Archive for the ‘Boats’ Category

The Binghamton Ferry

NY harbor is known as the birthplace of steam ferry travel. The first successfully recorded operation of a steamboat ferry was the North River Steamboat, operated by Robert Fulton, which ran from NY to Albany starting in 1807. Four years later, regular ferry service began running to and from Manhattan. Before rail tunnels under the Hudson were established, the railroads terminated in Hoboken, making ferry travel vitally important for anyone attempting to reach NYC. Nearly 400 different double ended ferries operated in the NY harbor during the 19th and 20th centuries, with a peak of 150 ferries actively operating in the early 1900’s. This webpage offers a detailed look at the history of ferry travel across the Hudson and has many pictures of the steam ferries in operation.

The Binghamton was one of 6 steam ships run by the Hoboken Ferry Company, a subsidiary of the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad. It was built by the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry-dock Company at Newport News, Virginia and was launched on February 20, 1905. The ferry operated from 1905-1968, traveling 2 miles from the Hoboken Terminal to Barclay Street, a twelve-minute journey. She was able to carry nearly 1,000 passengers as well as vehicles. The Binghamton is what is known as a double-ender, meaning cars could drive in one side of the boat and exit from the other. This made for increased speed and efficiency of loading and unloading passengers.

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Photo courtesy of “Burger International Photography at http://www.burgerinternationalinc.com via flicker

In 1907, the first of two rail tunnels under the Hudson was completed. By 1937, the Holland and Lincoln tunnels, as well as the George Washington Bridge, had opened up making automobile travel into the city much easier. With these developments, the need for steam ferries diminished and by 1967 the ferry run was closed down. However, ferry service would return to the Hudson river in 1986, with the introduction of the NY Waterway. Small diesel powered boats began runs from Edgewater, Hoboken and Weehawken and now are regularly used by commuters trying to take advantage of lower rents in Hudson and Bergen County.

The Binghamton’s second life began when the Erie Lackawanna Railroad sold her to Edward Russo, who planned to convert her into a restaurant. Russo planned to open for business in 1970, but the waters surrounding the pier took a long time to dredge and a tugboat strike caused further delays. Russo would eventually find himself unable to find a suitable person to run his restaurant and he sold the Binghamton to its next owner, Ferry Binghamton Inc. On February 28, 1975 the ship was moved to her current location and opened as a restaurant later that year.

The restaurant featured a popular nightclub and it operated successfully until 2007. Then it was sold to private businessman Donald Kim, who planned to renovate the Binghamton and re-open it. Despite the completion of nearly a million dollars in repairs, damage was spreading faster than the repairs could be made. Kim soon found himself in a lengthy battle with the town of Edgewater over code violations and fines. The expense of the repairs and time spent fighting the town allowed the damage to reach a tipping point and finally, in 2011, Kim filed for a demolition permit.

The impending demolition caused a great deal of consternation due to the Binghamton’s placement on the U.S. Department of the Interior’s National Register of Historic Places (granted on July 9, 1982). By the summer of 2012 the Binghamton had deteriorated enough that it was actively taking on water. The side that faced the river had nearly been destroyed. Kim decided to sublease the existing pier to another developer who planned to scrap the Binghamton for salvage, including the steel hull, and bring in a new boat to be used as a restaurant.

Then in October 2012 came Superstorm Sandy. The already weakened ship was no match for the intense flooding and winds that Sandy brought. During Sandy, the entire boat was under several feet of water. Pieces of her bow broke off and floated to shore.

Here is a Flickr set of pictures taken after Sandy.

Here is a Video made during Superstorm Sandy.

This news report from CBS news clearly shows the damage done to the river side of the boat.

The following pictures of the Binghamton and immediate surrounding area were taken by Corrine Gehegan, a local podiatrist whose office is next to the Binghamton. They were taken approximately 3 days after the storm had passed and flooding had subsided.

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To add insult to injury, a fire broke out on May 19, 2013. There was no damage to the boat, only the pier and dock that extended from the river walk to the ferry. At that time, Kim restated that he planned to demolish the boat. As of August, 2013 nothing has occurred. The boat still sits there, its bow slightly below the water line. When the demolition finally comes, it will be a sad end to a famous and historic ship.

