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Oyster Festival Tall Ships On Course to the WW Pier

The Lynx, the Bollard, the John J. Harvey, the Soundwaters and the Christeen are Oyster Festival Celebs

Getting all their ducks in a row for the Oyster Festival Tall Ship events on the Western Waterfront takes a great deal of planning, especially when it comes to arranging for the ships to visit. The American privateer The Lynx is coming and confirmation has just come through that the U.S. Coast Guard will be sending their cutter Bollard. “She is special because she is an icebreaker,” said Jennifer Sappell, Long Island North Shore Heritage Area executive director who volunteers with the maritime side of the Oyster Festival. Ms. Sappell is happy with the volunteer work she is doing. “I love people who love boats,” she said.

Ms. Sappell said. “It’s hard to get the boats to commit to coming because of the weather, politics, mechanical issues, technical issues and there is even military need. Of course that trumps everything. Especially for arranging for the helicopters for the Sea-Air-Rescue demonstration,” said Ms. Sappell. She, Rotarian Jim Werner and Joe Orlich, Flotilla Commander USCG Auxiliary Oyster Bay, and a member of the Oyster Festival maritime committee said, “What is really exciting is that the fireboat John J. Harvey, [who helped douse the World Trade Center fires on 9/11] is coming in early on Wednesday afternoon, Oct. 12.”

Ms. Sappell added, “The fireboat comes in early and the Oyster Bay Historical Society has arranged with A&E to show their documentary about fireboats. It is a free event and will be held on Oct. 13, at the Oyster Bay Community Center from 7 to 9 p.m. The fireboat crew will be there for conversation, after the screening.”

Ms. Sappell’s LINSH website explains that the documentary, Fireboats of 9/11, (is) a 70-minute A&E video (done by the History Channel and now handled by A&E) documenting the fireboat response to the World Trade Center attacks in 2001, with archival footage of the general history of fireboat service in NYC harbor.

“Combining archival materials with contemporary footage and state-of-the-art animation, Fireboats of 9/11 goes behind the scenes of the famed NYC Fire Department Marine Division, documenting their incredible courage and effectiveness on September 11, 2001, as well as their long and exemplary history of safeguarding lives and property along New York’s waterfront.

“Through candid interviews, a detailed history of the Marine Division and its ships, and a comprehensive account of the fireboat response to the calamities of 9/11, Fireboats of 9/11 chronicles the people and vessels that helped America through one of its darkest hours,”
 states LINSHA’s website.

Ms. Sappell said, “Daniel Walker of Oyster Bay is a volunteer on the fireboat and he’s helped me find both it and the tugboat Cornell which came to the Oyster Festival last year. He and Commander Orlich are helping figure out the logistics. There is no floating dock in Oyster Bay. The pier is a stationary fishing pier. We have to figure out the affect of the tides. It’s important to figure out the angle of the ramps. When the tall ships were built they were not built to Coast Guard specs.”

Safe Dockage

The Bollard arrives on Friday, Oct. 14 and will be here on Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 15 and 16 for free public tours. Her commanding officer is Chief Aron Brewer. The ship will be docked on the west side of the pier,” said Commander Orlich.

Commander Orlich is working as the dock master for the Rotary positioning those boats. “I have to dock them safely,” he said. “We have a standing pier and we need to get people aboard the ships. One of the boats coming in, The Lynx, is looking for a brow which is a gangplank that will rise and fall automatically: there is a 7 and half foot tide in Oyster Bay harbor.

“The Oyster Festival, Oct. 15 and 16, will be held during the full moon. That means there will be a 97 percent tide on Friday so there will be a change of 7.2 feet there. Every six hours, or four times a day, there are changes in the level of the water.

“Once secured to the vessel, the brow will roll on steel rollers as the tide ebbs and flows. The fireboat has its own and we are getting one for the cutter. They are not available for rent. The Lynx is still trying to secure one for the event. You have to find someone who is going to lend it to you.”

Organizational Effort

Tall Ship committee member, Rotarian James Werner of Halliday Financial said, “We actually met yesterday, Sept. 15, at the Western Waterfront pier at 2 p.m. It’s not just an effort of the committee, but Coast Guard Commander Joe Orlich and Dave Waldo of the WaterFront Center were there. Georgia Filaski of the Town of Oyster Bay attended too, as did Dan Walker who volunteers with us.

“Jennifer and my role is to get the tall ships to come as long as their schedules fit and they can meet our needs. We expect between 7,000 and 10,000 guests to come down to the pier and come onto the deck of a working ship.

