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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.

 

 

Well . . . a couple of Great Lakes mariners who prefer to remain nameless . . . but let’s start with a photo of Joel B from a few years ago.  She’s quite the attractive boat! Thanks so much to a GL Mariner for responding to Saturday’s post by sending another of that boat in better times.

This was taken in Muskegon;  the unnamed tug to the right sank at the dock, I’m told.

USCGC WMEC 146 McLane, launched 1927, has been a dockside display in Muskegon for more than two decades.

I’ve seen RV Laurentian once on Lake Huron, but here she is close up.

Andy Milne is a 1956 Russel Brothers tug, and as such, she’s well documented here at the Russel Brothers site.  Click here for various Russel Brothers tugs I’ve posted over the years.

The next three photos, taken by another Great Lakes mariner out exploring territory,  make up a panorama from left to right of the Lyons NY Canal drydock.  Here from l to r, it’s a tender (Dana?), DeWitt Clinton, various dredges, Syracuse, and Grouper.

This continues that pan, with l to r, a quarters (or accommodations)  barge, Syracuse, Grouper, and DB #2A.  DB expands to “derrick barge.”  On the hard and to the extreme right, note a buoy boat sans cabin.

And completing the pan, here are two new Canal Corp boats, wintering nose-to-nose, and DB #2B below them.

Many thanks to Great Lakes Mariners for use of these photos.

I’ve been to Muskegon a number of times and my photos can be found here.

Sorry about the photo size; it’s an ongoing struggle.

The year 2007 spawned this series here.  Since you’ve stayed with this blog, I’m celebrating a milestone . . . the 300th post in this series.  Thanks for continued visits to tugster.  To honor this event, I solicited photos from you, particularly photos that’d never previously appeared on this blog.  I threw some of my own unusual ones in to round out the post.  Thanks to all who sent in photos, or thought about it, and added some explanation.  Since the internet allows quick and easy photo exchanges globally, I’m always interested in folks sharing photos of tugboats and other workboats from everywhere.  Vladivostok?  Karachi?  Baku?  Port of Spain?  Paramaribo?  Douala?  Luanda?  Umm Qasr?   I hope you get the idea.

Tim Sansom wrote:  ” taken at Auckland’s Wynyard Quarter in December 2016, showing the tugboat Koraki and the cement barge Marsden BayKoraki, built in 1985, regularly hauls cement barges between Auckland and Whangarei for Golden Bay Cement. The Wynyard Quarter is a redeveloped part of Auckland harbour between the ferry and cruise ship terminal and the marina, and usually has a few fishing boats tied up as well as ferries to the Hauraki Gulf islands, one of which you can see in the background.”

I took this one of Elizabeth Anne at the King’s Point dock in 2015. That’s the Throg’s Neck Bridge in the background.  The 1980 tug was donated to the US Merchant Marine Academy in 2014.

I took this on Oneida Lake NY in November 2016.  My platform was craneship Ward’s Island, now fish and other aquatic life habitat, but then was doing one of its last seasons plucking channel markers from the NYS Canals portion of the Lake. Tug Syracuse, 77′ x 20′ , has worked exclusively in NYS Canals since spring 1934.

William Mitchell took this photo of Donna and Charlie Costa’s Hobo in Wickford RI.

Jan van Sluisweg took this photo of the 1976 Arion, 94′ x 30′, towing City of Dubrovnik and approaching the lock in IJmuiden in 2014.

From Kyle Stubbs:  “Brusco’s Capt Bob Campbell hasn’t appeared and  offers a fun connection to Lindy Marie seen in your post Columbia River Tugs. Both the Lindy Marie (as  Fireball) and Capt Bob Campbell (as  Warrior), were in-house products of the Smith Tug and Barge Company of Rainier, Oregon. Founder Wilbur Smith had been witness to a number of accidents on tugboat decks, and as a result embraced a design philosophy that eliminated blind spots on the deck as seen from the pilothouse. The result was a series of tugs with unique, sloped deckhouses that earned the company the nickname of the “Studebaker Fleet” in reference to that automaker’s distinctive models of the 1950’s.”

The Studebaker fleet . . . I love that.  Kyle took this photo at Grays Harbor on the Washington coast.

