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2014 was the year I was working on Urger.  Here she’s tied up above lock E-2 while Bejamin Elliot steams by, downbound.

Some time later we’d all steamed down to Albany, here (l to r), it’s a Lord Nelson Victory tug yacht, a tender, and C. L. Churchill, a 1964 boat built in Cohasset MA.  Chuchill is the tug that serves to move the 1862 replica canal schooner Lois McClure.

 

The parade here is moving northbound along the Troy wall…

and here above the Federal lock bound for the left turn at Waterford . . . into the canal. The photo below is credited to Jeff Anzevino, and you’ll see your narrator standing along the portside of the wheelhouse.

In 2014, the documentary by Gary Kane and myself was screened in the Pennsy 399 barge to enthusiastic roundup attendees.

Ceres, the cargo schooner was making one of its trips from Lake Champlain to the sixth boro.  Unfortunately, that endeavor has folded.  As of July 2020, the plan was to convert Ceres into a tiny home.  Details can be found at FB under The Vermont Sail Freight Project.

The official Sunday culmination of the Round involves prizes.  Churchill and McClure were the official vessels of 2014, and the

old man of the sea award went to my former crewmate, Mike Byrnes, here being awarded by Roundup director, Tom Beardsley.

All photos, WVD.

 

As of this morning, USS Slater is back to Albany again, after its latest shipyard visit.

Below, thanks to Tim Rizzuto, are some photos from exactly 27 years ago, showing two McAllister tugboats assisting the large Russian, now Ukrainian, tugboat Gepard, which successfully delivered Slater from the Mediterranean to the sixth boro. I know this is a digression, but Gepard has an “exciting” history.  It’s still working, currently in the Black Sea.

Maybe someone can assist in identifying the two McAllister tugs.  This photo shows the significant difference in beam:  Gepard 66′ and Slater 37’…

 

From 1993, let’s jump to 1997.  Jeff Anzevino got the following photos as the destroyer escort made its initial trip up the Hudson to Albany.  Jeff has contributed many photos to this blog, going back almost to the beginning.  The tug pictured her is Rainbow, currently called Patriotic, which has been in the Morris Canal for quite a long time.  Patriotic is a 1937 Bushey build.

Also assisting in the 1997 tow were Benjamin Elliot and Mame Faye!

Jeff also caught the tow back in 2014.  And  . . . is that Margot on starboard?  That IS Benjamin Elliot on port.

Many thanks to Tim Rizzuto and Jeff Anzevino for use of these photos.  If you’re interested in donating to USS Slater.org to help defray expenses, click here.

I’d really appreciate identification of the McAllister tugs above.

My previous Slater posts can be found here.

 

Three Rivers Junction, where the Seneca meets the Oneida, forming the Oswego, it’s got to be right around that bend.

At Three Rivers we sail into our own wake;  we’ve performed the ouroboros.  There’s just this sign, which we saw on leg 9 of the earlier virtual tour.  No pier, no quay, no wharf, no concession stand . . . no place or reason to stop. Different groups of the Haudenosaunee may have had their names for this convergence, but I’ve not learned any.  The inn that was here, off the left side, has never been replaced.

If we turn north here, we return to Oswego.  If we turn east, we head for Waterford.  I know a boat currently in the Pacific that was right here coming from Lake Erie/Buffalo seven years ago, and turned east here.  Arriving from Lake Erie, about 200 miles back, meant getting lowered 200.’  From here to Waterford means about 160 miles, but we have to be raised about 60,’ and then lowered about 400.’  Quo vadis?

This is the end of the line. Thanks for coming on the virtual tour.

I hope you carry away a sense of the beauty and variety of this corridor, which you won’t see from the NYS Thruway or even the Empire State Trail.  Part of my goal was to help virtual travelers see a past, present, and future microcosm of the tangled evolution of this continent.  Conflicts and other events happened here between indigenous peoples, then between Indigenous and European, then Europeans tangled with each other, and finally schisms arose and continue to arise between different descendants of settlers.  Infrastructure innovates and then becomes vestigial, to be left or removed or reimagined and repurposed.  This tremendous although seasonal thoroughfare got built and evolved.  As of 2020, the locks can still be made to accommodate vessels up to 300′ x 43.5′ with water draft to 9′  and air draft 15.6′.  If SC-330 existed, it could still make a real trip from salt water back to Manitowoc WI.  I’ve included photos of some fairly large vessels in these two virtual tours.

