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When this tow came off Oneida Lake headed west, 

I wondered how many folks would interpret this incorrectly, that this was a tow and not a push.

Ditto . . . heading into lock E-23.

 

Of course, regular readers of this blog know precisely what is going on. After a long hiatus at the dry dock in Waterford, Urger has been pushed across the state to the dry dock in Lysander to be hauled out and mothballed, maybe and hopefully to be revived when the time is right, like a cicada or a future astronaut traveling light years in suspended animation . . . .

For more people than not in the “canal corridor” of New York State, Urger is without doubt that best known tugboat, the only one that thousands of New Yorkers have set foot on . . . . 

Who is that unmasked fellow with a t-shirt that reads “tug boating is a contact sport”?

I have it on the best authority that exactly five years ago yesterday, he was in the Urger wheelhouse piloting the now nameless vessel through this very same lock, very much mechanically alive.

 

All photos yesterday, WVD, who offers this post as contribution to #URGERjourney.

Edna A has appeared on this blog by that name;  it was also here as HR Hawk

It’s hard to believe, but I’ve not been to the Great North River Tugboat Race since 2014, but in normal times, September 5 would see the next race.  But we’ve dispensed with the “normal times” concept for the time being.

In selecting the batch for this post, I wanted splash, froth, bubbles, and the effervescence the river can react with when tons of steel and thousands of horsepower push through the ever changing water.   The next two photos are from that 2014 race. 

It was overcast during the race, but an hour or so later, when pushing contests were happening and

the wakes flattened out and we sized up USAV MGen. Anthony Wayne, patches of blue appeared.  I should leave you in suspense about how this push went.  Let me put it this way;  they left town not long after the push-off.

2013 was an equally overcast day, and again, not to identify every tugboat in that lineup, it appears that W. O. Decker has either jumped the gun or activated its jet drive and will soon rise up out of the Hudson on her hydrofoil assists. I’d guess the latter.

See what I told you . . . Decker has gone so far ahead that it’s already over the horizon.

Second lap maybe for Decker?

It’s starting to appear that in 2012, as in ’13 and ’14, it was overcast.

It was great to see Buchanan 12, usually burdened with a half dozen stone barges, disencumbered and frothing up the river.  That’s the 1907 Pegasus back there too.

In 2011, I was able to get a photo of the racing craft along with sky spray by one of the fireboats present, likely 343.  What’s remarkable comparing the photo above with the one below is the color of the water;  hurricane Irene had dropped a lot of rain upstate and all the tributaries sent that into the Hudson with tribute in the form of silt.

Quantico Creek and Maurania III did an excellent job of stirring up the water.

But again, it was overcast and hazy over silty water.

However, in 2010, we had blue skies that really accentuated the DonJon boats like Cheyenne and

the harbor colossus, Atlantic Salvor.

In 2009, there were wispy clouds, allowing the “queen of the day” to be Ellen McAllister. But look who else showed up!!!!

Urger.   Urger would EASILY have won the race, but she was doing what she does best . . .  urging all the other boats and crews to be fleeter than she, holding herself back, allowed herself to be that day.

All photos and commentary, WVD. See you at the races in 2022.

 

 

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.

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.

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.

 

 

An omen of the future . . . in 2013, Urger was laid up, sans her problematic prop shaft.  Here she’s nez-a-nez with Day Peckinpaugh.

Gowanus Bay was looking good.

NYS Marine Highway was well represented,

as always.  And following two of the four NYS Marine Highway boats there was Cornell, Frances and Margot‘s senior by the better part of a decade.

If you’ve never attended, trust me when I say the fireworks show is extraordinary!  Here from the bulkhead a dozen or so thousand spectators

and a few on solo craft

are captivated by the show.

I can’t tell you much about Iron Chief,  except that it has nice brass, a working steam engine, and was for sale in 2012.   In that link, you hear it run.  Of course, in the distance that’s ex-Atlantic Hunter, now Little Giant.

For me personally, 2013 was my first time to see the Blount Small Ship Adventures vessels head into a lock.

