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New York harbor tanker never misses a fuel delivery

Jul 31, 2014 02:11 PM
A fully laden Capt. Log on its way to deliver fuel to a customer in Kill Van Kull in 2009. Built in 1979, it is one of the last harbor tankers still operating in New York Harbor.

Photos by Will Van Dorp

A fully laden Capt. Log on its way to deliver fuel to a customer in Kill Van Kull in 2009. Built in 1979, it is one of the last harbor tankers still operating in New York Harbor.

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Capt. Rich Naruszewicz, at the helm of Capt. Log, issues his radio sécurité call while crossing New York Harbor.

“Vessel Traffic, Capt. Log, coming out of Buttermilk Channel, entering Erie Basin.” Moments later, that’s followed by, “Vessel Traffic, Capt. Log, we are inbound The Cut.”

That radio transmission is music to the ears of vessel operators along the Brooklyn, N.Y., waterfront. It means the 63-foot vessel is arriving to deliver fuel to their fleet. Capt. Log, built in 1979, is one of the last single-hull harbor tankers still operating in New York Harbor.

Capt. Rich Naruszewicz is master of the vessel for American Petroleum & Transport Inc.

With a 20,000-gallon capacity, the 35-year-old Capt. Log still departs its dock along the West Side of Manhattan in the wee hours each morning to refuel numerous water taxis, tour boats, dredges, yachts and even large ships.

Although the vessel is equipped with modern electronic components including a Furuno 10-inch radar and Standard Horizon Explorer primary VHF radio, Naruszewicz likes to portray Capt. Log and its two-man crew as a no-frills workhorse from days gone by. The original 170-hp six-cylinder Detroit Diesel 671 engine still propels the steel-hulled tanker around the harbor.

“It’s a motor, a steering wheel and a compass. Bare boat. We’re old-school. We’re cave men — hawespipers,” Naruszewicz explains while navigating eastbound around The Battery. “When everybody’s sleeping, we’re going around delivering fuel. Sometimes we crisscross this harbor four or five times a day.”

On this particular morning, Capt. Log sailed into Erie Basin to deliver ultra-low-sulfur diesel to three New York Water Taxi vessels — Curt Berger, Marian S Heiskell and Sam Holmes. The harbor tanker eases up alongside the docked passenger boats, positioning itself first with its starboard bow to Curt Berger’s stern. Deck hand James Bragoli prepares the 2-inch hoses with Quick Connect coupling, and a pair of Blackmer positive displacement pumps will move the fuel. Naruszewicz faithfully fills out the Declaration of Inspection Prior to Bulk Oil Transfer form.

At the dock to greet the men and help connect the mooring and fuel lines is Robert Haywood, the New York Water Taxi port captain. Haywood praised the professionalism and convenience of the deliveries.

Capt. Log eases into position at the New York Water Taxi berths in Brooklyn.

“Anytime that little Capt. Log comes in here to refuel, it’s really ideal,” Haywood said. “It saves us time, it saves us money, it helps us a lot and it’s a great way to go.”

In past years, the water taxis visited various dockside facilities to refuel. Sometimes it was first-come, first-served. Vessels would be queued up, unable to control or predict when they would be able to depart.

“We had to call ahead of time to see if they had an opening, and if so, we still might have to wait and we might have to take a boat out of service. It was very tough,” Haywood said. “Having the fuel service come in, it’s really great. You want to be able to do it as efficiently and safely as possible. These guys know how to fuel our vessels properly.”

Capt. Log is operated by American Petroleum & Transport Inc., based in Miller Place, N.Y. The boat is owned by Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises, which provides about 20 percent of the harbor tanker’s business. The remainder of the demand for the fuel service comes from the ferries and other sightseeing operators. Sometimes the boat refuels large commercial ships at anchorage. In the summer, foreign yachts visit New York Harbor and Naruszewicz is happy to rendezvous.

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