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Walter Scott‘s 1810 publication of The Lady of the Lake, an epic poem which sold 25,000 copies in eight months, triggered Scottish tourism, by rail and boat.
Tourism demand boomed:   the early six or eight oared galleys were replaced by the small 70′ steamboat Rob Roy (1845), then a 90′ steamyacht Rob Roy and lastly the 110′ steamship, Sir Walter Scott, launched in 1899 and still in daily service in 2018! All three steamers were built by Denny Bros. in Dumbarton.
Below, SS Sir Walter Scott is berthed at Trossachs Pier on Loch Katrine about 1906. Beyond her bow can be seen the retired Rob Roy.  Click on the photo for the source . . . and scroll.
Loch Katrine being land-locked, SS Sir Walter Scott was twice built:   first assembled at the Dumbarton Shipyard, then dismantled and sent north by barge and train to be re-assembled lochside. As you can see in the photo above, in 1906 she had an almost flat deck with no wheelhouse or bridge; the skipper had to peer through the crowd of passengers on the foredeck. She carried up to 515 closely packed visitors and 5 crew.
A 2017 view below shows her at the same pier, but the Rob Roy has gone and the Loch level had been raised by some 7ft. to provide more fresh water for Glasgow, about two million gallons (UK) per day. Her coal fired boilers were replaced with bio-fuel versions to avoid any risk of pollution, but the engine is still the original. She has a proper bridge making helming and berthing much easier. She cannot be turned  within the pier arm of the loch,  so a steel cable is taken to the aft quarter cleat, the engine reversed, so drawing her stern first into the pier.
In the The Lady of the Lake, Sir Walter refers to ” a far projecting precipice”. This is the view from there, clearly showing the bridge and the large saloon which was added reluctantly in 2009 for passenger comfort.
Occasionally in Scotland we suffer mist and gentle rain (smurring) which adds to the mystery of not knowing where you are going.
The foredeck is silent but for the gentle sound of the bow wave. In the distance are mountains (UK size) known as the Arrochar Alps. Below the mountains the white patches are Stronachlachar and the slipway where she was built and where we haul her out for a month each Winter. To the left are Ben Lomond at 3196′ and, over the hills and below, Loch Lomond.
Odds and ends:  Katrine is the anglicised version of the Gaelic Cateran, meaning an outlaw or robber. Both applied to Rob Roy MacGregor who lived at the head of the Loch.   Roderick Dhu, the MacAlpine chief in Scott’s poem, was the outlaw the Highlanders’ saluted with the boating song we in the USA now know as “Hail to the Chief”, set to music by James Sanderson.  Burning a cross was used in Scott’s epic poem to incite the Alpine Clan to violence  against King James.
At the same time as Sir Walter Scott,  Denny Dumbarton was also building the steam yacht 285′ Lysistrata (see #4) for the eccentric robber baron, “king of the dudes” J. Gordon Bennett. The yacht carried an owl as figurehead, the symbol of the New York Herald.
For a partial list of Denny Brothers vessels, click here.  For a much more extensive timeline, click here.

Many thanks for a very patient Robin Denny for assistance in this post.  Robins adds some notes here:

“Archibald Denny was chief designer at the Yard in 1899,  so would have overseen the SWS but he would have been my great-great uncle while my great-grandfather, John, was more on the commercial side but also an engineer. John died young at 27 years in 1869, the year his twin sons were born, one James being my grandfather. He became a mining engineer, eventually in charge of the Mexican silver (?) mines but died there of scarlet fever.
Going further back with two or three greats was Alexander who in 1855 built the Rob Roy II for the Loch after he had left Denny Brothers. That steamer carried Queen Victoria up the Loch to open the 26-mile tunnel supplying fresh water to Glasgow. Our family tree goes back to 1365 in Dumbarton. On the Leslie side it’s about 1040 and involved with MacBeth.”
For all the previous “relief posts,” click here.

Not far from E. M. Cotter, the SS Columbia crew prepares for the next stage in the journey.  2015 and before had the project here, (with a clip of the actual arrival in Buffalo here) and last year I saw her from the Buffalo River here.

Last month, I had the good fortune of a tour through all the decks,

from starboard just inside the ramp looking forward,

from near the stern looking forward,

a gaze up the starboard passageway from the emergency steering,

a glance back,

a peek up the port passageway,

a coup d’oeil  back at the companionway into the engine room, where

the engine rods wait to dance again and

push the indicators as the

steam pressures.

A different companionway leads up to the main deck and then

another brings us to the ball room,

with a closer-up of the bar.

Ultimately all the way up where the once and future pilot will

guide her on delightful voyages as

her stack funnels exhausted power heavenward.

If you do FB, here’s their page.  If not, here’s the .org page.  Here’s some info on the crew.

Many thanks to the crew for the tour.

Somewhat related:  If you don’t see the clip of fireboat E. M. Cotter breaking ice on the Buffalo River yesterday in the comments, here’s a great clip, and it can lead you to many others.

Also, if you’re in Buffalo, be sure to check out the Buffalo Harbor Museum. 


This is the third of three digressions before getting on with the account of my trip west.