“We have four ships coming which will give deck tours: the Lynx, the Bollard, the fireboat John J. Harvey; and the Soundwaters which will come from Stamford Connecticut – which is usually here. We are also inviting the Merchant Marine Academy to attend.

“Once we know who is coming we work with Joe Orlich on the operational side to arrange of the alignment of who goes where on the pier, and to check the depth of water needed and the safety of our visitors. He has his Coast Guard Auxiliary members to help him out.

“Dave Waldo is involved. The oyster sloop Christeen will have three sails during the festival. They also offer Sonar sails. They are little sailboats that go out for 45 minute cruises – with four guests – for a roundabout of the harbor. [Fees are charged for the sails.]

“Georgia Filaski is the liaison between the town and WaterFront Center and us. She is always helpful in making sure we have all our permits, insurance, and the town’s permission to bring the ships in.

“Last year the SAR team came in and as of yesterday they are not secured as yet. The helicopters come from Cape Cod where they have four and two are down for maintenance so they can’t commit. They will keep us updated and as long as they can have three or four ready, all will be well. Last year the same thing happened and we had to wait until the end to get the final notice that they were on their way,” explained Mr. Werner.

Meet the Bollard

The US Coast Guard Cutter Bollard, commissioned in February 1967, will be present at the 28th Annual Oyster Festival. It currently operates throughout Long Island Sound and north to Narragansett Bay. The ship is 65’ in length and is able to break up ice up to 12” thick. The Cutter Bollard is necessary as waterways can freeze and become impassable for maritime commerce in the winter. It also assists in servicing and positioning over 1240 aids including buoys, beacons, range lights and lighthouses throughout the Sound and its rivers. This includes securing heavy sinkers, changing lights, and repainting the navigation aids.

Mr. Orlich said, “Basically any vessel in the Coast Guard inventory is considered a cutter. The Bollard’s area of operations are in the Long Island Sound sector. She is coming from New Haven Connecticut, which is the sector headquarters out of which she works.”

The United States Coast Guard is a multimissioned maritime service and one of our Nation’s five Armed Services. Its purpose is to protect the public, the environment, and U.S. economic interests - in the nation’s ports and waterways, along the coast, on international waters, or in any maritime region as required in supporting national security. The Coast Guard’s core roles are Maritime Security, Maritime Safety, Maritime Mobility, Protection of Natural Resources and National Defense.

Mr. Orlich said, “The Oyster Bay Coast Guard Auxiliary supports the missions of the active duty Coast Guard. We are currently seeking new members. We offer free training. No boat is necessary. They can call 624-USCG for more information.”

Volunteer Walker

As for Daniel Walker, he is a member of Save Our Ships New York which is a New York State chartered not-for-profit organization dedicated to preserving historic vessels, wharves, floats, piers, related equipment and support vessels. At the present time they are dedicating themselves to saving the John J. Harvey to insure that her historic integrity is maintained in perpetuity. On Sunday, Sept. 17, he will be helping paint the fireboat. She is located at Pier 66 maritime, between 26 and 27th Street, just above the Chelsea Piers on the west side of NYC. It is also the home of the Frying Pan which is a lightship, a national registered listed lightship. It is restored. The fireboat is on the National register of historic Places.”

Mr. Walker said, “I’m just interested in everything nautical.” Most interesting he said were the marine fires in which she assisted which were the Cunard Line pier fire in 1932, the burning of the Normandie in 1942, and the ammunition ship El Estero during World War II. He added that Huntley Gill is the captain of fireboat John J. Harvey.

Mr. Werner said, “Dan may ride to the festival with the fireboat. They will be in Mystic, Connecticut and he hopes to ride on the fireboat to Oyster Bay. He’s excited.” Mr. Walker rode on the Deborah Quinn and on the Cornell when they came to those Oyster Festivals, said Mr. Werner.

Mr. Walker said, “I’m going to be on the fireboat either when it is coming from Mystic or when it is going back to NYC from here, after the festival. Phil Blocklyn (Oyster Bay Historical Society executive director) wants to be on the boat on the way back to NYC. He’s excited about that.”

Mr. Walker was the speaker for the OBHS exhibit on Commodore James Stuart Blackton, who besides being a noted film producer and owner of Vitagraph Studio, was an avid power racer. Blackton’s fleet of boats were anchored in his boathouse in Cove Neck. That is a location that can be seen when taking tours aboard the Christeen.