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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 . . .

 

I had to learn this term, but it fits here. I knew words for what’s depicted here had to exist, and it turns out that different places have their own word(s).  No, I’m not referring to this blog or myself.    This deceased has been that way for years, no pulse for more than a decade, no heat or respiration.

The names since 1912 have been many:  Gary, Green Bay, Oneida, Iroquois, Alaska, and on the blog, Grouper.  With that many names–and I know others have given her additional names– come that many chapters in her book . . . or tomes in her library.

Photos I got here last week spur reflection in my mind, if not in others’.   What’s the big deal, some might say, a rusty, homeless, ownerless boat . . . so what!???

Last Tuesday morning I got this whole set, my effort to preserve her at least in photos on this blog.  At daybreak she was on the cradles in this mostly empty dry dock, a slight lean into the wall for support. 

Cold gray skies add a mottled weariness to everything here.

What work by folks long gone was once performed on this deck.  Below this deck in the forepeak, what tales were told by weary mariners. 

The fires are long gone out.

All environments have their beauty.  Grouper‘s curves, her lines, without any hyperbole, are sweet without rival.   

But the reason for this title is . . .

that midmorning last Tuesday, flooding the dry dock wetted her hull until she rose off the cradles to float one last time, 

approximating her work trim from all throughout the past century.  The 2022 crew on board were there to ensure all was well with the vessel as the dry dock filled, the wintering fleet brought in, and then the basin

drained again, exposing her hull after immersing it quite possibly the last time, like bathing the body.

More Grouper soon.   All photos here, WVD, who’s aware that this is the anniversary week of this blog’s creation.  The first post went up November 26, 2006, depicting what my eye was drawn to, my choices of what to memorialize in these digital photos in this digital medium on digital machines I’ve only the slightest sense of how they work.  More reflection on all this this week. 

I hope you enjoy looking back 10 years as much as I do, although some might say I live in the past a little too much.  Here’s some dense traffic, l to r, Twisted Sisters, Lucinda Smith, Maurania III, and Petrozavosk

Up in Lyons NY at the drydock, Governor Roosevelt shows her deep 8′ 6″ belly. Rosie will turn 100 in summer 2027.

Greenland Sea . . . one of my favorites is likely on her terminal lay up.

Does Duty still do duty on the Delaware?

Maria J is now Nicholas Vinik.

Charles D. is still working hard  in the boro, as she was here helping Zim Virginia around Bergen Point.  I do miss the walkway on the WEST side of the Bayonne Bridge.

This Peter is now Long Island . . . or Long Peter if you like.

Resolute assists Maersk Kentucky around that same point.

Amberjack is now Kirby Dann Ocean white and blue, and some of the Bouchard boats are now this Penn Maritime gray. 

Giulio Verne was in town for some submarine cabling, and I’ve heard tell there was a fabulous Italian chef on board.  She’s now docked in Naples IT.

I went to Detroit for Thanksgiving, and made a stop at Mariner’s Church, alluded to in “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” [In a musty old hall in Detroit they prayed.  In the maritime sailors’ cathedral.  The church bell chimed ’til it rang twenty-nine time…]  .  I’m told the pastor at the church objected to the word musty and now Lightfoot sings it as “In a rustic old hall in Detroit …”  In fact, you can confirm that here.

And let me throw two more in.  I took this photo seven years ago from Rhinecliff as I headed south the day I completed my season on tugboat Urger.  This was my way of reconnecting with the sixth boro. Maryland is now Liz Vinik.

And finally, a photo from Jason LaDue . . .  it’s Grouper as she looked in 2000.  A week ago her second auction concluded with a winning bid of $4850, but I don’t know who tendered that bid.  According to my source, no movement has happened since the auction concluded. 

Happy November.  All photos except Jason’s by WVD.

 

I’ll return to the Erie Canal tomorrow, but for now . . . the clock is ticking louder.

In exactly 24 hours, Grouper will thaw out;  a new owner, the person with the highest bid, will be acclaimed.  I’ve been following the fate of this boat in Wayne County for so many years that I can’t look away as we get to this milestone.  So have a lot of people who live nearby, or live farther away and have been intrigued about it since it arrived.  Many others know it from its various places of work in the Upper Great Lakes, having some family connection going back many decades.

The big question is . . . Will it be scrapped or reimagined as a vessel of some sort.  Reimagining has been a theme of NYS canal efforts in recent years, right?

Here’s one of my first photos of the boat, literally frozen in place, a great metaphor for its years of being frozen in time, showing remarkable resilience to the ravages of rust.  In all this time of neglect and in the absence of bilge pumps, it has not sunk, has not gone down to a muddy grave where the catfish and gobies lurk.

Friends have devoted countless hours reimagining Grouper.

