A massive water salute erupted in New York Harbor, as the newest FDNY fireboat arrived just after 3pm today. She is named after Firefighter William M. Feehan who died in the 9/11 attacks. The name plates with red letters crafted from I-beam steel collected at ground zero are displayed on each side of the wheelhouse. 

Her 66-foot aluminum hull houses three C-18 Caterpillar engines for propulsion, delivering 1150HP each. Another 450HP Caterpillar C-9 engine drives the water pumps, and for additional pumping power, one of the main C-18 engines can be assigned to the main water canon. She delivers up to 7,000 gallons of seawater per minute and foam and purple-K additives are also on board if needed.

Her crew of five firemen consists of a pilot, an engineer, an officer and two deckhands -- safely housed inside the positive-pressure CBRNE (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosives) filtration system equipped bridge.

The $4.7-million medium-sized fast-response boat built by MetalCraft Marine in Kingston, Canada will be stationed at MARINE 6 in the East River, at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

Bomb Threat at Statue of Liberty

Visitors were evacuated shortly after 11am due to security concerns on Liberty Island. Statue Cruises sent their ships to move people off the island, as NYPD and U.S. Coast Guard vessels arrived and established a 1000-foot security zone around the island. The FDNY and other local fire departments staged their boats as well and the NYPD Bomb Squad was ferried to the Statue to investigate.

According to the National Park Service, a 911 caller had threatened to blow up the statue and K9 units detected an area of interest by the lockers said NYPD. A sweep of the island turned up negative and visitors will be able to return to the island on Saturday. The last time Liberty Island was closed to the public was after Hurricane Sandy caused major damage.

Bill Clinton: Props for Pearls

Former President Bill Clinton visited the New York Harbor School on Governors Island to get a closer look at the school’s oyster hatchery.

Each year the Billion Oyster Project grows over 10 million bivalves in the brackish waters around Manhattan, teaching students to collect scientific data, hands-on restoration, and stewardship. The project was founded by the New York Harbor School and is a Clinton Global Initiative commitment to action.

Clinton was greeted by the students and Captain Aaron Singh while boarding the school’s ‘Privateer’ vessel docked at Pier25 in Tribeca.

The NYPD Harbor Unit provided security as the ‘Privateer’ ferried the 42nd President of the United States past One World Trade Center and around The Battery to Governors Island.

Rescue at South Street Seaport

On our 2pm Adventure Sightseeing Tour we were just off South Street Seaport when we spotted three people in the water near Pier 15. Although we had passengers on board, we felt compelled to assist. When we arrived, two men were in the water trying to keep an unconscious victim afloat. Apparently, he had been handling lines for a large vessel when a line snapped, knocking him into the water.

We threw a life-ring and float-line to the guys struggling to keep the victim’s face above the water, pulled them alongside our boat, and hailed the NYPD boat stationed below the Brooklyn Bridge. Other bystanders threw life-rings and lifejackets in the water to place beneath the victim.

The NYPD Scuba Unit arrived within moments and immediately deployed rescue swimmers, who pulled the victim onto New York Media Boat to assess injuries and administer oxygen. EMS and FDNY brought a backboard, stokes basket and stretcher and helped transfer him ashore and into a waiting ambulance. The whole response happened very quickly and was handled adeptly, with the victim ending up at Bellevue Hospital. He’s reported to be in stable condition.

We’re very thankful to our passengers for their patience while we assisted in this emergency, and as always impressed by the NYPD’s response and professionalism. They’re on the scene within minutes, even in the wee hours of the coldest days of the year — like this past New Year’s Eve, when a young guy drove his car into the chilly waters of the Morris Canal, or when a tugboat sank off the Long Island coast.

Hit & Run: Beneteau strikes MOD70

Yesterday we saw the 38 foot sailing vessel ‘Halcyon Daze’ strike the docked MOD70 trimaran ‘Virbac-Paprec’ in Morris Canal, causing damage to the carbon fiber hull.

The captain tried to make a run for it without reporting the incident so we motored up to him to see what he had to say. As his crew attempted to remove the MOD70 paint evidence from their starboard hull and railing, the captain unfurled the main sail ignoring a verbal suggestion to return and report the damage.

An NYPD boat quickly joined the 4-knot ”chase” down the Hudson, ordering ‘Halcyon Daze’ to stop. The captain tried his best to ignore the NYPD’s sirens, lights, and hailer, but after a few minutes, ‘Halcyon Daze’ was forced to return to port and face the damage.

MAYDAY: Tug boat sinks off Atlantic Beach, NY

Thick fog engulfed the Verrazano Bridge as we left New York Harbor heading east for a job off Atlantic Beach. Running solely by instruments, we navigated to East Rockaway inlet in about an hour, when a Mayday broadcast came across the VHF radio at 16:20:

“MAYDAY. This is the ‘Sea Lion’. We’re sinking. Men in the Water.
Water in the wheelhouse. This is our last transmission. We’re going down.”

