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

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 seats one to power nothing, but makes a good puzzle here in the PowWow River some years ago.  In dry season, you walked through the gate and sat here to fish or just sit.

Poseidon’s Sea-Bee Pusher power unit has

has no seat, so you make your own with your own, complete with a foot rest.

You notice you can’t drive Urger from a seat; but there is a seat

for the engineer of this bell boat.

If we assumed the engineer’s seat, this handle would be our major control over this 19-ton Atlas-Imperial.   You can see the seat on this youtube clip of the engine running.

Since we’re on the Erie Canal, check out the wheel and controls of Seneca, which is also steered by standing crew.

I know I know . . . this is hard to read, but tug Seneca (1930) had a career with the USN in Boston and Brooklyn before it was purchased for work in the Erie Canal, in 1960.  GE?  yes, it’s diesel electric.

I’ve got lots of helm seats (or lack thereof) from Bart Hakse aka Zee Bart, who delivers vessels around the world with Redwise.  He took the photos below on a naval vessel.  Nation?  Zee Bart also finds time to do a blog called Uglyships.

 

The seatless helm above is from an unidentified vessel of the Vietnamese Navy.  Clearly it’s not a MetalShark.

Below, it’s the helm seats of  MF Hornelen.  

Note the flag on the left shoulder of the jacket.

And another from Zee Bart, FV Alpha.

 

I have many more helm seat photos from Zee Bart, but I’d love to have others to dilute Bart’s.

All the first photos here by Will Van Dorp; the others, thanks to Bart.

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.

 

GWA is “going west again,” and here we start at about 130′ above sea level.  We’ve just passed the road sign included in a post here in 2006. Ahead of us is lock E-2, the beginning of the flight of five, located in the town of Waterford.

Above E-3, my former vessel waits, along with Chancellor. Those two boats alone have a combined total life of 196 years between them.   In the foreground is the business end of a cutter suction dredge.

Recreation boats come from everywhere.

Beyond the guard gate atop E-6 is Grand Erie, who also came from away, the Ohio River in her case.

Locals know how to enjoy the 200-year-old waterway.

Below E-11, we get a green light in the early morning drizzle.

Squeezing a 183′ x 39′ vessel through the locks involves a skilled crew and vigilant lock master.

Drivers on the Thruway at this point are 42 miles from Albany, 190 from NYC.

At E-15, still in the drizzle, a Florida boat —Sharon Ann–waits as we lock through.

Above E-16, the 90-year-old Governor Cleveland attends dredge pipes, maintenance dredging being ongoing.  Yes, the canal needs maintenance, and so does the Thruway, any street, RR tracks and infrastructure, my car, my body . . . .

A boxer takes its human for a run . . .

More guard gates–width is 55′–to squeeze through.

Lords of the air watch all along the waterway.

At E-17 we share a lock with Tender #5.

Since we tie off above E-18, Lil Diamond II has to maneuver around.

An SPS lands a crew on the bank for preventative maintenance … keeping dead trees from falling into the water and jamming lock gates.

More recreational boats from far-off ports.

More maintenance above E-19, this time with dragon dredge and the electric tender . .  . #4.

Reinforcement of the canal walls is a canal priority this year.

 

I always imagine the mythical Utica lies beyond the berm marked by the open tower. Central NY was once included in the “military tract,” land distributed to Revolutionary War veterans.

Above lock E-20, we are at the high point of this portion of the Erie Canal,

and Rome was the original high point/ portage in the Mohawk portion of the waterways that pre-date Europeans settlement of North america.

We are now 456′ above sea level, where we’ll pick up the journey tomorrow.

All photos by and any errors attributable to Will Van Dorp.

 

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.

 

To clarify this title, the first post in the series has a lead photo showing a map of our journey broken into legs marked by pins.  Legs 4 through 6 took us from Waterford, shown below, to Oswego.

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Urger stood by all spiffed up for the steamboat festival.

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Erie Canal Cruises accommodated sightseers eastbound toward lock E18.

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Tender 4, the electric motor vessel, assisted in a dredge project.

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Tug Erie tied up at the end of the work day.

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Here’s the cutterhead of one dredge.

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Lucy H returned light past Rome, NY.

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Never have I seen so

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many bald eagles.  This one is banded.

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And leg 6 ended in Oswego.

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All photos by Will Van Dorp, who will post again when able.

 

It’s been a few years since Lehigh Valley 79 was there, but David Sharps added a new feature to the parade–a

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brassy salute

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to each vessel that passed for review.

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And what a potpourri of vessels that was!

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Folks who from Monday to Friday work on precision instruments indoors . . . on weekends go to the physics lab on the river and experiment with vectors.

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Others compete shoreside commanding line to fly.

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If you missed this one, make plans now for 2016.

Lehigh Valley #79 was last at the Roundup in 2010.  See it here and here.

All photos here by Will Van Dorp.

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