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Happy 120 years old, Urger!  I urge you  to read the note at the bottom of this post.

And . . . .Oops!  I read the timer wrong. Bidding for Grouper, in Lyons NY,  ends about six hours from now. 

Lyons is a county seat, but it’s possible to take a photo of lock E-27, right in the town,  such that it appears to be rural.  A row of buildings to the right separates the canal here from a major street, Water Street;  to the left, there’s a strip mall along NY-31.

Lyons is the home of Muralmania, and it shows;  this was one of two murals just west of lock E-27.  The next lock, E-28A, is about a mile away.

Just before getting to lock E-28A, you see the section workshop buildings.

That’s Route 31 paralleling the canal.

At the top of the lock chamber, you have a great view over into the Lyons Dry dock.  Whatever is in the dry dock during the navigation season is surplus, in need of repair, or beyond repair.  Grouper is there, its rusty stack with its yellow ring visible in the foreground.

Staged and waiting for deployment are a set of tugboats, dredges, and a quarters barge aka “floating lodging,” like the one being auctioned off with bidding ending late this afternoon.  To repeat, I’d misreported closing of bidding in an earlier post, but today it ends.

We negotiate another low rail bridge before coming up to lock E-28B, about 4 miles to the west of E-28A.

 

In the port of Newark, I catch up to Sweet Love, a small trawler I caught at the Narrows last August.  The lovely storefronts in the village disappeared thanks to the misguided efforts in the 1960s called “urban renewal.”

West of Newark at Wide Waters is the hamlet of Port Gibson, Ontario County’s only port along the Erie Canal.  During the 19th-century iteration of the canal, this was a port.

The bridge here has just been refurbished.

From there, the canal narrows as we head west.  The rain started falling as well. 

 

 

We had miles and locks to go, but we called the trip “over” when we got to the Port of Palmyra, because of a breach in a spillway ahead. 

All photos, WVD.

Sign the card here to celebrate Urger‘s 120 years.  Its future too is threatened.

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.

 

 

Here I get to prove once again that you can never step into the same river twice, or you can never see the same stretch of canal the same way twice.  Click here to see what I did with previous set of photos.

The photo below was taken from the NE corner of the triangular island I’ll now call Midway Junction (the CS and Erie Canals meet here), Midway Triangle, or (my contribution) Tadadaho Island,  if you want to learn about this indigenous spiritual leader, click here.

Two miles west from Tadadaho Island, we approach Lock E-25 in

May’s Point NY.  Click here to see the location of the lock relative to the NYS Thruway.

What would you expect to see when the lock is in a National Wildlife Refuge?

A small boat could cross here and enter Tschache (“shockey”) Pool. 

There’s a campground and marina here.

Lots of these and other wildlife are here.  Someone on the boat saw a coyote on the south bank.

The Clyde River intersects the Erie Canal several times.  Follow the channel markers. 

About six miles farther, lock E-26 appears.

See that rusty bridge a quarter mile beyond the lock?

It’s the E-93 West Shore RR bridge;  see both outside and inside here. It’s the bane of any boat that exceeds 15′ on this stretch of the Canal.

But we made it through. 

Along long portions of the Erie Canal the railroad follows along the bank.  Chances are quite strong that these containers not long ago were at sea, transferred onto railcars in the sixth boro.

Again, follow the channel markers.

Right around that bend is the village of Lyons, county seat of Wayne County NY.  The small boat Cayuga ahead of the captain’s view is a “drive it yourself” rental from Erie Canal Adventures.

All photos, WVD.

What I said about the futility of trying to step into the same river, you have a “three-fer” here: here is my post on my canal bike ride from October 2020.

 

Taken from the east end of Van Cleef Lake, we’ve now traveled less than 10 miles from Seneca Lakes/Stivers Marina.

C/S lock 2/3 is a double lock:  you descend in lock 3 only to find that the lower gate of 3 is the upper gate of 2.  In the photo below, we’ve exited the lower gate of 2 and looking back at the closed lower gate of 3. 

Technically, the C/S Canal here follows the created path of the Seneca River.  A dike along the left side here keeps the river separate from the Montezuma Swamp, allowing navigation of a vessel as large as Colonial Belle. 

Cottages along the right side are mere inches above the surface of the water.

At the 3.5-mile mark, the right side opens:  that 39-mile lake, averaging less than 2-miles wide and at deepest point 435′ deep, will get you to Ithaca.  But Ithaca remains for another trip another day far in the future, as C. P. Cavafy would recommend….