The broadcast was promptly followed by the US Coast Guard relaying the Mayday and a position of N43.32.xxx, W073.46.177.

I wrote down the numbers and plotted the coordinates. Surprisingly the location showed close to Lake Champlain in upstate New York, about 180 miles to the north, making it unlikely that I was able to hear the actual radio transmission from the ‘Sea Lion’ so clearly. I deemed the given coordinates as improbable and started working the on-board navigation system pulling up a list of close-by ships. Most commercial vessels are outfitted with an AIS transceiver as part of an automated tracking and collision-avoidance system, and chances were that she was still transmitting.

There she was! SEA LION — right on top of that list with a position only about two nautical miles to the south. Putting down the throttle, we made it to the scene in just a few minutes, running 30+ knots in 6-foot seas and less than 200 feet visibility.

The Sandy Hook Pilots also responded, dispatching one of their smaller vessels that was stationed at the entrance to Ambrose Channel. [Read our New Jersey Monthlystory on the Sandy Hook Pilots here].

The Pilot boat was able to pick three crewmembers out of the water, before being prop-fouled by a rope and unable to reach the sinking tug.
There were all sorts of lines, plastic, oil, wood, and other detritus floating everywhere around us.

We spotted a fourth crewmember clinging to the bow of the sinking vessel. He appeared injured and probably had less than a minute before the boat completely went under. I maneuvered closer from the upwind side and nosed my boat against the hull of the tug. Only about three feet of the ships bow were still showing above the waterline.

He attempted to leap towards us just as the last pockets of air escaped from the tug, erupting like a whale’s blowhole as she sank to the bottom in a boil. We were able to quickly pull him out of the cold water. The Coast Guard and NYPD had vessels en route to the scene, so we transferred the victim to the Pilot boat where the injuries could be better assessed and he be kept warm until medics arrived. Unfortunately the helicopters were unavailable to air-lift the victims because of the dense fog.

When we docked at the Atlantic Beach Fire Rescue station, TV crews had set-up Satellite Trucks, and cameras were rolling. You can watch and read some of our interviews here: ABC NewsNBC NewsCBS NewsNewsdayDaily NewsNews 12,WROC-TVProfessional MarinerWorking HarborSC&ISoundings Magazine and Fox News. Special thanks to Asst. Chief Scott Lipschitz and his team for the hospitality on shore.

I was really glad that everyone was safe and accounted for — unlike the New Years Eve emergency we responded to, where a car plunged into Morris Canal and sadly the driver was unable to escape.

The Marine Society of the City of New York later presented us with the ‘Lifesaving Award‘, and the U.S. Coast Guard with a commendation.

And this was the sonar signature of the ‘Sea Lion’ resting at the bottom of the sea in about 50 feet of water:

NYE: Car Plunges into Canal

Our New Year’s Eve was one of extremes.

At midnight, we rang in 2014 watching the Statue of Liberty fireworks from the bridge of the 210-foot yacht, Hornblower Infinity (we’d been asked to assist with docking).

A few hours later, we were cutting across the Hudson in our RHIB returning to Liberty Landing when we heard the Coast Guard call: vehicle submerged in the Morris Canal. Our marina.

Bjoern put down the throttle. My mind raced: What could we do if we’re first on scene? Would we be able to break a window? Jump in and pull someone out?

What if we saw a face and hands banging at the glass as the car filled up and went under?

Since Bjoern’s a trained emergency responder I knew he’d figure out the logistics. But when we arrived on scene about three minutes later, there was no car — not even bubbles. Yet there were plenty of eyewitnesses and Jersey City police officers standing on a nearby dock, pointing to a spot on the water where they saw the car go down.

An eyewitness said she thought she saw three people sinking in the maroon Altima.

We searched the surface with flashlights for any signs of disturbance, and to allow potential escapees to know which way was up. We did that for about five minutes before the Jersey City Fire Boat arrived from the other end of the marina. They seemed to have no divers on board and started feeling around for the submerged car with boat hooks.

Bjoern thought that was inadequate and put out a call on the radio for anyone with divers in the area to get to Morris Canal. We were relieved to see the NYPD Harbor Unit and Scuba Team arrive moments later.

Since our RHIB enabled the quickest access to the site, two divers jumped aboard and we ferried them to the spot.

The air temperature was 24 degrees Fahrenheit, the water about 49 degrees, but this elite team of responders jumped right in. You could hear the shivering in their voices over the diver-to-surface radio. They “mowed the lawn” searching for the car, keeping a strategic back-and-forth pattern in less than an arm’s length of visibility.

With no luck on the first round of passes and running low on air, two relief divers were sent in. They held the same pattern and finally located the car, which had drifted with the current about thirty feet away from where it plunged into the canal.

