A few days before Sept. 11, 2001…

On September 9, 2001, I left New York Harbor aboard a ship. On the way down the Hudson River, I snapped various photos of the skyline, including the one below (reproduced poorly here, but the original is perfectly clear thanks to ideal weather, a Hasselblad camera, Zeiss lens, and Kodak Ektachrome film). Note the structure in the upper right portion of the frame.

This photo taken Sept. 9, 2001.

Never forget this world is a dangerous place.

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Published in: on September 11, 2012 at 1:26 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Tugboat Tour, video

In conversations at book signings and other events, people ask me how I came to be a writer. It was a winding path, though plenty of interesting places. One of those locales was the Philadelphia waterfront, including the Delaware River and Bay as well as the Atlantic Ocean. Part of my business involved tugboats and barges. So, here’s a video tour of the tug High Roller, a boat that I worked with while in that environment.

That’s quite a piece of floating machinery, isn’t it? One of the main engines has just been rebuilt, to the tune of about $250,000. That gives you an idea of what things cost in this field. While underway, the boat burns close to a hundred gallons of diesel fuel an hour. Do the math at today’s prices and you come up with a steep number indeed. Nonetheless, the job has to be done and working with the High Roller was always a fun challenge. Hopefully, I’ll have a chance to interview the owner, a fellow who is a real character. Stay tuned.

Published in: on October 17, 2011 at 12:52 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Heavy Lifting

Once again, I was in the New York Harbor area, aboard a tugboat with the legendary Captain Silva. This time we tended to a few barge shifts than returned to Staten Island where there was a heavy lift operation underway. DonJon Marine moved in with their Chesapeake 1000 floating crane. This unit proceeded to lift a newly constructed floating drydock from the shipyard into the water. Here is a photo of the scene.

liftaThis can be a tricky procedure, full of pitfalls if the weather changes, something goes wrong, or simple human error. However, the job went easily enough. The drydock was lifted, the crane pivoted around, and then the drydock was set into the water like a dozen eggs in the fridge. It takes copious amounts of cooperation between the people on the ground and the fellow operating the crane, who may not be able to see everything, including obstacles in the way.

Just another way to travel and things to do. Great story material, too.

Single Screw

There are fewer and fewer single screw tugboats around these days. And a captain who knows how to operate them is another rarity. However, there is the legendary Captain Silva, a good friend of mine, and master of most anything afloat, including these old boats with a single propeller and lots of history. Thus, he and I traveled to visit one of the smaller incarnations of such nautical engineering just the other day, a boat he operates from time to time, named the Thomas Brown. This tug was in drydock for some love and affection as you can see below:

tbrnaThe guys are working to reattach the bow fender, which is no easy task given that it has to be bent and pulled fast to the shape of the hull. Here is a shot of stern:

tbrnbYou can see the scale of the hull and that single propeller by comparing both to the man standing on the right. The propeller is about six feet in diameter, which may sound large, but is actually small as things go in these matters. This boat has an engine that develops a mere 850 horsepower. Here’s a closer look at that prop.

tbrndIt’s all shiny and clean for today. Won’t be long before this boat is back in the water, towing barges, nudging larger vessel to the dock, and roaming the harbor in search of work. The Thomas Brown is a handsome boat, one that features traditional lines that passed down from the earliest of vessels. It’s also the last of a breed. Single screw boats are simply not built anymore. So, when this one is finished, it’ll be lost to the scrapper’s torch. But not yet! There’s still work to be done.

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