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A few years have already passed since I posted the first in this series, which I should have called and I’m still in search of a photo of the ITB Major Vangu back in 1973 and 1974.  But I was thrilled to open my email the other morning and find these photos taken in 1992 by Matt Schoenfelder.  Check out his impressive range of galleries here.

The huge pusher tug in the photo below is Colonel Kokolo, recently refurbished and returned to service on the Congo River.  Click here for a map of key waterways in the Congo;  upper center, I lived west of Basankusu for two years teaching at a high school.

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Matt writes, “I was looking through the web for some images of the Onatra barge from the Congo River and came across your site and read that you had traveled up the Congo River some years ago (my note:  1973-4). In 1992, together with a German man I met in Kisangani, I bought a dugout canoe and the two of us paddled 4 weeks down the Congo River to Kinshasa. Needless to say it was the adventure of a lifetime! Anyway, I have just recently scanned some of the old fuzzy and scratched film and thought you might appreciate a few images. From Kinshasa I wanted to get to Zambia and the “best” option available was to get back on the river and travel by barge to Ilebo, where I could take the train down to Lubumbashi. Well it sounded nice on paper but turned out to be an ordeal (as was ANYTHING in Zaire at that time!!) After the 4 weeks on the canoe I then spent another 13 days moving slowly upstream to Illebo on the river (tug and ) barge, which was supposed to be 5 days. The 3-day train trip from Ilebo to Lubumbashi took 30 days…walking would have been quicker! I added that last bit as I will include a few shots from the river barge I took to Ilebo. The images are far from high quality but you may find them interesting nonetheless.

That (tug and ) barge was called the Wandeka IV. Actually I was only on it for 8 of the 13 days. It broke down somewhere along the Kasai River and I was able to get on a German [vessel] from the company Strabag. I don’t have any images scanned of that barge but should I get around to that I’ll send you a few.
Incidentally, in that image of the Wandeka you will notice a small bag just behind me. This was my “day pack” and all it carried was my money. In Kinshasa (after being robbed at gunpoint by the police) I was able to cash in 200$ of travellers checks – after several days of going from bank to bank and hearing that they simply didn’t have any money. At that time 1 dollar was 2 million Zaires (when I entered the country 1$ = 1,000,000 Zaires – 3 months later when I finally left it was 1$ = 5,000,000 Zaires!). The largest note they had available at the bank was 50,000 Zaires so that 200$ translated to 8,000 bills and it was a huge load to tug around with me! I carried it with me for the next 6 weeks, happy whenever I could pay for something and relieve the load a little.

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I doubt I would ever repeat that journey but it was perhaps the most incredible chapter in my travels. Hardly a pleasure but fascinating and exciting nonetheless.”

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I remember from my experience that riding on the tug was considered first class;  the folks on the barge in the photo above . .  well, they would be traveling second class.

Many thanks to Matt for getting in touch and sharing these photos.

Some of my scratchy old Congo photos can be found here.  And yes, that person below was me as a mere young manster.

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Bokakata, DRC (then Zaire) 1973

Are those dunes beyond Durga Devi?

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Sandy shore and mountains? Durga Devi is a fairly new offshore supply vessel.

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In the same port, here’s Kamanga, a Cambodian-registered reefer from 1977.  But those are two OSVs or AHSVs in the distance.  So what accounts for this collection of speciality, non-cargo per se vessels?

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Another reefer here is about a decade newer .. . Isleman, a name sounding like it needs a preposition.

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Frontier is a Grindrod container vessel.

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But here’s the explanation . . . it’s Seadrill’s West Eclipse, a semi-submersible.

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Here’s an introduction to the company.

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Hilde K is an anchor handling supply tug, 2008, Indonesia-built.

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Topaz Xara is China-built, 2014.   They remind me of what I saw in Guanabara Bay a few years ago.

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Most of this is a tribute to global oil, offshore Namibia.   Here’s more of a picture of the Namibian economy.

