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Grouper . . . that’s likely a quite familiar name to anyone who’s followed this blog a while, given all the posts dedicated to this 1912 vessel that’s spent two decades or so not far from where I grew up, 350 miles away from the sixth boro, which she intended to transit but was prevented by shallows from doing that.  Had she transited the harbor and headed south to sea two decades ago, no doubt she’d already have been reefed, as happened with her traveling companions.  Instead she languished in the canal, prompting many folks up there to imagine a future for the Great Lakes vessel with such sweet lines.  But first a bit of her history and all her previous names

I’m told she’s currently really being prepped for the scrappers’ jaws.  Along with imagining lots of different futures, folks have also imagined these jaws were imminent many times before.  Maybe it will happen this time, but first,  let’s imagine a rescuer coming in to save her.  Her appointment with the scrapper gets cancelled, if not permanently, then at least there’s a reprieve. 

The rescuer arrives with tugboat Virginia and a plan:  the 1912 tug will be towed 

out the western route to Buffalo and then deeper water, waters where she worked from back in 1912. 

In this revery, rescue is tentative at first . . .

with misgivings about their prospects,

But little by little, 

the ability to visualize the Great Lakes begins to take hold. 

There is sunshine, and if no parades and marching bands, then at least a few folks with cameras marking her liberation. 

Virginia is unstoppable, clearing one lock after another, rising up toward the level of the Great Lakes. 

She makes Fairport come and go . . . as they head west. 

But as in a twilight zone . . . froth and momentum 

suddenly comes to an end and she grounds,  stuck on a shoal, unable to be pulled any farther.  Now she’s cut off from deeper water to the west just as she’s cut off east.

This all happened a little over a decade ago.  I can just imagine the thrill of victory leading up to this painful moment.

Many thanks to Larry Bolanowski for sending along these photos of what almost succeeded.  Imagine if she’d made it back west . . . .  Imagine that Kahlenberg purring happily . . .

 

Another TBR is in the books.  Where else can you see very upclose and personal some much-loved boats. I can and might do a post on each of these boats, but for now, just a survey.

Shoofly . . .  complete name is Shoofly Pie. If you want actual detail, click here and scroll;  you’ll see some profile of each of these boats (and others).  All I’ll say about Shoofly is that she’s a WW2 naval vessel evolved into a rat rod (We need a new term for this category.) vessel.  It has also likely sailed the greatest number of places, freshwater and salt.  I’ve photographed this boat before, but somehow, it’s never made it onto this blog.  Some explanation follows.

I frame this as a comparison of push knees on Edna A and J. Arnold Witte.  

How about this as a frame– l to r, Nathan G, Margot, Benjamin Elliot, and Edna A. — involving two-thirds of the NYS Marine Highway boats participating in the event. Then another set of NYS Marine was not present  . . . working . . . .

CMT Otter . . . represented Coeymans.  I learned some modification history of this boat last weekend.  It was once Delta Ram and looked like this.

This vessel is the fourth in the series of Atlantic Hunter boats.  I had photos of Atlantic Hunter IV (under a different name last year) but those photos like those of Shoofly  . . . disappeared.

My Pal Sal is not the latest government boat purchased by NYS Canals, although you might suspect otherwise.  To stray down a tangent though;  Sal has a song named for her;  we really need a popular ditty about canal tugboats . . . any or all of them. Lobby your favorite songwriter or channel your own inner songwriter muse.

W. O. Decker looked spectacular!  Last time I saw her some details were not the same.

Joncaire is several years into her new livery;  she used to be the red of NYPA Niagara River boom maintenance fleet, as seen here (scroll).

Here’s the view from the 4th Street Bridge, and

here from the 2nd Street Bridge.

All photos yesterday, WVD, who got out there before many people were crowding the bulkhead.

I missed a lot of folks who were there because I stayed in the welcome center most of the time, listening to the talks.

Last spring, Edna A passed my location with a “nameless” tugboat.

The day before the official opening of the Canal season, Edna A climbed the Flight westbound with a light barge 82 heading for Albion NY.

Three days after passing Newark for Albion, Edna A and the 82 were back, heading east.

If you’ve ever wondered about the rationale for the design of a boat like Edna A, the next two photos should be adequate explanation.

