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I don’t celebrate holidays much, but “old year’s day” I take seriously, to look back and assess.  Today’s post features photos you may remember from 2020.  I chose these from the several thousand photos I put into public domain this year.  It’s a personal and subjective exercise;  on a different day I might choose another dozen from the thousands.  Four of these were taken by others.  And given the name of this blog, I added 45 installments of “random tugs” this year.

My sister took this photo as French Bakery Belen approached her vessel.  I choose it here because its location may surprise you.  I’ll reference the photos below if you want to know context.  My take on this photo is to prepare for surprise;  assume nothing.  I think I should say assume carefully, because we all make thousands of assumptions each day.

Photos of an odd barge came to my attention this year, thanks to Isaac Pennock.   Here it’s pushed southbound in the Oswego Canal;  note the outdoor helm.   From Oswego, it took the Erie Canal and the Hudson River before it transited the sixth boro and puzzled a lot of folks.  The moral of the story is that there’s always a story and it’ll make sense. 

That barge now is here, which I’ve yet to set foot on.  Maybe 2021 will change that.  Click here to see before and after.  Think caterpillar-to-butterfly.

Unlike the salty sixth boro, freshwater inland waterways freeze sooner and stay frozen longer.  This ATB is loading iron ore near Duluth, all that ice notwithstanding.  Today, that same vessel is pushing ore across Lake Superior most likely toward Lake Michigan.  Spend New Year’s Eve at the Soo and you’ll see them transit, definitely more exciting than watching a dropping ball …

The world wide web depends on wires, and they’re under the oceans, and vessels like these operated by US mariners set and maintain them.  Hello everywhere and anywhere.

After an ocean voyage, Sheri Lynn S is splashing into the Saint Lawrence River, and the start of its first river trip since transiting downstream the Yangtze.  It’s been working in the Great Lakes system ever since.

This ghostly white vessel marked a time this 2020 year that everything changed.  USNS Comfort was surely not a silver bullet, but on that day in March, it was a psychological boost.

And here’s an example of what else changed:  note the crew welcoming the docking pilot . . .   masked, as have been essential workers, including those on the water, ever since.

Tugster is fortunate to sometimes physical distance, escape to places where population density is a small decimal of one percent of what it is in the six boros. It’s one thing to be a hermit in the boros, and another thing to be such in places like this.

Up the Hudson, Slater here is about to do-si-do and then promenade grand right and left  all the way south to the KVK for some upgrades.

Pilgrim somehow managed to transit the sixth boro without being detected.  The round-the-world traditional Russian vessel is now on the hard in Duluth, while its mariners raise funds to put it on a truck to the Salish Sea so that it can get back to its starting point in Russia.  I’m amazed that in 2020 this project happened as much as I’m amazed by the warm welcome they received as they traversed NYS on the Erie Canal. Here‘s their website, and there’s a button to push to read in English.

Steve Munoz sent along a lot of interesting photos this year, and I’m grateful.  Below, that’s the September 2001 Great North River Tugboat Race . . . and the water thrusters are on Z-Two. More photos here. One thing I recall from Steve is his observation that as they passed the WTC, no one imagined that a few days on, they would fall, at great human toll.  This gets back to the “assume nothing” and carpe diem every diem.

Since I’ve broached the Latin here, how about this one:  diligenter inspicere.  [That’s for all you Latin lovers.  Did you catch the story about Latin lover number one being a victim of 2020?  If not, we’ve lost a great one.]  If you’ve a chance to read his obit in the NYTimes, it’s a great obit.  Here are two excerpts:  “Reginald Foster, a former plumber’s apprentice from Wisconsin who, in four decades as an official Latinist of the Vatican, dreamed in Latin, cursed in Latin, banked in Latin and ultimately tweeted in Latin, died on Christmas Day at a nursing home in Milwaukee. He was LXXXI. ”  and   “Father Foster was indeed a monk — a member of the Discalced Carmelite order — but he was a monk who looked like a stevedore, dressed like a janitor, swore like a sailor (usually in Latin) and spoke Latin with the riverine fluency of a Roman orator.”  THAT is an obit!!

But I digress, or in Latin my machine translator tells me it might be paenitet, magnum excessu.  

Getting back to the next photo . . . what is that cargo top center of the load?  If you’ve forgotten what those odd pieces of cargo were, check here. More diligenter inspicere in 2021!

Where is the mast of Pilot Boat No. 1 taller than the mast of WTC1 or any other building in the five boros?  It’s interesting to put oneself in the place of a mariner coming into our fair port for the first time.  Thanks for this excursion out to the end of Ambrose Channel to my friend Bjoern and the New York Media Boat.

Prototypes like here, here, and here, regularly take to NYC;  this is a working prototype that left the sixth boro about a few days ago bound for the DR.  I’m just wondering . . . has anyone seen a USV, aka autonomous vessel,  in the sixth boro yet?  And yes, there are many others I could mention, many that I missed.

And finally, a photo I took the other day . . .  a light container vessel in the background . . .  EMPTY . . .  that’s a metaphor for this past year.   Some diligent crabbers clammers are busy in the foreground, bouncing on the Upper Bay on a lumpy day.


If you’re interested in context, here’s the info on those first few photos.

1. This was taken in Barra de Navidad, in Jalisco, Mexico, and Belen is operated by a transplanted Quebecois baker serving anyone in Barra de Navidad interested in French pastry and bread. By the way, Barra de Navidad was the Spanish jumping off point for the colonization and “settlement” of the Philippines, which of course was already settled.

2. Thanks to Isaac Pennock, who tracked down a photo taken in Oswego by Jon Vermilye back in 2008.  The barge is the hull to become SSV Oliver Hazard Perry.


Other years’ retrospectives aka old years can be seen at those links.

One outcome of the covid-modifications for me was that I spent April doing a virtual boat tour guide of the Erie Canal, and in October, I did a bike ride and put together a record at least of that.  You can see both here.  Looking forward to 2021, I may repeat the bike ride.  If you’re interested in joining me, let me know.  Absolutely no plans have been made, and I know a good source for appropriate bikes if you, like me, don’t own one.


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