September 16, 2005 Lois McClure
Ship's Log


Kathleen Carney

Kathleen Carney was born in Queens, NY and moved to Maine after college, where she indulged her love of boats. There she met her husband Roger Taylor. She and Roger have been associated with the museum since sailing with Philadelphia II in 1992, and spend the rest of the year aboard a Dutch motor cruiser in France. Kathleen serves aboard Lois McClure as Commissary Officer, responsible for keeping the crew from starvation (the logistics, anyway--we all share the cooking).

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Waterford, New York
Kathleen Carney

Tugboats. Big ones, small ones—the tiniest, Thimble, just 16 feet long. Some were grimy and greasy, scarred and dented, just as you’d expect a hardworking tug to be. Others, like Urger, an old and beautifully restored New York State Canal Authority tug, were freshly painted and sparkling. The U. S. Coast Guard tug Wire, came complete with flat-screen television and a friendly bulldog mascot. Most had barbecues and beach chairs stowed among the winches and towing gear on deck. Each of them had waited all year for this event—the annual Waterford Tugboat Roundup. And Lois McClure and C. L. Churchill were invited!

Looking like a standard canal boat, with her rig down and Churchill towing at the hip, Lois left the dock in Albany on Friday afternoon, September 9th, to take our place in the Tugboat Parade. We quickly learned that all of the tugs, regardless of size or state-of-paint, had one thing in common—the desire and ability to make a good deal of noise. We headed for the Federal Lock in Troy amid a cacophony of hoots and honks and toots, long blasts and staccato whistles, and a barrage of crackling radio communications as the parade master tried –fairly successfully—to keep order. Churchill guided Lois into the lock just astern of Margot, a big Troy working tug. Astern of the schooner, her steel bows towering over Lois’s helm, was the USCG Wire. As the lockkeeper coaxed, cajoled, and shuffled the vessels closer together to fit as many as possible into the lock, we had to nose our port bow right up against Margot’s starboard after bulwarks. Volunteer Jerry Manock and I, on roving fender duty, kept our big white fenders between Lois’s bow and the chains holding Margot’s stern bumpers in place. (Thank you, Taylor Made, for donating those great fenders!). Finally, every tug was in place, and the lockkeeper began to fill the lock. The tugs rose gently and in unison; Jerry and I kept our fenders in place. Within ten minutes we had risen to the level of the canal, and the doors swung slowly open. Just like in a New York City traffic jam when the light turns green, the hooting and honking began at the first crack of light showing between the doors—but it was all in good- natured fun. We wondered if the wash from Margot’s big engines would send us crashing back against the lock wall, but her crew eased her out of the lock slowly before applying full power. The little Churchill maneuvered the schooner out of the lock unscathed, and the parade resumed.

Fire trucks stationed on the bridges between Troy and Waterford sprayed arcs of water into the Hudson to greet the parade of tugs. Some of the tugs answered, shooting fireboat-like plumes of spray from their deck pumps. When we came in sight of Waterford, we saw the banks lined with crowds to greet us. We slipped into our place at the dock, letting Churchill tie up in front of us. Usually, she says on the hip when the schooner is at the dock, but for this event, she had her own place of honor. The folks organizing the Roundup couldn’t have been more hospitable: they outfitted the entire crew with Tugboat Roundup hats and tee shirts and treated us to hot dogs Friday night and a chicken barbecue on Saturday.

Waterford is the eastern terminus of the Erie Canal. It was a thrill to look at the huge lock doors just ahead of our mooring place on the dock and think about what the opening of those doors had meant to the economic development of our country. And it was a thrill to be in a place where so many folks had their own canal stories to tell. One gentleman’s grandfather salvaged hatch covers from barges abandoned by their owners when canal shipping gave way to the railroads—he used the hatch covers to build a shed that was the man’s present-day garage. Another told of the lockkeeper who demanded payment in coal taken from the cargo of the vessels he locked through—and then opened a successful coal business on the side of the lock facing the road. A woman said that her father-in-law remembered how every canal boat had its distinctive horn (we could understand that!) and how, as a boy, he would listen for the sound of the boats he knew to have skippers who were in more of a hurry than most. He would run to the lock, help the keeper lock the boat through so the passage would be quick, and wait for the coin the skipper would toss up to him in thanks.

There were line tossing contests and tug push offs— two tugs nose to nose, engines full throttle, each one trying to push the other over a “line” in the water. The day ended with a spectacular fireworks display—followed by a lot more horn tooting. But nothing could be better than the feeling of being in canal boat country, surrounded by working tugs, canal boat songs, canal boat stories, and canal boat people. For me, it was the highlight of the Grand Journey—so far.

Phone: 802-475-2022