The saga of SS Binghamton started in 1904,

and I last saw it from land on January 6, 2017, when demolition was said to have started.  Demolition had started but defined as “asbestos abatement” by the alien looking figures clustered near the tender and the stack.

As a relative newcomer in the sixth boro, I first set foot on the ferry in 2011, when some thought a chance still existed to save her or parts of her.  I’ve also been holding off doing this post in hopes that more photos of the demolition process would surface.  I hope I can still do another post if such photos emerge.  I would have been there, but I was on my trip west.

The next two photos I took on July 16 from the water, the last it turns out.


Paul Strubeck took the photo below as he passed by about 10 days later when the stack had just been removed . . . as in a decapitation.

Only a few days later, Glenn Raymo took the next two shots from the Walkway over the Hudson, rubble going up the river.


Here’s a TV commercial once intended to attract patrons to the now gone restaurant.

Thanks to Paul and Glenn, more of whose work is available here.



Of course, there are little known gunkholes in the backwaters of the sixth boro where fossils–living and inert–float.  This one is off an inlet behind one island and concealed by another, a place easily missed, and if seen, it gives the impression of being off limits by land and too shallow by water, near the deadly bayou of Bloomfield.  But with the right conveyance and attitude, it’s feasible if you’re willing to probe.  And the fossils have names like . . .


Caitlin Rose.  I don’t know much, but built in Savannah GA in 1956?  Relentless.  She’s before my time here, but I suppose she’s the one built in Port Arthur TX in 1950.


I can’t make out all of the words here.




Ticonderoga is obviously playing possum. Only a month ago she doe-see-doed into the Kills with the ex-Pleon, the blue tug behind her,


a Jakobson from 1953.


Dauntless .. . built in Jakobson & Peterson of Brooklyn in 1936, was once Martha Moran.


From right to left here, Mike Azzolino was built for the USCG at Ira S. Bushey & Sons and commissioned as WYTM-72 Yankton in 1944.  Moving to the left, it’s Charles Oxman . . .


was built by Pusey & Jones in 1940 and originally called H. S. Falk., and looked like this below, which explains the unusual wheelhouse today.  She seems to have come out of that same search for new direction as David, from a post here a year ago.


The photo above I took from this tribute page. 


The small tug off Oxman‘s starboard, i don’t know.





The low slung tug that dominates the photo here is Erica, and beyond here is a Crow.


Someone help me out here?


And as far into this gunkhole as I dared to venture . . .  this one is nameless.


Oh the stories that could be told here!  I hope someone can and will.  Balladeers like Gordon Lightfoot could memorialize these wrecks in a song like “Ghosts of Cape Horn,” which inspired a tugster post here years ago.  And looking at the last photo in that old post, I see Wavertree, which leads me to this art- and detail-rich site I don’t recall having seen before.

All photos by Will Van Dorp.


And finally, a few more from Rich Taylor.  Stadt Zurich was built in 1909

IMG_3009 061616 Stadt Zurich

and Stadt Rapperswil built 1914 in short term layup when he was there on June 16, 2016.   I believe these are the last two steamers on Lake Zurich.



IMG_3000 061616


Many thanks to Rich Taylor, who has planted the idea of visiting these lakes steamers some sunny day.

Let’s return to Lake Lucerne, with this photo.  Rich Taylor took it in late June 2016.  PS Uri was built in 1901.   Uri is a canton in Switzerland.

IMG_4893 062716 URI

And PS Unterwalden, 1902.  Unterwalden is the name of a former canton.  I profess as much ignorance of Swiss geography, as of their history, but I’m learning.

IMG_5048 Unterwalden 1902

If you travel to the SW from Lucerne, you get to Interlaken, where Rich took the following photos of PS Lötschberg, built 1914.


Looking at these photos, and thinking of other vessels from this era–in both good and deteriorated condition–it’s clear that part of the secret is maintenance.




The next three photos of Blümlisalp–1906–were taken at Thun on Lake Thun, which I also had to look up.



IMG_3724 062116 Blumlisalp 1906


IMG_3725 062116 Blumlisalp


Again, all these photos of Swiss steamers come thanks to Rich Taylor.  Earlier this year and last, Rich send along these photos.

I’ve never been to the Swiss Lakes, but I’m grateful to Rich Taylor, who spent some time there this summer, for these photos of paddle steamers.  PS Gallia dates from 1913 and

IMG_4672 Gallia 1913 adj

PS Schiller, below, from 1906.  Rich writes, “We sailed aboard at every opportunity, on occasion having a prepared meal from the on board galley. They are a integral part of the Swiss transit system and as such covered by the Swiss Travel Pass making connections with other boats, trains, hotels, lakeside villages; all very pleasant.”

Note the puff of steam?  Rich writes, “When one steamboat passes another,  advance announcement is made by the captain; then there is a whistle salute from each.”  I wonder if part of that advance announcement is to cover your ears if you are close to the whistle.

IMG_4690 Schiller 1906 adj

PS William Tell built 1908, a near sister to Schiller, has been moored as a floating restaurant since 1970.”  Click here for some interior photos, which give me an appetite to travel there some summer.

