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Note: I wrote this a year ago for a print publication, but they’ve not used it. It’s timely, so here it is in its entirety. The style is different because of its history and intention. Here was my post #1 with this title from January 2010. And HERE was 2.
Line crosses the ice fields covering a chokepoint in the Hudson River like an army tank traversing boulders. The vessel—more than a half century old—pitches and tosses erratically. And the steel hull polishing itself on brash ice—jagged floating ice clumps– is loud, arrhythmic, and almost alarming as the small ice breaker advances through the ice or attempts to, sometimes halting.
“It’s counterintuitive,” said Bosun Mate Chief Bradford Long. “My initial sense was that I was harming the vessel. But it was built for ice up to a foot thick. When it stops, you take care that the rudder position is centered, then power astern before attempting a new track. Having the rudder anywhere but centered could damage it.”
During an average ice season, some 300 vessels from tug/barge units to ocean-going tankers and bulk carriers navigate the Hudson. During the 2012-13 season, Coast Guard crews broke ice and facilitated movement of 7.96 million barrels of petroleum products and 297,000 tons of dry bulk products in the Northeast, with a combined total value of nearly $2 billion. They also answered 17 official requests for assistance and assisted 37 vessels in need.
During “ice season” Line is one of three 65’ ice breaking tugs working in conjunction with 140’ Bay-class ice breakers whose missions include keeping key portions of the Hudson River open. The larger ice breakers like Penobscot Bay can handle ice up to 36” thick and work the chokepoints such as Esopus Meadows and Silver Point, while Line breaks ice at facilities such as petroleum terminals and pilot stations. “Commercial operators notify us about 24 hours in advance of their arrival at a terminal. We break up the ice and –if necessary—a 140-footer comes in and sweeps the ice away just before the tug and barge arrives,” says Long.
WYTL 65611 Line, is homeported in Bayonne, New Jersey, as is its sister vessel WYTL 65610 Hawser. A third sibling WYTL 65612 Wire is based in Saugerties, New York. All three were launched from Barbour Boat Works in New Bern, North Carolina, within two months of each other in 1963, now 52 years ago.
Barbour also made some classy runabouts, like this one seen in their old boat works, now operating as the North Carolina History Center.
Jet Lowe took the photo below of the Barbour work tug Sam. Click here for more pics of Sam by Jet Lowe. Can’t you look at wooden Sam and see hints of the WYTL design? And these 65′ icebreakers . . . what will replace them?
The three WYTLs break ice on a “1 in 3” schedule: one week of Hudson River ice breaking operations, then a second week of patrols and breakouts closer to their homeport, and then a third week of maintenance in port. Line, currently with a crew of eight, operates during daylight hours only, unless emergency search-and rescue operations dictate otherwise, said Long. At night, the vessel might dock on shore power available only at either West Point or Saugerties, 45 and 90 miles respectively north of the Battery.
The current season is the first breaking Hudson River ice for BMC Long, whose 14-year career has provided prior Coast Guard ice experience on Lake Champlain and the Bering Sea. Line’s current ice breaking duties include maintenance of the “track” followed by commercial vessels, as well as facilities “break-outs,” meaning the WYTL breaks ice in circular patterns or noses up to a dock and uses prop wash to clear out a possible channel. Line has a single four-blade 56” prop turned by a 500 horsepower Caterpillar 34-12.
WYTL crew also communicate with passing commercial vessels gathering data on their vessels, cargoes, and encountered ice conditions. That information is shared with the Coast Guard Sector New York’s “ice officer,” Chief Warrant Officer Kary Moss. According to Moss, “domestic icebreaking operations are intended to … minimize waterways closures during the winter, enabling commercial vessels to transit through ice-covered critical channels.” Moss manages the information generated by the WYTLS, the 140-footers, and Coast Guard Auxiliary Air, or AuxAir “ice patrols.” These latter are observation flights—daily if weather permits—by civilian aircraft from Sandy Hook to Albany to report on and photograph ice conditions and river traffic. During the 2012-13 ice season, AuxAir made 37 reconnaissance flights. Moss then issues the daily ice report both broadcast on VHF channel 22 and electronically.