 

Besides tugboats, you never know what or who you might see.

it’s bowsprite of the blog and the etsy shop on an underwater mission.

Here’s the line up.

All photos, WVD.

Back in 2010, I did four posts about the weekend, which you can see here.  What I did for today’s post was look through the archives and just pick the photos that for a variety of reasons jumped out at me.  A perk is each of the four posts has some video I made.  One of these photos is from 2006.

Again, I’m not listing all the names, but you may know many of these.  In other cases, you can just read the name.  If you plug that name into the search window, you can see what other posts featured that particular vessel.

Below, here the pack that locked through the federal lock together make their way en masse toward the wall in Waterford.

You’ll see a lot of repetition here.

The photo above and most below were taken earlier than the top photo;  here, Chancellor and Decker head southbound for the lock to meet others of the procession beginning in Albany.

 

 

2020 is Decker‘s 90th year.

 

 

 

Nope, it’s not Cheyenne. Alas, Crow became razor blades half a decade back.

Technically, not a tugboat, but Hestia is special.  We may not have a functioning steam powered tug in the US, but we do have steam launches like Hestia, with very logical names.

 

 

You correctly conclude that I was quite smitten by Decker at the roundup back 10 years ago.

 

All photos, WVD.

And Shenandoah was not from 2010. It was 2009.

 

Like lots of things, the Great North River Tugboat Race is, as ws said in a comment yesterday, “alas  . . .  cancelled this year.”  So here’s some consolation, ws. . .  If you need a dose of racing, you can click here and get all the way back to tugster post 2006, or for a sampling from 2006 until 2011, follow along.  In 2006, I followed from W. O. Decker and had this view.  I’ll let you try to identify these;  if the group-source gets stuck, I’ll help out.

In 2007 . . .   of these, only Lucy Reinauer is still around here.

HMS Liberty is still around.

In 2008 . . .  throttling up releases some smoke . . .

 

In 2009, two of these are still running around the sixth boro staying busy.  The third was involved in a scandalous grouding and has been scrapped.

Meagan Ann has unique safety headgear, inspired by an ancient design.

In 2010 . . .  this was a motley armada, ranging from Atlantic Salvor to The Bronx.

Catherine C. Miller and Mary H were hurrying to the starting line here.

That year saw lots of pushing match-ups.

Vulcan III could be matched up with Viking later.

In 2011, THIS could be called the heat . . .  actually, it was a misting from one of the fire boats.

Pushing around happened all over the field for spectators on deck and photographers up high.

As always, getting a line on a bollard . . . just another event in the sixth boro games.

USMMA’s Growler is closing on the bollard as a crewman demonstrates a rodeo-influenced style.

More to come . . . all photos, WVD.  And if the last four photos above suggest a muddy Hudson, remember that 2011 had just seen Hurricane Irene flood the valley creeks feeding into the Hudson.

 

 

Recently I got a request for something on single screw tugs.  Ask . .  and receive, from the archives.

May 1, 2011  . .  the 1901 Urger was on the dry dock wall in Lyons looking all spiffy.  A month later, she’d be miles away and alive.

On March 19, 2010, the 1907 Pegasus had all the work done she was scheduled for, and the floating dry dock is sinking here.  In 10 minutes, Pegasus would be afloat and a yard tug … draw her out.

On a cold day last winter, a shot of the 1912 Grouper, in dry dock, waiting for a savior.   If you’re savvy and have deep reservoirs of skill and money, you can likely have her cheap.

In that same dry dock, the 1926 boxy superstructure DeWitt Clinton.

To digress, here’s how her much-lower clearance looked when first launched in Boothbay.

Back on July 30, 2017, I caught the 1929 Nebraska getting some life-extension work.   Unlike the previous single screw boats, Nebraska has a Kort nozzle surrounding its prop, which clearly is away getting some work done on it also.

On February 10, 2010, the 1931 Patty Nolan was on the hard.  She was put back in, but currently she’s back on the hard, with plans to float her again this summer.

