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Tap Into, April 06, 2016

Purdy's “Farmer and the Fish” owners reel in a new catch

A fisherman all his life, Purdy’s Farmer and the Fish co-owner Edward Taylor is sailing in uncharted waters after he and his business partner, Michael Kaphan, took the plunge last month and purchased the historic fireboat known as the John D. McKean at a New York City auction on March 10. 

“I still have to wrap my head around it,” said Taylor, “It looked great, but once those engines fired up, and the boat just came to life, I was smitten.”

Taylor and Kaphan first learned about the retired fireboat that was being sold via public auction from Taylor’s friend, Andy Thurman, who serves in the Coast Guard Auxiliary. The two traveled to the Brooklyn Navy Yard where it was being moored.

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“We took a look at the boat, thought about it, went back to the boat, and then started bidding,” said Taylor.

There were numerous bids on the historic boat, which was first put into service in 1954. But after more than 150 bids, which began at $1, Kaphan and Taylor won the fireboat for $57,400.

The 129-foot-fireboat that served the New York City Fire Department as Marine Company 1, was retired in 2010 after more than 70 years of service, as the NYFD set its sights on faster, more powerful vessels for service.

The John D. McKean is the namesake of an NYFD marine engineer who died tragically in a fire in 1953 aboard the fireboat George B. McClellan. McKean remained on board the vessel, and ultimately perished, trying to keep it afloat after a steam explosion.

 

Before its decommissioning, the John D. McKean was a staple at many notable fires and rescues on the Hudson River, including the crash of U.S. Airways Flight 1549, in which pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger made a dramatic emergency water landing into the Hudson River when the jet’s engine failed due to multiple bird strikes. All 155 passengers and crew members survived and were rescued by the John D. McKean and other vessels on the water that day in what became known as the “Miracle on the Hudson.” It also saw action after the World Trade Center was attacked on September 11, 2001, ferrying passengers out of New York City and into Jersey City.  And, even after its decommissioning, it was called into action on occasion, including in 2012 to help during Hurricane Sandy.

After winning the auction, Taylor and Kaphan had an emotional meeting with the McKean family as the boat left the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The family members were on board the boat’s successor, the Three Forty Three --so named after the FDNY members who lost their lives in the line of duty on September 11, 2001--which escorted them to the Statue of Liberty, where the fire department did a water cannon salute to bid the boat farewell, in a touching ceremony. The escort continued up to the city line at the George Washington Bridge, where crew members saluted the departing boat as it headed north up the Hudson River to dock in Tarrytown.

Taylor says he was surprised to see the vessel was in such good shape.

“We were really very fortunate, the fire department really took care of the boat,” he said. “Even the radios aboard it work.”

He and Kaphan have already made some repairs  including rebuilding the fuel pump with the help of an engineer who specializes in historic boats, Tim Ivory. Over the next few weeks and months, they plan to do some minor sprucing up, painting and cleaning the historic vessel.

Kaphan and Taylor envision turning the fireboat into a floating museum, which will remain docked in the Hudson River, at the Tarrytown Marina, not far from their soon-to-open restaurant in Sleepy Hollow at 11 Water Street. The restaurant, that’ll be named Farmer and the Fish Hudson, will be part of Tarrytown’s waterfront Hudson Harbor development. Kaphan and Taylor are hopeful they will receive permits from the village’s building department shortly, after which they hope to begin renovations at the site and open their restaurant by July, all while focusing on the future of their historic vote.

“Hopefully we can get some retired firemen,” explained Taylor, “I’ve reached out to a few in the hopes that some will give tours of it. I mean, what kid doesn’t want to go on a fireboat? That’s the ultimate goal. To have it so that people can enjoy it.” 

He went on to add,  “We are really just the custodians of it. You can’t really own a piece of history like this.

Written by Tap Into N. Salem on April 06, 2016
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