Since their 1963 arrival the WYTLs in the Hudson Valley have had a variety of missions, which did not include breaking ice on the Hudson for the first two decades. Line and the other two New York area WYTLs—Wire and Hawser—have unique extended cabins used to accommodate additional crew, including doctors, who would board passenger vessels for inspection/quarantine in greater New York harbor. The WYTLs also moved empty sanitation scows during instances like the tugboat strike of 1979, as evidenced below in the letter of citation from the commandant of the Coast Guard . . ..
As the winter and ice season of 2013-14 establishes a place in the cold and ice record books, BMC Long and crew feel a sense of accomplishment about their role on this half-century-old boat assisting commercial vessels in getting the heating oil through.
So here we are 12 months later, and it’s deja vu all over again . . . or something.
Here’s Tatiana Schlossberg’s article from today’s NYTimes on the 2015 icebreaking effort.
World’s End is not some lamentation about the single digit temperatures we’ve seen in these parts; it’s one of the great place names in the Hudson Highlands from 40 to 55 miles north of the the Statue. Enjoy these summer/winter pics of this curve in the vicinity of World’s End. West Point is just to the left, and we’re headed north.
Birk Thomas–of tugboat information.com– took this photo in just about the same place less than a week ago.
I took this two summers ago, and that’s Pollepel Island in the distance.
Same place . . . Birk’s photo from last week. Visibility is so restricted that the Island cannot be seen.
And here are two more shots of the same view in summer, from off Cornell and
Patty Nolan. That’s Buchanan 12 heading north in the photo below.
Photos 2 and 4 used with thanks to Birk Thomas. All others by Will Van Dorp.
Taken Feb 4 by Bjoern Kils . . . the spearhead.
Taken this morning by bowsprite, the onslaught of frazil ice. Is that Amy C. McAllister pushing the Bouchard barge? Anyone guess the light tug in front of Ellis Island?
And taken yesterday by Allen Baker looking over the stern of Mediterranean Sea northward toward Albany, the state of the Hudson right now . . .
ditto all . . . here’s the view from the wheelhouse of Mediterranean Sea.
And as if by magic . . . some pics of the same unit by Allen from a remote vantage point . . . coming with
a sign of caution, unheeded
in this photo by Bob Dahringer of a coyote on ice up near Catskill. According to Bob, “Stephen Reinauer was following us upriver, they said the poor thing fell into the water when they went by him, but he got himself out.”
And finally . . . from Ashley Hutto and taken on Monday this week . . . the NSFW belle of winter in the sixth boro. . .
Thanks to Bjoern, bowsprite, Allen, Bob, and Ashley for these reports on the ice.
From over four years ago, here was the first post about this reserve fleet. I’m excited about the discussion that has gone on in the comments. I’m also hoping that this post generates more of you to search through your old family photos and post card collections . . . and share more photos of this ghost fleet. Using the search term “Hudson River National Defense Fleet,” I got this collection of photos.
Many thanks to Allen Baker for sharing the photo below. Bob McLaren took the photo from the passenger steamer Alexander Hamilton going past the reserve fleet at Jones Point, circa 1962.
Here’s a photo of the fleet from a NYTimes its called “lively morgue.”
And Alexander Hamilton (scroll through here) . . . whose charred bones–I understand–still lie in Raritan Bay . . . and all the other now gone passenger steamers on the Hudson, that’s a whole other topic I’d love to share photos about. Click here for more photos of both the ghost fleet AND the Hamilton.
Again, thanks to Allen Baker for this photo; here is one of many other photos Allen has shared.
Half Moon . . . is heading from the erstwhile new Netherlands to the old Netherlands soon.
Click here for other Half Moon tugster posts from the past few years.
