William Van Dorp and Debbie Tuch

August 9, 2010

I have been reading William Van Dorp’s blog ‘Tugster‘ for years, and we finally scheduled a boat ride together.

My friend Debbie Tuch came along as well. Although Debbie has never been in the “Tide and Current Taxi” she has been an important part of my boat projects throughout the years.

Somehow, everyone agreed to meet at 7 am, and it was a beautiful morning.

We started seeing the ‘Ghost Shipsof Coney Island’ right away, drifting up out of the water like skeletons.

This is the strangest thing out here; a submarine half stuck in the mud. The first time I saw it, I couldn’t even figure out what it was.

But I soon found out that it was built to look for treasure on the Andria Doria. We filled Debbie in on it’s strange story.

“Even if it worked, they wouldn’t have found anything.” said Will.

The great thing about being out in the water with Will, is that he knows everything about the harbor;

all the famous boats and wrecks.

He picked things out of the rotting timber as though he were reading an old book in some strange language, and told us what this might have been.

Each piece of twisted wood and iron was like a hieroglyph.

Then we came across something very unusual; a perfect meadow inside of a sunken barge.

Like a sunken ‘Smithson Barge’, I thought.

We began to see more recent wrecks. “Recession casualties.” I joke. “This is going to be more interesting than I even thought.” said Will.

At the mouth of the creek we ran into trouble. “An oil boom,” said Will. “This is the type of thing they are using in the gulf to trap oil and debris on the surface of the water.”

We slipped around the side of the boom,

and let ourselves into the Coney Island Creek.

There was something new along the bank. Will told us it was called a ‘Sponge Park'; an attempt to soak up toxic runoff before it gets into the creek.

We saw Greater and Lesser Egrets, Cormorants and Herons. Will told us about a time he saw a cormorant fishing under water right off the East River Esplinade in Brooklyn.

You’ll have to look at William’s blog to see pictures of the birds. My camera turns them into tiny smudges.

We came to the end of the creek and sat for a while in the hum of traffic, no one really wanted to turn back right away.

We saw bridge painters on the way back, pulling their rafts along under the bridge with long lines, hard at work on a Monday morning.

The tide had gone out, exposing more of the wrecks.

Will wanted to get up close to study to each one.

The metal was so thick and weathered that it looked almost like wood in some places.

The outgoing tide was slowly revealing an alien landscape.

The yellow submarine looked like it was ready to launch.

Will pointed out and H-bitt sticking out of the water and as he explained its use, he realized that we were right on top of an old tug boat.

Here we are with the ‘Tugster’ himself. If you want to see really good pictures of the day – or just about anything else in the New York Harbor, visit the website of one of it’s biggest fans.

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