Oil Tanker Keeps Maritime History Afloat in Red Hook

A historic oil tanker that has worked the harbor since the end of the Great Depression has a new home in Brooklyn. NY1's Roger Clark explained how this will make it easier for more visitors to learn about the city's waterfront.

These student interns are getting a lesson in varnishing wood, it will come in handy when they tackle restoration work on the 77-year-old Mary A. Whalen.

"They're learning how to varnish on just pieces of pine before they go up there and work on the historic pieces," said Tara Quinn, PortSide NewYork Educational Program Development.

There's plenty of them on the 172-foot vessel which transported oil up and down the east coast for 56 years from 1938 to 1993. The ship is the centerpiece of the 10-year-old PortSide NewYork organization, which recounts the rich history of the city's waterfront through educational and cultural programs. 

"PortSide NewYork is a living lab for better urban waterways and PortSide NewYork brings water stories to life," said Carolina Salguero, President of PortSide NewYork.

The group is moving full steam ahead after signing a three-year lease to dock at Pier 11 in Red Hook's Atlantic Basin. The previous site at the Red Hook Container Terminal limited tours and activities on board due to security restrictions. A tug pulled the ship to its new home on May 29.

"We can grow the organization," said Salguero. "We can increase programs that we've already done. For example, school programs that were highly limited, the ship is now in a publicly accessible spot for the school year."   

PortSide is aided by dedicated volunteers like John Weaver, who just happens to be the son-in-law of a man who captained the Whalen for two decades, his name was Alf Dyrland.

"He always believed that the ship he was on was doing something meaningful," said Weaver. "And now it's doing something meaningful in many different ways than its original purpose."  

Working on the historic ship is fun for Tara Quinn, who chose a career as a merchant seaman.

"It's a really interesting ship, the history is wonderful and it's nice to have it here in a neighborhood where people can access it and learn," said Quinn. 

To find out more about upcoming events on the Mary A. Whalen, just head to portsidenewyork.org. And by the way, they have hammocks too.

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