I end here at the crossroads (or crossrivers, more accurately) because the waterway is at a fork, a decision point, in its history.  One future is the status quo or better, another future might see it become vestigial, i.e., the end of the line.  Either way, some role evolves.  Here‘s a description of the state’s ideas just four months ago, although given Covid-19’s appearance, that January 2020 speech seems like years ago.

Some speculate, Article XV of the NYS Constitution notwithstanding,  that we face the Erie Canal’s  disappearance as a thoroughfare.  It DOES cost taxpayer money to operate and maintain even if transiting recreational vessels pay no fees, said to be the case through 2021. Since 2017 recreational boaters have paid no tolls;  before that, fees were very low, especially calculated as a percentage of the value of some of the yachts I’ve seen transiting.  Commercial vessels pay, although the tolls are small compared to those in Panama. Also, the sheer number of recreational boats has declined since a high of 163k in 2002;  in 2018, 71k transited locks/lift bridges.  In that link, this:  “The figures account for each time a boat goes through a lock or under a lift bridge, not the actual number of boats. If a boat travels through several locks, it would be counted as locking through each time. The numbers also do not account for boaters who only travel locally and do not go through a lock. A large percentage of boating traffic falls into this category.”   I’d love the be able to unpack those numbers further.

If  tolls cover 5% of the budget,  remaining 95% … a lot of money … needs to come from somewhere else.

This navigation season would normally have begun next week around May 15.  That will not and can not happen this year, a direct result of NY-on-pause policies implemented to combat Covid-19 spread, and I support those policies.  But canal maintenance projects that involved draining  (de-watering) sections of the canal (remember guard gates and moveable dams?) and disassembling some locks, severing the canal,  are not finished. But what if the canal never opens as a thoroughfare at all in 2020?  In May 7, 2020 Buffalo News‘ Thomas J. Prohaska reports that eighteen legislators from canal communities across the state have written NYPA calling for full opening this season of the thoroughfare.  It would be the first time that it has not opened since 1825.  It’s undeniable that March and April 2020 for New Yorkers as well as folks in the rest of the US and the world have been unprecedented. Just earlier this week in central NY a hot spot appeared among construction and agriculture workers.  But we will go back to the way things were, right?  Recent special funding stemming from Re-Imagine the Canal focus, though, seems to be going to non-navigational projects, ones that look at the water rather than ones that enhance the thoroughfare.  To be fair, the strategy seems to be to increase reasons to come to the water in hopes that this will increase usage of the water, the locks, and the lift bridges.

Will this be the 1918 canal in 2118 or sooner, ruins in a countryside park, places to make people reflect on their mortality?

Will it be sublime views of nature reclaiming its space?  There’s intermittent water but no thoroughfare, a severed waterway, and eventually

it’s gone, reborn or devolved into a gully or a bog.

We choose.  We have voices. We have fantastic 21st century writing, communication tools to speak to “deciders.”

These posts have been my individual effort during the “Covid-19 pause” to share a draft of a project I had imagined would involve augmented reality.  This has been my way to stay indoors and busy during this unprecedented time.  Many of you have helped over the years, have shaped my perception and understanding on this place.  You know who you are and I thank you.

If you’re interested in learning more about this waterway, consider joining the Canal Society of New York, an organization that’s existed since 1956, and holds yearly conferences and field trips along the waterway.  Their website has lots of information and many useful links.

If you want more detail about the canal from Eriecanalway.org‘s application to the US Dept of the Interior/National Park Service in reference to the New York State Barge Canal Historic District, click here and start in section 7.

I plead guilty to multiloquium here, so let me end with a set of my photos I’ve taken along the Erie Canal, a treasured thoroughfare as much now as in 1825.

Dancing by the river,

skimming through the system,

looping together,

paddling as far as you want,

transiting from seas to inland sea,

waiting timeless bateaux ,

max’ing the dimensions

solo shelling,

Hudson boat getting raised at lock E-17,

Canadian boat heading for the St. Lawrence,

awaiting passengers to summit the thoroughfare,

stopping for regional treats,

exploring the middle of the thoroughfare,

using minimalist power,

repositioning delivery,

mustering,

returning from a tow,

locking through at season’s start,

fishing in the shade,

frolicking on fantasy fiesta floats,

simply yachting,

squeezing through and under and above,

bringing tools to a job,

rowing a home-built,

locking Urger through for at least the 10,000th time,

raising money from Buffalo to Burlington VT,

[your tour guide] tending line . . .

the air guides standing vigil, and

the misunderstood “monsters” preparing to plumb the depths of the canal, just some of the things that happen here.  This last photo is for TIB, who wanted to know.

