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Today I pass a personal milestone . . . er, year stone, so the editors in Tugster Tower allow me to veer off topic . . .  first, to muse about the effect of picking up a camera and navigating life with it.  While I mostly photograph “sixth boro … and beyond” things that float, getting to and returning from the waters, sometimes I see other surfaces that beckon.  I love murals, especially.  That’s what these are.

First, I’d like to commend Monir’s Deli for a really smart mural.  I’ve never a sandwich from Monir, but the references in this strange assemblage of images compel me one of these days to stop by.  The mural also shows up in this profile of my neighborhood.   Yes, this is NYC . . .

Ditto.  Monir is in Queens, and Sofia’s on Staten Island.  I wonder who painted this first woman in a cocktail glass.  And where, when?  As with Monir’s place, I should stop by Sofia’s one of these days.

This mural was in Harrisburg PA.  I’m not sure what the reference is, but it was s a warm image on a cold day.

The rest here come from Bushwick Brooklyn.  The area at the head of Newtown Creek is certainly worth a visit.  Tagster 5 was based on a walk around there.

I find the one below disturbing.

Here below, I love the incongruity of ballet and boxing.  This outfit suggests some choreography needs doing . . . or improvising.

This is two murals:  one on the side of a truck and another behind it, painted onto the side of a building, with a sidewalk in between.

Here’s the same location shot 20′ to the left.

The chainlink fence adds a layer here.

And finally, the figure in the pigtails appears to be admiring–like me– the colorful foliage painted onto the building at the corner of Jefferson and St. Nicholas.

All photos by Will Van Dorp, taken while on the journey.

Here’s another focus for murals in the county where I grew up.

 

If you’re new to the blog, I’ve done lots of blog posts on a NYS Canals tug called Urger.

For the past 5+ years, I’ve freelanced for a great publication called ProfessionalMariner, and this month have my first cover story.  I didn’t know my photo was on the cover until it came out!!  You can read my Urger article here.

Another piece of Urger news I have not reported elsewhere is below.  At the 2018 Waterford Tugboat Roundup, the 1901 built tug was voted “People’s Choice Favorite Tugboat,” winner of a dark horse write in campaign!  Below is the trophy.  Too bad the trophy has no boat to display it in for the public to see.

Now for big news on the political though primarily ceremonial end of things, Assembly member John McDonald III, District 108, has sponsored a bill to designate Urger as “official tugboat of the State of New York.  Read it here.

You can leave a note of thanks and support for Assembly member McDonald here.  If you vote in NYS and want to leave a note for your own rep to encourage him or her to join with McDonald in supporting this bill, you can start the connection here.

You can also write the Preservation League of New York and encourage them to continue their efforts to save this boat as a moving, floating ambassador from our state’s history.  Click here for more on their efforts.

And here’s yet another idea . . .   a 1/12 expired Urger fundraiser calendar. 

And finally, consider attending the Canal Society of New York Winter Symposium in Rochester NY on March 2.  I’ll be there.   Urger will surely come up.

And SCOW (State Council on Waterways) . . .  too bad you’ve dissolved!  There’s a reference of their Urger role at the end of this post. 

I’ve mentioned before about my people the Dutch celebrating “old years day” on December 31.   As the child of immigrants, I’m blessed by this one of many ways they see the world differently, a perspective I’m happy to share.  So here is a retrospective of the year, the result of a process of scanning through photos in the blog library, not overthinking it.

January.  Gunhilde Maersk with James, Kirby, and JRT plus Miriam Moran.  the year of the 1200-footers aka ULCVs becoming commonplace in the sixth boro.

February.  Ocean Henry Bain serves as a safety boat during  the ice canoe race I documented in my Carnavalons posts.

March. Cerro Grande here escorted a Caribbean-bound LNG ship, one of all the Panama Tugs posts

April. When I saw this section of drained canal bed between O-6 to O-7 in Oswego, I thought the work’d never get done before the season began, but I was wrong.  Of all my 2018 NYS Canals posts, this and this posted with the greatest urgency.

May.  Reliable pushed seaward by Lucy H.  As of today, Reliable lies under the sea gathering fishes and entertaining Davy Jones near Shinnecock.

June.  Jay Bee V headed out on a high-profile mission.  Has she returned to the sixth boro yet?

July.  I missed Rosemary‘s christening because that’s what happens when you don’t look at your calendar. First come first serve for a few tugster lighthouse calendars.  Send me an email with your mailing address.   As I said, I ran a few extra when I made up my Christmas gifts.

