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I’m still unpacking my head and camera from the gallivant to Algonquin Provincial Park, where these “water taxis” work the tourist trade, hauling canoes on racks to remote reaches of Lake Opeongo.  Because Canada is a bilingual country, next to “water taxi” on the sign were the words “bateaux taxis,” which Elizabeth-in spite of the fact that she knows French–decided said “battle taxis,”  an exciting

permutation.  And they raced around the lake as if they were doing battles, lances up top at the ready, jousting against phantoms.

At rest, the Giesler boats–built in Powassan between Algonquin and Lake Nipissing–are cedar–stunning-strip!  I want one!

Less beautiful, this aluminum  “battle taxi” jousts with three weapons.  The sound of these vessels racing up or down the lake was not unlike that of a floatplane, and it was easy to imagine this a floatplane traveling upside down, floats up.   We paddled our own ways around the south end of the lake, but given that the park is 10 times the area of  the six boros of New York, a little assistance helps.  If we’d taken a not-cheap lift on a “battle taxi,” we could have camped nearer to moose and bear.  Lake Opeongo is 1/3 the size of Seneca Lake and 1/6 the size of Moosehead Lake, this latter a probable future gallivant destination.

At the logging museum there I learned of “pointeaux,” very sturdy and shallow draft variation on the dory, designed by the Cockburns to

break up logjams, almost like a waterborne “log fid” that

resists crushing in log-choked rivers as its crews  “unjam.”

Thanks to Jed . . . identification of the freight vessel next to Maple Grove is a 1646 LCU, one type of vessel that HaRVeST should look into for transporting the Hudson Valley’s bounty to the five boros of consumption aka “foodway corridor.”   I wonder who came up with that garble, and further … how the francophone Canadians would transmogrify that.  Buy an LCU here.

Yes, I was transporting dry firewood from the lakeshore here, and it’s only coincidental that it appears that my canoe has a bowsprit, and I’m sticking by that story.  To digress, H. D. Thoreau said, “A lake is the landscape’s most beautiful and expressive feature.  It is earth’s eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature.”  I’m sticking with that, too.

Less far up north–yes, this is Grouper, often written about here and still stuck just west of the Erie Canal locks in Newark, New York.  Anyone know what happened with the plans to get her to Detroit this summer?  This foto was taken in late July 2010.

Mystery boat #1 . . . seen at a marina in Cape Vincent, NY.

Mystery boat #2 . . . seen at a marina in Clayton.  This vessel has a metal hull.

The lines would say 40’s.  I don’t have any info about either of these boats.

All fotos taken by Will Van Dorp.

For starters, yes I do feel I’ve dropped the ball and missed taking and publishing fotos of such sixth boro events as the final move of the Willis Avenue Bridge and City of Water Day.  If anyone has fotos to share, I’d love to see them.

The North Country here means the St. Lawrence and beyond.  The white-helmeted gent does seem to be leading and gentle giant on a leash, not even having to

tug as BBC Rio Grande (ex-Beluga Gravitation, 2008) traverses the Iroquois Lock.  All the Wisconsin-built Staten Island ferries had to make their way through this lock.  Anyone have a foto of a big orange ferry passing here?  I previously wrote about these locks here and here.

It hardly seems possible their beam would squeeze through.

William Darrell ferries loads of improbable size across the international border between Cape Vincent and Wolfe Island, Ontario.  86 windmills now churn in the breezes near this northeast tip of Lake Ontario, not without controversy.

The “H” on the stack stands for Horne, the family that has operated this ferry since 1861.  This particular vessel entered service in 1953.

Bowditch (ex-Hot Dog, 1954) works out of Clayton, NY; as do

Maple Grove (left) and the unidentified “landing craft/freight ship” on the right.

More upcountry workboats tomorrow.  All fotos here by Will Van Dorp.

For now, some announcements:

Kudos to the ArtemisOceanRowing (scroll way down) crew who left New York in mid-June;  they broke a 114-year-old  record when they arrived at Isles of Scilly this weekend.

And finally, I’ve started a new blog called My Babylonian Captivity.  Exactly 20 years ago today, Iraqi forces invaded Kuwait, the US entered the current era, and I became trapped and remained so for over four months.  It’s a different kind of blog–all text– but I plan to chunk it out day by day or week by week until December.  Please send the link along to folks who you think will enjoy it.  It’s all nonfiction, the experience as filtered by me.

