From Alumni

Upcoming Events for the Harbor School:

The Oyster Classic Race –

And Harbor Alumni Day –

Maritime Tattoo Taboos

Devon Longo, Professional Diving Alumnus (Graduated 2016)

The first tattooed Europeans were probably sailors. Sailors visited the most places, learning and picking up parts of different cultures on their voyages. Though, by now, tattooing is a popular custom all over the world, Harbor School students still have a unique relationship with tattoos. I couldn’t count the number of students and alumni who have anchors, compasses and other maritime symbols on their body. While random people with artsy designs may easily get away with tattooing an anchor on them, Harbor School holds you to a higher standard.

This is where it gets interesting… Sailors would earn most of their tattoos. They were the marks of having passed a milestone, like a stamp on your passport. If you have an anchor but haven’t crossed the Atlantic (on a boat, obviously), you’ll get a stern talking to from multiple students, faculty, and other members of the maritime community. If you have a swallow, you must have travelled 5,000 nautical miles, which is about one fourth of the way around the world. If you’re thinking of getting a turtle or Poseidon tattooed without having crossed the equator or a dragon without having served in China, you should reconsider. Getting a tattoo is about your identity, what you have gone through. A harpoon identifies you as a worker in the fishing crew. Crossed anchors identifies you as a boatswain mate. If you see someone with a rope around their wrist, they’ve been a deckhand. These are medals, awarded to those who deserve them.

Other tattoos were used as a way to remember or connect you to your past. A swallow with a dagger through it symbolizes a fallen comrade. A pig and a rooster, tattooed on your feet, ankles or knees, would tell people that you’ve been in a shipwreck but survived. Pigs and roosters were often stored on deck in crates that would float in a shipwreck, so became a survival symbol. The phrase “Pig on the knee, safety at sea. A cock on the right, never lose a fight.” comes from that. Other sailors would tattoo women from home as pin-up girls or mermaids to remember them. In 1909, the Navy decided their applicants couldn’t have obscene tattoos. This was when the tattoo cover-up industry really took off.


Paul, Vessel Operations Alumnus (Graduated 2014)

Other interesting facts:

  • The word tattoo means “to mark” in Tahitian
  • By the early 1800s, 90% of sailors had tattoos
  • A golden dragon represented crossing the Prime Meridian
  • A fully rigged ship symbolized having sailed around Cape Horn
  • “HOLD FAST” was often tattooed on sailors’ knuckles for luck while aloft


Paul, Vessel Operations Alumnus (Graduated 2014)

IMG_0479Casey, Vessel Ops Senior (Graduating 2017)

Site Visit Aboard The Zephyr

IMG_1479We recently went on a site visit aboard the Zephyr at Pier 16 (South Street Seaport). The class talked to former Harbor student and crew member Justin Trinidad, who graduated last year. He talked to us about how he became crew with the connections he had from the school.

We then continued our tour around the Zephyr, looking in the wheel house with Captain Alvin Masongsong. He operates the boat with a simple throttle but, if the main system fails, there’s a complicated back up system. On the way back we analyzed the Zephyr’s docking. The captain aligned the boat with the pier, letting the current push it in along with some assistance from the engine. All in all, the site visit was one of many to come and I’m looking forward to learning about more boats and other jobs in maritime industry.


Alumnus William Wolf


Will recently graduated the New York Harbor School. Now, he is in SUNY Maritime for Marine Transportation. He loves it, but also describes it as the hardest program he’s been in yet. The work is challenging and people are always watching to make sure the students are in line (literally!)

Since he’s left school, the curly hair, the sunglasses and the leather jackets have disappeared. He has a red tinted beard coming in and has lost thirty pounds. Though it’s only been half a year, he’s changed a lot. His confidence has increased and he’s much better at spelling. As I write this, he looks over my shoulder critiquing my smallest mistakes.

His favorite thing about SUNY Maritime? Harbor kids run the school. “The leadership positions for students are often filled by harbor alumni,” he says. He looks forward to becoming one of the powerful upperclassmen who get to boss around everyone else.

He’s disappointed by the lack of diversity in his school, though proud that his grade has a higher male-female ratio than those before it. Now the school population is 15% female. “It’s not much but it’s a start,” Will says.

Will continues to visit Harbor School and Harbor students as often as his rigorous curriculum allows.