August.  Kimberly Selvick with AEP barges was one of the treats I saw in Calumet.  This day south of Chicago planted a seed of curiosity about the Lake Michigan/Mississippi River link I hope to be able to explore in 2019.  Many thanks to Christine Douglas.

September.  J. W.  Cooper delivers a pilot in Port Colborne at the Lake Erie end of the Welland Canal.  Because I hadn’t a satisfying enough fix from the canal earlier, I returned there in October.

October.  One Stork, a pink ULCV,  came into town.  It wasn’t her first visit/delivery, but it was the first that I caught.  She’s currently in the sixth boro.

November.  Morton S. Bouchard IV rounds Shooters Island light, Bouchard celebrated a big anniversary this year.

December.  Ruth M. Reinauer heads west into the Kills in December, the start of heating oil season.

And that’s it for the year, time for me to securely lock up Tugster Tower and prepare myself to meet 2019.  The older I get, the more profound is my awareness that although I make many plans for a new year, I might not see the end of it.  It’s just how it is.  Every day is a blessing.  Last year had my own personal ultima thule; I pray that 2019 brings its new ones.

Thanks to everyone who read, commented, and assisted me in 2018.  Happy and constructive new year day by day to you all.

Full disclosure . . . I’m not feeling much festive this year personally.  So maybe it’s my own wary eye that leads to my seeing so few wreaths on boats, maybe it’s just this lingering head cold.

But it warmed my heart to see them, like here

on Pegasus, and

ditto on Alex McAllister.

 

And although this is not a set of Christmas decorations per se, this would be something I’d put in my front yard . . .  if I had one.  Nav aids fished out of the Erie Canal in prep for ice skating season . . .  are far superior to the hideous (IMHO) air inflated fabric figurines that seem to have taken over lawn ornamentation in my ‘hoods.  The photo below comes thanks to Bob Stopper.

Why have no works of popular culture NOT featured dancing navaids on a snowy barge and herded into lock by a brightly painted tugboat?

Thanks Bob.  And merry Christmas–whatever you need to do to make it merry–to everyone reading this today.

All photos and sentiments by Will Van Dorp, who shares this link about the Flying Santa tradition of New England, an effort that cheered the family of a once-dear friend.

The blog will take Tuesday, December 25, off, since tugster wants to leave Tugster Tower–or the sixth boro spire– and NOT wear out the keyboard.

If you want Christmas posts from previous years, check here.

 

 

Here were previous milestones at post 1000, the four-year mark, and the one decade anniversary.  A few weeks ago when I noticed on my dashboard that I was approaching my 4000th post a week or so after the actual beginning of the 13th year mark, I knew this post was necessary.

4000!!  It can be a small number:  my heart beats more times than that in an hour and I’m still in the healthy range.  I took more breaths than that in the first half day of my life.  I grew up in a town that had fewer than 4000 people.  One dairy farmer I know has about that many cows now, and collects their output in tanks . . . a reefer tank for milk and two large lagoons for  . . . well . . . their other production.

But it’s a huge number of blog posts, especially if I start adding up the time spent:  if I average about two hours per post … counting the photography and the computing –and that’s a low estimate–that’s 8000 hours of work, which is 200  40-hour work weeks, which at 50-week years equals four years of work.  If I paid myself a low $50,000 per year, that’s almost a quarter million dollar bonus.  Nice!!  As to photos, I’ve added at least 40,000 photos to the web, mostly on aspects of the work world on water.

In another way, the number doesn’t matter, because the story never ends anyhow.  Part of what makes the real story elusive is the Heraclitus issue I’ve mentioned before. It also eludes because there’s no one story; not even one person has just one story or even one fixed understanding of a single story, since we –like the water–is protean, ever shifting.  No matter . . .   we pursue nonetheless.

About those photos, hindsight says I should have started “watermarking” them years ago.  Recently I saw one of my photos in a major newspaper attributed to someone else.  The same article had two others of my photos attributed to me, but this third photo was also mine, shot at a unique event where no other photographers were present.   When I informed them that photo was mine, they refused to believe me.  I was traveling at the time, away from my archive, so I decided to drop the matter, but the fact that it occurs to me now is evidence that I’m still irked.

What else could I have done with those 8000 hours?  If I were a competitive sheep shearer, in that time I could have taken 240,000 fleeces!!  If I worked them in fast food, I’d get $80,000.  If I worked as a divorce lawyer, I’d have a Ferrari or two.  If I were a politician, I’d be at the end of my term and starting a gig as an TV analyst.

Now if I could convince my boss to pay up . . . maybe he’ll throw a party instead and buy the first round for whomever shows up …  Maybe she’ll give me some time off.  Oh wait .  . I’m the boss here.