Lee Rust sent along these diagrams highlighting the hull similarities, the 1912 tugboat and

a late 19th century sail/steam half model.

Lee writes:  “Maybe we’ve been misunderstanding the possibilities of Grouper by getting [ourselves] stuck on the old tug story. Here’s what she really is. Subtract Kahlenberg, add ballast, masts & sails. Maybe an auxiliary electric motor to turn the propeller. Voila! Clean and green and good for another 100 years. Piece of cake! Only [a day] left to decide to take that plunge. Here’s [an aerial] view of the hull model revealing the significant difference in beam [and bow design] from Grouper, but the profiles are almost identical. This even shows where the masts would go.

 

A simpler approach might be to remove 15 tons of Kahlenberg and replace with 7 tons of batteries and an electric propulsion system. This might be enough to decrease draft by the 3 feet needed to maneuver in the current Canal. Compare the waterline on the model to that of Grouper.  Image below shows ship model by my friend Rob Napier.

Looking back at this hypothetical lift diagram I made [above],  aside from the difference in beam, the antique hull model could be that of any ‘City’ class Great Lakes tug. (You can pick out the ‘City’ class tugs here.]  The ‘lifted’ waterline on Grouper is awfully close to that of the model. I suppose this hull form was pretty normal back at the end of the 19th century and the tugboat designers of the time just went with what they knew and hoped the vessels wouldn’t sink when they threw in all that coal and machinery.

OK, I know… daydreaming again. Must be time for my nap.”

Thanks,  Lee.  As I said before, lots of people have been looking at these “excessed canal vessels” for a long time now, and tomorrow, in the heat of summer, Grouper will thaw out.  May the highest bidder win and show exuberance in reimagining canal technology.

 

Related:  This NYTimes article from this past week which examines sail designs on cargo vessels is worth a look.

 

 

I suppose if you are bidding, you might not like this post.  As of this posting and with one week left for the auction, the high bid on 1912 74′ x 19′ x 12′ draft Grouper is $145.  Period.  That’s not $145k;  it’s as much money as you might be carrying in your wallet right now.  

These two photos by Jason LaDue and Troy Wilke date from 1989, a long time ago in boat years.  Also, I realize that whoever has the winning bid next week either cuts it up and sells steel when it’s high, or begins a process that’ll cost more than $145k several times to move it out of the Canal and then restore it.

High bid right now for the Bushey 1938 76′ x 21′ Chancellor is $310.  I took the photo below in September 2010.  Since then, it sank briefly once in September 2017.  If you want to see Chancellor pushing other boats around back in September 2010, click here;  all the footage is great, but Chancellor comes in at 1:40.

High bid for the 1942 Quarters Barge, aka “houseboat sans propulsion” is $210;  the one for sale is 63′ x 21′, has six bunk rooms, and a huge kitchen that can serve 20. 

A good friend asked if I was bidding in hopes of creating a “tugster clubhouse . . .”  Well, it’s an idea and with the bicentennial of the canal approaching, it would be a great way to see the waterways of upstate NY.  You could experiment towing it with 1000 kayaks, or get a tugboat, maybe one of those for sale to move it around the state.  As much as I like the idea, nope . . . it won’t be me.  I don’t think the photo of a Quarters Barge #14 below is the same vessel.  I took this photo in Little Falls NY in 2017.

The highest bid for the 1972 Higgins USACE Bridge Erection boat is $800;  the one auctioned off is 27′ x 8′ and is twin screw.  The vessel below is a smaller version and dates from 1952. 

May the highest bidder win and  . . live happily ever after.

All photos, WVD.

 

Have you read or heard references to a “trackless sea” or “trackless deep”?  Last night I was looking a “whole ocean” views of traffic.  Notice the magenta stream?  Recall that the magenta arrowheads show recreational vessels.  The green (cargo ships) and red (tanker) arrowheads seem much more random, but the magenta . . . pink . . . ones, they are totally following a track.

Ditto here; notice the magenta stream showing the “coconut milk run” on the tradewinds to the west to the Marquesas, French Polynesia, and beyond from Panama.

If we look at the Indian Ocean, the red icons heading east out of the Persian/Arab Gulf and the green ones heading both ways around southern Africa . . .  does rush hour on highways around any major metropolitan center come to mind?  It does for me.

Given all the sea shanties dating from the 19th century and references to Cape Horn, how about a shanty or two about the Cape of Good Hope?

Tracks in the southern Atlantic form an X. Try it out yourself.  Without AIS, we’d still talk of “trackless seas.”

A “little sister” Statue of Liberty will be displayed on a sixth boro island later this month and next.  Note the photo credit;  I wonder if the half-ton statue will arrive by CMA CGM water cargo or air cargo.

