September 24, 2005 Lois McClure
Ship's Log
 
 

CREW MEMBER

Art Cohn

Art Cohn is the Executive Director of the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum. He is a professional diver and has coordinated and participated in Lake Champlain's archaeological projects for the past twenty years. Cohn is an Adjunct Assistant Professor in Maritime History and Nautical Archaeology at both the University of Vermont and Texas A&M University. He serves aboard Lois McClure as a tugboat operator and able- bodied crew member.


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GREETINGS FROM THE CREW!

Jersey City, New Jersey
Art Cohn

The Waterford Tugboat Roundup was such a great event it left our crew with a desire to return with the C.L. Churchill next year. After Waterford we turned our vessels south and headed back to Jersey City. Our hosts here have been the New Jersey Canal Society, the Liberty Landing Marina, and Liberty State Park.

Our return to Jersey City was also a return to the canal world of Captain Theodore Bartley. Captain Bartley, you will remember, was the writer of 29- years of daily journals written from a canal boat.* Captain Barley’s Journals begin in the year 1861 with the purchase of a new sailing canal boat, Mary Eva. The Bartley Journals have become a centerpiece of our interpretation of what life was like for these canal boatman and their families. At the end of Bartley’s first working season he records on December 9th, “Towed over to Jersey City to lay up for the winter.” and for most of his career, this venue, directly across the Hudson from the tip of Manhattan, would be his winter boatyard. Many of his entries could have been written from our slip in the “Big Basin” directly across from the entrance to the Morris Canal.

To be docked in this location is to be surrounded by history. The City of New York with its now altered skyline is just to the west. The Liberty State Park is the embarkation point for visits to Ellis Island and the Statute of Liberty. The brick Central Rail Road of New Jersey train and ferry complex has been restored to its former glory. Dozens of tracks leading to points all over New Jersey sit idle, overgrown with weeds, a testament to the passage of time and changing transportation technologies. The New Jersey Canal Society is an organization dedicated to preserving the record of New Jersey canals, the Morris (1831) and the Delaware and Raritan (1834) both constructed primarily to bring coal from Pennsylvania to the Hudson River.

A special experience for me was to be taken by former NJCS President Bob Barth on a whirlwind tour of key surviving elements of the Morris Canal including its original lock entrance just off the Hudson River. The highlight of the trip was a visit to Waterloo Village in the Jersey Highlands. Here in the middle of historic iron country is a collection of buildings preserved in time and located on a preserved stretch of the Morris Canal. Standing in one spot one can see an inclined plane (the engineering achievement that made the Morris Canal possible) a stone lock, and a preserved portion of the canal. Plans are being discussed to restore these canal elements and return an authentic replica Morris Canal boat to the system. The Morris boats were different from most canal boats in that they were actually two water- tight sections hinged in the middle to prevent their breaking when coming off the top of the inclined plane.

Our visitors to the schooner in Jersey City, like all the other stops we have made, loved making a connection with this faded world of 19th century canal history. Most were unaware that New Jersey had canals or that the entrance to the Morris Canal was directly across the harbor from where we were docked. It made for some very interesting discussions. Jersey City is undergoing a building boom all around the harbor and many visitors reflected on how just a few short years ago the harbor was a backwater of old working craft and abandoned boats. With luxury apartments mushrooming up all around this historic harbor it’s fair to say the Captain Bartley would probably not have recognized the place that he and his family spent so many winters.

Our sincere thanks to the New Jersey Canal Society and Liberty Landing Marina and the Liberty State Park for making us feel so welcome. With the extraordinary good weather still holding we embarked from Liberty Landing to our next venue, Port Washington.

*These Journals were transcribed by Captain Bartley’s great-granddaughter-in-law, Barbara, edited by Russ Bellico and published in an abridged form by Purple Mountain Press and the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum. They are available through the Museum by calling 802-475-2022.


Phone: 802-475-2022