You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Urger’ category.

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. 

Here’s a calendar fundraiser you might consider.

It’s a fundraiser to benefit efforts to save Urger as a boat afloat:  “Update on our Urger campaign – we are talking to the New York Power Authority and waiting on a response from them on a few things. Everything is in a holding pattern right now for the winter, while the Urger is in Waterford. NYPA is commissioning an update to the 2014 Urger condition report. We asked for but have not seen (nor do I anticipate seeing) the scope of services for that report. I know they have taken metal samples, which is to be expected.

We’re working with Assemblyman John McDonald, who will introduce legislation to make the Urger the NYS Tug once session begins. We’re waiting for the final 2019 committee lists to come out before approaching someone in the Senate.

We’ve already spent several thousand dollars on the Urger campaign. Any funds raised (THANK YOU!) would go towards making us whole for those costs, as well as future expenses. It’s somewhat of a waiting game right now, but we may want to push NYPA to allow for a second opinion on the condition report, which would be pretty expensive and require its own fundraising effort. ”

Click here to see the interior pages and make your order.

Thanks to Jeff and the Preservation League.

 

And let’s start with the more . . . more photos and info on previous posts.    CCGS Samuel Risley appeared here.  She’s currently approaching the Soo.  What I didn’t know when I posted a photo of her on Lake Ontario is that she was returning from her first trip to Greenland (!!), where she was providing icebreaking support for a supply mission to Qaanaaq aka Thule.

Madison R–and I’ll do a whole post about her soon–now calls Detroit her base, I’m told.

Summer fog veils a Canadian cat and an Erie Canal buoy boat above E11.

How many folks pass by Day Peckinpaugh each summer and have no clue what she is (ILI 101… launched in May 1921!!), how long her work history  (1921–1995) has been, how wide a range of waters  (Duluth to Havana, I’m told) she covered, where her sister  (ILI 105) languishes . . . . .

She gets attention.

Here’s the blue-and-gold yard above E3!!

Yup that’s Urger among them.  And yes, the pause button on scuttling has been activated.

In the legends of Ford, a sign once marked this power plant adjacent to the Federal Lock in Troy as a Ford facility.   Could this have become the location of Ford’s imagined electric car plant?

And this brings us to Troy, these walls where construction workers have staged their equipment.

Scaffold, ladders, floats, and Jackcyn

 

 

and Lisa Ann.

All photos by Will Van Dorp, who’s been working his way back to the sixth boro from the heartland.

If you’re local and would like to learn more about the New York State Canals, consider joining the Canal Society and coming to their fall conference . . .  on Staten Island.  I’ll be involved in two events . . .

 

DeWitt Clinton was built in the 1920s, delivered before the crash. She came out of a shipyard in East Boothbay, I’m told, but I can find no record of this.   Here she was in Lockport in early October 2014.

Here is a view from the wheelhouse, and

another from a slightly different vantage point. That’s tug Urger (1901) on the wall up ahead.

Fast forward to this year, here’s one of the latest additions to the Canal tug fleet, and

here’s the view from the wheelhouse.  And yes . . . again, that’s tug Urger on the wall ahead. this time in Fonda NY, where she may or may not be today.

How about some more pics of Dewitt Clinton, all from October 2014.

Here she rounds a bend on the western Canal.

And since we’ve seen Urger from Dewitt, how about ending with Dewitt as seen from Urger.

Photos 4 and 5 by Jake van Reenen;  the others by Will Van Dorp.

 

It thrills me that use of fireworks to celebrate our Independence dates to this note by John Adams to his wife Abigail:  ” … the occasion should be commemorated ‘with Pomp and Parade, with [Shows], Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.’ ”  The first commemorative Independence Day fireworks were set off on July 4, 1777; they were all orange.

My best shots of boats and “illuminations” were here in September 2014, and

even better here in July 2012.

Since I quote Adams, here’s an engraving of him, Franklin and Admiral Lord Richard Howe meeting at the Conference House on Staten Island in September 1776. The house was built in 1680, and Christopher Billop, the resident at the time of the Revolution, was a Loyalist who fled to Canada after he was captured and imprisoned in 1779.

But I digress, thanks to Adams, we use fireworks to celebrate today.

Photos and sentiments by Will Van Dorp.  Engraving by Alonzo Chappel. 

 

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.

 

It’s a non-profit devoted to the history and functioning of NY’s canals, and there have been over two dozen.  In these years of bicentennial, consider joining.  Nobody asked me to suggest this; but I’m a satisfied member.

Let me share historical photos of the boat I worked on for a season, all photos posted on CSNYS FB in the past month.

You may know, the vessel is Urger, an extraordinary boat who has likely now crossed the line from a work boat and working boat to a museum boat.  Here she is under steam power in Waterford headed for the Hudson, 1940.  At this point, Urger was already 39 years old, a product of Ferrysburg, Michigan, 1901.

Also 1940, this photo gives an idea that the colors have not always been blue/gold.  Note the extension of the superstructure forward of the wheelhouse.

Here she is in April 1941, and

back in Waterford in 1949.  Note how busy the Canal was back then with commercial tug/barge units.  That’s Day-Peckinpaugh over to the right.

Here she is in 1960.  Can anyone identify the location.  I can’t.  Of course, canal banks have changed a lot through the years.

I don’t know any of the photographers above, but I took the rest of these.