 

Note the shrinkwrapped cargo in the 82.

What is it?  From what I read, it’s a 100-ton condenser manufactured in Batavia NY to be used on a nuclear submarine.  Ultimately, it’ll be delivered to and unwrapped in New London CT.  It’ll be coming down the Hudson soon . . . or maybe already has.   A cargo of 100 tons . . .  that needs to travel by water.

All photos, Bob Stopper, a friend and frequent contributor to this blog.

On this date six years ago I had the good fortune of spending the whole day on Oneida Lake on Ward’s Island, a repurposed Electric Boat-built 1929 ferry but then idled by a bridge between Manhattan and Ward’s Island.  The self-propelled ship, once a double ended ferry,  was acquired by NYS for the Barge Canal in July 1937 and repurposed as a crane ship in 1939.   That fully-rotating 65′ crane had lift capacity of 10 tons.

Here are some photos I took back in 2015, playing with different settings on a camera that was new at the time.  Our starting point was just east of lock E-23, technically in Brewerton NY. Temperatures went up to the 70s and there was no wind, a perfect late fall day in central NYS.

The mission was to replace the navigation (summer) buoys with spar (winter) buoys, low-profile, placeholders.

The blue-only photo looks west, and the full color one below looks east and shows the actual red or green color of the winter placeholders.

On the mirror like surface of the lake, there was an illusion of flying over the planet.

The summer buoys were plucked out for refurbishing over the winter.  Once a buoy was plucked and raised, Ward’s Island crew detached the anchor chain from the summer buoy, and tied that chain off to a cleat as the crane operator swung the buoy

Like I said earlier, the calm weather on the lake made for a floating-in-space illusion.

 

Some of the buoys are bolted to artificial concrete islands.

The wheelhouse, along with the whole rest of the boat, spent some time in Lyons dry dock from 2016 until she was reefed in salt water in 2018, where she now lies.

All photos on this date in 2015, WVD.

 

Gene Chaser appears to be a sister of Ad-Vantage, which appeared here a year and a half ago.  Click on the link at the beginning of the first sentence and you’ll see some interior shots of this 55-meter yacht support vessel. At some point, yacht support vessel Ad-Vantage was available for charter for a mere 67,500 Euro per week.

The script below the name Gene Chaser puzzles me, especially since I see signs for multiplication and addition.  Maybe someone can translate?

Shooting into the sun from a low-on-the-river angle provides this unsatisfactory image. 

 Shooting down from Brooklyn Heights, as Claude Scales did for this shot, gets this image.  Is that a submarine near the stern of Gene Chaser?  In case you were wondering about the name, it makes sense when you consider the vessel below is the annex to Dr. Jonathan Rothberg‘s Gene Machine, currently off Connecticut. Rothberg is an American chemical engineer, biologist, inventor and entrepreneur. His business involves developing a high-speed “next-gen” DNA sequencing process.  I think these vessels make him a polymath on the seas, an early 21st century version of Jules Verne’s Captain Nemo.  

On the west side of Manhattan North Cove the other day, I walked past this eye catcher . .  .

The cockpit of this “center console” Alen Yacht 45 is quite narrow and not enclosed,

but don’t underestimate this

Turkish beauty.

And to go to the other end of the tech and financial spectrum, what’s the story with the heavily loaded red 16′ Old Town Penobscot Royalex canoe?  The paddler is not yet IN the sixth boro, but heading this way.

It’s Neal Moore, heading 7000+ miles from Astoria OR, city of the fisher-poets, TO the sixth boro, with an ETA of . . .  whenever he gets here, but likely in December or January, depending on the assistance of “river angels” and relying on his own fortitude. As of this posting, he’s paddling the Erie Canal somewhere east of Lyons and west of Oneida . . . .  That trip is longer than and tougher than the Great Loop.  Technically, the Erie Canal is closing soon, but it’ll be open for him.  Wave if you see him.

t o

Check out his website for lots of photos and articles like those excerpted below.

 

Many thanks to Claude and to the webmaster at 22Rivers for their photos;  all others, WVD.

