Tanks for the memories
Fuel ship is towed from Red Hook n first step to museum conversion
A celebrated but long-mothballed Red Hook fuel tanker was towed away last week to the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where it will undergo repairs before reemerging as a floating museum.
Once a fixture on the Gowanus Canal, the 69-year-old Mary A. Whalen will be scrubbed from bow to stern in a massive repair job expected to last through February.
“Every ship needs regular repairs and this one is way overdue,” said Portside New York director Carolina Salguero, who bought the ship last summer and expects to spend more than $50,000 on the fixer-upper.
“She needs some serious TLC,” Salguero said of the ship.
When finished, the 172-foot tanker will become a traveling maritime museum with artwork, environmental exhibitions and history lessons, Salguero said.
The Bronx, Staten Island, the Hudson River Park and Bayonne, N.J., are a few of the floating museum’s possible stops, though no deal has been inked yet.
“We want to share the love,” said Salguero, who said the repairs will be the boat’s first in 16 years. “If we’re going to be doing exhibits, we want to show them to as many people as possible.”
Before going out of service in 1993, the tanker logged thousands of miles delivering home heating oil, diesel and gasoline to ports as far away as Maine.
Named after the mother of one of the ship’s earliest owners, the Mary A. Whalen was involved in a 1975 Supreme Court case involving collisions at sea.
Judges in that case ruled that, contrary to earlier practices, damages between two colliding ships would be doled out according to fault – rather than down the middle.
But since August, when Salguero purchased the boat, the 613-ton ship has been sitting at the American Stevedoring-operated Red Hook Container Port.
Those repairs and other upcoming plans will be documented on a Web site created by Portside New York called http://www.portsidetanker.blogspot.com.
“I had my first e-mail today and I was flabbergasted,” Salguero said Friday. “I hadn’t even posted anything yet. Many, many people are interested in this thing.”
Originally published on January 24, 2007