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Tug festival of parades, lights and heritage

Nov 8, 2012 11:10 AM
The tug roundup, which takes place the weekend after Labor Day in Waterford, N.Y., climaxes with a fireworks display on Sunday night.

The tug roundup, which takes place the weekend after Labor Day in Waterford, N.Y., climaxes with a fireworks display on Sunday night.

Wendy Murray, manager at the Alcove Marina & Pub, a funky tavern perched on a backwater channel of the Hudson River in Schuylerville, N.Y., summed it up: “All we hear about all year long is the Waterford Tugboat Roundup.”

The fireworks barge tied up along the bank and some of the 35 tugs that participated.

For this year’s tugboat parade from Albany to Waterford, I was honored to share the pilothouse roof of Fred Wehner’s Tug 44 with Will Van Dorp, who has a blog called tugster.

Wehner’s 34-foot pilothouse trawler was the 44th American Tug hull built by Tomco Marine Group of LaConner, Wash., in 2003.

At the first roundup in 1999, seven vessels preened for the crowd lining the Waterford waterfront located just below the Erie Canal’s Lock E-2, the first in a chain of five dubbed the “Waterford Flight” that marks the start of the historic canal.

The 2012 roundup, held in early September, drew 35 tugs and got underway with the annual tugboat parade, from Albany to Waterford, led by the historic canal tug Urger. Prominent in the flotilla was this year’s “Tug of the Year,” the 65-foot U.S. Coast Guard cutter/small harbor tug Wire. Also present was this year’s winner of “Best Restored Tug,” Buffalo, built in 1922.

Three tugs, Frances, Wendy B and Urger, represented the commercial, recreational and educational aspects of the New York State canal system.

The 85-foot Frances, formerly Frances Turecamo, was built in 1957 by Jakobson Shipyard of Oyster Bay, N.Y. Frances was raised from retirement by NYS Marine Highway, a commercial water transportation company located in Troy. Rob Goldman, part owner of the company and an enthusiastic advocate of locally produced and transported goods, said there is a lot of talk about more utilization of the canal system lately.

Wire, a 65-foot U.S. Coast Guard ice-breaking harbor assist tug built by Barbor Shipyard in Maryland in 1963. From its home port on the Hudson River in Saugerties, N.Y., Wire performs law enforcement and search and rescue missions, and maintains aids to navigation when there’s no ice to break.


Frances is undergoing a total restoration to commercial tug standards and will soon join the tug Margot, her sister tug and the flagship of the company’s fleet. Frances took the “Best in Show” award this year.

Tugs in the roundup parade at the Troy Federal Lock on the Hudson River.

The 65-foot tug Wendy B was a surprise show, having bumbled upon the event. “We bought the boat three months ago, and were on our way up the Hudson and just happened upon the Tugboat Roundup,” said Dave Beckmann, speaking for himself and his brothers Chris and Jason.

The tug was built by Russel Brothers in Owen Sound, Ontario, in 1940. After three trips to Davy Jones’ Locker, Wendy B could be named Accidental Tugboat.

The roundup is designed to showcase the industrial maritime heritage of the state’s waterway system. The venerable New York State Canal Corp. tug Urger, built in 1901, does just that. Urger, low slung and showy in her deep blue and gold colors, shined in her role as the drum major of the 2012 tugboat parade.

“The Urger is the flagship of the New York State Canal Corporation,” said the tug’s captain, Wendy Marble. “We travel the waterways sharing our historic vessel with the public and school groups.”

 

 

 

Capt. Ben Grudinskas on his hand-built mini tug Atlantic Hunter II, which won the nose-to-nose pushoff competition for tugs under 150 hp.

 

Urger leads the parade out of the Troy Federal Lock. Urger, the senior member of the flotilla, was built in Ferrysburg, Mich., in 1901.

 

 

 

Capt. Wendy Marble, who for the past year has served as master of Urger, the flagship of the New York State Canal Corp.

 

Urger’s Chief Engineer Rick Marcellus with the boat’s Atlas Imperial 300-hp engine built in 1944.

 

 

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