Two sets of photos, taken three weeks apart exactly, seem a good way to bookmark the 5000 miles I drove during two-thirds of September.  Yesterday I caught these sights of

Sarah D earning her keep and that of her people in the sixth boro industrial setting she’s comfortable in.

Back three weeks before, she was in Waterford showing the flag and

the skill of her operators in this playful push-off in the fresh water at the eastern end of the Erie Canal.

All photos, WVD, who has only these photos of the Roundup.

When this tow came off Oneida Lake headed west, 

I wondered how many folks would interpret this incorrectly, that this was a tow and not a push.

Ditto . . . heading into lock E-23.

 

Of course, regular readers of this blog know precisely what is going on. After a long hiatus at the dry dock in Waterford, Urger has been pushed across the state to the dry dock in Lysander to be hauled out and mothballed, maybe and hopefully to be revived when the time is right, like a cicada or a future astronaut traveling light years in suspended animation . . . .

For more people than not in the “canal corridor” of New York State, Urger is without doubt that best known tugboat, the only one that thousands of New Yorkers have set foot on . . . . 

Who is that unmasked fellow with a t-shirt that reads “tug boating is a contact sport”?

I have it on the best authority that exactly five years ago yesterday, he was in the Urger wheelhouse piloting the now nameless vessel through this very same lock, very much mechanically alive.

 

All photos yesterday, WVD, who offers this post as contribution to #URGERjourney.

Edna A has appeared on this blog by that name;  it was also here as HR Hawk

Today the sixth boro and environs face Henri, whose story is yet to be told.  August 26, 2011 . . . I was at the Staten Island Ferry terminal, and these Hurricane Irene signs were up.  When Irene’s story was told, it had done unusual damage upstate far from salt water;  here’s more.  Some repairs took until 2016 to complete.  From here I took the ferry to Whitehall in Manhattan, and then over I walked to South Street Seaport, where I wanted to see storm preparations.  See the story at the end of this post.  

In late August 2011, I was documenting a slow decomposition, getting footage of what became a documentary film called Graves of Arthur Kill. Gary Kane was the producer;  I was the director, or something.  If you’ve not yet seen the documentary, you can order it by clicking on the disintegrating wooden tugboat image along the left aside of this blog page.  Some of the vessels in this post are discussed by multiple sources in the documentary.  Keep in mind that these photos and the footage in the doc recorded these scenes a decade ago, almost to the day.  Hurricanes, freezing and thawing, and just plain daily oxidation have ravaged these already decrepit vessels for another 10 years, so if you were to go to these exact locations, not an easy feat, you’d see a devolution.

I’m not going to re-identify all these boats–already done elsewhere and in the doc–except to say we saw a variety of boats like this tanker above and the WW2 submarine chaser alongside it.

Other WW2 vessels repurposed for post-war civilian purposes are there.  More were there but had been scrapped prior to 2011.

See the rust sprouting out from behind WW2 haze gray.

In the past decade, the steam stack on this coastal ferry has collapsed, and the top deck of the ferry to the right has squatted into the ooze below.

Some steel-hulled steam tugboats we never managed to identify much more than maybe attributing a name;  they’d been here so long that no one remained alive who worked on them or wanted to talk about them.

We used a rowboat and had permission to film there, but the amount of decomposing metal and wood in the water made it nearly impossible to safely move through here. We never got out of the boat to climb onto any of these wrecks.  That would be if not Russian roulette then possibly some other form of tempting fate.

Most emblematic of the boats there might be this boat, USS ATR-89, with its struggling, try-to-get-back-afloat stance.  She was built in Manitowoc, WI, a town I’ve since frequently visited.

Wooden hulls, wooden superstructure . . .  I’m surprised they’ve lasted as long as they have.

Since taking this photo in August 2011, I’ve learned a lot about this boat and its four sisters, one of whom is now called Day Peckinpaugh

I’ve spent a lot of hours this month pulling together info on Day Peckinpaugh, launched as Interwaterways Line 101;  the sister vessel above and below was launched in July 1921 in Duluth as Interwaterways Line 105. The ghost writing in the photo below says Michigan, the name she carried during the years she ran bulk caustic soda between the Michigan Alkali plant in Wyandotte MI and Jersey City NJ via the Erie Canal.  Anyone local have photos of this vessel in the sixth boro or the Hudson River?  I have a photo of her taken in 1947 transiting a lock in the NYS Canal system, but I’ll hold off on posting that for a few weeks when the stories come out. What you’re looking at above and below is the remnants of a vessel currently one century and one month old. 