Many thanks to Richard Hudson for these photos.  Previous photos by Richard and crew are here.

If I ever get to Namibia, one place I’d like to see is the Skeleton Coast . . . .

This series is used to catch up on items started.

Gregory Farino took this foto from the wheelhouse of a tugboat on the Congo River around 1980.  He does not recall the name, as he was just catching a ride.  My question is this:  would the minimal detail of the stem bitt and shape of the bow surrounding it give the impression that this may be an “American” style tug serving the end of its life on an African river.  The problem with that theory is that most of the Congo River is separated from the sea by waterfalls.  Although I heard stories when I lived there and there are and have been shipyards above the falls going back to the time of Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness,”   I have no hard information that any vessels were taken around the falls by train and reassembled for use here.  Anyone help?

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Recognize the vessel below?  The foto was taken by Jan van der Doe.  Today it’s called Samuel de Champlain and appeared in this blog recently here.

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Although it was built in Texas in 1976 as Musketeer Fury, it operated for a while as well as an Italian tug called Vortice, shown here post-fire.  Here’s what frequent contributor Jan van der Doe wrote a few weeks ago:  “While plying the waters near Trieste in 1993, she suffered a devastating fire to her upper engine room and deckhouse. The accommodations were completely destroyed and much of the steel deck and superstructure warped from the heat. The vessel was laid up in Italy until McKeil Marine Ltd. purchased  Vortice on spec in the mid-’90s and towed her to Hamilton, Ontario.  The engines were not damaged, probably the reason the tug came to Canada.  I [was] onboard a few times during her lay up in Hamilton.”  Here’s a link and foto suggesting the fire happened on the Atlantic off the Azores.

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Excuse my parenthetical insertions, but Capt. Thalassic wrote this of Sachem, featured here recently:   Sachem was built (1902, Pusey & Jones, hull #306.  By the way Cangarda was built in the same yard in 1901 as hull #302) for  J. Roberts Maxwell.  It had elegant lines and significantly a very large main cabin for entertaining.  Power was provided by a Fairbanks 8 cylinder slow speed diesel.  During WW 2 the yacht was passed to the Navy and I believe engaged in submarine patrols and training in the Caribbean.  After the war it was sold to the Circle line and probably had the most elegant lines in a fleet of converted landing craft although I am sure the direct drive diesel was terrifically difficult to maneuver with in NY harbor. Eventually it was retired and sold as junk to an organization known as the Hudson River Maritime Academy which was based in West New York NJ.  The organization was less about maritime or learning than it was about drinking and it went bust.  The owner of the pier sold the vessel to Butch Miller from Cincinnati.  (Butch owned a company founded by his father that had developed those augers which you see on all those utility trucks.)  Butch would drive a van from Ohio to NJ to renovate and get the vessel running.  This proved almost impossible and Butch was convinced that he had to get the vessel closer to home.  He purchased a Murray Tregurtha unit and plopped it on the rear deck.  His first plan was to sail up the New England coast, down the Saint Lawrence.  He sailed out of NY harbor with a complete compliment of road maps and promptly ran aground in the fog.  He was towed back into NY harbor and was put up in Newtown Creek for another year.  Eventually he headed north up the Hudson.  The helm was a lawn chair on the roof and steering was done with a broomstick tied to the controls on the MT unit below.  Amazingly Butch got upstate and through the canal all the way to Buffalo (I often repeat his description of the canal as “floating through a corn field”)  and then through Erie, Huron (where he was detained by Customs for wandering over the border line near Windsor/Detroit).  He went all the way down Michigan to Chicago, through the Chicago River to the Mississippi, down the Mississippi to Cairo and then up the Ohio to the Cincinnati area.  It was truly an adventure of a life time and it is incredible he made it.  As far a I know the vessel sits in a backwater on the Kentucky side of the Ohio near Cincinnati.  It is sad retirement for an elegant vessel but it was an amazing adventure.  It is fun and satisfying to see that every once in a while the eccentrics with old boats do live out a dream. ”  In this Halloween season, it may just be part of the entertainment there . . .  given this story.  The foto is by Seth Tane, showing Sachem in that appears to be waters off Yonkers.

