies” on 3rd Avenue and 69th St.

When Carolina founded PortSide NewYork and rescued the Mary Whalen from the jaws of the scrap heap, she invited the public to visit for Open House New York in 2006. Karen and I arrived and were warmly welcomed by Carolina. The welcome was so warm, we never left and, now Carolina and the Mary Whalen have become part of Alf’s extended family and her ration of Krumkake graces the galley table every Christmas.

(Top photo: Captain Alf Dyrland the day the S.T. Kiddoo was re-christened Mary A. Whalen, and converted from gasoline service to heavier oil products.)

(Bottom photo: Bill & Karen Dyrland, two of Captain Alf's children, in the Whalen wheelhouse in 2008)

Note: In 2009, Skudeneshavn only has a population of 3,229. Imagine how small it was when Alf Dyrland left in 1931.

Tanker engine parts – first week of December 2008

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 awardan illustration made by Christina Sunfor 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.


Tanker engine parts -Third week of November 2008

The discussion of engine parts has expanded to include the crankshaft which is encased in the lower engine block. That seems monstrously heavy to move, and I’m wondering if it should be taken out and shipped separately. Gerry Weinstein recommends I put in call to Gary Matthews, a specialist on vintage engines, and ask him to come look at the Whalen’s damaged crank. He’s running an old locomotive in NJ, he worked on tugs in New York harbor for 17 years. He’s married to one of the few women to have been a tug captain Anne Loeding, and together they are restoring an old tug. Gary says he can’t make it until January, or February. Crushing. He says he’ll call some people though.

A revised estimate from Stabbert comes in. I can’t do boo about it.

After months of negotiating about Atlantic Basin, PortSide has been cleared to bring the Mary Whalen in there to throw her 70th birthday party with free tours of the ship. We have three weeks and one day (MINUS Thanksgiving week) between approval and B-day. That means all permits, invites, program, invites and press releases have to be done in that time.

I tell Stabbert I need to get past 12/6 before I can think about parts.

They accept that. Unbelieveable. Thank god.