 

 

 

 

Preface:  There’s a new heading at top of the page called “virtual tour.”  Covid-19 has changed everything. Now it’s not alarming to walk into a bank or business establishment wearing a mask.  Many people commute from bedroom to desk, and a really long commute is one that involves stairs.  I’ve been to a few remote concerts already this week,  and virtual travel is happening without getting beamed up or down.   Webinars and Virtual guides are popping up everywhere, and zooming has a whole new meaning.

Today I begin posting a “virtual tour” across New York state by the waterway that changed our national history.  You don’t need a ticket or a passport or a subscription.  We’ll take some zigs into the surrounding land, and some zags into history because we don’t need to stay between the channel markers.  Transit from the Hudson River to Lake Ontario will take ten posts, ten days.  Also, to avoid confusion, click here to find the distinction between 1825 Clinton’s Ditch, the 1862 Enlarged Erie Canal, and the 1918 Barge Canal, today often referred to as the Erie Canal.  I’ll point out some vestiges of the 19th-century waterway.  That distinction and other terms are defined here.  Yes, some parts of the canal have been filled in, but those parts were obsolete already.  Sal would certainly saunter along if he could, but he’s got other duties.  Besides, Sal’s been replaced by Cats and Cummins and other mechanical critters.

Here’s a good place to start:  a weathered and water-stained distance table I saw in the wheelhouse of 1932 Canal tug Seneca. Although I don’t know the date of printing, the table clearly comes from a time when commercial traffic on the Canal made runs between the sixth boro to Lakes Erie and Ontario routine.  I’ll refer to it for distances now and again.  In this series, we’ll head to Three Rivers Point, and then take the Oswego Canal/River to Lake Ontario.

We’ll begin just south of Waterford, the eastern terminus of the current Canal.  Approaching from Troy on the Hudson, you’ll see

this sign in the town of Waterford indicating the entrance to the Canal, branching off to port.

Waterford, a town of just under 9000, is a fantastic stopping point for boats even today.  Note the red brick visitor’s center and just to the right, the bridge leading over to Peebles Island.  That Second Street/Delaware Ave bridge links this to a few photos farther below, taken decades apart.

Before plunging into history, have a look at where these boats come from.  Double click on most photos to get larger version.  Often recreational boats,sometimes loopers, tie up there for information and provisioning; international yachts . . .

Great Lakes work boats,

and self-described slow rollers.  We’ll roll quite slow too, to smell the flowers and avoid  . .  you know . . what Sal might’ve left behind.

To this day, commercial vessels that can squeeze under the 112th Street Bridge congregate in Waterford in early September each year for the Tugboat Roundup.

Can you spot the one tugboat that appears in both photos, above and below, taken more than a half century apart?  It’s Urger, whose story is long and involved and can be deciphered here.  The self-propelled barge, aka Eriemax freighter, on the wall to the right is Day-Peckinpaugh, which transported cargo on the canal from 1921.  She’ll come up again later in the trip.

Note the same Peebles Island bridge?  Judging by the barges, I’d place this photo at about a century old, back when the Barge Canal-iteration of the Erie Canal opened.  The archival photos throughout the series come from the Digital Collections of the New York State Archives, and this is my credit.  Visit the New York State Museum also virtually here.

 

In the next post, we enter the flight.  For now, let’s hail the lock master on VHF and see if he’ll open gates.  Click on the link in the previous sentence, and scroll, to see the friendliest lock master in my experience;  as with anything, your experience maybe different. .

Consider this a work in progress. Nycanals.com maintains extensive info about every lock in the journey on their site.

Any additions, corrections, or other comments are appreciated.  I have literally thousands of photos of the canal, but would welcome your best as well. I’d love to make this an ever-growing communal project.  Let me add one more from the 2008 Waterford Tugboat Roundup.

Again, black/white photos from New York State Archives, Digital Collections. Color photos WVD, unless otherwise stated.

Fred of tug44 created a systematic tour here several years ago.  Sally W went through the same itinerary from June 11 until 22 in2012.

