Monday, November 24, 2014

Work Day on the Mary A. Whalen - The Big Schlep

Chiclet - PortSide NewYork Ship's Cat and Chief Supervisor. Hi Chiclet!

 More pix from the day on Flickr (click here). 

Hooray, I'm on vacation this week! I'm hoping to get at least one good paddle in, plus our annual Escape from Black Friday. Today it's drizzly and a good day for the final stage of making pozole (this is antithesis of fast food, in fact it's the slowest food I've ever made), but yesterday was absolutely gorgeous and with last week having been a profoundly sedentary one as I wrapped things up for my week off, I was ready for some outdoor activity. Could've gone paddling, of course, but instead I decided to go help out Carolina and company at PortSide NewYork on board retired tanker Mary A. Whalen. Yesterday was the last official day of a project Carolina has dubbed "The Big Schlep" - PortSide has amassed a fairly good-sized collection of artifacts from various old Red Hook maritime businesses; until recently they'd been stored in the piershed in the Red Hook Container Port where the Mary Whalen has resided for the last few years, but this Fall it became time move the collection on board the tanker.

Two reasons - partly to make room for a new port tenant, and partly (better reason) because as Carolina announced at their fundraiser earlier in the fall, there has been real progress towards a long-term, publicly accessible home for the Mary A. Whalen in Atlantic Basin. It's not set in stone yet but it was wonderful news to hear - the handsome old tanker should be a significant tool in the organization's work "to create better use, understanding and enjoyment of the waterfront...and to create thematically-related programs that revitalize our home neighborhood" (from their mission statement) -- open to the public, with her holds housing exhibits on our waterfront's history, and some of the organization's programs held right there on board, but for the last few years she's been parked in the Red Hook Terminal, which is a MARSEC ("maritime security") facility, considered sensitive to attack and therefore with carefully controlled access. Workers at the port, like workers at similar facilities all over the country, are required to have a TWIC (Transportation Worker Identification Credential) card to enter; Carolina and the rest of the PortSide staff have cards and each one of them can bring in a certain number of uncredentialed people, but it's a limited number and the non-TWIC folks need to be physically escorted by a TWIC card holder at all times while in the facility.

I'm glad that the Mary A. Whalen had someplace to stay at all while PortSide NewYork worked on finding a publicly accessible space for her, and of course the organization kept things going without that (in fact they won a White House award for their role in Red Hook's Sandy recovery, that area was hit horribly and they did a tremendous job of helping the whole area get things back together - Carolina, the founder, is a great organizer and advocate and has some good like-minded people working with her), but I think all of PortSide NewYork's friends and supporters are looking forward to the day when the organization can resume regular public programming aboard the tanker, as they used to have before the move to the container port (and as they've still occasionally had during the times they've had temporary permission to move the boat to a more public pier).

Bit of a digression, but I didn't have a whole lot to say about the work day itself except that it was just the fresh air and physical work I was looking for after a long cubicle-bound week - head on over to the Flickr album I linked to at the top of this post for more on the work day itself. I did have a great time helping Peter, who is a professional rigger, working in television, move some REALLY BIG PISTONS - I don't know how much they weighed but somebody said more than a car engine - maybe 300 pounds? And they had to go down the companionway, through the "fidley" ("A partially raised deck over the engine and boiler rooms, usually around the smokestack" - ever need a nautical term defined? Check here!), around a corner, down through the deck grating, into the engine room and finally over to their temporary storage spots alongside the engines. That was a novel experience and a lot of fun - we used a pair of half-ton manual chainfall hoists and it was neat seeing how it worked. The move of first piston took some thinking as we figured out what path it needed to follow (and Peter ended up drilling a hole in one of the deck beams for the last move down to beside the engine, which was a slow and painful job) - the second one, I think we did the moves in about a third of the time.

All in all, another good day on the water!

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