The Interwaterways Line boats were designed by Capt. Alexander McDougall, who also designed the whalebacks of the Great Lakes, like Meteor. Here‘s a whole blog devoted to McDougall’s whalebacks.

This ferry used to run between Newburgh and Beacon;  on this day in August 2011, we just rowed our boat onto the auto deck.

At the beginning of this post I mentioned Hurricane Irene and going over to South Street Seaport Museum.  Two of these vessels here have seen a lot of TLC$ in the past decade. That’s a good ending for now.  Helen, with the McAllister stack, is still afloat and waiting.

All photos in August 2011, WVD.

A final sentiment on Graves of Arthur Kill . . . Gary Kane and I set out to document what was actually in this much-discussed boneyard;  we wanted to name and show what existed, acknowledge what had existed but was already gone, and dispel some of the legends of this place.  We were both very proud of the work and happy with this review in  Wired magazine.  If you still want to write a review, get in touch.  It would be like writing a series review of Gilligan’s Island, but still a worthy exercise.

 

I just happened to look at the August 2014 section of the archive, and this was the engine room at that time of the living, breathing tugboat Urger.

The top photo shows the Atlas-Imperial fore-to-aft along the portside, and below, it’s the opposite . . .  starboard side aft-to-fore.

Below is that same view as above, except with a tighter frame on the top of the engine.  On my YouTube channel here,   are several videos of this engine running and Urger underway. 

Below from early September 2015 are three NYS Canals boats, l to r, Tender #3, Gov. Cleveland, and Urger. . . .  all old and in jeopardy.

At that same 2015 Tugboat Roundup that precipitated the photo above, notice the juxtaposition of old and new:  passing in front of the 1914 Lehigh Valley 79 is

Solar Sal, which a month later would earn distinction as the first solar vessel to transit the canal from Buffalo to the Hudson with four tons of cargo, as a demonstration of its potential. Solar Sal‘s builder was David Borton, whose website has all the info on his designs for marine solar power.

A story I’d missed until looking something else up yesterday was David Borton’s 2021 adventure, sailing on solar in Alaskan waters.

And that brings this zig-zag post to another story linking the Canal and Alaska. 

Last August Pilgrim made its way through New York State to the Great Lakes and eventually overwintered in Duluth. I took photos above and below on August 1, 2020.

Earlier this summer, Pilgrim was loaded on a gooseneck trailer

so that it could transit the continent

along the Interstates to the Salish Sea.   As of last week they’d made Ketchikan, and their next stop will be Kodiak Island.  Eventually they clear customs and their next stop will be Russia.

All photos except the last three, WVD.  Pilgrim photos attributed to Sergey Sinelnik.

The Waterfront Museum in Lehigh Valley 79 is now home to a high-res livestream harbor cam aimed from Red Hook;  check it out here.

 

 

But first, a reader “read” my mind and asked a question about the image below from this post a while back:  what are the square “hatches” directly below the wheelhouse glass?  Are they square porthole covers?  Another question while we’re back at this image, did that “upper wheelhouse” design work well?  How much additional visibility did a helmsman get?  Did they leak?  How was it raised/lowered?

Canal users have experienced some “section closures” this summer due to gear breakage, rainy-induced flooding, and wall collapse and subsequent low water.   A healthy attitude for canal transits is a willingness to smell the flowers, explore the small towns.

In the photo above, the small sailboat is second from the left.  Bravo to anyone who does long journeys in a 25′ sailboat, as here in the port of Lyons.

Next stop, Port of Newark saw a two-week “making merry” as shallow areas to the west made it prudent to stay put between E-28B and E-29.

Rarely has Newark seen this many boats, tied up on both walls.

 

To the west, water levels were still low between E-29 and E-30, because of a breach.

And this has to win some awards for Bob, as a heron stands guard while Knotugal enters.

All photos, Bob Stopper.  And for full disclosure, these photos were taken in Wayne County NY, where I grew up.

 

 

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