I visited in spring 2013 and entertained thoughts of entry. Aside from the pier being completely unsafe, you could tell from 100 yards away that the boat itself was completely unsafe. One wonders if it can be safely towed, or would it break into pieces? Below are pictures I took in June, 2013.

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Here is another video about the end of the Binghamton ferry.

More pictures and info are available on the Binghamton Ferry Facebook page.

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See what the inside of Coast Guard lighthouse look like

Back in 2004 I asked politely, and was granted, permission to tag along with the Coast Guard on their spring maitenance tour of Delaware Bay lighthouses. It was for a project I was working on and they were happy to oblige. We started out at the Wildwood Coast Guard base and we drove up to a dock near Salem where we put into the water. it was a relatively small boat and 5 Coast Guard members and myself boarded the boat and headed out for several lighthouses. For safety reasons we all wore these gigantic orange life suits. not life jackets, life SUITS. reminded me of those sumos suits you could wear and wrestle in at the state fair a few years back. The thing is huge but it would save my life if I fell overboard. Some of the lighthouses were on rocky shoals with docks, but some were basically giant tubes built into shoals so you had to climb from the bow of the boat straight up a ladder on the side of the wall of the structure. All the pictures are on flicker. here’s a handful below

Coast Guard selling off two lighthouses to the top bidder

The lighthouses need a lot of work however. About 5-6 years ago I convinced the Coast Guard to let me go w/them on one of their spring maitenance runs to all the lighthouses in the delaware bay so I got to visit them up close. Some of them are only accessible by climbing a ladder from a rocking board deck up to the lighthouse because they’re built on top of a submerged shoal. Yhose were fun to climb. I am not sure if I ever posted pictures or not but if I didn’t I’ll have to post those. Lighthouses, especially those away from the coastline are amazing, I can only imagine what it must be like to be in one during a severe storm all alone. I’m going to see if I can contact the person who buys this one (if it sells) and interview them for a project I am working on. Should be interesting to see how they restore it to liveable conditions.

Two amazing military finds

Find #1: These guys snuck aboard some abandoned naval vessels out SF.  And here I thought I was badass sneaking into Greystone. My only complaint is: you sneak aboard an abandoned Destroyer and you only post a dozen pictures?

Find #2: An abandoned military base (Vozdvizhenka Air Base apparently). I can’t be sure because the LjJ page is written in Cyrillic which I don’t speak or read. If anyone can tell me what it says I’d be appreciative.

The Cornfield Cruiser

Known locally as the Cornfield Cruiser, there is a naval building in Moorsetown with a Battleship command tower on top. It sticks out like a sore thumb among the farms and open stretches of road.

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The Shah of Iran’s Boat and the Mary Murray

The Mary Murray was a 300 foot long Staten Island ferry ship built in 1937. The boat was declared surplus and in 1975 was sold at auction to George Searle. His plan was to turn her into a restaurant or a museum. The boat (named for Revolutionary war hero) was most likely going to be scrapped and the former US MArine didn’t want to see it happen. He had her docked in the Raritan River, where he and his family live below the shadow of exit 9 on the NJ Turnpike. For 6 years it remained in the middle of the river until he was forced by the state to moor her in what became known as No-Name Creek, a small tributary that runs into the river.

The ship soon fell into severe decay and by 1999 the state was concerned about the environmental impact of the mary Murray, possibly leaking oil, gas and other chemicals into the river. He signed an agreement with the state that would last 7 years, giving him more time to do something with the ship. The deal expired in 2006 and in 2007 the state was pushing Searle to do something with hulking wreck.

After two and a half decades of sitting lifeless and derelict, the ship was no longer in any condition to be towed away. Easily visible from the NJ Turnpike several hundred yards to the west it had became a local icon. An eyesore to many, it represented a piece of history to others. By now there was not much that one could do with her except cut her up for scrap metal.

According to this article in March 2008, the Mary Murray was to be dismantled. From other published reports, it has been cut up for scrap. Sitting next to the Mary Murray is a pleasure boat that alledgedly once belonged to the Shah of Iran.
Click here for a view of the MM from a satellite. You can see the MM in the upper right corner and the Shah of Iran boat next to it.

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