In Remembrance: Captain Fred Kosnac Jr. (1928-2004)
Capt. Fred Kosnac was the first tugboater I ever met. If a career can be considered in spiritual or symbolic or abstract terms to be "a life," then Fred Kosnac would rightly be called the patriarch of mine, as a writer and photographer and admirer of tugboaters and tugboats. The matriarch was of course a tugboat proper, the Hay-De, which Capt.
Kosnac, based on a phone call out of the blue in 1980. made available to a curious and impressed young journalist. You mean something that works so hard, and has been at it since 1887. is still intact? 1 was fascinated, awed even, and saw a thousand idealistic morals in this particular tale. Capt. Kosnac, on that summer afternoon at his Wall Street yard, was indifferent to my awe. He'd grown up around a lot of old junk, and this was merely older. But he was also indulgent as I scrambled around the boat, sticking my lens through windows, setting the angle of the deck in a way that would tell about tugboats - asking for the first time an ongoing question: if there's a soul in a tugboat, how do you get it on film?
The article I promised Capt. Kosnac didn't run, or at least wouldn't for another 22 years. My editor was fired before it was finished. Still, in what 1 would call an involuntary pattern, I kept bumping into old tugboats. The next was then called the Eileen Ann, three years older than Hay-De but, as I later found out, built in the same yard. I became conscious of the infatuation in 1998. standing on the Museum pier at Hyde Street in San Francisco, where the beautiful and romantic square-rigger Balclutha sat, diagonally opposite the decorous Victorian-style sidewheel ferryboat.
Eureka. Both were a vision. But it was the one in between them that I couldn't take my eyes off, the large and regal tug Hercules. She was built in 1906. also in the same yard as Hay-De. The article I'd promised Capt. Kosnac. I then realized, was still being written.
The next chapter began a couple months later, driving along the Staten Island shore. But isn't that the old Hay- De tied at that dock, there? The boats tied around her all had big K's on their stacks, and that was a clue. Was I being followed? Who was following whom?
By the year 2000, for a publisher in Canada, I was making a video about New York tugboats. I contacted the Tugboat Enthusiasts Society to root around for background, and was invited to their convention. After I accepted, I found out that Capt. Kosnac and Veronica would be attending.
Yeah, that was his name, Fred Kosnac.
I looked forward to meeting his wife.
and continuing a 20-year-old interview.
But when we were introduced at the TES banquet, it was a younger Fred Kosnac, and his sister. Still, could I go on the tour the next day on their boat?
The Margot? If the older Fred Kosnac had been sort of a spiritual father, equally these would be my spiritual stepbrother and stepsister. I wanted to get acquainted.
I finally met the original Fred Kosnac, Fred Junior as they called him. at the beginning of this year. 24 years after that meeting at Wall Street. It was amid his friends, his family, and the families of his family at a party in his honor. I remember saying, when I shook his hand, that we'd begun talking way back in '80. 1 don't remember what exactly I said next, but it was probably like "and look. I've become such a hotshot that they asked me to photograph your 75th birthday!" Was I trying to please him?
We met for the final time a couple months later, in a Staten Island restaurant.
to wind-up the interview. Fred III and Veronica and their mother June had had to talk Capt. Kosnac into coming, as he'd had a few mild strokes and was sometimes forgetful. His family said he was afraid he'd be embarrassed by any lapses. But lapses are fine, I'll take 'em.
It's not the parts you leave out in a tale like this; it's the parts you keep in.
Capt. Kosnac passed away from a larger stroke the day before the story went to press. I would have liked him to see it in print, to show that I keep promises.
But I imagine he'd have been no more impressed than on that day when I first climbed, all enthused, all over a tugboat. Lots of people had done the same with the same enthusiasm, and plenty of them wrote stories. She was a piece of junk, but she was a good piece of junk.
As for keeping promises?
Plenty of that has been done, too, maybe by more people than he knew.
Promises kept, and stories told. For anyone steering out of the harbor, it should be a satisfaction to think such came to port under his tow.