IMG_4333 062516 DS William Tell Luzerne

Rich took these two photos of PS Stadt Luzern,  built 1928,  near Vitznau.  I had to look up that location.

IMG_4414 062516 Stadt Luzerne 1928



Click here and here for more info on Lake Lucerne.

Two things come to mind as I look at these.  First, of course there were bowsprite’s  too-short-liaison with steamships here, and then there were a few surviving US  steam yachts I saw at Mystic Seaport here.

Many thanks to Rich for these photos.

I took this photo back in 2008, and it seemed I never got back to it.  At the time, I didn’t realize it was built in 1904 and had once done the Buffalo–Duluth passenger run with first-class staterooms.  Buffalo–Duluth passenger ferry  SS Juniata . . . doesn’t even seem reasonable a century later.


Between 1937 and 1941, she was thoroughly upgraded and  “returned to work  as the Milwaukee Clipper and carried passengers and their cars between Muskegon and Milwaukee until 1970 when the interstate highways and air travel rendered her obsolete.”    I’m told volunteers are working to preserve her.  I’d love to hear a progress report.


In contrast, the rest of the photos I took on the Arthur Kill in 2010, and what you see here is no longer there.  I’m going out on a limb here, and guessing it’s the Astoria aka William T. Collins, built in 1925 and out of documentation in 1966.


I recall reading that it was removed –as an eyesore–since then, but can’t find any newspaper record of such.  Anyone help out?   My co-explorer here is none other than frogma . . . .


Click here for a post I did on a re-purposed 1929 NYC ferry still operational as a double-ended construction vessel,  click here for a post I did on a NYC-NJ ferry that operated as such between 1905 and 1970 before being repurposed as a restaurant until neglect and a certain Irene came along, and here for a post on what might be the oldest in service ferry in the US.

Below is P/S Majesteit, a 1926 steam ferry still operating in Rotterdam as a floating restaurant steam side paddle wheeler;


here’s their site with photos of the steam machinery.

All photos by Will Van Dorp.

I did two posts on Badgerhere and here–back in 2012.  But until these photos this week, which I’m using with permission from FB’s SS Badger: Lake Michigan Car Ferry, I’d never seen her underwater ship lines.


Above, that’s a ice-reinforced hull.  Read about her dry dock visit here.


As I write, she’s in dry dock for a few more days at Bay Shipbuilding in Sturgeon Bay, WI.




Here are some photos I took back in 2012 as she was departing Ludington MI for Manitowoc WI.


Yes, she burns coal to this day, (one of) the last vessel (s) fueled by coal in the US.  For a good summary of her old and current technology, click here.  To see what goes on in her engine room, click here.


When she entered service in the 1950s, she was designed primarily to transport railcars across the Lake.  Click here to read a story on the vessel published in Professional Mariner about two years ago.


The next two photos are NOT of Badger but rather her twin, Spartan.  By the way, the badger is the mascot of University of Wisconsin and the spartan . . . of Michigan State University.   There was a double christening in September 1952,  but since 1979, Spartan has been laid up at the dock in Ludington.




I hope to ride the Badger, 60 water miles of an almost 600-mile US Route 10,  again this coming summer.

Many thanks to SS Badger for use of the first four photos, taken this past month;  all others by Will Van Dorp.

And to close this with a digression, here’s a one-of-a-kind I saw displayed at the dock in Manitowoc when I was there.



If you ever visit anywhere near Savannah, an absolute must-see is the Ships of the Sea Museum in the former William Scarbrough House, later the West Broad Street School. Given that the house and collection are stunning and the staff extraordinarily welcoming, it didn’t surprise me how crowded the museum was.

Excuse the quality of my photos taken sans tripod, but let’s start with this model of a vessel that has a connection with New York City.  Answer follows, but clues for now are that the vessel was built as the Denton in 1864 and you might know the whitish horizontal object to the left of the display case .  . .  in front of the bow of the model.


The SSM models are quite large, and many of them are the handiwork of William E. Hitchcock.


SS Savannah, e.g., is a great place to begin your tour and appreciate Hitchcock’s handiwork.  This vessel–the first steamship to cross the Atlantic--was built on the land’s edge the sixth boro.





Notice the port side of Hitchcock’s model shows the paddlewheel, but


the starboard side features a cutaway to the boiers and the paddlewheel collapsed as it would be while the vessel sailed, which was most of the time.


Another of Hitchcock’s models shows a 220′ schooner as she appeared under construction.



Notice that Forest City‘s demise–as was SS Savannah’s–happened on Fire Island.


The SSM collection also includes a Hitchcock model of USS Passaic, another product of the sixth boro–Greenpoint–although many sources, including this one from wikipedia, state its shipyard as being Greenport, 120+ miles away.  Greenpoint’s Continental Iron Works also built Monitor, launched the same year as Passaic.

Back to the model at the top.  The vessel Denton had been renamed SS Dessoug when it delivered Cleopatra’s Needle to NYC.


This and much more awaits you at Ships of the Sea Museum.  Thanks to Jed for suggesting–half a decade ago–that I go there.

These photos–warts and all-by Will Van Dorp.


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