Photo of the Week 7-27-15

One of the few photos I took during the honeymoon boating adventure, in case anyone is wondering she is now the Therapist Wife!

A Herreshoff 12 1/2 in Vineyard Haven.

A Herreshoff 12 1/2 in Vineyard Haven.

Posted in Photo's of the week | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Invaders

No they aren’t Mongolian, but they have spanned most of the known world. I’m talking about the iconic Invader class tugs built by Crowley in the mid seventies. 136′ of ocean going power, 25 of these tugs have conducted ocean tows and salvage operations world wide for over 30 years. While they are showing their age and have been replaced on many big money projects by the new Ocean Class tugs. However one job they have done for years and continue to do well is towing the so called “Puerto Rican Aircraft Carriers” back and fourth from the United States Mainland, and Puerto Rico. These barges are 730′ triple deck ro/ro barges that operate on a liner service from New Jersey and Jacksonville. In short they are monsters, and towing them is quite an operation. I can only say so much though. For a better idea check out the below pictures of Sentry and Ensign at work on the Delaware River. For more information on the various tugs of the class, check out the Crowley section on tugboat information.com!

Ensign

Ensign

Ensign & the RORO barge Miami

Ensign & the RORO barge Miami

Sentry coming out of the horseshoe bend, up bound on the Delaware River

Sentry coming out of the horseshoe bend, up bound on the Delaware River

James R. Moran, following along

James R. Moran, following along

Sentry

Sentry

For scale, thats a 93' long tug

For scale, thats a 93′ long tug

James R. Moran working her way forward

James R. Moran working her way forward

Sentry

Sentry

another great boat, James  R. Moran is one of the roughly two dozen tractors built for Moran by Washburn & Doughty of Boothbay Maine

another great boat, James R. Moran is one of the roughly two dozen tractors built for Moran by Washburn & Doughty of Boothbay Maine

Sentry, note the use of both wires

Sentry, note the use of both wires

The Pilots booth sits high on the bow of the barge

The Pilots booth sits high on the bow of the barge

James R. Moran

James R. Moran

Sentry in Profile

Sentry in Profile

James R. Moran

James R. Moran

Docking Pilot walking up to his booth

Docking Pilot walking up to his booth

Delware coming to retrieve the river pilot

Delware coming to retrieve the river pilot

James R. Moran

James R. Moran

Teamwork

Teamwork

James R. Moran working her way forward

James R. Moran working her way forward

Pilot boat and the Cape Cod working as the tail boat

Pilot boat and the Cape Cod working as the tail boat

Lots of logos

Lots of logos

Retrieving the river pilot

Retrieving the river pilot

Cape Cod on the tail

Cape Cod on the tail

Cape Cod

Cape Cod

Cape Henry bringing up the rear

Cape Henry bringing up the rear

Posted in Great Boats | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Photo of the Week 6-15-15

A remnant of times past in the old Philly navy yard.

Like something out of a post apocalyptic movie.

Like something out of a post apocalyptic movie.

Posted in Photo's of the week | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Seamanship

