Vinik Marine History

The Gotham

Click on the image to see an enlargement.
    The GOTHAM, ex SOCONY 11, built in 1951, was once the flagship of Mobil Oil's NYC Fleet.
   
    Even in the 1970s, she was the fastest tug in the harbor, but, in 2004, she floated but hadn't moved from a spot beneath the Outerbridge Crossing for so long that those who knew her felt she would never again move by her own power.
   
    A day before she was to become a reef, the GOTHAM became the property of Mike Vinik and Mike, to some, became the laughing stock of the harbor.
   
    "Everyone" knew the vessel. They saw her classic lines and knew her proud history. They also knew of her burst pipes and declaration as a "total loss" by the insurance industry. They would be sad to see her go, but, what could they do. They knew the GOTHAM couldn't be repaired.
   
    But, they didn't know Mike Vinik.
   
   
Mike Vinik
    At 12, Mike taught sailing to day campers.
   
    In high school he'd worked for a sail manufacturer then a marine supply store and earned his Eagle Scout with a Bronze Cluster. He graduated high school at the Marine Academy of Science and Technology on Sandy Hook, NJ and earned their Marlin Spike Seamanship Award at graduation.
   
    In college at SUNY Maritime he become an EMT, volunteered at Ground Zero ON "9/11," and earned licenses in deck (to run a ship) and engine (to be the engineer).
   
    He served as Assistant Port Engineer for Weeks Marine, then as a deck hand on a tug, then as a ferry Captain for NY Waterways.
    He was working full time as a mate on the SANDMASTER, a tug pushing the dredge off Sandy Hook, but wished ultimately to become a Sandy Hook Pilot.
   
    During the summer of 2004, a year after graduating from SUNY Maritime with a BS and a Mate's license, Captain Mike Vinik purchased the GOTHAM and founded Vinik Marine.
   
    He purchased the GOTHAM and created Vinik Marine to prove his worth to the Sandy Hook Pilots and to have an income during their lengthy training period.
   
Vinik Marine
    It took 9 months of crawling through the sludge in the bilge, replacing frozen pipes, repairing cylinders, sleeping on cold winter nights aboard a vessel with no hot water and no heat before the GOTHAM ran.
   
    Word spread. Many who had watched became Mike's maritime friends. It's always good to know a guy who can raise the dead. They helped him get a few jobs. Things were tight. It was cold and quiet on Raritan Bay but sometimes he got 2 jobs a week, and, though they might be at 1 in the morning and access to the tug was made in an open aluminum skiff, at least it was work.
   
    It wasn't until the summer of 2005, that the GOTHAM was christened the DOROTHY ELIZABETH in honor of Mike's grandmother Dorothy Elizabeth Azzolino.
   
    In May 2005, Don's article about the rebirth of the SOCONY 11, the GOTHAM, the DOROTHY ELIZABETH, made the company and Mike "tug boat rock stars" and the talk of the harbor.
   
   
    With an impressive showing by the tug, her captain, and her crew at the 2005 Tug Boat Race came a few more jobs. Mike and the DOROTHY were laughing stocks no longer. This picture, taken by Steve Munez at the 2006 NYC Tug Boat Race, shows the Dorothy "ahead full" with flags and "crew members" as decoration.
   
    Assisting, litering, and towing at all hours of the day and night brought some income and the need for more crew. Classmates at SUNY Maritime and even a pizza delivery guy or two joined the crew. As the number of crew members grew, the number of Maritime graduates and their family members working at Vinik Marine also grew. They are really a world class crew!
   
   
    May 2006 brought Don Sutherland's second article about Mike, Vinik Marine, and his "newest" tug, the CHARLES OXMAN, ex H. S FALK. Mike had done it again.
   
    This time it was in Tampa, again, with a vessel that never moved. At least the CHARLES came home to port on its own power all the way from Tampa.
   
    As the CHARLES entered NY harbor off Sandy Hook, Mike Vinik watched from the Pilot Boat. He'd been accepted by Sandy Hook Pilots and had left the CHARLES on its voyage to NJ in order to report for duty as a pilot in training. Shortly thereafter, Mike left the Sandy Hook Pilots and he and the crew turned the CHARLES into a working tug.
   
