So I stood on Peebles Island, across from the eastern terminal of the Erie Canal, examining the Tug Roundup, happening around the brick Waterford Welcome Center with its large round window. Musicians played bluegrass and traditional canal songs on the stage improvised on the blue-and-gold canal barge, Grand Erie, a government boat. W. O. Decker, sporting a new growth of pudding, headed south on another 30-minute tour.
Looking for a spot to photograph the fireworks from, I struck up a conversation with some local guys drinking beer on Peebles, trying to get their sense of this gathering of working, restored and replica tugboats. They wondered where these tugs came from and whether the Erie Canal served as route for “really long distance” boats. I told about a certain ketch Maraki that traveled through here once on its way to Lake Michigan after having sailed around the world. I asserted that Maraki was not even very unusual in this feat. Then, this black-and-mustard vessel with unstepped masts motors by, like something emerging from a time discontinuity.
On the nameboard we read “Royaliste,” as if the name explained anything of this surreal passage. It appeared to be something two centuries-plus old juxtaposed with vessels , all of which flaunt diesel or diesel/electric where some–the oldest–like Decker and Urger once moved under steam. “Royaliste, I don’t know it,” was all I could say.
Royaliste’s passage reminded why I write this blog. Tread wary along the canal towpath; you never know what you’ll see. So keep a camera in your pocket.