Illustrated Bites of Island News

Reporting and photographs by Jim Cerny

Town Hall news Real estate in 2008 Rosenson art display Fisheries deja vu Henrys' Market Piscataqua ship spotting Profanity Point Late winter sunrises

Town Hall news

Spring is a time to prepare yourself for the Town Meeting day on May 12th. Recall, too, the Town Report is delivered in May, shortly before the meeting. An expected major warrant article is whether to fund a new police/fire complex building and public hearings on the plans will be presented on March 31 and again on April 21 in the Macomber Room at the Library.

Several incumbents are not running for re-election: Gene Doherty is not going to run again for Selectman and Bill Cronin, who was involved in a runoff election for Selectman last year, is not going to run again either; other openings are for two positions on the Budget Committee and one position on the Trustee of Trust Funds.

The Town of New Castle's official Web page is now redesigned and revitalized, to be the primary means for town communication.

Banner on New Castle town Web page.

The link is:

The town Web page is the place to go for contact information, schedules, minutes, and the previously printed "Island Items" newsletter. We also provide a copy of the current "Island Items" here in Saltines see the February 2009 issue, in PDF format, which is 12 pages when printed.

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Real estate in 2008

This is a look at the real estate sales in New Castle in 2008, of particular interest given that the town was reassessed and given the wider global economic meltdown. Thanks to Terri Golter and Pam Cullen for helping me with access to data.

In 2008 there were 14 house sales in New Castle, plus one building lot and one multi-unit commercial property. Six of those 14 sales were in the first half of the year and eight were in the second half. The prices ranged from $537,000 to $3,000,000, with an average price of $1,115,000 and a median price of $1,050,000.

House sale prices differed from listing prices by an average of -$95,500 and a median of -$92,500. Unfortunately comparison to listing prices, and use of days on the market data, is limited by the fact those do not necessarily show the original listing it is a not uncommon practice to take a house off the market for limited periods, making those numbers unreliable indicators of true original listing and total days on market.

Since New Castle was reassessed in 2008, it begs comparison of sales prices to new assessments. The selling prices differed from the assessments by an average of -$30,300 (-2%) and a median of $5,800 (+1%). In other words the sales prices and new assessments seem very close.

Geographically the sales were quite evenly distributed. If we take the large bend where Main Street becomes Wentworth Road as the midpoint for housing distribution (just a guess on my part), then seven of the sales were to the Portsmouth or river side of New Castle and seven of the sales were to the Wentworth or ocean side of New Castle. By neighborhoods, there was one sale in the Bosun's Hill area, two sales in the Wentworth neighborhoods (aka "The Projects"), and three sales in the newer developments of Spring Hill Road and Abigail Lane.

Finally, looking back 50 years for a sense of how dramatic changes have been in New Castle, in 1959 the total assessment of all taxable property in New Castle was $1,171,300 and with a tax rate of $6.00. That total assessment (which excluded town, federal, and church properties) was just $57,000 more than the average selling price of the individual homes in 2008!

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Rosenson art display

The current art display at the New Castle Library features pen and ink drawings by Jenny Rosenson, titled "Flora and Fauna".

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Fisheries deja vu

New Castle is not a fishing village any more, despite the Wentworth Marina, the residence of a few lobstermen, and the presence of the Walter Liff golden cod sculpture on top of the Town Common Building. But an awareness of fishing remains and just as catch limits and other rules add to the inherent hardships of fishing today, that was so in the past. Consider the following glimpse at issues 170 years ago!

Starting in 1792 a federal bounty was paid to cod fishermen. It amounted to $1.00/ton to $2.50/ton for fishermen who fished at least four months of the year, intended to support small fishermen (in the belief they would make handy seamen in time of war) and to be an offset against the cost of imported salt used in the fishery. As time went by, there were repeated efforts to repeal the bounty, and each time it brought the expected protests. In 1839 the citizens of New Castle submitted a letter to Congress in support of retaining the bounty, with 64 signers, including many whom we now regard as historic New Castle names: 10 Amazeens, 8 Tarltons, 7 Whites, and 8 Yeatons!  The letter reads:
That said town contains a population of nearly one thousand, and that the property and subsistence of the town depend upon the success of the fisheries.

They have seen with regret and apprehension the proposition before Congress to repeal the law allowing a bounty upon vessels engaged in this branch [cod] of the fisheries. Should this measure prevail, the effect will be, as your memorialists believe, to break down the present mode of conducting this important branch of industry and to throw the whole fishing interest into confusion. It would withdraw a large and efficient portion of the men now engaged in the fisheries, by placing the business beyond their means. The business, after being thus disturbed and thrown out of its accustomed channels, will settle into the hands of large capitalists. This process would occasion great distress to many individuals without securing any corresponding advantage to the public, as the lack of competition will ultimately make the article of fish dearer to the consumer than it now is.

Wherefore your memorialists pray you to reject the bill now before the Senate for the repeal of the law allowing a bounty to vessels engaged in the cod fishing business.

[Letter dated February 5, 1839, published in the 55th Congress, 2nd Session, Senate Report 1063, p. 220]

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Henrys' Market  

On the afternoon of February 13, Henrys' Market held a wine tasting that attracted perhaps two dozen of "the usual suspects". Henrys' has a license to sell beer and wine, but not to sell it for consumption on the premises.

