Historic Shipwreck Removed from Gowanus Canal Superfund Site

By Natalie Loney

At the bottom of the murky polluted waters of Gowanus Canal rests the remains of a World War II vessel. How did a WW II boat end up in a canal in Brooklyn, NY?

Recent photograph of the shipwreck.

Recent photograph of the shipwreck. (AHRS, 2016)

This shipwreck is all that’s left of a Miami 63-foot Aircraft Rescue Boat. The “Miami’ boats, designed by the Miami Shipbuilding Corporation, were used at sea in WWII to rescue downed pilots and air crew. The boat in the Gowanus was built in 1943 and was used by the U.S. military until about 1963.

Subsequent to its military service as a “crash boat”, the now Gowanus wreck was refurbished and converted into a ferry. Renamed the Point O’Woods V, the boat was used as a ferry service to Fire Island from 1963 until 1985. In around 1989, the boat became the Kokkomokko and was used as a houseboat in the Bronx until around 2003.

After suffering ice damage, the boat was salvaged and towed to the Gowanus Canal where it became a floating arts and community services space called the Empty Vessel Project. In 2006 the boat, now renamed the Green Anchor Yacht (or more commonly the SS GAY), was used as an arts area, houseboat, and a “queer and trans-friendly space.” It’s believed that the SS GAY sank sometime in 2009.

63’ Aircraft Rescue Boat operating at high speed. (Buhler, 2008)

63’ Aircraft Rescue Boat operating at high speed. (Buhler, 2008)

On October 24, 2016, as part of EPA’s overall plan to clean up the Gowanus Canal, contractors began removing debris from the Gowanus Canal 4th Street turning basin. Unfortunately, the SS GAY was too far gone to be salvaged. Bits and pieces of the vessel where among the first items removed from the canal. The material recovered from the canal was sorted into recyclable and general landfill categories. Hopefully the metal parts of the SS GAY will be recycled into another use and the WW II crash boat will live on.

For more about the Gowanus Canal shipwreck, see “IDENTIFICATION AND HISTORICAL ASSESSMENT OF “TARGET 31a” 4th STREET BASIN, GOWANUS CANAL SUPERFUND SITE, BROOKLYN, NEW YORK”, William Jason Flatt, PE and Michael Audin, RPA, Archaeology & Historic Resource Services, LLC.

 

About the Author: Natalie Loney is a community involvement coordinator in New York City. She has been in Public Affairs since 1995.

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