April ends with transitions, endings and beginnings, decisive moments.  May 1 is cross-quarter day aka Beltane, and a time for juleps, mead, or mint tea–or rainchecks for same.

And into the midst of all that excitement into my email popped the foto below, thanks to Kaya, who had surfed the Queen‘s wake last fall.   Kaya:  you made my day by sending a foto of the gray and green ships below passing along :  I know that gray one (Georgia S)  AND that green one, but I know the green one more.  To digress, from this angle, doesn’t the Hudson look like a minor water course?


Marlene‘d steamed away from me before,  for other missions and destinations,


after I’d witnessed her sidle up to handlers like a tame animal . . . not tame at all really but one with adequate self-assurance and strength to tolerate for a spell the appearance of being domesticated, the illusion of being led on a tether, giving herself if only for a short time in spite of her immense power relative to the handler.


Marlene Green she calls herself, and she gets around and through some straits.


And if anyone upriver sees Marlene headed back south, let me know ETA the sixth boro.  I’d like to get some good fotos of Marlene powering herself back out to sea.  Here be her sisters.

Of course there’s always the not-so-minor inconvenience of having to report for work the hours I–like most folks–have to.  And of course I’m grateful for my work, but all the passages, transitions, transits–just plain sixth boro traffic– I miss!!  Like BBC Konan a few weeks back.  Yes, the house is way up forward.  I’m endebted to Dan B for catching the shot below of  BBC Konan and sending it along.   See info on the entire BBC fleet here.    It turns out that Marlene gets chartered by BBC sometimes.


Ah, well . . . I know that if I lived along here, I’d never get work done, never have the chance to be decisive because I’d always be scanning for surprises moving in and out of the sixth boro.

Thanks again Kaya and Dan B.  Fotos 2, 3, and 4 by Will Van Dorp.

Some may underestimate the climate diversity of New York, the state.  After shutting down for the winter, the Saint Lawrence Seaway along the north  just re-opened last week.  Check out this link from the Alexandria Bay newspaper.  The foto below from 2008  shows ice on Oswego harbor, which leads into Lake Ontario and downbound to the Saint Lawrence River.   As a kid, I enjoyed hearing stories told about folks driving across the Saint Lawrence between the US and Canada.  See allusion in this linkNine Mile Point steams in background.


Photos above and below, after ice-out,  come compliments of Susanne DeLong.

aato2Below is a “recycled” image from a year and a half ago.   I wrote about LT-5 here.


It was my Canadian cousins (literally) who regaled me with stories of driving their cars between the two countries.  Check out a newspaper story here.

Photos, WVD.

I wanted to spotlight a blogpost that raises the interesting question that I’ve used in my title.  And I’ll limit my answer to small boats:  it’s about aesthetics.

The sleek launch Suwanee below (31′ loa x 4′ beam!!) (Notice Elizabeth standing waaay back by the stern.)  celebrates a century since launch this year.  Built in Clayton, NY, where it now resides at the Antique Boat Museum, Suwanee carries a four-cylinder Volvo engine.  Could this design possess the same beauty if it were built of anything but wood?  Frogma might think it a large kayak sporting a Volvo.


More wood:  Chasseur, tender on Pride of Baltimore II, shows its intrinsic beauty, especially here juxtaposed with the versatile inflatable piled inside.


Next exhibit:  Grayling lives a new life (built in 1915 in Boothbay 64′ loa x 12′ beam) after a career as a Downeast seiner and sardine carrier.  I may have seen her pre-conversion 20+ years ago in Massachusetts.

aaawdgr1Below, also in the museum up in Clayton is an Algonquin birch bark canoe built along the St. Lawrence in the 1890s.  If I could spend a few months learning to build one of these, ah, …contentment.  In 1975 John McPhee wrote a good book on a traditional canoe builder in New Hampshire/Maine.


I’ve owned a wooden boat and enjoyed every minute working on the wood, but I admit  eventually, my coins were all spent and my friends thought me a fraud for never leaving the dock, and someone paid me to take possession.

All fotos here by Will Van Dorp.  If you see a stunning wooden boat, send me a foto.  From me, more wood later.

Give me automated toll collection anyday. Around NYC and the mid-Atlantic states it’s called E-ZPass and using it bypasses the long lines of cars paying tolls for roads, bridges, tunnels, etc. In small towns fire fighters collect “optional” tolls by standing on the main drag with a boot. So below . . .

is an approach used on the Seaway. No, that’s not a long-handled boat brush.