She made her last visit to the sixth boro back in 2012

July 14, 2012

Here in early September 2014 just above lock E-2, she’s being passed by Benjamin Elliot (1960).

And finally, by September 2017 she’d been tied up for almost a full year.

To close out, here was my bunk back then.  Whenever I was lying in my bunk, the distance from my nose to those angle iron beam was about 18 inches.  The bed itself was 5’11” in a bunkhouse itself about 5’8.”  I’m 6’2.”

Since this is a big Canal year, again, consider becoming a member.  And for starters, you may want to “like” them on FB.

 

Here’s the post I did the day my season on the Urger ended.   The boat seriously needs a reboot now, a rewind, since it will NOT been operating season of 2017.  None of the photos here have been posted before, and there’s a surprise at the end of this post, stemming from a conversation last night  I am grateful for. Here’s Urger approaches the guard gate at the top of E-6 on the last day of the 2014 season.

Here the morning of that last run, she’s docked above E-11.  May she not grow into the bank the way that fence has been consumed by the tree.

The entire four-person crew fits into this shot at E-14.

As the sun clears the horizon, Urger‘s out and running east, here under the onramp to the Thruway below E-17.

A few seconds earlier, she exited E-17.  Note the 17 at the top of the lock frame.

Bathed in the warm October sunrise, Urger waits for the guillotine door to raise before exiting the chamber.

Here’s the boat on the wall in Little Falls in midsummer 2014.

A month or so back while it was still winter, I returned to E-17, and there was ice on the wall and in the chamber, and I put my camera away quickly so that my hands could return to the pockets where I’d stuffed chemical heat packs.

This would have been the 25th season for the 1901-built Urger as an ambassador/educational vessel. This role for her was created –as I understand it– through a private/public  partnership fronted by Schuyler Meyer.  Here’s some more of the story of the boat and the program, which was initially operated by SCOW, State Council on Waterways, which appears to have had its last event in 2009.

At the start of this post, I mentioned a surprise.  Last night (finally) I uploaded to YouTube here a half dozen short recordings I made of of Urger underway, with closeups of her Atlas-Imperial engine.  Crank up the sound and enjoy them.  Please share widely.  The program and the boat  are too precious to be permanently lost.  Here is a post I did when Urger last visited NYC’s sixth boro.

All photos and opinion entirely by Will Van Dorp.  Thanks, MB, for the conversation.

 

Here are previous posts under the category second lives, a designation I use for vessels that are significantly modified from one owner or role to another. The approaching vessel in the next two shots–which I took on the Erie Canal west of Three Rivers in September 2014–show Grand Erie, the newest (built 1951!!) and largest tug in the Erie Canal.

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Look at that low Erie Canal design carefully, because

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she started life looking like this photo probably taken in 1951 when she was brand new in Pascagoula.  That’s probably the open Gulf of Mexico in the background.

All the black and white photos in this post are credited to Boat Photo Museum.  If anybody wants 8×10 photos, they are $5.00 each, plus postage through the Museum.

1 Chartiers For Tugster Use Only Boat Photo Museum 868

Chartiers was considered a dredge tender.  Here she’s pushing a scow somewhere in the Pittsburgh area.

2 Chartiers For Tugster Use Only Boat Photo Museum 869

And here she’s tied up at the Corps of Engineers repair base at Neville Island, Pittsburgh.  Look carefully at the upper superstructure in this photo, pre-1985.

3 Chartiers For Tugster Use Only Boat Photo Museum 870

In 1985, the vessel was purchased by the New York canals system, then still called the Barge Canal.  The name changed in 1992.  Then, Chartiers traveled to New York state from the Ohio River via St. Louis, the Illinois River, Chicago, and the Great Lakes.

Here’s Dan Owen’s description of the photo:  “This is how it [looked] when I first saw it going up the [Mississippi] Aug. 13, 1985 at St. Louis.  It was on the other side of the river.  The top part of the pilothouse roof was actually cut off to the level of the second deck cabin to get under the bridges in the Chicago area. I do not know how long the pilothouse was 100% air conditioned, all the way from Pittsburgh, or at a shipyard in the St. Louis area. Or, if the pilothouse was welded back on after clearing the Chicago bridges.”

4 Chartiers For Tugster Use Only Boat Photo Museum 872

 

5 Chartiers For Tugster Use Only Boat Photo Museum 873

Here’s more of Dan’s description:  “These two photos show Chartiers departing Chain of Rocks Lock, Granite City, Ill.  [Notice the helm,] complete with searchlight, sitting on the deck. Also visible are two spare rudders.”

6 Chartiers874

For more comparison, below are three photos of Grand Erie I took in September 2015.  In the photo she’s flanked by Tender #3  starboard and tug Waterford to her port.

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Compare this photo of Grand Erie to the second b/w photo above to note all the changes.

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And compare this one to the last b/w photo above.

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Many thanks to Dan Owen of Boat Photo Museum for use of these photos.  All color photos were taken by myself, Will Van Dorp, in 2014 and 2015.

Here’s how you might be able to add to this collection:  in July 1986 the newly modified Grand Erie came to NYC waters  aka the sixth boro to participate in Liberty Weekend, the rededication of the Statue of Liberty.  Grand Erie served as Governor Cuomo‘s ride.  Does anyone have photos from that time  . . . Grand Erie in NYC in 1986?  I’d love to see them.

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