A recent post on the Gcaptain forum prosed the question, “What is Seamanship?”. The person asking the question is a moderator and a much better known blogger than myself; Kennebec Captain. His blog is a maritime one, that focuses on the many things that encompasses “Seamanship”. He has many a good read over there and I highly recommend you check out what he has to say.
So what is Seamanship? What skill set or sets does it encompasses? How can you identify it? Before I even started to write what I thought seamanship is, I took a poll of co-workers, former classmates, and even a former professor or two. The responses I got were as varied as ships and sailors, and opened some trains of thought I hadn’t yet explored.
One of the first replies I received is from a former classmate and co-worker working in the offshore oil and gas industry. She said that one of the most overlooked aspects of seamanship is being a good shipmate. Closing doors quietly, doing your part to keep the living areas clean, treating people with respect, and showing up for watch on time. All of those things can go a long way when it comes to crew relations, and if being a good shipmate isn’t part of good seamanship, I don’t know what is.
Another former co-worker further reinforced the idea of being good shipmate being a large part of seamanship. He said “Deckhands. A quality educated, Proficient one is hard to find but when that one is there. The whole vessel runs with more fluidity and moral of crew takes on a more pro-active role.” This even goes to show that practicing good seamanship can improve the moral of the crew as a whole. Knowing that the other members of the crew are good seaman and willing to do their part makes it all that much easier for any one person to practice their best seamanship as well.
What of the proficiency that he talks about though? What exactly is a good seaman proficient in? The starting point should always be Marlinspike seamanship, the true bread and butter of a professional seaman. Marlinspike seamanship encompasses ability to stow cargo and supplies neatly and securely. Take an active role in their environment and act with foresight instead of under direction. Skill sets like throwing a line on a bitt, splicing, rigging, and working lines under strain. If seamanship as a whole is the ship, then its marlinspike portion makes up the rigging that hold the whole show together.
So if seamanship comes in more than one form, and marlinspike seamanship is the base from which you build your maritime portfolio from, where does one go from there? For mariner’s in different sectors of the industry the next step of seamanship to master can be as varied as the jobs. For many the next crucial aspect of seamanship is ship or boat handling. The ability to work with or against the environment and as an old salt told me “not muck the paint up”. It is often said about ship handling that people either have “it” or they don’t. That special stuff that fighter pilots talk about, an ability to integrate into the vessel and operate the controls on a subconscious level. This aspect of seamanship takes not only a grasp of physics, and a solid understanding of forces. It also takes what some call a “seaman’s eye”, in order to judge where some of those forces are coming from. When approaching a berth or slip, a mate or master must take in to account their vessels handling characteristics. The current, the wind, the skill of the deckhand calling distances, pick what line to put out first, and in some instances give orders to an assisting tugboat. All of that can be called multi tasking, or the world’s greatest juggling act; I prefer good seamanship.
There are perhaps few images more iconic of the old salt than a captain standing by the helm, stoic and projecting a pure calm command presence. A former professor of mine, Capt. J summed it up quiet well. “Seamanship: The art and science of creating the perception that everything is normal, you are in command of the situation, and everything is unfolding exactly as you planned. This perception is created regardless of how high your blood pressure maybe, how hard you’re praying, and much you’d give at that moment to be sitting in a flat parking lot.”
It’s this command presence, the sense of order and calm that is the type of seamanship that is most often seen in the seasoned vessel master. For a lack of a better term, you can call it management seamanship. This skill set encompasses a broad range of skills and a level of awareness that is totally subconscious. A good example starts with the image of a captain of modern-day, sitting at the ship’s computer in his cabin or office. Crew change is coming and he is completely the paperwork we have all become a slave to. One of these is the station bill for the oncoming crew, while completing this thought is given to the skill level and physical aspects of the crew assigned to each emergency position. Does their level of seamanship correspond with a given task? At the same time there is a subtle change in the vessels motion, maybe the even the sound of the engines. Like a hunting dog an ear perks up and at once all the sounds, smells and vessel motions are being processed. Is the cold front I saw on the weather report here early? Are we changing course or speed to avoid collision? It’s this level of almost hyper awareness that comes from years on the water and practicing the art of seamanship.
Seamanship is a funny topic to write about. You can break it down into multiple types, and situational specific skills sets. It goes by different names, like sea-sense and a seaman’s eye. In a practical sense it is very difficult to nail down to one specific thing. That’s because it isn’t any one skill set, really its all of the skills sets displayed by sailors. A former classmate put it most eloquently, when asked what seamanship is he said “An infinite collection of best practices that promote success in a marine environment.”
So what do I think seaman ship is? It’s situational awareness, coupled with an understanding of your vessel, crew and the environment. These things working in tandem with knowledge of the maritime trades combined to accomplish the vessel’s mission with a certain level of ease and grace.

Posted in General Ramblings | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The show goes on