It’s more like . . . pay up or the exit gate doesn’t open. It works.

I looked really carefully and when a laker came through, no manual toll collection was even attempted. In fact,

when Canadian Provider sailed through, they had both the entrance and exit gates open simultaneously.

Maybe it was the daunting flag staff on the bow . . . looked like a jousting lance. Definitely it had something to do with the fact that water level above and below the Iroquois Lock differs only about six inches. Inches, that was.

Photos, WVD.

Unlike most ships in the sixth boro, smaller ships–both lakers and salties on the Great Lakes–sport stern anchors.

Check out the anchor on Canadian Provider, and one

in the same location on English River. Where do you imagine the other complicated stern gear leads to?

Up the silo, as she offloads in Oswego.

So do stern anchors pose additional challenges, given proximity to the prop? Here’s a final stern anchor shot of a “light” salty taken and posted here in mid-July. Last week Tuesday early evening I spotted Marlene Green traveling upbound through the 1000 Islands with a new load of wind towers and turbines for–Duluth? Can anyone confirm that these towers ship from Spain?

I intended to call this post “tailhooks” until I remembered some convention almost two decades ago that leads me to make the association with “scandal” if I hear “tailhook,” even though it denotes just a device designed to assist in carrier landings.

See this link for interesting laker and salty fotos.

Photos, WVD.

The sweet lines and rich color of Zipper so eclipse the design and material of the fiberglass vessel off its starboard bow that . . .

I’m speechless by her 41′ shine

and stay that way.

Zipper lives at the Antique Boat Museum in Clayton, NY. Here’s more info on this 1930s design built in 1970s.

Kennebeccaptain, on transit transporting 5000 cars from Japan to Europe, recently wrote that his fuel bill at end of voyage will be approx $700,000. Pardon Me, the 48-foot runabout Hutchinson Brothers built in 1948  (above) has a 1500-hp supercharged engine that consumes 100 gallons per hour!  Again, I’m speechless.  Assuming fuel availability to make it feasible and assuming speed of 30 mph and gasoline at $4/gallon, fuel bill for Pardon Me would be . . . $160,000  for a 12,000 mile Japan-Europe jaunt . . . for –say–six people!!

 Stern view of Pardon Me (thanks to Elizabeth) shows two cockpits separated by the Packard marine engine.  When these screamers go out to play, it’s in the main channel of the Seaway among the 1000 Islands.  For a history of recreation there, check this link.

On my blogroll, I’ve added two new links”  boatnerd and lifeatsea.  Check’em out.

All fotos, unless otherwise attributed, by Will Van Dorp.

When I wrote about the St Lawrence in June, I missed this.  Here’s the link.  The branding effort dates from about four years ago although it’s new to me.  I’m wondering why I saw signs “advertising” this organization on the Canadian side but not on the US side.  The concept is clear: one ship equals negative 870 trucks, much less noise,  and a tenth their fuel and emissions.  Here’s a commentary site.

Upbound Maritime Trader,

(Check out boatnerd’s exhaustive info here on specs and cargoes.) and

downbound Canadian Provider, (and again check out boatnerd’s page on this vessel)

upbound Canadian Navigator showing

pivot point of the self-unloader and (boatnerd’s page)

plumb bow with the ongoing sprinkler on the cargo hatches.

Can anyone explain the reason to keep some cargo hatches wet?

Photos, WVD.


If you go up to the Winooski area, check out the ferries. They’re not free like the ones down in the sixth boro, but

the view is . . . worth a million somethings, views of the banks as well as the lake bed.

The northern ferry runs 365/24. I crossed along with six other cars around 3 am, and if someone had arrived seconds after the chain shut, they’d have less than half an hour to wait the next. That’s 3 am on a Saturday morning.

Evans-Wadhams-Wolcott, a mouthful of founders’ names for a vessel, measures 196′ x 43′. Notice the log truck. EWW, built in Louisiana, has twin Cats, but the crew could tell me neither the horsepower nor prop diameter. See more historical shots here.

In the surrounding, if not on the lake, you see the unexpected wildlife.

The “sixth great lake” beckons.

Photos, WVD.

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Graves of Arthur Kill

Click on image below to order your copy of Graves of Arthur Kill, by Gary Kane and Will Van Dorp. 3Fish Productions.

Seth Tane American Painting

Read my Iraq Hostage memoir online.

My Babylonian Captivity

Reflections of an American hostage in Iraq, 20 years later.


September 2021