    Vinik Marine employees fill dual rolls -- deck (steering and handling) and engine (maintaining and repairing) -- unlike most maritime counterparts. They choose a worthy classic vessel, restored or rebuilt it, and turn it into as a working vessel. Take a World War II veteran, remove the debris of it's prior life, chip away the rust and the old paint job, add a red-white-and-blue paint job, new radar, new computers, even a new galley. Make the brass shine and the stack display the red white and blue VM logo. Rename the vintage vessel in honor of a loved and respected individual -- one worthy of being hailed on radios through out NY Harbor and beyond -- and use for ordinary, fairly unique, and truly unique tasks. That's become the Vinik Marine routine.
   
    There have been losses to Vinik Marine. Hurricane Sandy did the most damage. During Sandy Vinik Marine lost the Robin Kenneth, a crew boat named after Michael's father Robin Kenneth Vinik, and the Teri Lou, a WWII yard tug named after Michael's aunt Teri Lou Azzolino.
   
    At present the fleet includes the mothballed MIKE AZZOLINO, ex YANKTON (WYT 72), the CHARLES OXMAN, named after dear family friend Charles Oxman and often honored as the Best Vintage Tug at a race, the VENUTRE (a 100 passenger party boat), and the Agnes, named after Mike's mother Agnes Azzolino. The DOROTHY ELIZABETH, the TERI LOU (a 40 foot tug or push boat), and the ROBIN KENNETH are no longer with us.
   
    At Vinik Marine, each day brings a new adventure.
   
    Routine jobs include ship and tug barge assists, and litering (taking "small" loads of road salt & stuff off a larger vessel too big for "shallow docking" and bringing it to a location from which it can be used).
   
   
   
    There are really unique jobs, like designing, building, and floating a 30' by 100' foot bill board off the UN in the East River so Dow Chemical could advertise their "Human Element" marketing campaign to those meeting at the United Nations.
   
   
   
   
   
    Each day brings a sunrise and a sunset, often while traveling past the Lady in the Upper Bay or quietly off Roseville, the tug boat graveyard. When days are spent in the bays and rivers of New York Harbor, new adventures do happen. Sometimes one even gets to name a tug in honor of a beloved grandfather or good good friend.

2017 Brings More Vessels and More Names
    2017 was a wonderful year!
   
    Captain Mike Vinik married his lovely wife Liz Vinik and they welcomed son Nicholas Charles Vinik to the family.
   
    Vinik Marine welcomed the MIKE AZZOLINO and the LIZ VINIK to the fleet.

2018 Brings Ice to NYC
   
    It's January and it is cold in New York City. The AGNES and the LIZ VINIK are both breaking ice to keep the ferry lanes and docks open.
    The AGNES is caught on camera by a TV news crew (see left) and another crew films and interviews the tug and crew.
   
    In September, the LIZ VINIK competed in this year's NYC tug boat race, the 26th Annual Tugboat Race & Competition. The LIZ won the race -- Class A: 1st Place! -- and the title of Best Looking Tug. Crew member Christine won Best Female Tattoo for her tattoo of a female pirate and a guest on the Liz, who's father was an engineer on the MARYLAND (the LIZ's former name), took Best Male Tattoo for his tattoo of the MARYLAND. Vinik Marine has a rich history of both vessels and humans who served on them.
   
    Captain Mike Vinik spoke in November to the Maritime College freshman class about the future of the industry. Mike graduated from Maritime in 2003 with as B.S. as an Engineer and became a Mate in the US Merchant Marine Officer. Not bad! -- an honored guest 15 years after graduating.
   

2019 A Trip to Mobile Alabams, More Wins at the Boat Race, Visit from the Admiral
   
    In June the VINIK 6 brought a barge to Mobile, LA. review their trip in Where Are They?.The trip started in NYC with two barges; one was dropped off; and the other went to Mobile. At left, is a shot off the stern of the 6 as it leaves the Upper Bay (of NYC).
   
