Q&A: Daniel Ross of "New York on the Clock" Goes Tugboat Towing

September 28th, 2009

In the latest installment of New York on the Clock, Chris Baker pilots tugboats for Staten Island-based McAllister Towing, one of New York City’s two towing outfits. Back in May, New York on the Clock producer Daniel Ross joined Captain Baker as vessels from the United States and Canadian Navies called to port for Fleet Week 2009. Captain Baker’s tug, the Rosemary Ellis, helped dock the U.S.S. Iwo Jima, an 844-ft Wasp-class amphibious assault ship, and the U.S.S. Roosevelt, a 500-ft Arleigh Burke-class destroyer.

Q. In the film, there are scenes that take place from sunrise to sunset … so how long were you on the boat?

We met the McAllister crew at their headquarters on Staten Island around 3 in the morning. An hour later we motored out into the harbor to meet inbound ships. We stayed on the boat the rest of the day, and called back to headquarters around 7pm.

Q. How busy is Captain Baker’s workday? Were there long periods of just sitting there, waiting for boats to dock?

Captain Baker was asleep when we boarded the Rosemary McAllister. His first mate piloted the boat until about sunrise, at which point Captain Baker took over. He remained in command throughout the day.

Q. What kind of ships does Captain Baker dock? How long does it take to dock a ship?

The range of ships that Captain Baker docks varies. Like he says in the video, he never really knows from day to day. He gets a call and goes out to meet the ship. His ship, the Rosemary McAllister, was like the top of the line boat, so he can really tow almost anything. Of course, the really big ships require more than one tug to guide them to port.

Q. Was it very difficult filming on the water? What kind of challenges did you face?

It wasn’t difficult filming on the water. The tugboat was large enough that it didn’t pitch much. Nothing like trying to film from a dinghy like we did for The City Concealed: North Brother Island. In hindsight, I think the biggest challenge — or maybe oversight on our part — was getting a variety of sounds. The engines on the boat are extremely powerful and extremely loud, so throughout the piece you get a constant drone that doesn’t offer much in the way of dynamic audio.

Watch Captain Chris Baker and more original films about the people that make New York tick at New York on the Clock.