A CanalCorp boat, I believe this is Dana, was in dry dock in Lyons this past winter.  If so, she’s from 1935.

As you’ve noticed, single screw tugs have sweet elliptical sterns.  All painted up and ready to splash, they are things of beauty.  On December 16, 2006, I caught the 1941 Daniel DiNapoli, ex-Spuyten Duyvil, about to re-enter her element.

Also in dry dock but not ready to float, on March 10, 2010, the 1958 McAllister Brothers, ex-Dalzelleagle is getting some TLC.

Is it coincidence that so many of these single screw boats are   . . . aged?  Nope.  Twin- and triple-screw boats can do many more things.  Is it only because the regulations have changed?  Have any single-screw tugs been built in recent years?  Are single-screw boat handling skills disappearing in this age of twin- and triple-screw boats?  No doubt.

All photos by WVD, who enjoyed this gallivant through the archives.

And speaking of archives, Mr Zuckerberg reminded me this morning that nine years ago exactly, the sixth boro was seeing the complicated lading of the tugs and barges being taken by heavylift ship to West Africa.  There were so many challenges that I called the posts “groundhog day” like the movie about a guy having to use many many “re-do’s” before he could get it right.

 

Get used to traveling through places you’ve never heard of, like Crescent, Scotia, Glenville, and Cranesville;  this is one of the many charms of the Canal.  Clinton’s Ditch created cities, not true for the Barge Canal, which took advantage of lakes and rivers.

Be sure to watch for these sunken barges in the water just after clearing the upper approach wall leaving lock E-9.

The water level is drawn down in winter . . . by use of the moveable dams.  The photo below, taken from the north side of the Canal, shows those same sunken barges.  They date from WW1!  Here‘s the background.

Here’s the main rail bridge west of E-9.  Again, I point this out because of all the train traffic on the north side of the Canal until lock E-19.

As we travel west, you’ll notice the excellent condition of the locks and buildings maintained by Canal Corporation;  however, hurricane Irene in 2011 caused serious flooding and damage to the system.  For photos, see tug44’s coverage.  At one time and possibly still today, lock masters compete for the prizes awarded to the best-kept lock, as scored on a number of mechanical, electrical, and aesthetic areas by the canal director and his team during their annual inspection tour of the system to determine where need is greatest for winter maintenance.

In summer, the lower Mohawk can be quite foggy summer mornings.

These photos were taken after we started moving, having stopped when channel markers couldn’t be seen:  without radar, lowered to fit under the low bridges, we can’t see the channel markers in the thick fog.

The Mohawk Valley, like the Hudson, has long provided building materials. South of lock E-10, Cranesville Block operates one of their quarries.

They’ve also taken over the Art Deco building designed by McKim, Mead, and White and built in the early 1920s for Adirondack Power and Light.  Adirondack was previously known as Mohawk Edison Company, before that Schenectady Illuminating Company, and before that Westinghouse Illuminating Company.  That alone should suggest the vitality of Mohawk Valley industrial history.

Amsterdam was once a city dominated by carpet and leather goods manufacture.  Mohawk Carpets, later called Mohasco, operated here from 1920 until 1987, when Mohawk moved away. Gloves manufactured here and farther north in Gloversville, are now mostly made in Asia.  In 1930 Amsterdam had a population of nearly 35,000;  today it has 17,000 and trending downward.  Other cities along the Canal have the same demographic pattern.

The road bridge just beyond these vacant buildings carries Route 30, which heads into the Adirondack State Park. In less than 15miles, you’re inside the park at Mayfield.  The waters of the Mohawk flow from tributaries both in the Adirondacks and from the south.

Just north of lock E-11 and moveable dam, visible to the left,  is this house, Guy Park Manor, an artifact from 1764, a time all inhabitants of the Mohawk Valley, European and Haudenosaunee alike,  lined up as either loyal to King George III or in rebellion against him.  The house was built by Sir William Johnson, hero from the French and Indian War and British Superintendent of Indian Affairs  for the northern colonies.  After the war of independence, this house and property of all loyalists was confiscated.  Loyalist, both settler and native, fled mostly to Canada except to return during the revolution as insurgents.  Want a Johnson biography?

