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By 3:00 pm, the deck of Wards Island was at capacity with buoys. It was time to head back west to a scow on the wall in Brewerton, an accidental destination for
Champlain almost exactly 400 years ago. Champlain was a gallivanter extraordinaire, crossing the Atlantic about 25 times in those days, and a guy even better at negotiation and diplomacy than he was at traveling. But I digress.
Since there are two bridges between the Lake and the scow, the boom had been lowered and now it’s raised for the job. Attached to the scow is the larger tender known not by a number but as Dana.
It’s clearly November when 4:30 looks like this.
Boom is lowered for the several miles back to Lock 23, where a surprise
awaits me. I had assumed that only the stern propellor on Wards Island was operational, but after Syracuse uncoupled and we started the rotation to tie up,
there was prop wash from under the bow, just as you would expect from a double-ender ferry.
In order to spin the boat 180 degrees without having to make a 36-point turn, Syracuse put some pressure on the bow,
and by 5:40 we were all fast. Then it was time to
put the power of Wards Island to sleep. Below deck there were a bunch more surprises, like these port lights as seen from within and the rivets.
And two spacious accommodations, one on each side of the vessel.
Two engines, although only the Cat D353 Series E runs.
A Frankenstein knife switch board.
And mentioned in this post last year, Wards Island began life as a ferry in 1929, looking like her twin . . . Tenkenas, there were more surprises like
this speaking tube and behind it,
this brass builders plate.
Many thanks to the NYS Canal Corp and its floating plant for permission to do this series.
Unrelated and sad news: I learned yesterday that John Skelson has passed. RIP, John. Click here for some of the many posts I credited to him in the past years.
These photos were taken November 16, 2015, with temperatures in the 50s and no wind. Obviously, mid-November is not always so ideal for this operation. In fact, photos on the boat showed this work being done in 1992, with buoys heavily ice and snow covered.
Here one crewman–let’s call him the signaler– radios the tug instructions for the approach to the buoy.
Once within two yards of so, another crewman captures the buoy with a boat hook.
Besides the VHF, the signaler uses hand signals for the crane operator, who hoists the hooked buoy as high as a connector link, which gets cleated to the boat while
the cotter pin connected to the shackle gets cut.
The crane operator relies entirely on signals from the signaler.
Once the summer buoy is lifted away, the anchor chain is attached to the spar buoy, which is then
pushed overboard, where it’ll stay until the reverse process in the spring.
Meanwhile, the beacon is removed from each buoy.
Oneida Lake has floating and fixed nav aids. This is Messenger Shoals, a fixed nav aid on a concrete island poured into sheet piling. To the left of the aid in Blind Island, and as little as a foot of water.
The aid here–113–is called a cabinet.
The large size–about 6′ high–used to hold batteries.
The entire cabinet is lifted off for the winter.
On the north side of the lake is a village called Cleveland, once important for supplying passing commercial canal traffic and glass making. Now it may go out of existence.
When the foredeck is full and late autumn sun starts to go down, we headed to the west side of the lake to offload today’s work and prep the boat for tomorrow.
And that will be tomorrow’s post.
Again, many thanks to NYS Canal Corp for permission to do this story and to the crews of Wards Island and Syracuse for helping me out.
At the end of the Oneida Lake series, you’ll see why this could also be called “second lives 15 part b.”
Technically, this post starts out early morning in Clay, NY, with tug Syracuse and crane ship Wards Island tied to the east end of Lock 23.
Wards Island–and her sister ship Tenkenas–were built in 1929 by Electric Boat of Groton CT. Later in the series I’ll show you the brass builder’s plate. By 1937, both were listed as abandoned. For some of the history of intervening years, check out A Long Haul starting on p. 128.
Here Syracuse pushes Wards Island under the rail bridge just west of Route 11 heading for the lake. A key to the location is the Brewerton Range Rear lighthouse, visible in the trees along the right side margin of the photo.
The lake is unusually glassy for November and the fall task of replacing the summer navigation buoys with winter “placeholder” spar buoys, seen here below between the crane boom and the spud. Wards Island is fully self-propelled in the manner you’d expect of a former double-ender ferry, just very slow, a time waste on a large lake like Oneida. Click here for info on tug and barge wrecks in the lake.
