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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.

But first, check out this canal notice for the 2020 season.

Three centuries ago canoes and bateaux followed Wood Creek from the Oneida carry (i.e., involving a short portage) into the east end of Oneida Lake. The 1825 and 1862 canals bypassed the south side of the Lake and formed the heart of Syracuse.  For the Barge Canal, machines like HD Oneida cut the channel leading into the Lake at Sylvan Beach.

What may not be obvious as we travel this part of the Canal is landownership. Read the small print on the sign below that until last year marked a fuel dock at the east end of Sylvan Beach.   The sign was removed sometime in summer 2019, because of other, bigger projects planned by the Oneida Indian Nation.

Beyond the Route 13 bridge

people pack into the village,

starting more than a century  ago when many arrived by steamer from the head of the Syracuse trolley line.

As seen from the bridge, boaters raft together from both sides, leaving only a narrow channel out to the lake.

 

Amusement parks have been located here for over 100 years.

The lake is about 25 miles long.  Follow the Canal markers if you want to keep moving.   For decades, these buoys were set and removed by a Canal vessel called Ward’s Island.  No more, since Ward’s Island was reefed off Long Island back in 2018.

The lake can get quite rough, as these Canal-era wreck stories attest.

In the early years of the Barge Canal, the season lasted long after ice closed the canal.  In December 1936, some vessels were iced in and needed to be rescued by a more powerful vessel, in this case, Andrew M. Barnes (aka Interwaterways Line 102, scrapped in 1950), sister vessel of the freighter called Day Peckinpaugh (aka Interwaterways Line 101), and still around.

Brewerton, on the west side, sports one of the three lighthouses built around the lake.  Samuel de Champlain traveled through here in 1615.

Brewerton is also host to two large marinas, Winter Harbor and

Ess-Kay Yards.

with boats from

unexpected places.

West of the lake, the Canal is synonymous with the canalized Oneida River, which

brings us to lock E-23, the busiest lock in the system.

Before we leave E-23, let’s have a look at a gate cabinet, the blue and gold cubes with a number that indicates the lock.  Inside and in pristine condition are the DC circuit switches state-of-the-art 1918!

Does that look like someone construction a study seawall in front of the house?

Nope.  It dates from 1840, and is one side of a lock.   For more, see tug44.

And ahead it’s Three River Point.

Tangentially related:  Less than 30 miles north of Sylvan Beach is the town of Redfield, one of the snowiest places in the Great Lakes region, 38.8′ in the 1976-77 season!

Drone photos by Jim Kerins.

Related:  Less than 10 miles off to the left is the Onondaga Lake outlet, aka the connector between the canalized Seneca River and Syracuse.  Long Branch Park covers both sides of the cut, once a major amusement area.  We’ll end up there  in the next tour, in a week or so.  Maybe you can help the effort:  I’ve passed the lake outlet, aka the “cut” to Syracuse, but I’ve never gone through the cut or traveled on Onondaga Lake.  If you have and if you have photos to share, I’d love to see them.

 

Click here for a series of posts and photos of Wards Island from a point almost exactly four years ago, in mid November  when I spent a long day photographing the old crane ship on what was to be her last year working.   Today she lies at the bottom of Hempstead Reef, a few nautical miles of the west end of Jones Beach Island, in 50 to 70 feet of water. A map follows below.  I’d love to hear from anyone who has fished or dived on the reef during the past year, since she has graced the bottom with her hospitable presence.

Although I’ve posted some of these photos, the day I spent on her pulling Erie Canal navaids out of Oneida Lake was a magical day .  . mid November, but warm and without wind.  Enjoy this set.

Photos were taken from morning to night on November 16 and then the last one is November 17, 2015.  All are re-edited.

She ran, if not quite like a deer.

Heading eastbound into the Lake had the look of space flight.

 

For a crane ship fashioned from a double-ended ferry, she plucked buoys from the water quite efficiently,

replacing them with ice buoys, of the right color of course.

 

 

 

But for November,

it was an enviable day for photos.

Some of the navaids in the Lake rest on concrete-capped shoals, islands.

At the end of the day, all buoys were transferred to a barge so that Wards Island had cleared decks for the next day of work.

 

Click on the DEC map below to get to an interactive map.

Click on the photo below to see more of the Flickr photo stream from which it was taken.

All photos not otherwise attributed taken in November 2015 by Will Van Dorp, who is eager to see photos of her taken in her watery home.

And as a wise friend, frequent commenter here has said in relation to another vessel, “[New boats] have come along to supplant and surpass their predecessors. We should count ourselves fortunate to have known so many of the elegant and durable old-timers while they were still around, and feel privileged to help transmit their images and stories into the future.”    Thanks, Lee

 

 

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.

 

Hats off to Glenn Raymo for figuring out where to be to catch this tow at first light.

I know it’s fruitless to wonder whether any archive has photos of any previous trip Ward’s Island made on the Hudson.  The only other trip it’s made may have been northbound in the late 1930s.