 

Really random means just that . . . so that’s start with this one, Tutahaco, YTM-524, which has recently been hauled out of the water  between Daytona and St Augustine.   Michael Schmidt took these photos back last winter.

She worked for a time in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The next two photos come from Allan and Sally Seymour, whose twotugstravelin’ blog was mentioned in yesterday’s post.  Kathleen Turecamo (1968) is a staple these days in the Port of Albany.

A bit farther north on the Hudson in Troy is the footprint of NYS Marine Highway Transportation Company.  Pictured here from r to l are Margot, Benjamin Elliot, and Betty D; built in 1958, 1960, and 1980, respectively.

The next photo is from Kyle Stubbs, who writes “the original JOVI is still around. The simple answer is yes, and she’s quite a ways from the Sixth Boro, now taking up residence in San Diego in the service of Pacific Tugboat Service as the JAG. I’ve attached an image of her I took this past September.”  Kyle sent the photo along in response to a question about Lil Rip I’d posted here some years back.

George Schneider picks up the Lil Rip‘s origins question here and sends along his own photo of Jag, to wit ”

I was very suspicious of the story she was made from part of a Liberty Ship, since hacking up something like that just to make a push boat didn’t make sense.  But somewhere along the lines, I realized the LIL RIP was registered at 54 feet long.  I found a Liberty Ship was 57 feet wide, so that’s perfect, considering they had to cut away some of the “stern” for the propellers, so the registered length would be a few feet shorter than overall.

That gave me a reason to believe the reputed origins of the boat were true.  It makes even more sense, because if you realize the scrap yards generally had no drydocks or slipways, they’d cut a ship like that down to the tank tops while it was afloat, then somehow had to dispose of the double bottoms.  Sometimes they just took them out and sank them since it took so much extra effort to clean and cut them up.  But in New Jersey, whose coastline is inland, they probably had to cut them apart and lift them ashore, and voile!  What a perfect hull to build a pushboat on!

So I’m wondering if anybody has added more to the comments on that day’s page.  If anybody has ever seen her “on the hard,” they might have measured her across the deck, and if that measures a perfect 57 feet in length, I’d say that’s pretty close to proof.  I looked up the liberty ships sold for scrap 1961-64, and none were scrapped in Elizabeth NJ, nor were any scrapped by her owner.

But several deceptive things are at play here:  1)  A ship sold for scrap was not legally reused for anything, so the title to something made out of the pieces couldn’t reflect the original vessel.   2)  If the ship wasn’t sold for scrap, was “Sold for Non-Transportation Use’ which was also sometimes authorized, she might not have been included in the list of vessels scrapped, and 3)  Vessels were often bought by distant companies, then found the vessel couldn’t practically be towed to their scrapyard, were sold or contracted to other companies for scrapping.

As for the question of the original JOVI (283905), she kept her name long after the JOVI II, working for various East Coast companies, but then made her way out here to San Diego, where she now works.  She has worked as TUG JAG, then KODAK, and now simply JAG.  I’ve attached, unfortunately, the best and only digital photo I’ve taken of her.  You can reproduce this any way you’d like.”

Now I’m wondering about Logan and Mate.  Logan shows in the NOAA registry as built in 1974 and formerly called Kodak, Jag, and Guppy.   Mate doesn’t show.

Sarah D (1975) worked for White Stack, Turecamo, and Moran (each bought out the previous company) before coming to NYS Marine Highway.

And finally, once again out and about in the sixth boro, it’s W. O. Decker, the 1930 wood-hulled tugboat of South Street Seaport Museum.

Click here for some of the dozens of posts I’ve included Decker in.

The last three photos are by Will Van Dorp;  thanks to Michael, Allan, Sally,  Kyle, and George for the other photos.

Katanni and

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Sawyer I, these photos I took in September along the Saint Lawrence.

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I took the next photos in October.  Evans McKeil was built in Panama in 1936!   The cement barge she’s paired with–Metis— was built as a ship in 1956 and converted to a barge in 1991.

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Wilf Seymour was built in 1961 in Port Arthur TX.  I’ve always only seen her paired with Alouette Spirit.  Here she’s heading upbound into the Beauharnois Lock.   The digital readout (-0.5) indicates she’s using the Cavotec automated mooring system instead of lines and line handlers.

