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A month or so ago, I talked with Don Lake, who wanted to tell me some family history, which I transcribe here: “My family has been on tugs for many years, beginning with my grandfather, Captain James Lake, who began his career as a young boy on Rondout Creek, NY, in the late 1800s and later moved down to New York harbor where he acquired his Master Mariner’s license with unlimited tonnage and pilotage. In the early 1920s he was also instrumental in the formation of Local 333 along with Captain Joe O’Hare, who organized the tug boat workers of NY harbor.
I have relatives who worked for M. J. Tracy for many years, an old line company in NY, specializing in coal delivery to the power generating stations in NY and NJ at Con Edison and PSE & G.
There’s a great history of the company in a back issue of Tug Bitts from the Tug Boat Enthusiasts organization.” [The organization is now dormant.]
Helen L. Tracy has since ultimately been rechristened Providence, and I posted a photo of the boat here a few months back tied up on the Mississippi just around the bend downstream from New Orleans. That is, it is the same boat unless I’m confused here. Another question . . . what was the connection between Avondale Towing Line and M. J. Tracy Towing Company? I could call Don, but I’m putting the question out to blog readers. Here’s what I learned about the photo from the Portal to Texas History.
At times like this I really wish there was a digital archive of the years of Tug Bitts. Is there any plan to do this? I’d be happy to contribute some ducats for this to happen, and I’m sure lots of other folks would too.
Again, many thanks to Don for writing and sending along a photo I need to frame.
Here’s more on Rondout Creek, currently home to Hudson River Maritime Museum and formerly headquarters for Cornell Steamboat Company. And if you haven’t read Thomas Cornell and the Cornell Steamboat Company by Stuart Murray, here’s how you can order this must-read.
Click here for a Tracy boat from the 1952 tug boat race.
I visited Southport once before, six years ago, when I met a wonderful gentleman who showed off his 1938 restored fishing boat Solomon T, here.
This time a small dredge operation was going on near shore, involving P&L’s Hercules. Also
there was Sea Oak (whose fleet mates have some great names here) and
Candice L. Thanks to SM.
Also, working on the project was crew boat Captain Tom.
I plan to get back to Southport in late spring.
Part of my interest here is explained by this book: Masters of the Shoals.
. . . and in case you’re rummaging through your change drawer for some cash to buy something for yourself or someone else special, here are some ideas. Buy a raffle ticket for an opportunity next summer to ride an Interlake Steamship vessel on the Great Lakes . . . Here’s a post I did a few months back on the classic Interlake Oberstar. And from International Shipmasters’: The funds from sales keep our lodge financially secure and we donate every year to other various maritime related non-profits. Sea Cadets, Whistles on the Water, and Shipmaster Grand Lodge Scholarship Fund. Our own scholarship fund is endowed and gives 3 scholarship awards each year of $500 to each, 1 Canadian, 1 US, 1 hawse piper. Click on the image below for information on purchasing a raffle ticket. I have mine . . . and I imagine these would make a great gift for lots of folks you want to give a gift to.
If you win and need something to do when you’re not just mesmerized by Great Lakes scenery, here are some books to consider. Of course, you can read them any time . . . real books, not device books. Here’s what the Icelanders say about giving books.
Here are some of the books I’ve read this past year. I’d recommend all of them.
The Big Book of Real Boats and Ships was an impulse buy after someone mentioned it on FB. George J. Zaffo did a whole series of these books back in the 1950s and 1960s. Here’s more on his and similar books. What makes it interesting for me is that real means real; here’s the info on C. Hayward Meseck, the vessel in the illustration below.
Also from Zaffo, here’s info on the tug in the foreground below, Barbara Moran (1948), scuttled in 1990 and sits upright about 70′ below the surface.
This past year I’ve met lots of folks whom I’ve encouraged to write their stories or have someone else write them. Bob Mattsson did that a few years ago, and I finally read it this year.
Here’s part of page 1.
Up River is another one I read this year, one that helps you see what you can’t see from the river. The cover photo below shows Tomkins Cove Quarry, one of many quarries whose scale you get no sense from the river. Recently on a trip from NYC to Waterford on the river with some folks who had never done the trip, I brought this along and noticed they paged through during the entire trip as a way to “see” what they otherwise couldn’t. Thanks to Capt. Thalassic for introducing me to this book. You can “page” through the entire book here!
All those books . . . this time of year, it all reminds me of a post I did here 10 years ago about the circumstances around the first Christmas presents I ever got . . .
Much more catching up to do, but first, I share some New Orleans photos from last week and then related photos and response from my inbox to the review of Tugboats Illustrated here.
This first series I include because I’m amazed by this maneuver, but it does not effectively depict it because a) I was moving behind and then alongside and forward of it in the series of photos taken over a 30-minute period of time, and b) I would need to get the photos from a fixed aerial position as it made the turn, and c) this is a relatively small tow . . . only 12 barges in relatively calm conditions.
Starting at 4:23 pm last Tuesday, I was following Ingram Barge Co. Mike Schmaeng. Many years ago now I did this post on Ingram. Ingram is a company that operates 150 boats, 5000 barges, over 4500 miles of inland waterway . . . all approximate numbers.