As a follow-up, they are holding a beer tasting on March 6, 4-6 p.m., featuring four New England beers.

Wine selection.

Casey Ryan,
wine salesman.

Carly De Leeuw,
Henrys' staff.

Nancy Borden,
Henrys' owner.

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Piscataqua ship spotting

Anyone who is near the Piscataqua River can hardly avoid occasional ship spotting of the commercial river traffic. With the Internet it is possible to use Google to find out many details about these vessels that come and go with salt, oil, coal, cement, liquified petroleum gas (LPG), scrap metal, and occasionally other cargoes.

The salt ship "Aeolos" delivers salt in Portsmouth viewed with foreshortening of distance from Penhallow Street, across Bow Street, along the length of Ceres Street.

In early February we spotted the Aeolos (IMO 9138862) unloading salt, a bulk carrier owned by Danad Shipping in Danad, in Athens, Greece, with a home port of Valletta, Malta. It was built in 1997 by Tsuneishi Shipbuilding in Japan and is listed as 45,736 tons (DWT). Former names were Nicolas S. and the Sabrina Venture.

In mid-February we spotted the Atlantic Superior (IMO 7927805) of the Canadian Steamship Lines, presumably carrying a load of cement or gypsum. It is home ported in Nassau, Bahamas, was built in 1982, and is 38,510 tons (DWT). This style of bulk carrier is more common to Great Lakes shipping and is called a self-discharging bulk carrier that does not involve cranes. It uses a hopper system with conveyors that discharge using a long maneuverable boom.

The "Atlantic Superior" showing part of the self-unloading mechanism.

In late February there was yet another salt ship unloading at Granite State Minerals on Ceres Street in Portsmouth, the Ikan Manzanillo (IMO 8310346). This ship was built in 1983 by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and is 34,062 tons (DWT) and is double-hulled. It is owned by Manzanillo Shipping of the British Virgin Islands, home ported in Panama. Former names include Maha Avanti, Jin Bi, Master T., and Libextrade.

The salt ship "Ikan Manzanillo unloading in Portsmouth in late February.

A lifeboat on davits on the "Ikan Manzanillo".

Off-loading salt from the "Ikan Manzanillo".

Bright orange Sonatrach LPG tankers are regular visitors to the Piscataqua, with the Rhourd Enouss (IMO 9284025) arriving at the end of February. It was built in 2004 by Kawasaki Shipbuilding and is a sister ship to the Hassi Messaoud 2 that we described in detail in March, 2008. These LPG tankers require four tugboats and armed patrol boats when they arrive or depart.

The LPG carrier "Rhourd Enouss" with full tugboat and patrol boat escort.

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The Wayback Machine: Profanity Point

One of the more colorful old-time geographic names in New Castle, a name still known to some, is Pull-and-be-damned Point, located at the easterly end of Goat Island. When the tide is at full ebb it lives up to its name, for those who still venture out in a small vessel with a pair of oars.

Coincident with plans for the now-famous removal of Henderson's Point that projected from the Shipyard shore at a sharp bend in the Piscataqua channel a much-needed navigation improvement there was also a study by the Army Engineers for the removal of Pull-and-be-damned Point, shown on maps at the time as Goat Island Ledge. But in 1899 the Army Engineers concluded the removal was not justified, that Henderson's Point was the real problem, and despite the best efforts of New Hampshire Representative Cyrus Sulloway, the decision held. It was not until channel improvements were made in the 1990s that part of Pull-and-be-damned Point was removed.

Coastal Survey map of 1866 annotated to show Henderson's Point ("H") and Pull-and-be-damned Point "P"). Depths are in fathoms.

Official maps, as shown above, preferred the name "Goat Island Ledge" despite local usage. Directly across the river is marked "Fort Sullivan" on the Shipyard, the current site of the unused Naval Prison. And upriver is Henderson's Point, removed in a spectacular explosion in 1905, after much preliminary excavation with coffer dams. Across from Henderson's Point, Fort Washington, dating from the Revolutionary War, is marked on Peirce Island, near where the sewage treatment plant is located today.

Army Engineers map of 1899, showing areas for proposed removal. Depths are in feet. This is the only map on which I've ever seen the point so-named.

The symbol that looks like an exclamation mark on the 1866 and 1899 maps (above) is the channel marker buoy, at the approximate location of the prominent no. 9 green lighted buoy today.

The tug "Eugenia Moran" escorts a bulk carrier inbound past the green channel marker off Pull-and-be-damned Point.

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Late winter sunrises

Looking at Whaleback Light, five minutes before a  late winter sunrise.

The moment of a late winter sunrise as seen from the end of Wild Rose Lane.

The 30 days centered on the spring equinox (March 20, this year) and on the fall equinox, is when the length of day and height of the sun change most rapidly. Day length increases by an average of almost three minutes per day, a total of 1 hour 28 minutes for the month of March. At the same time the noon sun climbs almost 12 degrees higher in the sky during March. No matter how winter tries to hang on, the power of the sun finally tips the balance to spring by the end of the month.

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Quick index to back issues of Saltines

March, 2009