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I admire versatility. In some settings it’s called being a chameleon. Check out this vessel below. How old is it? What use did it first have? The color scheme you may have seen before: of course, it’s the New York blue and yellow you see on state trucks and police cars. Why are these colors on this sweet boat?

Here prior to the Labor Day Hudson River tug race, Urger jockeys into position. Let’s get some closer up views first. This series of knots below, sometimes called bow pudding, is what has attracted me to tugs all my life. The pudding buffers contact between Urger and another boat, a dock, or an unforgiving canal wall. On modern tugs this is rubber, either repurposed old tires or made-to-purpose extruded rubber “bumpers.” On pleasure boats it’s called fenders.





On Urger it’s all natural fiber, a good way to recycle old line.

While you’re considering your answers to the questions above, one more shot: Urger riding through whitecaps generated by the tug race.



Oh, the age? Would you believe 105 years afloat? And although it’s currently flagship of the New York canal system, it was originally built to fish on Lake Michigan. Henry J. Dornbos was its original name, “thornbush” in Dutch. A versatile boat that seen a century of change and has gone from pulling up fish to pushing stuff around into position to navigating the state as itinerant educator: now that’s a career path that should be adopted more widely.

All photos by Will Van Dorp.

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December 2006