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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 to help defray expenses, click here.

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

My previous Slater posts can be found here.


After we leave E-6, Crescent Lake lies ahead of us.  Actually it’s an impoundment of the Mohawk behind the power dam and the flight.  Off to port are hazard buoys, demarcating the Mohawk flow that would take you over Crescent Dam and Cohoes Falls, mentioned in the previous post.  To avoid confusion, note that the Canal and the River are the same, or to put it differently, the River has been canalized.

Above Crescent NY, just before the Route 9 bridge, stately homes suggest an affluent past, woodworkers who assembled these homes also worked as canal boat builders perhaps.  An aqueduct, built 1842, once carried the Erie Canal over the Mohawk here.

Using the white house on the ridge above as key, find it in the photo below.  Canal boats would use the aqueduct to cross the Mohawk River here.   Coming toward us in the photo would be heading east. Click here for more info; a total of 18 aqueducts were built along the waterway in the 19th century.  I’m not going to re-invent the list of heritage sites along the Canal because it’s already been done here.

You’ll pass under the Twin Bridges of the Adirondack Northway, one of two bridges in New York officially named for the war hero Kościuszko. The bridge carries I-87, which goes up to the Canadian border and directly to Montreal, or down to NYC.  Invisible from the river unless you’re looking at a google satellite map is the Vischer Ferry Nature and Historic Preserve, which contains the path of the 19th century iteration of the Erie Canal, including a disused lock and a Whipple Truss Bridge.  We are looking back at the bridge here, already west of it.

About ten miles after leaving the flight, you’ll see the Vischer’s Ferry Dam. Near there, Eldert Vischer opened a ferry across the river in 1790;  ferry connection continued there until 1902. On the ridge beyond the dam and lock E-7, you can see tops of buildings on the Knolls Atomic Power Lab and GE Global Research Lab Scan this list as an indication of the importance of this area in technological research.

From a filled lock E-7, you can clearly see the 2000′ twice-bent, fixed dam and the hydro-power station.  Not all dams in the system are “fixed,” which we’ll see later in this post.

The infamous Llenroc mansion is located across from  Knolls.

For a detailed discussion with maps of the geological history of the Mohawk, click here.  During the ice age, when the St. Lawrence was blocked by ice, the Great Lakes drained through this waterway, which some geologists refer to as the Iromohawk.  More on this later.

Here are ruins of an aqueduct.  These arches of the Rexford aqueduct, built in 1842 for the enlarged Erie,  can be seen just beyond the Schenectady Yacht Club, full of Canal remnants itself.   Here‘s a view of the aqueduct, showing barges and people walking in the towpath.  A few arches can be seen on either side of the River, which–as I’ve said before– at this point is synonymous with Canal.

A major difference between the 19th century versions of the Erie Canal and the current one is that rivers, although canalized, and lakes are now used in part of the transit.  Aqueducts were used back then so that barge traffic could be kept out of the river and therefore under control of the towing animal, no longer a necessity once self-propelled vessels appeared. Another view of this aqueduct–and the electric trolley bridge in Alplaus, the longest trolley bridge in the world–can be seen here.  Although the bridge piers are still in the river, the trolley bridge that connected Schenectady, Ballston Spa, and Saratoga has been removed.   Much more info and many photos of the area can be found here.

The bridge just west of red buoy 86 carries Amtrak trains, whether headed north to Canada or west or returning.  As we continue westward, trains will follow the the north side of the Canal for the next 60 or so miles.

Just past the rail bridge, River House waterfront condos have recently been built on the south side of the river.  A curious white cube building and and Rivers casino follow, all built on

what was once the American Locomotive (ALCO) Works, which produced locomotives from 1901 until 1969.  In the postcard below looking toward Waterford, notice the current Erie Canal aka the Mohawk River to the far left and the 19th century canal–now Erie Boulevard–toward the center of the card.  Here‘s a variation.

If you look in the right place just beyond the casino, you might spot the top of the 16-sided Nott Memorial in the center of Union College, one of the oldest non-denominational colleges in the United States, chartered in 1795.

As you pass Schenectady, you look into the stockade district, continuously occupied since 1661, when a dozen Dutch settlers from Fort Orange (Albany) purchased land along the river.

At one point, the settlement was literally surrounded by a stockade, although on a winter’s night in 1690, the open gates were left unguarded, and French and their allied Indians entered the area, burning and killing in what is known as the Schenectady massacre, a skirmish of King William’s War.  The statue, in the Stockade area today,  is referred to as Lawrence the Indian, but actually he does not depict a specific person.  Rather it was one of several, cast in the Bronx.

Farther west, we’ll talk about the residents of the valley before the French, Dutch, English, and so on.  If you’re impatient and want to learn more now, click here.  Most people refer to these inhabitants as Mohawks, like the river, or Iroquois; however, the more accurate term is Haudenosaunee, i.e., “people of the long house,” an allusion the founding of the unity as created by the Great Peacemaker and Jigohsasee.  First peoples had their own names we no longer use for many places.  “Mohawk,” e.g., is not what the first peoples called this river.

Once home to GE and ALCO, Schenectady was referred to as “the city that lights and hauls the world.”  GE still has a large workforce in Schenectady, but the numbers have declined significantly since 1974.

Round the bend we arrive at lock E-8.  A large mobile crane is sometimes positioned there to load/offload large GE components mostly transported by water.  Notice also the dam to the right of the lock.  It’s the first of eight “moveable” dams designed by David A.Watt, moveable, not fixed,  in that the gates can be moved up or down to adjust water flow.

