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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.

 

 

Many thanks to Josh Watts for sending along these photos taken in western Monroe County, at Adams Basin.  You may recall that Adams Basin has appeared here before in the westbound end of the virtual Erie Canal tour.  Sure enough there was an Adams involved . . . way back at the time the first canal iteration was dug.

Joncaire?

Messieurs les Joncaires established themselves in what is now Buffalo, back before the Revolution.

Canal tug Joncaire appeared here once before a little over a year ago, along with DonJon tug Rebecca Ann;  in that photo, Joncaire is half blue and half red.   The Adams Basin lift bridge is one of 16 in the NYS Canals systems.

Joncaire used to be all red, as in this photo below from about four years ago, when it was on the Buffalo River and still painted in NYPA red.

In close proximity to Joncaire was Elizabeth Cady Stanton, one of the new 25′ tugs that have been coming into the NYS Canals system since 2018.

 

Gradall #4  was tied up there also, with

an unnamed (not yet named) small tug alongside.

Here’s the first new one I saw back in August 2018;  I believe this one has since been named Port Jackson.

Many thanks to Josh for sending along these photo;  Future Port Jackson and the red Joncaire are mine.

The first installment of this title can be seen here.

Click here for a series of posts and photos of Wards Island from a point almost exactly four years ago, in mid November  when I spent a long day photographing the old crane ship on what was to be her last year working.   Today she lies at the bottom of Hempstead Reef, a few nautical miles of the west end of Jones Beach Island, in 50 to 70 feet of water. A map follows below.  I’d love to hear from anyone who has fished or dived on the reef during the past year, since she has graced the bottom with her hospitable presence.

Although I’ve posted some of these photos, the day I spent on her pulling Erie Canal navaids out of Oneida Lake was a magical day .  . mid November, but warm and without wind.  Enjoy this set.

Photos were taken from morning to night on November 16 and then the last one is November 17, 2015.  All are re-edited.

She ran, if not quite like a deer.

Heading eastbound into the Lake had the look of space flight.

 

For a crane ship fashioned from a double-ended ferry, she plucked buoys from the water quite efficiently,

replacing them with ice buoys, of the right color of course.

 

 

 

But for November,

it was an enviable day for photos.

Some of the navaids in the Lake rest on concrete-capped shoals, islands.

At the end of the day, all buoys were transferred to a barge so that Wards Island had cleared decks for the next day of work.

 

Click on the DEC map below to get to an interactive map.

Click on the photo below to see more of the Flickr photo stream from which it was taken.

All photos not otherwise attributed taken in November 2015 by Will Van Dorp, who is eager to see photos of her taken in her watery home.

And as a wise friend, frequent commenter here has said in relation to another vessel, “[New boats] have come along to supplant and surpass their predecessors. We should count ourselves fortunate to have known so many of the elegant and durable old-timers while they were still around, and feel privileged to help transmit their images and stories into the future.”    Thanks, Lee

 

 

Rebecca Ann, shown here just above E28A,  has served as Donjon’s Erie Canal tug recently. Nearby is Witte 1407, which she delivered, and [Daniel] Joncaire, formerly of the Niagara River.

 

My question was . . . what will this “reef run” on the Canal pick up for the reef?  Here’s the background on this reef business.

This question is especially acute since the dry dock is fairly empty.  Although the large rectangular openings make it clear that this barge in the foreground will go, currently between that barge and Rebecca Ann is the venerable [and vulnerable] Grouper.

While I was at the lock, these canoeists appeared from the direction of lock E28B, and when the lock master opened the gate, I concluded I might witness my first time seeing canoes lock through.

Without fanfare,

valves allow about two million gallons of water move downstream and lower the water level for these paddlers.

Happy trails!

All photos by Will Van Dorp.

Many thanks to Bob Stopper for the heads up.

 

Local government boats  . . .  NYPD actually are out all year ’round training, patrolling, for whatever purpose.  If I were differently ambitious, I’d develop a crime fighter television series based on the lives and work of the marine unit of the NYPD.  But one impediment to fulfilling that goal is that I know very little about the marine unit.

This blog is not so much an end result of content research as a starting point for me, so besides putting up recent photos of NYPD boats, here are some facts that I just located:  NYPD employs 55, 304   people, of whom 38,422 were officers in 2018.  They operate 9624 cars.