On my next trip to Nola, I’ll set up on a tripod at a fixed point, maybe the upstream end of Crescent Park. I also intend to check out some tighter points, such as Wilkerson Point, shown below.
So now, in response to this photo from my review of Tugboats Illustrated . . .
in my inbox, I got this note from a retired professional brown water mariner who wishes NO fistfights or pissing contest:
“RE: Sketch from the tugboat book.
Thank you, sir. And I hadn’t known about flanking buoys.
Click here for a 5-minute video by Towboat Toby who gives a really clear explanation as he walks a tow downstream around Wilkerson’s Point in high water. Towboat Toby, I’m your fan!
So, what think you, readers . . . and I don’t mean to backpedal on Paul Farrell’s excellent book, could that particular drawing have been modified to improve verisimilitude? I like the looseness of Mr. Farrell’s drawings for the most part, but I think the Mate makes a good point. And just calm talk . .. not punches, please. The writer makes a reasoned and constructive comment.
Actually, the full title of this book is Tugboats Illustrated: History-Technology-Seamanship with Drawings by the author Paul Farrell
I first heard of the book and Paul Farrell last February; I got an email from an editor at W. W. Norton expressing interest in licensing one of my photos for the cover of the forthcoming book. The photo was the 9th in the post called “Helen’s Last Waltz.” I was thrilled, as you might imagine, and we arrived at a price. Then I hoped it would be an attractive, technically accurate book.
A few months later, Norton’s publicity department sent along a five-page sampler and asked if I’d write a review of the book. The cover letter described Tugboats Illustrated as “gorgeously detailed guide to the evolution, design, and role of tugboats” from “ the earliest days of steam up to today’s most advanced ocean-going workboats” and referred to its “dynamic drawings that show how different kinds of propellers move, to explanations of the physics and engineering that allow this movement to happen.”
Mr. Farrell, an architect with almost a half century of experience, was described as having spent a quarter century researching and writing this book, his first. When someone spends that amount of time focusing on a subject, I’m impressed. But I wasn’t ready to do a review until I saw the entire 156-page book, which arrived in November. The photo below should illustrate how comprehensive this slim but well-designed book is.
I first paged through it and then read it cover to cover. Paging through, I noticed how many of these “dynamic drawings” there are, more than 70 of them at least, depending how you count. Below is a sample of a set of drawings from p. 114, illustrating an evolution that always mesmerizes me . . . a flanking turn with a long tow on a winding river, and he shows it from both the downstream and upstream perspective.
Indeed, an architect’s drawings honed by years of professional work complemented with captions, guided by the experts in the wheelhouse, illustrate complex maneuvers in this and many other instances. Ironically, Farrell never intended to showcase his illustrations in the book; he says it began as “rough sketching intended to guide a mythical illustrator who would intuit just the right feel and content” until he realized this these sketches, such as they were, would work. He reports that doing the set of drawings to illustrate hull chines as seen from underwater were pivotal. I find them charming, below (p. 93), a boon to the book and not just “limited” or “enough.”
Then there are the photographs, over 80 of them in total and more than half of them in color, many of them taken by photographers whose work I know and have great respect for: Brian Gauvin, Alan Haig-Brown, and Pat Folan. There was one photo by Rod Smith, who has so many to choose from in his albums on the shipbuilding work at Senesco. Many of the black-and-white photos come from the collections of Steven Lang and Brent Dibner. Other photos introduced me to photographers I’d like to see more of in the future.
In the “Acknowledgements,” Farrell reveals that he first sent a draft of the book to Norton in 1996, a full twenty years ago. When a book takes shape over such a long period of time as this one, it gets vetted for accuracy and thoroughness, which this one has.
Got friends who want to learn about tugboats? Want to expand your own knowledge of the history and variety of these vessels? Then order it here.
I’m just so thrilled that my photo from that July 17, 2012 move graces the cover of this fine book that I’ll digress and post three more photos from that day.
Helen, she is a classic from 1900! Does anyone have photos of her working out of South Carolina waters as Georgetown? In that photo above, Helen looks just slightly like Little Toot in Hardie Gramatky’s wonderful watercolors, reproduced on p. 11 of Paul Farrell’s book.
Click here for some previous reviews.
All photos by Will Van Dorp.
Recognize the tugboat below? Answer follows.
David McAllister, photo from 2013, has recently changed hands and is currently undergoing “re-power and life extension” as Tradewinds Towing Hannah.
Draco, photo below taken in 2007, shows the vessel that began life in 1951 as Esso Tug No. 12. I caught her in the sixth boro as Co here (scroll) back in 2009.
Pleon, built in 1953, has appeared on this blog several times recently.
Canal Deluge, shown here in Fournier Towing and Ship Services colors, has since been sold to Trinidad, where she is (somewhat appropriately) know as Boston Lady.