Here’s the house in 1907, just north of lock E-11 under construction. As mentioned earlier, Hurricane Irene devastated the valley in 2011, seriously damaging the moveable dam, the lock, and the house.  The Valley is flood-prone, and the Canal was designed to prevent floods as well as to enable navigation.

About 2 miles west of lock E-11 and invisible from a boat is Old Fort Johnson, William Johnson’s base of operations from 1749 until 1763.

Then he moved farther north to found Johnstown, 10 miles to the northwest and where he lived until his death in 1774. The town still reveres him with this mural, below, featuring other town notables as well.

William Johnson is connected to First Peoples history of the area.  Molly Brant was his wife, and her brother, Joseph Brant, aka Thayendanegea, was a key Mohawk leader, who both became refugees in Brantford, ON after the American Revolution.

Johnson also convinced Pontiac to travel to Fort Ontario in Oswego to sign a treaty to end his rebellion in 1766.

 

A few miles west of lock E-11 and on the south side of the river one can locate remnants of the previous canal, Yankee Hill lock and Putnam’s lock grocery.  These are not visible from the boat.

 

Note these two photos of lock E-12, Tribes Hill, in summer with the gates pooling the water for navigation and in

in winter, gates open and the water level is much reduced to reduce ice damage.  The moveable dams at E-12 and E-9 are the only two that have automobile bridges installed.

Schoharie Creek, the Mohawk’s largest tributary, flows into the river just west of lock E-12.  If you look carefully, you can see remnants of another aqueduct. Some of the arches of the aqueduct were demolished when the Barge Canal  was built.

Not far beyond the ridge is the New York Thruway, where a bridge over Schoharie Creek collapsed in 1987.

The Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site Visitor Center in the hamlet of Fort Hunter has a great little museum.

Up to this point in our tour, the settlers were first Dutch and then British.  Beyond this point, ethnic another strand gets woven in:  impoverished religious refugees from the Rhine Valley, the Palatines.  Fort Hunter is named for Robert Hunter,  the colonial administrator here at the time of the Palatine settlement.  In a sense, they were pawns, expected to act as a buffer between the English colonists and the French and their allied natives to the north and west. Given the opportunity afforded by fertile land, the new group flourished, and grew independent of colonial control.  In the link in the previous sentence, Johan Conrad Weiser’s 1715-1721 dispute with governor Hunter illustrates this.

 

A few miles beyond Fort Hunter and on the far side of the NYS Thruway is this hillside in Auriesville NY.  You can see it clearly from the boat, and might wonder if you’ve slipped into a parallel universe.   To the right is the National Shrine to the North American Martyrs, and to the left is a complex of Buddhist temples.    Below the shrine is also a marker to Kateri Tekakwitha, a significant resident born a few miles to the west in what was known as Ossernenon.

From the river you can see bucolic farms.

and sometimes people fishing.  In recent years, Amish have been reviving agriculture in the region.

Not much is visible from the river of the village of Fonda, where a county fair has taken place since 1841.  And yes, ancestors of Henry Fonda settled the place.  Drums Along the Mohawk portrays life around the time of the American Revolution.  In the past 100 years, the population of Fonda has dropped from 2200 to 760.

On the north side of the river you may spot this sign marking Kanatsiohareke, a recent Mohawk re-settlement, or as they write on their site, “a Carlisle Indian Boarding School in Reverse”, teaching Mohawk language and culture.

And ahead in the distance is the moveable dam and lock E-13.  Note the high ridges on either side of the waterway.

Along the south side of the lock here is the Mohawk Valley welcome center, a rest stop along the westbound lanes of the Thruway that opened in 2017.

Waterford is now more than 50 winding Mohawk river miles behind us.

Photos, text, and any unintended errors  . . . Will Van Dorp.

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