Several miles after lock E-8, you pass the Mabee Farm Historic Site.  The Mabee house is considered the oldest unaltered structure standing in the Mohawk Valley, dating in 1705.  More about the house and the 1760s Dutch barn can be found here.  In 2009, a replica of Adriaen Block’s Onrust was launched from the site, after several years of work by skilled volunteers.  Replica bateaux, at the dock, are similar to vessels that once carried cargo across the territory.  For more info on these bateaux and this project, click here.  Later, larger Durham boats filled the same function.

Next up is Rotterdam’s lock E-9.  Notice that unlike the moveable dam at lock E-8, this one incorporates a road.

Once that tug and barge clear, we’ll head into E-9, in the next post.

All non-archival photos by Will Van Dorp, and any errors of content, mine too.


First, and I quote, the roundup “began in 1999 as a way to preserve and promote the maritime industrial heritage of the State Canal System….”  Many thanks to the sponsors and the volunteers.   Thanks to the town for their “hawsepitality”  (That’s Jed’s newly minted term.) which brings about 25,000 people to a Saratoga County town of fewer than 10,000.

What light is this illuminating the Second Avenue Bridge between the town and Peebles Island?  And what is the kayaker . . .


and all these others looking at . . .



while bathed in varying light?


If you do Facebook, catch about a minute of the grand finale of  Fireworks by Alonzo‘s artistry in Waterford the other night here.


Waterford’s pyrotechnics are unusual because the geography makes you feel them.  There’s light, sound, and some serious concussion, and that’s all one thing, singular.  And the only thing I like more than watching the explosive colors is to see what they illuminate. . .  like Mame Faye and the glassy water–after an almost shower–at the confluence of the Erie Canal and the Hudson River.


Scroll through here for my video of the show four years ago.




I’m awed by the power and flash reflected in this fresh water.   Click here for my fotos from the first roundup I attended seven years ago.




And then it’s morning and time to clean up, check


the condition on the barge, move


the tow to a place where the ebris can be offloaded, and




send in the underwater inspection expert.




For that underwater inspection of prop and flanking rudders . . . that’s tomorrow’s post.

All fotos by Will Van Dorp, who needs to get to his paying job.

Here’s a fireworks post I did a little over a year ago.

A truckable tug named Mame Faye and her tow anchor outside the current near the confluence of the Mohawk and Hudson Rivers.  Idyllic . . .  serene, sleepy upstate river banks .  . . eh?  She’ll be back.


Here tugs Empire and Shenandoah tie up on the opposite bank of Mame Faye and along the bulkhead.


Farther east is The Chancellor, with twin stacks arranged longitudinally.


Still farther east inside LehighValley Barge 79, speakers like Jessica DuLong and Don Sutherland mesmerize with their tales and chronicles of the river.


Captains Bill and Pam park their powerful machines to rest and enjoy the quiet of oars moving in and out of the fresh water.


Rain showers come and go and no one cares.  Lined up behind Empire are Little Bitt, Gowanus Bay, Benjamin Elliott, and Margot. It’s another lazy day at the Roundup.


What’s this on the foredeck of Bill’s Eighth Sea?  Looks like PVC, hairspray, and  . . . radishes?


And Captain Fred has gotten involved.  This looks  . . .


ominous, especially after he went to the supermarket for 50-calibre radishes, the most lethal kind.

aatdx2As dusk falls,  that same Captain Bill boards Mame Faye to maneuver the barge into the middle of the stream, which is now closed to traffic, for it will soon be time to


see the scene change and

How to describe that:  part night harbor scene, rock concert, traffic jam, railroad crossing, cacophony, simulated war zone, kaleidoscope, popcorn popper, video game, confetti, aquatic bioluminescence gone wild, volcano, apocalypse .  . .   Oh, and I’ve always preferred seeing the flashes reflect in water to seeing them in air.

Now who do you suppose Mame Faye was?  Elizabeth toots Mame‘s horn here.

All fotos and video by Will Van Dorp.

Unrelated . . .  the Dutch barge flotilla probably moves through the Hudson Highlands and northward today;  if you get good fotos and want to share, email me.

Tugs moves barges of fuel, dredged rock, garbage, recycling paper, cranes, bulkhead construction materials, and more. What do you suppose is in the boxes on this barge that is marked with red flags and moving north on the Hudson?


Or what’s in the boxes on the barge attached to the small tug Mame Faye? Why are workmen pulling plastic over these boxes? Can you see the raindrops on the water? By the way, this picture was taken near the confluence of the Hudson and Mohawk north of Albany last September at the Tug Roundup.
The rain stopped, the sun went down, horns and whistles on more than two dozen tugs blasted into the night, plastic wrap was removed by someone with a flashlight, the first box opened, and then there was an explosion and light,


and more delightful light as the show went on for what seemed hours; any lull was responded to by more horns and whistles. A stranger stopping at a local gas station while passing through would have wondered about the racket in the tiny town of Waterford, might have made life-altering vows.


Fireworks reflected on the water: this reminds me of the excitement of unwrapping gifts, of the lights in the eyes of children as they open boxes and presents. Such marvels arrive in boxes delivered on ships and barges. How about a whole new mythology about how boxes get delivered all over the world tonight? Cheers.


All photos by Will Van Dorp.

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February 2023