And finally, originally a steam tug built in the mid-1920s to assist ships and break ice on the Delaware river, the 125′ John Wanamaker claimed the title of the last steam tug operating commercially in the US, but after several stints as a restaurant boat, she was cut up in New Bedford sometime around 2007. Anyone have photos of her last days or her last decades as a restaurant in at least three different New England locations? For a great story about her–and many other boats– read Jim Sharp’s With Reckless Abandon. It seems that Jim has owned at least half the historic vessels on the East coast at one time or other. His Sail, Power, & Steam Museum will reopen in the spring.
Again, thanks to JG, these photos from the near but irretrievable past.
Thanks to Gerard Thornton for use of these photos.
Steppenwolf, or at least strutting gull. Beneath the wheel, or at least the wheels of the cranes. The Glass Bead Game, or at least the metal box shifting enterprise. Journey to the East, or at least shuttling between east and west and all the other cardinal points . . . . Maybe a dedicated literature carrier?
I’ll stop here, but I love these moody, Hesse-enhancing photos by Gerard.
I’ve written about summertime and about summertime blues–about beating them. But since you can’t ever step into the same river twice, or gallivant in the same primordial first boro, here’s the 2016 version of trying to capture the sixth boro with a camera on a hot summer weekend afternoon, looking for shade–any shade will do– as much as looking for novel compositions.
These days odd juxtapositions can be found on west Manhattan piers and
beyond, like Eagle and the fast bird and Loveland Island with a pilot on board and some folks gathered on the starboard bridge wing . For a post I did last year with close-ups of details of USCGC Eagle AND for a book I highly recommend reading about her appropriate by the US post-WW2, click here. Speaking of piers, here’s an interesting article on the engineering and construction of Pier 57.
Or come for a tour on Janet D Cruises . . .
with four sails set.
Flagship Ivy clings for a spell to the bottom over by the VZ Bridge.
Margaret Moran heads for the next job–or the yard, with Queens’ current and future tallest buildings in the background,
while YP 704 sails past Governors Island, which has sprouted some new hillocks frequented by lots of people.
Joan Turecamo exits the Buttermilk west with a light (?) dry bulk barge Montville, which probably recently carried coal.
All photos Sunday by Will Van Dorp. for some contrast, see this winter set and this. More of the summer selects, tomorrow.
Tony A sent these first three photos. What are they?
Here’s the answer. I like the statement . . the last one above water! I wonder what else you can say that about. Whalebacks have come and gone, except this one. Click here for a historical essay on whalebacks that makes an unexpected connection to Franklin D. Roosevelt. If your appetite is whetted, here’s another. As the the connection between this style and x-bows, click here.
Frisia Inn, which was in and out of the sixth boro a week or so ago, is not a whaleback,
but the bow shares some design features.
Many thanks to Tony for the actual whaleback photos. For a good closing story on a whaleback whose remnants lie 400 feet below the surface of the GOM, click here. That whaleback, SS City of Everett, would tow barges and its Captain Thomas Fenlon claimed it could have saved RMS Republic from sinking, offers to do so having been refused by the RMS Republic’s captain.
I could have called this “unusual sail.”
That’s me in the two-person sailing Folbot back in 2002. I had bought it back around 1998 from an ad I saw in a publication called Messing Around in Boats. The gentleman who sold it said it had been in his barn for at least 30 years. When I peeled off a layer of pigeon shit, the skin came off with it and exposed a wooden frame that broke down into pieces four-foot or shorter. The hull, mast, leeboards, sail, rudder all could fit into a seabag, and I fancied myself, a show-off, hiking up to a roadless mountain lake, assembling my vessel, and sailing . . . in the clouds.
When I couldn’t sew a new skin or find someone who could do it–two different canvas shops took on the job and then backed out–I decided to skin it with leftover shrink-wrap boat covers,
reinforce the bow with duct tape, and go paddling.
It worked! Here’s a blurry shot showing the insides . . . shrink-wrap and plastic strapping.
As time passed, I decided the Folbot could at least as be sculptural until such time that I find a canvas skin maker.
So this is the top of big room in my Queens cliff dwelling, where I should maybe keep some shrink-wrap and a heat gun handy to skin my boat in case the water level here rises.
And since I’ve invited you into my home, how about more of the tour. Yes, that’s the stern of the Folbot in the center top of the photo and a spare one-seater kayak, which I cut-bent-glued-stitched at Mystic Seaport, to the left. [They appear not to offer the kayak building classes now.] Only problem with the stitched kayak . . . the only egress/ingress is out the window, down 12′ onto a flat roof, and then down another 15′ onto the sidewalk.
In a pinch, you could make a kayak using a tarp, willow or similar shoots, and wire. And in the long ago and far away department, here I was back in January 2005 sewing that kayak you see hanging to the left above . . . 10 hours of just sewing once the skin was on, per these plans.
Bending ribs right out of the steam box and
knotting together the bow pieces happened
prior to the actual two-needle sewing.
These last two pics are not mine but come from a Folbot publication from the 1960s. The photo below shows what a later-model sailing Folbot–just out of the duffel bag– looked like.
Here’s what the publication says it looks like sailing.
For now, mine remains sculpture.