One diver surfaced with a jacket. The other came up with a victim, and swam him to the dock. Even though it had been more than an hour, the NYPD was optimistically treating it as a search and rescue operation. Several factors were in the victim’s favor: he was young, the water was cold. People had been revived in less forgiving circumstances.

As EMS attended to the victim, two more divers splashed. The eyewitnesses said there were three people in the car; only one was accounted for. They scoured every inch for the others, but found no one.

To be certain, the officers interviewed the eyewitnesses on the dock once more, who now said it was possible only one person was involved in the accident after all.

NYPD decided the raising of the vehicle should be conducted in daylight, when the Army Corps of Engineers could get to the scene. They thanked us for use of our boat, and we thanked them for their impressive service.

We got back to our slip at about 6:15 am, and drove home as the sun was rising. News reports told us that our victim didn’t make it. He was only 22.

I’m still processing the contrasts of that night: how it’s possible, in one moment, to feel that you’re exactly where you’re meant to be – and then in just a few short hours, you’re reminded that sometimes you will be just minutes too late.

BOOM goes the DYNAMITE!!

At 07:36am building #877 was imploded on Governors Island to clear space for a new public park. We took New York Media Boat right up to the 1000ft USCG security perimeter for front row seats to the show. Besides us and Eric on the ‘Genesis‘, surprisingly few other boats were out to witness the implosion. ‘Adventure Sightseeing’ at it’s best!!

MAYDAY South of Hell Gate

The broadcast came across the VHF at 11:25 a.m. that Saturday: “MAYDAY, MAYDAY, this is the sailing vessel Blue Moon. We’re stuck below a bridge on the East River by Roosevelt Island.”

Escorting a NYC Swim event, I happened to be less than two miles away from the described location, and able to respond to the mayday call. When I arrived on the scene within minutes, her mast was lodged mid-span of the Roosevelt Island Bridge, and the strong current had turned the 35-foot hull broadside, leaning her 40 degrees. Water was washing over her starboard gunnel as two sailors in red life preservers took the high side, fearing the boat might not stay afloat much longer.

NYPD Harbor Unit’s 35-foot response boat #351 also arrived on scene and picked up the distressed boat’s crew from the downstream side. Meanwhile, an FDNY rescue truck stationed itself on top of the bridge. Sparks flew as the team cut open a metal gate for two rescue divers to access a ladder that led them down the stanchion of the bridge. The firefighters asked to come aboard my boat and use her as their stand-by vessel while they assessed the situation.

Next, a 55-foot “Kenny Hansen class” NYPD launch arrived and tied off Blue Moon’s halyard to their bow in hopes of pulling the mast free. But the halyard stood no chance. As the twin 740-HP Detroit diesels lurched, it snapped and whipped back at the boat.

FDNY’s new 64-foot fast-response boat ‘Bravest’ was there within minutes as well, and took station upriver of the bridge. This boat can pump over 6,000 gallons of water per minute, and the lettering of the vessel’s name was cut from steel salvaged at Ground Zero.

The NYPD and FDNY secured the scene and determined that the best course of action would be to summon a bridge operator and wait for the lift-bridge to open and free the boat.

The situation was under control, and I returned to the NYC Swim event, with a renewed sense of vigilance to the swimmers. The whole episode is a reminder of the extreme difficulties posed by the East River’s notorious 5-plus knots of current.

NYC Swim: Brooklyn Bridge

I haven’t gotten up at 3:45 am since my days at the New Jersey TV station News 12, but this morning I wanted to hit the road early to meet NYC Swim‘s race management on the pebble beach by Brooklyn Bridge Park before sunrise. The roads were still empty. Within 30 minutes I made it to Liberty Landing Marina and cast off just before 5 am. It was dark, but the navigation lights and chartplotter threw a neat light on the deck as I ran the boat around the southern end of Manhattan and up the East River.

We picked up the course markers — five-foot-round, bright yellow and orange buoys connected to a rope, with chain and anchor — and started placing them under the Brooklyn Bridge and across the East River, marking the route for more than 400 swimmers that would soon be racing across the channel.

As the sun was coming up, swimmers, kayakers and other support boats started arriving. Photographers from the Wall Street Journal and the New York Daily News came aboard to get closer to the action.

The USCG and NYPD were on scene and closed the East River to all boat traffic shortly before the first wave of athletes splashed at 7:15 am, competing in the 1K swim under one of the most famous bridges in the world. Bruce Brockschmidt, 45, of Mount Laurel, N.J., placed first, making the crossing in an impressive 13:09 minutes.

A few swimmers had to be rescued for various reasons, but most made it to the finish on a small sand beach at Dover Street in East River Park. As always, this was a very well organized event and I’m looking forward to working the next NYC Swim on July 28th at Governors Island.