Erick and the Axe

lcmm Museum

Anyone who has been following the adventures of the Lois McClure knows that Erick Tichonuk is the schooner’s First Mate, or Chief Mate, as he would be called in the Merchant Marine. Captain Theodore Bartley had no such luxury in 1862; canal boat captains had to be their own first mate (and boatswain and ship’s carpenter and deckhand, etc.) But on the Lois McClure, I can devote myself primarily to the safe operation of the vessel and leave a lot of duties (including helping with the safe operation of the vessel) to Erick.

The other day, as I was steering down the Hudson River, between locks, I glanced over onto the Churchill’s stern deck (she was towing alongside, on the hip), and there was Erick, hard at work with a paintbrush. He was applying brilliant, glossy, red paint to the business end of a fine fire axe!

Erick hard at work on the fire axe

Erick hard at work on the fire axe (photo: Tom Larsen)

Now, every tugboat should have a fire axe, mounted in its sheath on the side of the deckhouse. This tool is just expected on a boat that is used for towing. It’s not that we expect to have to cut our way through a bulkhead to get at a fire, but rather that we want to be able to cut the towing hawser fast in an emergency. And it looks, well, cool.

C.L. Churchill's freshly painted new fire axe

C.L. Churchill's freshly painted new fire axe (photo: Tom Larsen)

So, when Kerry Batdorf, Ship’s Carpenter (another luxury that we have on the Lois McClure) found a sound fire axe in an antique store in Whitehall, he and Erick had a brief conference, the axe appeared on board the Churchill, and now it is painted to perfection. A perfect precaution.

Roger Taylor