And finally . . . thanks to a Great Lakes mariner for this page from the Detroit Marine Historian Newsletter.  Grouper was a name yet to be when that publication hit the stands. The auction info is here.

I use the term “line locker” where some might say “miscellaneous.”  That’s the bright red hull of Issuma a decade ago as it encountered a local mammal while transiting the Northwest Passage.  You might wonder what became of Richard Hudson and his boat.  The good news is that he’s still sailing, and the better news is that he’s creating a rich offering of sailing videos on YouTube.  Check them out here

Screen grabs, WVD.

 

Auctions International has posted the auction notice.  Bidding starts June 7 and ends June 28

These are my photos from October 2018.   Here’s the auction notice.

For all my previous posts on this 1912 vessel, click here

For three other NYS Canal Corp. vessels to be auctioned, click here

Recently I got a request for something on single screw tugs.  Ask . .  and receive, from the archives.

May 1, 2011  . .  the 1901 Urger was on the dry dock wall in Lyons looking all spiffy.  A month later, she’d be miles away and alive.

On March 19, 2010, the 1907 Pegasus had all the work done she was scheduled for, and the floating dry dock is sinking here.  In 10 minutes, Pegasus would be afloat and a yard tug … draw her out.

On a cold day last winter, a shot of the 1912 Grouper, in dry dock, waiting for a savior.   If you’re savvy and have deep reservoirs of skill and money, you can likely have her cheap.

In that same dry dock, the 1926 boxy superstructure DeWitt Clinton.

To digress, here’s how her much-lower clearance looked when first launched in Boothbay.

Back on July 30, 2017, I caught the 1929 Nebraska getting some life-extension work.   Unlike the previous single screw boats, Nebraska has a Kort nozzle surrounding its prop, which clearly is away getting some work done on it also.

On February 10, 2010, the 1931 Patty Nolan was on the hard.  She was put back in, but currently she’s back on the hard, with plans to float her again this summer.

A CanalCorp boat, I believe this is Dana, was in dry dock in Lyons this past winter.  If so, she’s from 1935.

As you’ve noticed, single screw tugs have sweet elliptical sterns.  All painted up and ready to splash, they are things of beauty.  On December 16, 2006, I caught the 1941 Daniel DiNapoli, ex-Spuyten Duyvil, about to re-enter her element.

Also in dry dock but not ready to float, on March 10, 2010, the 1958 McAllister Brothers, ex-Dalzelleagle is getting some TLC.

Is it coincidence that so many of these single screw boats are   . . . aged?  Nope.  Twin- and triple-screw boats can do many more things.  Is it only because the regulations have changed?  Have any single-screw tugs been built in recent years?  Are single-screw boat handling skills disappearing in this age of twin- and triple-screw boats?  No doubt.

All photos by WVD, who enjoyed this gallivant through the archives.

And speaking of archives, Mr Zuckerberg reminded me this morning that nine years ago exactly, the sixth boro was seeing the complicated lading of the tugs and barges being taken by heavylift ship to West Africa.  There were so many challenges that I called the posts “groundhog day” like the movie about a guy having to use many many “re-do’s” before he could get it right.

 

Here from 2013 was the first in the series. Since then I’ve done another series called “tale of the tape,” borrowing from boxing analysis or automotive competitions.  Consider today’s and tomorrow’s post as something similar to what you’d see and read if a car magazine compared a 2020 C8 Corvette with a Tesla Cybertruck, or a 1969 Karmann Ghia convertible, or even a 1948 Willys Overland Jeepster . . .  more on that later.

The photo below I use with permission from Fred Miller.   It carries Oneida name boards;  Oneida is the same vessel as Grouper, the 1912 boat I’ve posted so much about over the years.

Ruth M. Reinauer dates from almost a century later and could not be a more different boat, built for an entirely different mission.  They are apples and oranges, you might say, dogs and cats.  I’ll let you enumerate the differences and similarities for yourself.

Thanks to Fred for the top photo;  the bottom one I took.

Languishing along the Erie Canal, now in the dry dock adjacent to E-28A, is tugboat Grouper.  As she continues in limbo, folks far from the Erie Canal remember her, recall family experiences long ago, not thinking of her as Grouper at all, but rather . . .  Green Bay. Here she assists passenger steamer SS South American, a steamer that plied the Lakes for over 50 years.

Some look at the photo below and can identify relatives.

She has been shipshape with

many assists behind her, like Hennepin here.  This laker was known by the name Hennepin between 1937 and 1975.

Of the many captains who worked on her over the years, Lester Gamble, to the right below,  was the captain from 1954-68.

Many thanks to the the Gamble family for sharing these photos.

Below are two photos I took of the highly endangered Green Bay/Grouper last month.  For all her previous names and history, click here.

For the dozens of previous posts I’ve done on this boat, click here.

 

 

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