Once settled in in Hoorn, her immediate home waters will be Markermeer and after that IJsselmeer. I took this photo looking out over the Markermeer half a year ago. To the right is Hoorn and to the left is Enkhuisen. For the connection between the small city of Hoorn and the rock at the tip of South America, click here.
Some years ago, bowsprite and I started a blog called Henry’s Obsession . . . about the voyage of the original Half Moon. It’s a blog . . . so it’s in reverse chronological order.
One more photo . . . taken by Bernie Ente some years ago . . shows her deep draft and
used with permission here.
I did a post about a scrapping before . . in early 2007 here. Warning: Disturbing images follow. This post focuses on a tug built in Matton Shipyard,
one of four tugboats that were originally christened John E. Matton, not the one below.
It could get confusing, but vessels were launched as John E. Matton in 1939 (which seems to be this one and still afloat as Atlantic 7 although I’ve not found a photo), in 1945, in 1958, and in 1964.
Below are photos of the 1958 John E. Matton. The first one is from 2007, when it was known as Thornton Bros.
It changed names–and colors–after 2007, and that’s confusing too,
but by 2012 it again was Thornton Bros.
But earlier this year, time had run out, and I got some pics as it awaited the scrapper.
The following photos–taken while I was up on the canal–come compliments of Gerard Thornton, to whom I am grateful.
As I look at these, I’m eager to get into canal related archives to see what photos exist of the area around the Matton yard in the 1940s and 1950s.
And might there be photos of steel sheet and rod transported by canal from the Great Lakes steel plants to the Matton yard?
Again, thanks to Gerard Thornton for the last four photos. All others by Will Van Dorp.
By the way, the John E. Matton (1964) became one of the vessels named Helen J. Turecamo and sank in 1988. Does anyone know details about that sinking beyond 1988 and that it happened near Norfolk and involved a submarine? I get nothing from googling.
The difference between “really random” and just “random” is that with the former, I include photos taken in different waterways and ports. Guess the ports/waterways here?
All these photos have been taken during the past 30 days by Will Van Dorp, who needed to do a random __ tugs post to dispel notions that this blog has succumbed to focus creep. Soon, maybe tomorrow, I’ll return to my zoning of the canal. I’ll also return to some background vessels in this post.
Oh . . the first four photos were taken near the Delaware River in Philly, the next two were in the KVK, the following was the Hudson river across from the mouth of the Rondout and the now-derelict Delaware & Hudson Canal, and the last one was between locks 7 and 6 in the Erie Canal. I included the KVK pics to show that although I’m mostly gallivanting these days, mu roots still remain emplaned in the sixth boro.
There’s fog of war, and then there’s warships in fog. Click here for another.
Note the Hoboken tower off the bow in the photo above and off the stern . . . below.
That’s Ellen McAllister at the stern and Elizabeth alongside midships.
I’m guessing there is a photographer in this vessel.
See it there off the stern?
All photo taken this morning by Will Van dorp, who has been back in the sixth boro for over a week now but is still mostly “unpacking” the canal experiences, which will be shared shortly.
. . . with some digressions . . . . The photo below of the procession leading to the Roundup comes from Jeff Anzevino.
Digress to the left . . . on the Troy (Lansingburgh) side through the trees is Melville Park and this sign and
this house. If you’re looking for a good read about Melville’s later life on the waters off Lower Manhattan, check out this Frederick Busch historical novel.
Here’s another shot by Jeff, taken from the 112th Street Bridge. You might recognize the crewman standing beside the wheelhouse port side. There are many other posts with photos from Jeff, such as this one.
From Jason LaDue . . a photo of tender (?) Oneida taken in 2001. Anyone know the disposition of Oneida? Click here for some previous photos from Jason.
And finally, from Fred tug44 . . . locking through E2 . . . right behind us. I feel grateful to have an occasional view of self to post here. Some of you have seen some of these on Facebook.
Thanks to Jeff, Jason, Bob, and Fred for photos here.