Monday, May 31, 2010

One must never run out of Scotch!

Waterford has been a wonderful stop for us these past few days. From the moment we arrived the hospitality of the town and its fellow boaters has been fantastic. Of all the stops we have made, this is the first one where we have begun to meet fellow "loopers". I guess it makes sense, this being a major artery for anyone intending on going into the great lakes and doing the loop. The "Looper" it seems, is an interesting breed. So far there have been two distinct types, those that have done it and know all the tricks, and those that walk around resembling a sponge soaking up as much information as they can. I fall into the sponge category, as a mater of fact I met a very nice Scotsman whom Anna has come to refer to as the dry twin to Sean Connery. Ten minutes into our conversations the man says "My boy, you have no manner of knowledge at all with regards to this do you?" The funny part was the topic was bringing booze into Canada. His advise was to stock up with as much as you can. He very proudly recited his ships manifest from memory, it was quite impressive. "One must never run out Scotch" a statement that Anna and I have been saying back and for the past few days. Try saying it with your best Connery voice, you will see it's catchy. Taking advantage of the holiday Anna and I decided to take a few days off from running the boat and do some exploring of the surrounding towns. On a walk up to Lock 2 we came across the tug boat "Urger". The "Urger" is the pride of the NY Canal Systems fleet. She's a Tug boat built in 1901 which is still in operation on the canal. Although it no longer pushes anything, it is still one of the coolest things I have seen thus far. I was blessed to run into the "Urgers" engineer Chris Freeman. After a few minutes of conversation he invited me on board and gave me a tour of the engine room. This old diesel was installed in the boat in the early 40's at which time it replaced it's original steam engine. To my surprise I learned it is started by compressed air, there are two massive air tanks on the sides of the engine which supply air to the proper cylinder starting a chain reaction which then start the engine. I was shocked that it was essentially a common rail diesel. In the old days a compressor tug would come up along side the "Urger" and charge her tanks, once started it's own compressor would keep up the pressure. Now here is the truly cool part, the "Urger" is a direct drive engine. Once the engine starts, the prop turns. It is either started in forward or reverse. The engineer sits next to the engine and starts and stops the engine at the command of the Captains bells. One bell, start in forward, two bells, start in reverse. A second bell which makes a jingle noise tells the engineer to give her some gas. Chris said that it is like putting a guy in the trunk of your car with the gas and brakes then using the horn to tell him what to do. Getting a chance to walk through such a cool piece of history was truly awesome. Anna and I had planned on staying in Waterford through Monday, but the anticipation of what lies down the canal is to much to bear, we will push off today we couldn't think of a better way to spend this beautiful Memorial Day.

The "Urger"

How cool is that Bow Pudding.

Now that is what I call a helm. Notice the old iron radiators on the sides of the wheelhouse. Must have been nice and toasty in there in the winter.

The engine was about 12 feet in length and about 7 feet tall. It is hard to see but the black torpedo like object that runs along the top is the air tank. There was a second down below. Chris told me that on of the things he has been pushing the canal system to do is to do a test on the tanks to verify their integrity. They are almost 80 years old and where originally rated to hold 275 pounds of pressure. He said he wouldn't dare put more than 170 pounds in the tank. I asked him what would happen if the tank sprung a leak, he laughed and said they don't leak, they explode.

This is the control that Chris uses to change the engine from forward to reverse.

This is the air gauge I assume Chris tends to keep a close eye on.

Here are the bells which are rung from the wheelhouse.

The view from our dock in Waterford.

One of the many bridges spanning over the Eire.

This old water tower was part of an abandoned cotton shirt plant on the side of the canal.

Looks like these guys found heaven.

The spillways around the canal are just beautiful

Looking down the canal to Troy NY

One of the many Damns in Waterford.

This is a lock on the old Champlain Canal. Anna and I took a long bike ride on this canal and found it cool to see what the canal would look like if it was left to nature.


  1. I hope Blue Yonder will send a toot out to my neck of the woods - Syracuse!

  2. WIll, Cool pete i wonder if they have ever crashed it also i hope to see you sometime in early summer

  3. I check in every day to read your adventures. Really enjoying it so far.