In 1800 a wooden bridge traveled from the point of land to the left, and crossed 5412′ to the opposite side, to the distant right.  It lasted until 1808, when the winter destroyed it.  Two subsequent toll bridges replaced it.

We turn north into C/S 1, aka the “mud lock” because of the water there.

A few miles north of the lock, we approach the I-90 NYS Thruway Bridge.

Less than a half mile we arrive at a triangular island, carved off the NW corner of Kipps Island,  that is the approximate midpoint between Tonawanda and Waterford. 

The darker water here

comes from the Montezuma Swamp and Clyde river;  to the right is the water that comes from Lakes Cayuga and Seneca.

Here’s a satellite view of the triangular island. In the next post, we’ll turn to the west, to the left here and toward Lock E-25.

All photos, except the satellite view, WVD.

Postscript:  In the satellite view above, upper right corner, one the “Richmond aqueduct ruins” mark, below is one of my photos of it, although we’ll heading to the left, aka west.  Getting back to the last three lines of Cavafy, referred to above and slightly modified:  “And if you find her [in poor condition], Ithaca has not deceived you.  Wise as you have become, with so much experience, you must already have understood what Ithaca means.”

Unrelated;  As of this writing Friday morning, Grouper high bid is $150, Chancellor is $310, QB tugster clubhouse is $520, and bridge erection boat is $890.

 

Since I’m again on a gallivant-away from home, outside, and looking for scenes and boats and trucks to photograph-the next four days will be posts of this one-day trip.  Below is my ride that day.   It was an 8-hour ride the length of the Cayuga/Seneca Canal and then about 25 miles of the Erie Canal, and nine locks.  Stating point was technically Waterloo NY and ending was Palmyra.  In all we dropped over 100′ from Seneca Lake to the junction with the Erie, and then heading west, we rose about the same distance to the east side of Palmyra.

Below is my conveyance.

In the enclosed passenger cabin, this builder’s plate is proudly displayed.  Since June 1961, this boat has worked on both US east and west coast;  in fact, when the current owners bought this boat about 25 years ago, it was working in San Francisco and they decided to take the 60′ boat back to the East coast and onto the Erie Canal on its own bottom!!  It did have a pilot house at that time.  For photos of Colonial Belle‘s engine and more, click here on this report from tug44.

Before we go on this leg 1 of 4 reports, other 1961 products of the Blount shipyard include Las Cruces in Panama, Michael Cosgrove in the sixth boro, and Kasai, probably sunk somewhere in the DRC. Another 1961 sister vessel Martha Washington worked many years in Boston, and may be out of service.  Any info?

The photo below was taken at the dock at Stivers Marina in Waterloo.  Beyond the research vessel William Scandling ahead of the sail boats, Seneca Lake stretches slightly more than 35 miles southward to Watkins Glen.  Four miles or less wide, it’s more than 600′ deep.   A team plans to survey more of the lake bottom this summer.

From Stivers, we did a 180 degree turn and headed for the Erie Canal, putting us immediately under the first of many low bridges.

Really, there are lots of overhead obstacles that could not be negotiated with a wheelhouse. Note the bimini folder forward and the captain rising back up.

This is a typical scene along the top end of the Cayuga-Seneca Canal, although more trees are being cleared, including some for this summer’s idea . . . glamping.

The distance from Seneca Lake to lock C/S-4

is 5.02 miles.

As we head to Seneca Falls, we pass the Ludovico Sculpture Trail. The conception goes back over 20 years when a person of artistic interests moved from Buffalo to Seneca Falls, and installed two sculptures on her front yard, irritating some neighbors.

This one celebrates Gould Pumps, founded by Seabury S. Gould in Seneca Falls in 1848!!

The former Seneca Falls Knitting Mills, which made countless pairs of white socks, is now the Women’s National Hall of Fame.   When I first saw the building, it was windowless and derelict.

All photos, WVD.   In the next mile . . . tomorrow’s post, we’ll travel across Van Cleef Lake to C/S locks 3 and 2.

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.

 

Quick post today, almost on time.  I’m resting up after travels, reunions, summits, setbacks, ravines, tech glitches that turned out to be excessive cookie of the electromagnetic sort, and  . . .  more.

I took all these Lyons, NY photos in the past few weeks, although I missed all the excitement of the sixth boro, including a few CMA CGM boats . . .  Magellan this morning.   If any of you got photos, please get in touch. 

Tug Syracuse may be looking for a captain.  Contact me if you’re looking for a tugboat.

More on all this soon. 

Happy to be back . . .  WVD.

In six days, the gates along the NYS Canal system will be staffed and lifting/lowering vessels across the state.  This is the third in a series of posts about the vessels that have worked to keep the canals functioning. 