From George Schneider:  “Maybe this one is too wee to count, but she’s the tug Elsa.  She was built back in 1955 by the Welding and Shipbuilding Company of Costa Mesa CA as their hull #1, and to my knowledge, the only vessel built there.  Her original owner was Francis P. Jones of the Jones Tug & Barge Company of Long Beach CA.  At the time she was 50 ft in length and rated at 290 HP.  Jones later lengthened her to about 60 ft. (58 ft registered) and HP was increased to 600.   Jones closed shop in the 1980s.  Since then she’s moved bunker barges in the Los Angeles-Long Beach area, and is now owned by Global Marine Transportation Inc. of Los Angeles.”

Another from George, not so wee: “Here’s my next , a Gulf tug.  She was originally built as Abdon Martin by Halter Marine at their New Orleans yard in 1976, and ownership was always listed as Halter Marine Inc, although Andrew Martin Sea Service Inc. appears to be a separate company who operated her.   In 1985 she was sold to the N. J. Guidry & Sons Towing Company, who remained listed as her owner while named Harvey Trojan, showing Harvey Gulf Intl. markings.  When Harvey Gulf decided to concentrate on supply boat activities, they sold her in 2014 to Signet Maritime Corp, and since then she has sailed as their Signet Trojan.”    If my info is correct, she’s 110′ x 34′ and rated at 13,500 hp.

From Antonio Alcaraz:  “VB Andalucia [built in 2004 and 97’x 36′] underway service Algeciras port.”

One of my own from Block Island, it’s Petersburg in October 2015.  The 1954 107′ tug was recently used in a movie.

Another of mine from February 2016, Sea Wolf A in Havana harbor.  The 1996 tug was built by Damex Shipbuilding in Santiago Cuba.

And in the sixth boro, I took this one of Paul T Moran.  Currently the 1975 built 138′ x 40′ 150′ x 49′ behemoth is in Mobile AL

Westbound in the East River, it’s Thomas D. Witte with Powhatan alongside.  My record keeping for the period is scrambled, but i believe I took this is 2005 or 2006.  As of this writing Powhatan, now operated by the Turkish Navy as Inebolu A590 is on the Turkish Black Sea coast between Trabzon and Samsun.

Again from George Schneider, who took it in June 2014 on Portrero Reach, Richmond CA on San Francisco Bay:  “One class of tugs you may not have seen in the Sixth Borough are the recent tractor tugs from Jensen Maritime Consultants.  They’re a widely respected group, evolving since Bay Delta put the first one in service in 2007.  Since that time, some of the majors have chartered these from Bay Delta, including Foss, Crowley, and AmNav, and once the quality of the design was recognized, companies have also gone directly to Jensen’s to have them built.  Bay-Delta began congealing as a company in the early 1990’s with second-hand tonnage.  They remain small, but obviously have been a leader in tug development.   This shows Delta Cathryn, built by Nichols Brothers in 2009.  She’s the second Jensen tug by that name, the first is now operating for Crowley as Vigilant.   In 2019 the first hybrid tug of this series, Delta Teresa,  was completed and also immediately chartered to Crowley.”

I took this photo of Ocean Henry Bain in Quebec City in March 2017.  The 2006 z-drive measures in at 95′ x 37.’

From Maraki, a Chinese built tug Pino, working in Colombia then off Cartagena.

Many thanks to Tim, William, Jan, Kyle, Antonio, George, and Maraki for these delightful photos and text.  I’d love to do this again, maybe at the 400 mark, or maybe sooner.  My editor is very easy-going.

 

 

 

Wendy Marble took these photos today when her crew was preparing to cast off lines on the Erie Canal.

This is looking forward from wheelhouse of tug Syracuse towing DB6 west from Mays Point, NY.

Then another friend jogged my memory about the date, Nov 16.  The rest of these photos I took on Nov 16, 2015.  It was shirtsleeve weather, tug Syracuse was busy, and so was  . . . .

craneship Wards Island.  Yes, the one that’s currently almost 100′ down north of Long Island;  you can see it here (scroll) and no, it’s not a 115′ barge.

The above shot I got on Nov 17, 2015, but all the rest here are from Nov 16.

Syracuse speeds the crane out into Oneida Lake,

and the crane goes fishing, or buoying, replacing summer buoys with winter spars.