Seriously, I’ve been fully compensated in meeting interesting people, seeing unexpected things, noticing minutae, and learning vital stuff and worthless trivia.  If I had any regrets, it’s that this time commitment makes me a hermit.  I’m not as anti-social as I might appear, only easily distracted  . . . .  Actually, I like people;  I just prefer to not let an interesting scene go unrecorded sometimes.   Although being a hermit allows me to get work done, the downside is that isolation is sometimes corrosive or parching.

Hermits lack physical community.  Since I retired from a human contact career, I’ve much less of an immediate community.  My online community is fabulous and I appreciate it, but it is its own thing.  I need to work on improving my flesh/blood community.

A friend once sent me a photo he’s taken of me photographing.  It was not a flattering photo because I appeared to be scowling.  I wondered why I was irritated at that moment until I realized that is my “focused face.”  I’ll spare you and not post that shot here.  Photography is much more than moving your fingers on the lens adjustment and shutter.  It’s an attitude born of seeing and trying to see more.   Once an overzealous security person asked me to leave an area I had permission to be because he said I was looking around too much, I must be guilty of something and alleged that I was looking around to see if security or law enforcement was around.  But I do look around while shooting to see if I’m too focused on one action and missing another.

Here’s an example from many years ago and not involving my camera:  I was hiking in a wildlife area and approaching a set of bird watchers, all of whom were intently focused with long lenses on some rare birds in the marsh.  They were lined up along a roadway ditch.  While I was still 200 feet away, I saw a red fox exit the marsh grass, walk past all the photographers close enough to brush against their heels, and then disappear back into the marsh.  Not one photographer saw the fox that touched them;  they were all focused on the rare birds 300 feet away in the marsh.

Given some of the places I go to take photos, there are wolves to be wary of, two-legged wolves, if you catch my drift. I should not malign the four-legged ones though.   Whatever to call these potential predators, I try to spot them long before they sense me.  I take chances with wolves, no matter how many legs they have, and so far they’ve all had dignity.

Anyhow, my course remains steady.  I’ll keep it up as long as I continue to enjoy it.

Thanks for reading, commenting, and sending along stories and photos.

The collage at the top comes thanks to bowsprite;  she created it for me back in 2010 for my 1000th post, and I decided to use Skitch to modify her collage as a way of creating a tradition.

 

Two days ago, the compact 1969 Jay Bee V (38′ x 12′ x 5′) set out on a journey that’ll be followed on this blog.

Hint:  It’s even a bit smaller than, for example,  1930 W. O. Decker (50′ x 15′ x 6′), which has some enclosed living space, compared with Jay Bee V‘s lack thereof.

Arguably, Jay Bee V and W. O. Decker have occupied the same niche in harbor work, although at different eras.

I’ve seen Jay Bee V working at Caddell’s back in 2016 here  and in 2015 here.

That looks like a bundle of new line for towing or tackle to me.

As I said, Jay Bee V is setting out on what may be its greatest ever journey.

She’ll exit the Kills and turn for the North River.

And if you’re wondering where she’s headed . . . she’ll spend some time on the New York State Canals, where I hope to see her next week.

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.

. . . illustrating what will be lost if present course is maintained.   If you don’t know what’s likely to happen imminently, Urger is NOT to be reefed.  But, it’ll be beached at Thruway Lock 13 “living history” exit, with holes “punched” in the hull and that beaching will cost –I’m told–over $3 million.

Why should you care?

First,  listen to this engine, as I recorded it four years ago on a calm day above Amsterdam NY.  Click the thumbnail below left for the sound from inside the engine room and . . . right, from outside.  It’s like the steady panting of a racing horse.  Click here for a list of remaining Atlas-Imperial engines, although I don’t know how out-of-date this info may be.

  

Here’s that same engine as seen from below, starboard looking aft, and

here, the camera is looking aft along the port side.

Here’s the view port side looking down.

For whatever value it has, Urger is

one of about two dozen NY vessels on the National Register of Historic Places, has been on that list since November 29, 2001.    Click here for what that means in terms of significantly changing the historic floating structure.

Urger was built by Johnston Brothers Shipyard in Ferrysburg, Michigan, in 1901, originally as H. J. Dornbos, a fish tug.  My point . . . if she’s been around this long and is in this good shape, that’s prime reason to keep her that way.

Urger faced significant change before, back in the late 1980s, ending Canal maintenance duty in October 1987.  Then, Schuyler Meyer (1918–1997) stepped forward with a proposal to save her by making her the “ambassador vessel” of the NYS Canals that she did become.  During those ambassador years, scores of thousands of folks–especially school kids–saw her, walked on her, learned from her about NYS.  Read the whole article below if you have time, but signifiant info is concentrated in the rightmost column.   Look at the image he’s holding in the photo.