Not all these vessels, like Wards Island below, remain;  it’s now over 50′ under surface of salt water on Hempstead Reef, scuttled.  The bow of the tug here, Syracuse, does continue to work as she approaches her 90th birthday.

Below you see the 88-year-old tugboat Syracuse towing a group of canal vessels late in the season back in 2014.

Tender #1, along with most of the other tenders, are now in their 10th decade.

Ditto #9.

Curvaceous boats are out, and state-of-the-art boxy ones are in. 

Boats like Waterford approach their eighth decade. 

Grand Erie and Urger, both inactive, have been featured here many times.

And boxy, mostly nameless replacements have replaced them.

Urger here exits the lower side of Lock 17 in Little Falls as the sun illuminates the chamber.

All photos, WVD, who salutes the crews who operate these boats, even the finicky old ones.  If you’re sailing the canal this summer and see these boats and crews, give a wave but also give them wide berth, as they diligently work to keep the waterway open.

Of course, if you need a guide, check out my virtual tours based on my boat transits and my one bike trip.

Here was T-23 days.  Now, in less than two weeks, the canal will be open.  Some of the vessels operated by NYS Canals to perform maintenance were featured in the T-23 post;  more are in today’s post.

Let’s start with Tender 2, T2, in Utica, nose to nose with tug Erie.

Tender #3 is tied up here just west of the dry dock in Waterford.

Left to right here are a self-propelled scow (SPS 60 maybe? the number) and Lockport.  That land derrick marks this location as Fonda.

Port Jackson is one of the new boats operated by NYS Canals.  The location is just west of lock E-13, and Grande Caribe, as well as her younger sister Grande Mariner powering her way west to Chicago will likely never be seen in the Canal again.

Tied up here in the shade east of Utica is Governor Roosevelt.

At the Utica section yard, it’s Erie again.  Note the NYS Thruway maintenance vehicles in the background.

Just west of lock E-19, the Dragon dredge gets support from Tender #4.

And on another occasion, it’s the same dredge assisted by Tender #5.  I took the photo between locks E-6 and 7.

And closing this out, how about a shot above the culvert of the tugboat that turns 120 years afloat this year, Urger.

All photos, WVD.  If you’re planning to transit the canal beginning on day 1 of the season  . . .  May 21, these are some of the maintenance vessels you’ll see. But don’t postpone a trip along the Canal because some of these could disappear any year now.

WVD is solely responsible for any errors of fact.

T minus 23 days,  that is, for all of us who remember the early days of NASA  . .  . 23 days until the NYS Canals open soon after sunrise on May 21.  If you have the opportunity, get yourself to one of the portals and see the excitement.

At several intervals before then, I will post countdown photos of NYS Canals boats;  all photos of old boats they are, ones that require lots of maintenance, but many folks find them beautiful and desire they be kept in some functioning condition, like old horses put out to clover, not the glue factory.   All these photos I took during the 2014 season, when I worked on the canal.  I won’t include a lot of text here;  besides time constraints, I’ve already included such info in previous posts and years.  Also, let me introduce a new archive, an ongoing project by a young, active Great Lakes mariner. See it here, and the root site is here.

June 2014 in Little Falls, day one of my employment, I waited on the wall for the 1901 Urger. That’s a Quarters Barge #14 (QB14) to the right, a  lodging afloat for canal workers assigned to projects far from home. I slept in the quarters on Urger.

Seneca escorted a tender across Oneida Lake and has arrived at the east end, Sylvan Beach.

Urger here passes Governor Cleveland in a previously unpublished photo.

Syracuse here near the Oswego portal illustrates

the NYS Canals connection with the Great Lakes.  This can be and is a portal to the Gulfs of Mexico and Saint Lawrence, and thence to all the watery parts of the planet. 

Derrick Barge (DB) 4 here transfers dredge spoils from a scow to a bank needing bolstering;  in the distance you can see the beauty of rural Mohawk Valley.

Tender #6, here near Albion, can no longer be seen unless you’re breathing air from a regulator 80′ down 2.5 miles off Shinnecock, a very distant corner of NYS.

Heading for the western end of the canal in Tonawanda,  the aptly named DeWitt Clinton chugs along with purpose between Medina and Middleport.

Pittsford here stands by an ancient scow on another bank near the Rochester suburb of  . . . Pittsford.

All photos, WVD, who has many more to share before the canal opens.  I’ll avoid replication as best I can.

If you want to see more of the canal now, check out my April 2020 covid project, a virtual tour, here.

 

 

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