Other stories from November 2004 issue
- Austal Launches 417 ft. Aluminum Ship page: 9
- Design Completed for Steamship Authority Ferry page: 9
- Blount to Deliver MV Isleno page: 10
- SF Bay Ferry Logs Impressive Performance page: 11
- NASSCO Holds Ceremony for Fourth BP Tanker page: 12
- K&C Wins $6M Navy Contract page: 12
- Air Emissions from Ships page: 14
- Shipboard Training Comes of Age page: 17
- Demystifying Parametric Roll page: 20
- A Bright Spot in Oil Patch Vessel Construction page: 26
- Senesco Marine Signs Contract For 140,000-Barrel DH ATB page: 30
- Coffee Company Investigates MContainer-on-BargeM Service page: 31
- USCG Invests in Low Engine Exhaust Temps page: 33
- Seacraft Delivers RV Hercules page: 36
- Caterpillar Gets "ACERT"-ive page: 37
- Making the Mark For Crescent Towing's Fleet page: 40
- The New Wartsila 46F page: 41
- Market Vision with Wartsila s Ole Johansson page: 42
- VT Halter Launches PCTC page: 44
- Aluminum Industry Continues Support for the Marine Market page: 46
- Film Celebrates Golden Age of NW Boats page: 47
- Pressure Transmitter Receives ABS Approval page: 48
- Fire Prevention: "Rising" to the Occasion page: 48
- For Those in Peril page: 50
- A Future in Composites page: 52
- Extra Value in Chinese Construction page: 53
- Record Spend on Propulsion? page: 54
- Collaboration Creates Vehicle for CNG Solutions page: 56
- Milestone Reference with MAN B&W page: 58
- The Will for Business page: 58
- Wider Remit for Dutch Matchmaker page: 58
- 2n d Generation Onboard NAPA Tanker Released page: 58
- Nichols Named "Maritime Man of the Year" page: 59
- ACBL Makes Appointments page: 59
- International Paint Japan K.K. - Open for Business page: 60
- European Yard Initiative - Will it Work? page: 62
- A.P. Meller-Maersk Creates Dedicated Tech Group page: 64
- SembCorp Signs Breakthrough, Long Term LNG Deal page: 66
- Keppel Batangas Completes SemiSub Repair page: 68
- A&P Tyne Re-Delivers FPSO Haewene Brim page: 68
- Crane Materials Launches TimberGuard page: 70
- Fincantieri Orders Water- Lubed Shaft Bearings page: 70
- Bilge Water Treatment Unit Approved By LR page: 71
- Electric Propulsion for Coastal Ships page: 72
- ALSTOM Wins $102M Navy Deal page: 73
- Offshore & Marine Chose Vacon AC Drives page: 73
- Successful Full Load Operation of 5-MW Ship Propulsion Motor page: 74
- Innovative Tweendeck Patented in U.S. page: 76
- MAN B&W Records Busy Hamburg Show page: 77
- Transas Demonstrates New Tech at SMM page: 77
- BV Launches Project Management Solution page: 78
- Xantic Offers New Web-Based Tool page: 79
- New AIS Targets U.S. Workboat Market page: 80
- Hepworth Makes a Good Show at SMM page: 80
- New PVC-Free Alternatives for Interior Decoration page: 80
- A High-End Global Satcom Presence page: 82
- IPS Marine Lands New Blue Chip Casino page: 85
- Rigdon Marine Promotes Harkness to CFO Post page: 85
- Tidewater: Effects of New Tax Bill Are Positive page: 86
- Bollinger to Design, Build Five DH Hot Oil Barges page: 87
- B+V Wins Passenger Ship Contract page: 88
- In Remembrance: Captain Fred Kosnac Jr. (1928-2004) page: 92
- Electronic Charting Aboard APL China page: 93
- Electric Boat Optimizes Nuclear Sub Repairs page: 94
- Kramek, Liu Snare Top SNAME Honors page: 97