A few weeks ago we surveyed the No.4 Union Drydock for purchase by Bayonne Drydock. The deal was consummated, and now the No. 4 drydock is in Bayonne. By now most of Union Drydock in Hoboken has been liquidated. We are sorry to see this 100 year old company go, but, on the positive side, it looks like the site itself will continue to serve the New York City marine industry as a New York Waterways yard.
We enjoyed our work at Union Drydock, it always seemed that the interactions between the shipyard, the surveyors, USCG, ABS, and the owners took place in a, funkier, more freewheeling setting that reached back to earlier days. Whenever we had a job there, we had the chance to do some real negotiating, which meant you always had to bring your A game. That high standard was mostly driven by Bruce Southern the yard’s long serving manager. Bruce would drive you, but never leave you hanging. Most of all, when the deal was done, it was fun to reminisce with him about prior jobs, or to exchange some waterfront stories.
It was no different when we did the drydock survey. We were given documents that reached back for decades and Bruce and his yard personnel provided us with insights into the drydock operations that were deeply practical and allowed us to get our head around the issues that a new Owner would encounter.
We had most of these discussions in Bruce’s famous office trailer. I suppose that soon that trailer will be gone, which means that a huge storehouse of New York City waterfront trivia will have disappeared since the trailer’s walls were decorated with hundreds of pictures and memorabilia.
Before I left, I got a chance to take a picture of my father’s picture that Bruce had pinned on the wall.
Below my father’s picture were a few copies of my father’s drawings.
It really was a place of honor too; right next to Jake and Elwood Blues, heroes to my wife, my kids and me alike. Bruce commented that my father looked like a real player in that picture. That led to two stories on my side. The first one was that my Dad actually did not like that particular photo of him. When my son, Jake (yes), made lieutenant in the USNJROTC and he got his officer’s hat, the first thing my father said was: “Jake. Whatever you do, never wear that hat atilt. You may think it looks cool, but when you get older and you see a picture of yourself like that you will realize you look like an idiot.”
The second story resulted from the fact that my father probably would not have recognized the place of honor next to Jake and Elwood since his favorite singers were Dean Martin and Tony Bennett. Bruce then started talking about his love for the blues and that led to my story about my father and his pal Eric Clapton. It is a great story, but there is no time to tell that story here.
I just want to extend my best wishes to everybody who put their heart and souls into Union Drydock for all those years. You did good work, and while it may not always have been easy, it was always worthwhile. We are lucky, in our industry we deal with getting things done. That, by itself, is a great reason to be thankful. Happy Thanksgiving to All.
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