Here’s the view through the controls of the crane looking toward the east end of the lake.
To the right you see the Verona Beach Lighthouse, and buoy 106 is in sight to the left of the hook.
The tow is maneuvered into position and a crewman captures the buoy with the boat hook.
The crew make the connection and 106 gets raised. In part b and c of this series, I’ll show the crew actions step by step.
Since no spar buoy replaces 106, anchor and all are brought up. In the distance to the left you can see the Route 13 bridge between Verona and Sylvan Beach. Click here for one of many posts I did in 2014 with photos from near the Route 13 bridge.
Buoy 107 is next on the boat, and
the first spar buoy goes in, anchored to mark the spot.
By 1130, we’re approaching buoy 109.
The crewman with the yellow sweatshirt is using a tool to hook between the buoy lift point and the crane hook.
Once a buoy is on the boat, the flashing beacon is removed and
stowed in a locker.
All photos by Will Van Dorp. More of Oneida Lake tomorrow.
Many thanks to the NYS Canal Corporation for granting permission to photograph the work of Wards Island.
Here are previous posts under the category second lives, a designation I use for vessels that are significantly modified from one owner or role to another. The approaching vessel in the next two shots–which I took on the Erie Canal west of Three Rivers in September 2014–show Grand Erie, the newest (built 1951!!) and largest tug in the Erie Canal.
Look at that low Erie Canal design carefully, because
she started life looking like this photo probably taken in 1951 when she was brand new in Pascagoula. That’s probably the open Gulf of Mexico in the background.
Chartiers was considered a dredge tender. Here she’s pushing a scow somewhere in the Pittsburgh area.
And here she’s tied up at the Corps of Engineers repair base at Neville Island, Pittsburgh. Look carefully at the upper superstructure in this photo, pre-1985.
In 1985, the vessel was purchased by the New York canals system, then still called the Barge Canal. The name changed in 1992. Then, Chartiers traveled to New York state from the Ohio River via St. Louis, the Illinois River, Chicago, and the Great Lakes.
Here’s Dan Owen’s description of the photo: “This is how it [looked] when I first saw it going up the [Mississippi] Aug. 13, 1985 at St. Louis. It was on the other side of the river. The top part of the pilothouse roof was actually cut off to the level of the second deck cabin to get under the bridges in the Chicago area. I do not know how long the pilothouse was 100% air conditioned, all the way from Pittsburgh, or at a shipyard in the St. Louis area. Or, if the pilothouse was welded back on after clearing the Chicago bridges.”
Here’s more of Dan’s description: “These two photos show Chartiers departing Chain of Rocks Lock, Granite City, Ill. [Notice the helm,] complete with searchlight, sitting on the deck. Also visible are two spare rudders.”
For more comparison, below are three photos of Grand Erie I took in September 2015. In the photo she’s flanked by Tender #3 starboard and tug Waterford to her port.
Compare this photo of Grand Erie to the second b/w photo above to note all the changes.
And compare this one to the last b/w photo above.
Many thanks to Dan Owen of Boat Photo Museum for use of these photos. All color photos were taken by myself, Will Van Dorp, in 2014 and 2015.
Here’s how you might be able to add to this collection: in July 1986 the newly modified Grand Erie came to NYC waters aka the sixth boro to participate in Liberty Weekend, the rededication of the Statue of Liberty. Grand Erie served as Governor Cuomo‘s ride. Does anyone have photos from that time . . . Grand Erie in NYC in 1986? I’d love to see them.
It’s been a few years since Lehigh Valley 79 was there, but David Sharps added a new feature to the parade–a
to each vessel that passed for review.
And what a potpourri of vessels that was!
Folks who from Monday to Friday work on precision instruments indoors . . . on weekends go to the physics lab on the river and experiment with vectors.
Others compete shoreside commanding line to fly.
If you missed this one, make plans now for 2016.
All photos here by Will Van Dorp.
Here was the first in this series. This is a well-painted and lubricated wheel that won’t be seen for a while. Even you folks who are planning a trip on Erie Canal, you’ll be close and you’ll feel the effects, but you won’t see it. So watch carefully as . .
the wagon-body valve, the rectangular portion of which measures 7′ X 9′ , gets positioned where it’ll be invisible from now until some winter maintenance season in the future. The entire valve–with wheels– weighs about 9800 pounds. If you’re standing near the upper door when one of these opens, you see a major whirlpool created by the rush of water through the water tunnel and through the port holes into the lock chamber.