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Let’s sign off with this vessel . . .  Bertha.  See the foto on the left margin.  Surely this can’t be lost!!

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Thans to Gregory, Jan, and Seth for use of these fotos.  I look forward to any and all followup to these fotos.

The last time I had Congo River fotos here was almost seven years ago!  In that post, I mention being a Peace Corps volunteer in the DRC (then Zaire) back in 1973.  When I completely training and tried to fly up to my post, I learned the airplane was out of commission and the river was my only option to travel up there.   I was thrilled!  And now I’m thrilled again to have these fotos.  These are NOT my fotos but Gregory Farino–who worked there about five years after me–generously permits me to use these.  We don’t know the name of this “pousseur” tug–not unlike some of the Mississippi River “pushers,” but it looks similar to

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what  I recall of my conveyance,  Major Vangu lashed to four huge barges.  I believe Major Vangu has since sunk.  The “O” on the stack stands for Onatra (Office National de Transports).  For four nights and days non-stop, the tow went north.  I shared a cabin on the second level with another PC volunteer.  The enclosed area forward was a bar/restaurant with beautiful carved wood.  The two levels above that were crew accommodations and wheelhouse, which I didn’t see.

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These are two “second class” accommodation barges.  Our tow had one of these.  It also had two “third class” units, regular flat cargo barges with barrels of fuel for upriver towns, breakbulk bundles, and truckloads of fuel and other cargo.  As I recall this was a pre-container time.  And passengers who hadn’t even enough for the  “second class” barges, rested in the shade of the cargo and under the trucks.

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Here is account and good fotos of some folks who did this river ten years after me.  And here’s an Atlantic article I recall reading, a person who did the trip in the early 1990s.

During my trip, I watched dozens of dugouts (pirogues) like these, loaded deep with forest meat and dried/fresh fish, paddled up alongside the tow while underway to  trade for  products (medicine, blades, ammunition, fish hooks and line, salt) not available in the forest/river villages.  And when I say “paddled,” I mean stand-up paddled . . . as it was then done.  More than once, the pirogue, caught in the wake, capsized, sending paddler(s) and cargo into the river.  And the tow continued upriver.

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I’d love to hear from anyone who has traveled on the Congo River in the past 10 years.  I  have a fantasy to retrace this trip, dangers and inconvenience notwithstanding.

Many thanks to Gregory Farino for bringing these fotos out.

These vessels recently left a trading post that was starting up around the same decade the sixth boro replaced the initials N. A. for N. Y.

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As of this writing, these three vessels are entering the Indian Ocean on a historic re-enactment.

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Earlier this month, Colin Syndercombe visited the three vessel at the docks in Cape Town.  Oosterschelde, Europa, and Tecla have an amzing combined age of 295 years!!  Tecla was built in my father’s hometown of Vlaardingen, nine years before my father’s birth.

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Preparing to get under way.

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Departing on this leg of the trip are some cadets of the South African Navy.

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Fair winds . . . bon voyage.

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Click here for fares and schedules.  Of note, in August 2013, there’s a sail from Perth to Houtman Abrolhos archipelago and back to Perth.  This picturesque Indian Ocean island chain saw the mutiny and wreck of the VOC ship Batavia on her maiden voyage and the subsequent murders of over 200 survivors by a band of other survivors.  This Lord of the Flies tale serves as basis for the Mike Dash’s compelling account Batavia’s Graveyard, if you’re looking for summer reading.

For an upbeat parting shot, here.

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Many thanks to Colin, who has previously sent lots of interesting fotos from 8000 miles away in Cape Town.

