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Red Hook Nonprofit Seeks Donations to Restore Historic Tanker's Kitchen

By Nikhita Venugopal | December 10, 2013 5:11pm
 "Operation This Old Ship Kitchen" is a campaign to restore the galley of the MARY A. WHALEN, an old tanker docked in Red Hook.
PortSide NewYork
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RED HOOK — PortSide NewYork is launching “Operation This Old Ship Kitchen,” a campaign to renovate the galley on their 75-year-old oil tanker, the Mary A. Whalen.

The waterfront organization, which is based on the vessel, is looking for donations in services, goods and money to get their kitchen shipshape.

The project started when Erika Stetson, a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, approached PortSide looking to hone her skills through “gritty” ship work.

“Any ship that old needs a lot of tender love and care,” said Stetson, 39.

Stetson, who lives in Astoria, has served in the military, in journalism and public relations and was also stationed in Kabul as a U.S. Army civilian public affairs officer.

But now Stetson has decided to “go nautical,” she said.

Next year, she will attend SUNY Maritime College in the Bronx for their graduate program, which she hopes will lead her to a career, one day, as a ship captain.

During her month on the Mary A. Whalen, she will be training for her role as a Merchant Marine, a professional seaman or sailor, while turning the galley into a “showpiece” for the ship, an educational and cultural center that is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Stetson has already started work but she and PortSide director Carolina Salguero are appealing to the public to help speed the project.

The galley, or kitchen, features a 1918 cast iron stove, a wood-paneled refrigerator and freezer, tiled floors and metal fixtures, some of which needs to be stripped of paint and refurbished, including five brass portholes, the walls and ceiling. 

Industrial equipment, particularly a compressor and needle guns for removing paint from steel as well as heavy-duty cleaners and degreasers, would be welcome, according to PortSide.

Volunteers, like Stetson, need to hold a “Transportation Worker Identification Credential” or TWIC card, to work on the ship without an escort, said Salguero, adding that PortSide had to shut down their volunteer program last year because of recent strict security regulations in the Red Hook Container port.

PortSide is also looking for professional services like a furniture restorer and a repairman for their refrigerator and freezer, said Salguero.

Along with other goods, including paint, thinners, sandpaper, electric drills, floor tiles, Tyvek suits and disposable Latex gloves, PortSide will accept funds donated to their cause, said Salguero. Donors of more than $500 will get two seats at a "Supper Club" dinner in the newly renovated galley as well as credit on their website for a year.

“Visitors love the galley, maybe because it is so much bigger than apartment kitchens,” said Salguero in a statement, “It will be great to have one space thoroughly repainted to showcase what the rest of the ship can look like.”

For more information or for donations, email press.portsidenewyork@gmail.com.