At the end of the day, temperatures dropped along with the sun, and the buoys were craned over to a work barge, where the buoys would be refurbished over the winter.

Syracuse is quite the unique tug.

Thanks to Wendy and Dave for jogging my memory.  Thanks to Wendy for sharing the photos from Mays Point.

 

The photo below is not Lake Ontario; it’s Oneida Lake in the early morning as we outrun a storm.  If my numbers are right, Oneida is about 80′ lower than Rome NY.  Hence, the descent into Lake Ontario, which is another 125′ lower than Oneida.

If you thought we were descending–as a diver–into Ontario . . . well, that would be rewarding, but English is just ambiguous sometimes.  Anyhow, Oneida is big, not great, and that’s alright by me.

E-23 has a very friendly lock master, as do almost all the locks.  They’re happy to chat, especially when an ocean liner like Grande Mariner squeezes through.

To digress and use a photo I took near the east end of the Canal three years ago of GM exiting a lock, behold the ocean liner.

At Three Rivers, we leave the Erie, and enter the Oswego Canal, formed by the confluence of the Oneida and the Onondaga, a canal with a slightly different history.   Before lock O-1, we pass the Syracuse (Canal) Maintenance Shops, located in Lysander, another one of those classical names.

In Phoenix adjacent to O-1, we see a dam with Tainter gates, named for a Wisconsin engineer named Tainter.

Below lock O-1 also there’s a drawbridge.

Just above O-2 in Fulton, Fourth Street and Nestle Avenue cross, but the other side of the Nestle plant looks

like this, after a century of production.  Another former product of Fulton–once called the city the Depression missed–was shotguns.

As evening falls we start the first of the descents in Oswego, O-6.

O-8 is the end, and marked by tug Syracuse.

In the morning, we head out early, but not as early as folks fishing, taking part in enterprise valued at over $110 million.

There’s the lighthouse in Sodus, where I learned to swim, in spite of my best efforts to resist it.

Rochester looms beyond the ridge, and we

choose to hold up some hours in the port.

As we tie up at the dock, a charter boat from the Canadian side–we do share the Lake–heads back out.

All photos and focus and any errors attributable to Will Van Dorp.  From here and the rest of the trip, we climb again.

 

 

Unlike the sixth boro waters, freshwater New York changes state.  As illustration, here is a color photo I took yesterday, and

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below is roughly the same view (looking down from E-5 in the Flight) taken in late September 2016, almost five months ago.   What’s departing lock 4 was reported here.

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But I digress.  Here’s what tenders look like in February.

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And the long-suffering Chancellor, after the pool level has been lowered.

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Floating and working, it’s the art deco tug Syracuse.   She has been working since December 1933!

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And can you identify the vessel in the foreground?

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Indeed, it’s the 1912-launched Grouper sustaining yet another season in Niflheim.

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All photos taken by Will Van Dorp this week except the first one.

By 3:00 pm, the deck of Wards Island was at capacity with buoys.  It was time to head back west to a scow on the wall in Brewerton, an accidental destination for

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Champlain almost exactly 400 years ago.  Champlain was a gallivanter extraordinaire, crossing the Atlantic about 25 times in those days, and  a guy even better at negotiation and diplomacy than he was at traveling.  But I digress.

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Since there are two bridges between the Lake and the scow, the boom had been lowered and now it’s raised for the job.  Attached to the scow is the larger tender known not by a number but as Dana.

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It’s clearly November when 4:30 looks like this.

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Boom is lowered for the several miles back to Lock 23, where a surprise

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awaits me.  I had assumed that only the stern propellor on Wards Island was operational, but after Syracuse uncoupled and we started the rotation to tie up,

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there was prop wash from under the bow, just as you would expect from a double-ender ferry.

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In order to spin the boat 180 degrees without having to make a 36-point turn, Syracuse put some pressure on the bow,

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and by 5:40 we were all fast. Then it was time to

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put the power of Wards Island to sleep.   Below deck there were a bunch more surprises, like these port lights as seen from within and the rivets.

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And two spacious accommodations, one on each side of the vessel.

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Two engines, although only the Cat D353 Series E runs.

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A Frankenstein knife switch board.

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And mentioned in this post last year, Wards Island began life as a ferry in 1929, looking like her twin . . . Tenkenas, there were more surprises like

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this speaking tube and behind it,

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this brass builders plate.