Hats off to the crews who can do this safely. With the rounded bottom propped up by welded on support beams,

she looks like an animal once living.

Dimensions of the hull are 115’6″ x 38′  x  14′.

 

It’s a job and it’s a melancholy sight too., knowing the next stop on this express route is the bottom of the ocean off Fire Island.

Many thanks to Glenn for catching this.  Previous “canal reef express” posts can be found here.

What is that? asked one gentleman standing at beside a lock.  The geese took no chances and scurried as it approached.

From this angle, its ferry origins are quite evident.  Scroll to compare with SS Columbia and SS Astoria.

This is the bow of Ward’s Island;  she’s departing the way she arrived around 1937 but stern first, leaving under duress.

Here the tow departs E-12 for Amsterdam.

That’s E-11 in the distance, and from this vantage point, I see

the hull as a sounding board for an as-yet invented instrument.   I believe that before she goes to the reef, her crane and wheelhouse will be once again mounted.  For show.

From one of her former crew, here’s what a working Ward’s Island looked like late in a season, replacing summer buoys with winter buoys.

The next batch I took near E-10, a lock allowing photos from the sunny side.

As you can see, she was certainly rotund.

 

To close out this post,  . . . to that gentleman who couldn’t identify the blue rotund hulk, I’d say  this reefing plan is obliterating some NYS history that could be repurposed.  Eradicating context destroys a dimension of the Canal. What do you think?

For more about the photo below by Jon Crispin,  click here.

The photo above by Jon Crispin.  All others by Will Van Dorp.

It occurs to me that someone might want to start a website using the slogan above.

Click here for previous canal reef express posts.  For Urger posts responding to and with the same urgency, click here.

 

Here are the previous posts in this series.  And here are the posts I’ve done earlier on the 1929 Ward’s Island, whose builder’s plate photo I took in October 2016.  I was told it was removed some time ago and is in a safe place.  Here was my first post on “Ward’s.”

As a baseline photo of the double-ender ferry entered a second life in 1937 as a derrick boat or “crane ship,” I offer this shot I took in Lyons in March 2018.  That’s snow in the foreground.

In one of her most notable roles, she assisted in the clean up near lock E-12 after the Thruway bridge collapsed into Schoharie Creek, an event I recall vividly because I traversed that bridge just the day before.

Note the bow prop.  I wonder if at one time it had a rudder, as

you see in this photo of the stern prop.

The rest of these photos come from Bob Stopper.  Notice the glass has been removed from the wheelhouse, but the flag still flies.

Little by little, its crane abilities are removed and placed alongside the dry dock.

 

Pulling the shafts proved complicated,

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but eventually the once crane ship looks more like a curvaceous barge.

Who knows whether these props will be reefed along with the ship . . . .?

 

A tug is expected to arrive in  Lyons imminently to move this vessel from central–almost western New York–to tidewater, then down the Hudson, and out to the designated reefing ground.

And in other news from Lyons, here’s who showed up late Tuesday afternoon . . . with some new signage on the stack and engine cover.  Compare with here from a month ago . . .

 

Just when I thought I had no more photos for another installment of “seats,” uh . .  more appear.  This arrangement of seating in this Erie Canal tug has to win a prize.  I can’t tell which lock it is, nor (I believe) can Bob Graham, who sent it in.  The captain on the Feeney at one point was Bob’s grandfather.

Is that a folding chair way high up on Augie?

January 2014

Might folding chairs be more common than one might expect?

Ceres has become inactive after a noble attempt to sail north Country produce down to the NYC markets.

Angels Share is the largest Wally yacht I’ve ever seen, the photo taken in North Cove in September 2013.

But the person on the helm got no seat, unless–you suppose?–they’ve got a folding chair in the lazaretto. It’s since been soldand renamed.

NYC-DEP Hunts Point has a variety of seating options.

And let’s end with two European boats:  Tenax and

Abeille Bourbon. Tenax has appeared on tugster in 2012 here, and Bourbon . . . here.

Many thanks to Xtian, Vlad, and Bob for sending along these photos.  Here are the two previous “seats” posts.

And a final shot below, that was tugster in 2011 at the Dossin Great Lakes Museum in Belle Isle at the helm of the detached house of SS William Clay Ford.  Note the “old man’s” chair in the background.

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Here’s the series that this follows, a series that shows how busy this craneship still is at certain times of the year.  Of course, this could also be called what do you do with an obsolete New York City ferry, a vessel delivered by Electric Boat on October 14, 1929 and replaced by a bridge in fewer than 10 years.

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Yes, this is the bow of the craneship, and until I spent a day on board last fall, I assumed the bow wheel was non-functioning if even present.

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Excuse the rain spot.

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Closeups of bow and

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stern.

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Here’s a shot from the deck of Wards Island from the incredible warm late November day last year when we pulled a day’s worth of buoys from Oneida Lake, and at the

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end of the day, getting a glimpse of the builders plate in the engine compartment.

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All photos by Will Van Dorp.

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.

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