Old Wine has to be one of the best vessel names ever!  Disclaimer . . . she does NOT carry beverage.  I’d love to see her come to the sixth boro, although  . . . I can imagine the temptation some would feel to alter the name-great as it is–by adding some letters.  Some ideas follow.  Seriously, I use this foto with permission of Antonio, a Spanish tug captain who visited the sixth boro for the tugboat race back in 2009 . . . scroll through to the end here.

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Fairplayer . . . another great name from Colin in Cape Town.  I caught a Jumbo in the KVK about three years ago here.

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Faust arriving in town might make one worry, although I saw no evidence of that.

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Spruce 2 . . .

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To play with Old Wine . . . well . . . add an R to the end.  Or add a S in front of the second word.  I’m sure you could do better.

Thanks to Antonio Alcaraz Arbelo for the first foto, Colin Syndercombe for the second.  The last two by Will Van Dorp.

Above the waterline, this looks amazingly like Peking.    Identify it?

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These fotos come from Colin Syndercombe, who previously sent these fotos, and these, among others.   As to the sailing vessel, it’s from 1921, 385′ loa (Peking is 1911 and 377′), and still sails.    Know it?  It called in Cape Town earlier this month, and is now northbound.

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It’s Sedov, sailing ’round the world at 90+ years old.  Click here to see ports of call.   Does anyone know if she’s ever called in a US port?

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For more fotos of Sedov, click here.  Prior to this month, the last time this vessel–then Magdalene Vinnen II–called in Cape Town was in the 1930s.

Thanks much to Colin for these fotos.

The Atlantic is a huge place, and this vessel is currently northbound in that expanse.  And where would that put them?

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Off Namibia.

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here leaving Cape Town last weekend.  Click here for the map, and here for the kapteines-logg, complete with pics.   See the huge blue wall along the portside of Sørlandet?

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It turns out that this 85-year-old ship stopped in the sixth boro in 1981 and 1986.  Click here for a video of the vessel headed for Chicago in 1933!

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The “blue wall” is Colossos . . . although I’ve no idea what it’s doing down in Cape Town.

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All fotos thanks to Colin Syndercombe.

Does anyone have fotos of Sørlandet in the sixth boro in the 1980s?

Note:  The barge in the link has been reported as RTC-105, but I’ve gotten some notes saying it is not.    Sorry I can’t positively say either way.

This isn’t going to end well, but you may remember this post from a bit over a year ago.  Mighty Servant 1 came to town and left with some equipment . . . including this barge,

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RTC 105, 

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which went in the center of Mighty Servant.

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Other barges were loaded, one on each side, as well as three tugs, and they sailed out the Narrows and over the horizon.

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Click here to see its demise captured on video recently.  What the audio says is unconfirmed.

Fotos from December 19, 2011 by Will Van Dorp.

Here was 11.

First, this foto from Colin Syndercombe in Cape Town, and I believe the foto comes from The Latest Maritime News.  It appears MV Chamarel, which burned earlier in August off Namibia, will become yet another wreck in the sands of the Skeleton Coast.

To Michele McMorrow, thanks for her foto of Walrus, snapped near Bahr’s Landing in Highlands, NJ.  At first I thought it was being delivered for use by tugster . . .  I was mistaken.

RORO Cape Washington is the latest MSC vessel in for maintenance at the dry dock in Bayonne.

Currently in the sixth boro, it’s almost-new NCC Shams, not an inspiring name unless you consider that “shams” is Arabic for “sunshine.”

My foto snapped in Port Huron, it’s Lakes Pilots Association’s Huron Maid.

Also along the Port Huron waterfront, it’s Grayfox, a Sea Cadet vessel.

And finally  . . . since this post started with a walrus and since tugster does NOT appear in person frequently on this blog, here’s a foto of tugster and Badger on the waterfront in Manitowoc.  And apropos of nothing . . .  what’s the connection between dachshund and badger?

First enjoy the foto below and read this announcement from Old Salt’s blog here.

Answer:  “dach” is German for “badger,” so the word “dachshund” means “badger dog.”  Now you know !!

Unless otherwise attributed, all fotos by Will Van Dorp.

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