It appears that once Art Deco's heyday was over, it vanished rather quickly from watercraft. "A third near-sister, the Justine, was built with the leftover steel allocation from the earlier buildings. She would be sold to the NBC Container Line and renamed Esther K. After McAllister bought NBC in the 1980's, she became the Esther K. McAllister, never changing her original appearance, even after conversion to diesel power. She was sunk as an artificial reef at Walker Cay, Bahamas on January first, 1982." History has not been kind to Art Deco afloat. The Kalakala remains at risk, despite strenuous efforts for her preservation. The Mary Murray, the last of the streamlined Staten Islanders, lies abandoned and rotting on the Raritan River. And then there's Vinik Marine's Charles Oxman, ex-St. Petersburg, ex-A.P. St. Philip, ex-H.S. Falk. No one could accuse her of looking Art Deco any more, though everyone agrees she's still a sight. Everyone also agrees on the visor. But otherwise, she's some tugboat. As Vinik Marine finalizes its RCP certification, the company finds the Charles to be a bit more than the back-up boat that was planned. She seems to be working all the time. know the Dorothy story. "Bilgewater was practically to the deck plates -- she was taking rainwater. She leaked profusely around the packing gland of the rudder." But the ALCO, all things considered, was great. "Except for a new turbo, and two or three cylinders, it was ready to go. We replaced one entire cylinder, and two heads; all fuel pumps and nozzles." After Capt. Vinik had flown to Tampa, company agent Greg Sharpe "drove down with a truck full of line, pumps, tools, all the stuff we had up here that we didn't want to buy all over again. We bought life rafts, jackets, survival suits, documentation, FCC license, just about everything else. We got fuel, lube oil, a new fridge. Got rid of the roaches -- don't know what they were living on but there were dozens and dozens of them." With plenty of weather ahead, 20-ft. seas that would "push the bow fender halfway back the foredeck," the old tug left Tampa on September 6. There was a stop at Charleston, to fix a Virtues of Another Age "The engine room is huge," says Capt. Vinik, "and she has enormous space all around." For even a 3,600 hp Alco, as big as it is, is smaller than the steam engine and boiler it replaced. It's a great place to do repairs in -- no small quantity of which were required before the boat was ready to depart Tampa. "We went down to see it in August," says Capt. Vinik. "She was hideous. She had a tire on either side, a couple pieces of fender hanging off the bow. The hull had a ring of growth above the waterline. When the generator was off, you could hear the fish eating that stuff. But within four days we had it running." Vinik Marine didn't own the boat yet, but after the repairs, "we didn't quite not own it, either." So when a large drydock needed moving, the freshly rehabbed tug, still in its tattered yellow, participated with Capt. Vinik at the helm. "The drydock company gave us a month's free storage" which provided time for a little more fixup. In some parts of the country, the Great Lakes notably, it wouldn't be so outlandish to run a boat of this vintage. But Vinik Marine works New York Harbor, a twin-screw port if ever there was one. "We were told that anybody who tried to sail that boat out of Tampa would be a laughingstock," says Capt. Vinik. "We got used to being a laughingstock when we were working on the Dorothy." But there was plenty to encourage skepticism among observers, if they didn't ABOVE: Capt. Vinik with the 16-cylinder ALCO that drives the Charles Oxman. If the engine room looks spacious, maybe it's because even a big diesel takes-up less than a boiler and all. (Photo: Don Sutherland) Setting-up a T-bone. The Charles would soon turn to a 90-degree angle against the Dorothy, forming a left/right/diagonal steering potential using two screws. That's how classic tugs send girders on the barge straight up to the bridge. (Photo: Don Sutherland) 22 · MarineNews · May, 2007
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