    September 1st brought the 27th Annual Great North River Tugboat & Competition. Every tug company knows when the race is. Other than the race officials, no one knows who will be there. Last year Vinik Marine brought the LIZ VINIK and she won the race. This year she came in 3rd.
    This year Vinik Marine brought the LIZ, at 3,010 HP, & the VINIK NO. 6, a twin screw, 5,700 HP vessel built in 1970.
    This year McAllister Towing (tugboat dynasty) brought the AVA M. McCALLISTER, a Z-Drive (its propulsion pod can rotate 360 degrees) Tractor Tug, 6,770 HP vessel built in 2019.
    It was tugboat royalty vs the newcomer. "It was an exciting race with only 20 seconds between the first- and second-place win in the Class A tugboat category. Congratulations to the VINIK NO. 6, Vinik Marine, on your first place win! And the AVA M. McCALLISER, McAllister Towing, for second place," wrote the race sponsors, Working Harbor Committee.
   
    July brought another honor. Mike and Vinik Marine were the subject of a gCaptain.com article. entitled "Vinik Marine: Interview With A Different Kind Of Maritime Startup," written by John Konrad.
   
    Probably because of the gCaptain.com article, Rear Admiral Mark H. "Buz" Buzby, USN, Ret. (military marine), Administrator of the U.S. Maritime Administration of the U.S. Department of Transportation visited Mike & Vinik Marine to learn of tugs and the industry (maritime marine).   Crew members Thomas Johnson, Dan King, Corey Toscano joined Capt. Vinik and Admiral Mark Buzby in their tour and tugboat ride.


2020, The SHARK, Sink the VINIK HUNTRESS to Enlarge a Reef, Take A Boat of A Beach

Jan 10, 2020
"Icebreaking Shark Spotted in Massachusetts"
It's Vinik Marine's Newest Vessel
    Above, the before and the almost after.
    On June 9,2020, the Marine Fisheries Administration had Vinik Marine deploy (move or position) the 65-foot tugboat VINIK HUNTRESS into the Sandy Hook Reef. See: youtube video, DEP Marine Fisheries Administration Artificial Reef Program.     Vinik Marine has sunk other vessels, reefed a caisson, but this time it was one of their own vessels.
 
June 13, 2020
 
"Help! My Boat's on the Beach!
Who Should I Call?"
   
Vinik Marine Takes A Boat off A Beach
 
 
 
July - August, 2020

    Will Van Dorp wrote "Vinik answers call, clears hurdles with seasoned offshore fleet." He is the blogmaster at tugster: a waterblog, author of Graves of Arthur Kill, reporter at Professional Mariner Mazine and the author of the article in their July-August, 2020 issue. He also coined the name "Sixth Boro" to describe the marine area that borders the other five boros of NYC and surrounding land masses.
    Having an article in this magazine is a "big deal." Congratulations to Vinik Marine.
 
June -November, 2020

    Christopher Maag, northjersey.com, called Capt. Mike Vinik, "A creature of The Kills," in his NorthJersey.com Article & Videos.
    Chris Pedota, NorthJersey.com-USA Today Network, credited with the photos and video, spent parts of the summer with Mike interviewing. recording video, writing and watching Mike and others on The Kills of NY and NJ.
    The Chrises wrote, "Mike Vinik is a creature of The Kills. He lives for tight spaces. I've never seen him happier than when he's driving a too-big tugboat into a too-small marina with very delicate and expensive things on all sides," and, "the jobs Vinik likes best are the ones that place him in dangerous little spots, and which force him to calculate a way out."
    "His favorite job in the harbor is to drive a tugboat up Eastchester Creek, just past the Throgs Neck Bridge in the Bronx. There, upstream from the New England Thruway and the Cold Mix Manufacturing asphalt plant and the Fulton Avenue drawbridge, lies Sprague Energy Company, a small oil terminal with 12 steel tanks painted white. It's a tide job, which means the only time a captain might retrieve an oil barge from the terminal is at high tide. Vinik uses his smallest tug, yet the narrow channel affords just a few feet of water on either side. If he hits an unexpected delay, the tide will run out. Vinik's boat will be stranded on a pedestal of mud, his propeller spinning in the air." .
    There's more. Most of it true. It is good read.
    Once again,having an article in this newspaper / website is a "big deal." Congratulations to Captain Mike Vinik & Vinik Marine.


Read About Retired Vessels:   The First MIKE AZZOLINO and The CHALES OXMAN

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