Bob Stopper took these photos just over two weeks ago. Looking at them now, with mild spring temperatures in place, this feels like months ago. The valve is hoisted above the water tunnel and
guided into position.
Think about this as you traverse the canal this summer.
Many thanks to Bob. Happy spring. I can’t wait to see what exotic traffic passes through here this summer. Of course, I’ll be looking for work elsewhere. Anyone know anyone looking to hire a deckhand, now holding some paper and licenses?
Here are the previous posts by this name.
June 2014 . . . not quite 100 miles west of Albany.
March 2015 high, dry, and cold maintenance time on Staten Island.
Same time and place as the first photo above. Actually leaving lock 19 and headed east.
Again . . . winter maintenance.
Outbound Oswego harbor, June 2014.
And more Staten Island, March 2015.
Hustling hither and yon along the waterways since 1958, if she could speak,
I’d love to hear the stories.
All photos by Will Van Dorp.
You may recall my wondering about a Canal Corp boat I saw last year while I was working on the canal. Alan Nelson sent the photo below showing the type of vessel while it performed ATON (aids to navigation) service.
Here’s what Alan wrote: “It’s a 45’ buoy boat. Designation was “45 BU”. They were built 1957-’62 and in service through the 1980s. Used extensively on inland waters, they were powered by a GM 6-71 main engine and small Onan generator. Max speed approx. 8.5 knots. Although they had a small galley and berthing area, they weren’t often used for overnight operations, and didn’t have a permanent crew assigned. They were usually assigned to an ATON team to service small inland buoys and day markers. I ran one on the Delaware River around Philadelphia in the mid-1970s, until we took it up to New York for assignment to Lake Champlain. A slow and long trip, towed by the Coast Guard 65’ Tug Catenary. The one in the attached photo is numbered 45301-D, the first one built. The one I ran was the 45306-D.”
Below is a further edited photo of the boat I saw.
And here are some photos by Bob Stopper last month in the dry dock in Lyons.
Alan and Bob . . thanks much for your photos and information.
Now if you look closely at the subtitle of this blog, you’ll see a longer phrase there. It now ends in “gallivants by any and all the crew.” We are the blog crew . . . you and me. I’ve long stated in the “About Tugster” page drop-down just below the header of the Bayonne Bridge that “I like the idea of collaboration and am easy to get along with.” I am thrilled by the amount of collaboration you all have offered. So thank and let’s keep group-sourcing this blog together.
This photo of
Doris Joan Moran that has been circulating on FB this morning. Sorry . . . I wish I knew who gets the credit for this unusual shot. Anyhow, it reminded me of a post I did five years ago here.
Here’s a Doris photo I took last week . . . uncoated.
So one reaction to the cold is to bundle up, grit your teeth, plod on, complain a little more . . .
But you have to admit, winter in the northern latitudes gives us new senses of hulls on snow bases, or
levitating above it.
Here’s roughly the same angle . . . as I took it in September 2012.
Thanks to Bob Stopper for the photo of tug Syracuse and to Erich Amberger for the winter photo of Wendy B. The others I took, except for the top photo, and I’d still like to know who took that.
Uh . . . I just mis-read the FB info on the frosted over tugboat above. It was spelled j-o-a-n, and I transferred that as d-o-r-i-s. I’m sloppy sometimes. Maybe I need an editor.
Frances . . . built on Long Island in 1957 looked quite happy yesterday. She languished a few years a decade ago, but she’s now shiny and back at work. Click here and scroll through to see Frances as I first saw her in faux-wood paint. Here are the basics on her.
Cheyenne, a Brooklyn-built Bushey tug from 1965, is a veteran of the canal, as seen here and here. In the second link, she’s house down ducking underneath the bridge in Sylvan Beach with scows bound for the sixth boro. Here she was this past summer in Oswego after traversing the canal east to west and Lake Erie bound.
Also, some photos I took yesterday of Thomas D. Witte, built in Louisiana in 1961. Her air draft now precludes her operating on the canal.
For more canallers, click here.