Well coming to the end of week three here in my temporary home port of Philadelphia, well technically the dock is in Gloucester City New Jersey, but thats beside the point. Things are going quite well though, we have been fairly busy. Steady in a sense that we have had ships to dock most days, and not steady in the sense that on some days we have one ship, on others its non stop action. After spending my first two weeks on a what can be considered a very new tug, built in 2008, I am back to something of a more appropriate vintage. This boat is actually one of the earlier examples of a tractor tug built on the east coast, and a familiar site from my neck of the woods during my child hood. Its been a lot of fun continuing to hone my tractor tug skills on this boat, especially because she is a whole lot larger, and have much worse visibility than the other boat I am on here in Philly.
All in all its been a great three weeks so far, and I couldn’t have gotten a better group of guys to work with while getting me broken in on these boats. Several of them have been driving tractor tugs since I was in kindergarden and being around that kind of experience and watching them work has done nothing but good things for me. I was lucky to already have a couple years driving supply boats with z-drives, and therefore already had a basis in how things work. The idea of thrust vectors and the intuitive hand movements with the controls. What is missing is how to use the boats capabilities safely and with maximum effectiveness. I’ve also had to get used to running the winch with the foot controls, often while making transitions in direction. In layman’s terms hitting the right button while I chew gum, rub my stomach and pat my head. The hardest part is making the movements with the controls to go from walking sideways with the vessel while keeping my line slack, and then pushing, reeling in my line, stopping again and continuing to hold the tug at 90 degrees ready to push or pull. Driving the boat and working the winch have to become one fluid and subconscious effort, so while I do that I can talk with the pilot on the radio or plan my next move should the situation change. I’m not there yet, but every job things get a little better and my movements are getting smoother and smoother.

As usual, now that you’ve read through all of that, here are some pretty pictures.

The Alex backing into her line

The Alex backing into her line

The Alex getting her line back with the Philadelphia skyline in the background

The Alex getting her line back with the Philadelphia skyline in the background

McAllister Responder and the Walt Whitman Bridge

McAllister Responder and the Walt Whitman Bridge

How times change, a later generation single screw and a early generation tractor

How times change, a later generation single screw and a early generation tractor

Wheelhouses

Wheelhouses

Teresa & Alex

Teresa & Alex

The Alex McAllister, ex Winslow C Kellsey. This boat spent a lot of time in my neck of the woods

The Alex McAllister, ex Winslow C Kellsey. This boat spent a lot of time in my neck of the woods

Reid & Responder

Reid & Responder

Wilmington Tug's Sally, another early tractor.

Wilmington Tug’s Sally, another early tractor.

Ensign & the RORO barge Miami

Ensign & the RORO barge Miami

Ensign

Ensign

Timothy Mcallister, a navy YTB turned ASD tractor tug.

Timothy Mcallister, a navy YTB turned ASD tractor tug.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Photo of the Week 6-6-15

Watch Out!

DSC_0127

Posted in Photo's of the week | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Change of Scenery

Well as it happens I’m currently on loan to the Philadelphia office while a couple of the boats I am normally on under go shipyard periods. As luck would have it they needed some extra help down here so last week I took a slightly longer drive than normal for a change in scenery.
Things in Philly are a bit different than New York or Boston. For one the Port encompasses all manners of docks and terminals spread up and down the Delaware river. So occasionally we are steaming a couple hours one way to dock or undock a ship or tug and barge only to have to turn around and come back. More often than not a tug will be kept farther down river to avoid that steaming time and fuel burn, however when we get swamped it happens.
Another change is that they don’t do nearly as much barge work here as New York, and thusly are really concentrated on ship docking and assist. Which brings me to the best difference; most of their tugs are tractors. For those that don’t know what a tractor tug is, or what they can do, check this video out. Thats from onboard some the tractors of G&H towing in Texas who employees more than few former class mates of mine. Its that kind of video that has made me always want to try my hand at ship work on a tractor tug. I got a small introduction to them during my last internship at Foss Boston, and have quite a bit of z-drive supply boat experience, but this is definitely a new ball game. The boat I am on is a compact powerhouse and very handy, really a blast to get acclimated at running a tractor on.
I could go on and on about it, but hopefully I’ll have some video at some point to show things from the wheelhouse. For now here are some photos from the past week and a half.

Reid McAllister at the McAllister Philly yard

Reid McAllister at the McAllister Philly yard

Capt Charlie O' Brian at work, getting ready to pull a ship out of dry dock.

Capt Charlie O’ Brian at work, getting ready to pull a ship out of dry dock.

Alex McAllister, formerly the Winslow Kelsey and one of the earliest tractors on the east coast

Alex McAllister, formerly the Winslow Kelsey and one of the earliest tractors on the east coast

The Alex

The Alex

DSC_9359 2

DSC_9379 2

James R. Moran

James R. Moran

The Timothy

The Timothy

from the back deck

from the back deck

hovering all stop

hovering all stop

Timothy McAllister putting up their line.

Timothy McAllister putting up their line.

Leanin' into it

Leanin’ into it

Posted in General Ramblings, Great Boats | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment