The Travels of Tug 44

Tug 44 Winter Storage 2011
Careening on the New York Canals

When I lived in New Jersey on the Hackensack River (salt water), winter storage consisted of putting in some anti-freeze and bilge heaters and that was it. A bubbler was rarely necessary. The water didn't really freeze due to a nearby power plant dumping warm water. Up here in the frozen north, hauling became necessary but they don't have Travel Lifts. Here they use hydraulic trailers, and some damage resulted.

For Winter 2011, I decided that I would let her settle on the mud near the dock when they drained the canal. The mud is so loose and sticky all winter it doesn't freeze well even in our arctic winters, and I expected the keel would sink into the mud, leaving her sitting roughly level. This photo taken around Thanksgiving was my reminder to get the boat ready for winter. In the background, is a dredge tug, probably on her last trip past my dock for the season. I have my permit from the Canal Corp, and all is ready.

A few days later, the snow has melted, the sun is shining brightly, and Larry Seney (Chief of Lock C-7) opened his valves and began draining my section of canal. Soon we discover something is wrong ... the boat has developed a major heel to port. I go aboard and while it sure looks spooky, all is still well. And more importantly, there is no second chance with this, as the upstream lock is now dammed off for a pumpout and no water is available to refloat the boat. This photo taken by Larry.

Here the boat is laying in the mud, heeled to port about 29 degrees. To my astonishment the keel did not sink into the mud, not even a little bit. And there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. Then I heard the story of a neighbor who did the same thing for years with no problem. His boat had no keel so it sat flat and level on the mud. One spring we had an early melt and a resulting flood and the canal filled. His boat still had the props frozen into the mud and the boat was dragged under the water and wrecked. Notice my prop is still visible and I won't have his problem.

So here we are, this is the view from my house. The boat will spend the winter sitting at 29 degrees off kilter. All is well, the boat is perfectly fine like this, and when the water returns in spring, she will float free. Recently I have discovered that there is a name for the time honored tradition of running a boat aground and letting the tide expose her bottom for maintenance. It is called "careening".

Folks from all over the world have written me saying this is perfectly fine, they do it too, and the boat's manufacturer agrees. American Tugs are built extremely tough: One owner ran his boat onto the rocks at 15 knots to a crash stop and suffered no structural damage and floated himself off on the next tide. All I need to do is add a few tarps and then enjoy the arctic winter and hope spring eventually returns.

" Careening down the Champlain Canal - Winter 2011 "

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