Urger is a flagship of NYS history, having made public appearances all over the confluent waterways of the state from Lockport (I don’t have photos of her in Buffalo) to

the famous culvert east of Medina to

Oswego, shown here at Lock O-8 with tug Syracuse to

the Upper Bay of New York City, and all the great little towns in between.   I lack the photos myself, but I know she’s been to the southernmost point of the Finger Lakes and upper reaches of Lake Champlain from this video clip.

So what can be done . . .  especially since, given the imminence of converting Urger to a “static display,” time is so short?

First, share this post with anyone you know who might care about Urger.  Seek out your loud, articulate, reasonable, and well-known advocates who know [connected] people and can speak out in the meetings, press, and blogs.  It’s summer, so key political and agency leaders might not be reading their mail, forwarding it to folks with less decision-making power.  Congressman Paul Tonko would like to hear from you. State legislators might be contacted in their home districts, where you can even walk into their local offices.   Talk to your local mayors, business leaders, and union officials.  I was born upstate but haven’t lived there since the 1960s.

Educators, especially in Canal corridor towns,  have benefitted from the Urger program over the past quarter century.  They might choose to exercise power through NYSUT rather than as individuals if anyone in to better get the attention of government.

Finally, if the choice were between spending no money to beach Urger vs. spending money to keep it afloat and active, that would lend support to the idea of beaching her.  BUT, significant money (in the seven digits) will be spent to beach her at Lock 13 Thruway exit.

Thanks for your attention.  All the color photos here were taken by Will Van Dorp, except the one below, taken by Chris Kenyon in Port Gibson in 2014.

Personal disclosure:  I worked as deckhand on Urger during the 2014 season, on a leave-of-absence from my other life.  I spent about 100 nights and days aboard her between June 6 and October 30, i.e., about 2/3 of the time between those dates.  Some of the hundreds of references to the boat on this blog can be found here.

I hope you agree with me that NYS gains more by keeping her afloat and active than by beaching her.  Pass it on, if you agree.

 

Here’s a quick post to alert you that several days may go by without word or photo from tugster.  I’m repeating a trip I made last year from Warren RI to Chicago IL via the Erie Canal and other great American and Canadian waterways. If you missed it, you might check out last year’s posts here.

I’m onboard lecturer working a small passenger ship.  Despite my lightweight MMD, I am indeed gainfully employed, paid not to stand watch, throw line, read a chart, wipe spilled oil, bust rust, or maneuver the vessel.  I puff on no cutty pipe and chew or spit no quid.   I swab no decks, make no beds, brush no heads, shut no sheet, serve no drinks but to myself, “sir” no sirs, peel no spuds.  I leave others to juggle flower pots, pluck strings, and tickle ivories–although I play crazy air-concertina.  I could go on.  However, I do racont, if that be the verb exercised by a raconteur.  I indulge no ideology except that of the gallivant.

But in 2017, tall tales might be considered gauche, aka fake news, a phrase that goes back to the 1890s, although I’d suggest that Eve herself was an occasional purveyor of compromised truths, in conjunction with Adam’s dispersal of same.  So the racontage I disperse needs to be both researched and enthralling . . . a tough combo.

The article below truly comes from the April 27, 1921 New York Herald, and if I applied for the “perfect job” advertised there for the SS George Washington, I’d not be hired.  If you are in the need of a belly laugh,  rolling on and then off the deck guffaw, read the article in your best raconteur voice to your supervisor.   Or have a subordinate perform it to you, aloud or over the intercom.

Thanks to a Sandy Hook  pilot who shared it with me the other day.

I’ll catch up this account through the waterways to Chicago whenever adequate wifi enters my environment.

 

Here was the first in this series.

Recognize this ferry for decades since 1988 has been laid up, recently just west of the Bayonne Bridge . . . not the best photo but it’s Pvt. Nicholas Minue?  I can’t remember if it was still there last time I passed . . .

Know the story?

Pvt. Minue lies in Carthage, Tunisia, one of the cemeteries in 15 countries around the world.  Below, a Tunisian man, Abdullah Lagahre tends Minue’s marker; for more on this story and the source of this photo, click here.

Near and far, may their sacrifice be remembered and respected.

Here are some related links . . .  classified stars on a wall, the wall in Fort Huachuca, and what the VA spent on Confederate graves as of 2013.

Here’s a story of another Medal of Honor awardee whose remains lie overseas, this time in Asia.

 

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