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All color photos here are by Will Van Dorp.  I’m not sure of the source, the date,or the location of the b/w photo of Tenkenas above, although I know where and where else I might find more.

Many thanks to the NYS Canal Corp and its floating plant for permission to do this series.

Unrelated and sad news:  I learned yesterday that John Skelson has passed.  RIP, John. Click here for some of the many posts I credited to him in the past years.

These photos were taken November 16, 2015, with temperatures in the 50s and no wind.  Obviously, mid-November is not always so ideal for this operation.  In fact, photos on the boat showed this work being done in 1992, with buoys heavily ice and snow covered.

Here one crewman–let’s call him the signaler– radios the tug instructions for the approach to the buoy.

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Once within two yards of so, another crewman captures the buoy with a boat hook.

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Besides the VHF, the signaler uses hand signals for the crane operator, who hoists the hooked buoy as high as a connector link,  which gets cleated to the boat while

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the cotter pin connected to the shackle gets cut.

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The crane operator relies entirely on signals from the signaler.

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Once the summer buoy is lifted away, the anchor chain is attached to the spar buoy, which is then

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pushed overboard, where it’ll stay until the reverse process in the spring.

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Meanwhile, the beacon is removed from each buoy.

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Oneida Lake has floating and fixed nav aids.  This is Messenger Shoals, a fixed nav aid on a concrete island poured into sheet piling.  To the left of the aid in Blind Island, and as little as a foot of water.

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The aid here–113–is called a cabinet.

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The large size–about 6′ high–used to hold batteries.

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The entire cabinet is lifted off for the winter.

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On the north side of the lake is a village called Cleveland, once important for supplying passing commercial canal traffic and glass making.  Now it may go out of existence.

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When the foredeck is full and late autumn sun starts to go down, we headed to the west side of the lake to offload today’s work and prep the boat for tomorrow.

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And that will be tomorrow’s post.

Again, many thanks to NYS Canal Corp for permission to do this story and to the crews of Wards Island and Syracuse for helping me out.

At the end of the Oneida Lake series, you’ll see why this could also be called “second lives 15 part b.”

Technically, this post starts out early morning in Clay, NY, with tug Syracuse and crane ship Wards Island tied to the east end of Lock 23.

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Wards Island–and her sister ship Tenkenas–were built in 1929 by Electric Boat of Groton CT.  Later in the series I’ll show you the brass builder’s plate.   By 1937, both were listed as abandoned.  For some of the history of intervening years, check out A Long Haul starting on p. 128.

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Here Syracuse pushes Wards Island under the rail bridge just west of Route 11 heading for the lake.  A key to the location is the Brewerton Range Rear lighthouse, visible in the trees along the right side margin of the photo.

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The lake is unusually glassy for November and the fall task of replacing the summer navigation buoys with winter “placeholder” spar buoys, seen here below between the crane boom and the spud.  Wards Island is fully self-propelled in the manner you’d expect of a former double-ender ferry, just very slow, a time waste on a large lake like Oneida.  Click here for info on tug and barge wrecks in the lake.

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Type Syracuse into the left side search box and you’ll find many more posts featuring this 1933 workhorse.

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Here’s the view through the controls of the crane looking toward the east end of the lake.

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To the right you see the Verona Beach Lighthouse, and buoy 106 is in sight to the left of the hook.

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The tow is maneuvered into position and a crewman captures the buoy with the boat hook.

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The crew make the connection and 106 gets raised. In part b and c of this series,  I’ll show the crew actions step by step.

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Since no spar buoy replaces 106, anchor and all are brought up.  In the distance to the left you can see the Route 13 bridge between Verona and Sylvan Beach.   Click here for one of many posts I did in 2014 with photos from near the Route 13 bridge.

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Buoy 107 is next on the boat, and

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the first spar buoy goes in, anchored  to mark the spot.

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By 1130, we’re approaching buoy  109.

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The crewman with the yellow sweatshirt is using a tool to hook between the buoy lift point and the crane hook.

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Once a buoy is on the boat, the flashing beacon is removed and

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stowed in a locker.

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All photos by Will Van Dorp.  More of Oneida Lake tomorrow.

Many thanks to the NYS Canal Corporation for granting permission to photograph the work of Wards Island.

 

 

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