Here is info on some of the boats in the harbor unit.

x

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The harbor unit, established in 1858, is made up of 150 officers today, of whom 31 specialize in scuba operations.

Since they cover the 576 miles of water’s edge as well as the 146 square miles of NYC navigable water, I’d call them the sixth boro police.

Here’s a previous government boats post I did.

For more historical info, click here.

Doing this post has given me some ideas for some sort of project.  To be continued . . .

All photos by Will Van Dorp.

Thanks to Steve Wunder for the photo below taken yesterday in Fonda NY.  To the right, it’s a new 2018 Marine Inland Fabricators 25′-3″x14′x5′ Clydesdale pushtug, either hull 323 or hull 324.

BUT, to the left and much more significant, it’s Urger, a few miles east of where the 1901 (!!) tug is said to be intended as a land display, sans integral hull, i.e., it’ll never float or tour the waterways again.

I intend this post as a followup to last week’s here, where I wanted to illustrate what we New Yorkers stand to lose, if this lock 13 park plan gets carried out.   In following up, my intention is to underscore our potential loss.

The photo below shows Urger in 1940 in Waterford, operating as a steam tug. At that point, the tug was already 39 years old.

Urger was launched in 1901 as fish tug  Henry J. Dornbos, by Johnston Brothers, a fact still visible on the bitt below.  The company was founded in 1864 by J. W. Johnston, a direct descendant of the none other than James Watt.

The rest of the photos here come from the archives of Bob Stopper, canal ambassador extraordinaire based in Lyons, NY.

Urger has likely been seen and touched by many more people than any other Canal tug or other New York State symbol, particularly because from 1991 until 2016, it crisscrossed the state’s waterways from May until October, doing programs for 4th graders and festivals for the general public.  Schools bused kids to the canal parks to learn about NYS history, technology, and the environment.  Before any program, crew cleaned, painted, and polished.

 

Think about 1901.  Life expectancy for US men was 47.6 years, and for women, 50.6!  Companies like Harley Davidson and Ford wouldn’t form until 1903, also the year the Wright Brothers made their first flight.  There were 15 automobiles registered in the 45 states of the US, where the population was all of 75 million; Utah had been the last state to enter the union in 1896.  The world’s tallest building was Philadelphia City Hall at 548.’  US Steel had not yet been created, and Standard Oil would go another decade before being broken up.  RMS Cedric was the world’s largest ship, and Titanic was not even on the drawing board. The US was involved in a shooting conflict in China. 

Literally thousands of New Yorkers of all parts of the state and ages have benefitted from Urger at a canal port near them, like this future mariner.

Time is critical here.  Unless minds get changed, we could be days or even hours away from Urger‘s life as a boat permanently sunk, which IMHO, would be a significant loss.  Please share this post with friends, local schools, and other networks.  Also, contact your federal, state, and local political leaders.

Click here for most of my previous Urger posts.

I’m back near the sixth boro now and have photos for at least through early October, at which time I leave on another gallivant.

So here’s step one in catching up.  Up the meandering Cuyahoga, here are Iowa (1915) and Oklahoma (1913);  these boats were built to work and last.

 

The vintage GL tugs may just be replaced for the next century by this design:  Cleveland, launched less than six months ago . . . 2017.

Click here for a recent article on Cleveland.

Cleveland in this series was doing assist for 610′ x 78′ sand barge Ashtabula powered by 142′ tug Defiance

Here’s Elizabeth Anna in the Lake Erie port on Erie PA.

Elizabeth Anna (ex-Bear) last appeared on this blog here.

In the entrance to the old Buffalo River, here’s Daniel Joncaire II, a NYPA tug

launched in late 2015 by Great Lakes Shipyard in Cleveland. NYPA uses the tug for ice boom installations near its hydropower units on the Niagara River. I’m curious now about Niagara Queen II and William H. Latham

I’ve always had misgivings about my series title “freshwater tugs” and here’s a good illustration why:  Calusa Coast–here with Kirby barge Delaware–was until a few years ago a regular in the saltwater and brackish , in and out of the sixth boro.   Here she is in the Niagara River headed for Black Rock.

Beyond her stern here is the combination Buffalo Intake Crib Lighthouse. 

And to close out today’s post, it’s Sarah Andrie, another tug that’s made the transition from saltwater to fresh . . . the former Caribe Service.

She’s making her way here upstream into Lake Erie from the Welland Canal.

All photos by Will Van Dorp.

 

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