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Moving forward to Troy NY, I don’t think the name of this tug is D. A. Collins,   

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but I know these are Benjamin Elliot, Lucy H, and 8th Sea.

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Miss Gill waited alongside some scows at the booming port of Coeymans.

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And the big sibling Vane 5000 hp Chesapeake heads upriver with Doubleskin 509A.

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And one more autumnal shot with yellows, browns, grays, and various shades of red, and a busy Doris Moran and Adelaide.

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Will Van Dorp took all these photos.

 

Take a European canal/river barge . . . .  This one was built in 1963 in Moerbeke, Belgium, by Marinus Faasse.  He named it Leja, the portmanteau word for his parents’ names, Lena and Jacob.

Here’s part of the text of an email I received today from Maja Faasse:  “Leja was the second motor barge my parents have built. It is named after our grandparents, Lena and Jacob. Our father, Marinus  … knows every detail.  For about 40 years he made his living on Leja, as did our mother for 34 years after they married. My sisters Leona,  Jaccoline, and I were born and raised on the Leja, and have very good memories and had a very nice childhood on the water. Every vacation from boarding school and most weekends we spent on board. The summer vacations where the best times, 6 weeks of playing and swimming. Our parents had to sell the barge because our mother needed a pair of new knees and recovery wasn’t possible on board, so they had stopped their business with pain in their heart, and sold it to an owner in France, who renamed it Sojo.”

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We were planning a trip to France this spring to go find the barge . . . and go look for it. So we contacted the broker for information where the Sojo could be at that time and wanted to see what is still original and what is new.  But . . .

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then the broker told us that the owner had renamed it Sojourn and moved it from France to the USA. Later on we also found a picture on the Erie Canal taken in May 2013.

Our father just turned 78 years and his biggest wish is to still visit the Sojourn.”

The photos below were taken in October 2014 by Bob Stopper.  They show her being moved by Benjamin Elliot toward her current location in the Lyons.

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Stories like Maja’s move me, and I certainly hope Marinus Faasse gets to visit with his half-century-plus-years creation soon in Lyons, where snow likely covers it.

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Click here and here for photos of some other Dutch barges in the northeastern parts of the US.  There may be more, and if so, I’d love to learn about them.  For some motor barges that traveled from west-to-east on the Atlantic, click here for a post I did four years ago.

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Many thanks to Maja Faasse for writing.  Also, to Bob Stopper who sent the three photos of Sojourn back last fall.  Also, a tip of the hat to Lewis Carroll for coining the portmanteau portmanteau.

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Thanks to Bob Stopper, these photos show NYS Marine Highway’s Benjamin Elliot moving French canal barge Sojourn into the Lyons drydock area. Sojourn has quite the history that I hope to be telling more about soon.

 

As Harvey (1931) made its way northward from a dry dock visit, Slater (1944) was a hundred miles upriver, making its way south.  The next two photos come from Birk Thomas, taken north of Newburgh NY as sun was lowering onto the hills  in the west.

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Benjamin Elliot (1960) is the assist tug.   Margot (1958) has Slater alongside . .  the other side.

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John Dunn caught this photo of the tow south of Newburgh, after sunset.

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Since Margot cannot be seen in the photos above, here’s her profile as I shot it back in September 2013.

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Many thanks to Birk and John for the photos.

 

Sometimes I find I just misunderstood–and forget– stuff.  Like the story of Benjamin Elliot and Margot.  Margot is at the half century mark and Benjamin Elliot will be there in two years.  And they work as a major portion of New York State Marine Highway.

Margot came off the ways at Jakobson’s in Oyster Bay, NY, and Benjamin Elliot, Gladding Hearn.  Contrast Margot’s wheelhouse in the foto below with the one at the NYS link here.

I took the two fotos below in 2006.  Last weekend I spoke with a crewman of Margot, who corrected my erroneous assumption that these were semi-retired boats.  No way . . . on the most recent voyage, Margot traveled from Norfolk, VA to Duluth, MN, over 1500 miles away!    And after the Roundup, she would run a similar load to coastal Ohio.   Oh, what I forgot was my foto here of Margot following the highway through the sixth boro last winter.

I’d be happy to post either of these NYS Marine Highway vessels in any distant ports.  If you have one, pass it along.

Benjamin Elliot is ex-El Jean.  Margot is ex-Hustler II, ex-Jolene Rose, and ex-Margot Moran.

Photos, WVD.

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