New York Harbor Voices

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Bob Davidson

a.k.a. bob the diver

Harbor Voices, which introduces you to some of the faces and personalities of New York Harbor, is based on the anthology of the same name by maritime author Terry Walton, available at www.seahistory.org.

As the owner of Bob’s Diving Service, Bob Davidson is an underwater artisan — at least that’s what his insurance company calls him. Davidson does salvage and recovery, and wheel and shaft work in waterways throughout New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.

Working in Tristate waterways for the last 20-plus years, Davidson has earned a reputation for being creative, fast and resourceful, and for making tough jobs seem easy. When a boat sinks, a prop snags, or a rudder gets lost, local mariners reach for Bob’s holographic blue business card. He works on all manner of vessel from ferries and fishing boats to tugs and motoryachts. He also assists dock builders and shipyards.

“I do everything. I do propeller changes, I do shaft changes, I do any type of underwater maintenance. I do salvage,” he says.

Davidson usually ends up with the jobs nobody else wants, he says, including heavy salvage work and large propellers. In fact, Davidson’s specialty is using explosives to loosen larger propellers.

“I don’t think there’s a day when I can go in the water and say I know everything. … The biggest key to my job is common sense.”

In the end, though, doing the job right sometimes means having the right equipment.

“There are lots of jobs where, if we just had one good crane and one good pump, we could raise a boat in an hour or two,” says Davidson. “It’s all the more time- consuming and hard on my old body.”

— From an article by maritime author Jessica DuLong

Terry Walton is a lifelong sailor who lives in Cold Spring Harbor in Long Island. She is vice chair of the Working Harbor Committee (www.workingharbor.org).

See related articles:

- New York Harbor's seldom-told stories

- Manhattan at work

- Act II for steamship Lilac

- A steamship's history

This article originally appeared in the Connecticut & New York Home Waters Section of the January 2010 issue.