Seaport tug pulls out win Upstate


By Sarah Trefethen

South Street Seaport Museum’s scrappy W.O. Decker is the Tug of the Year.

The 52-foot-long, 78-year-old vessel owned by the Seaport Museum headed to Waterford, N.Y. Sept. 5 to claim her title at the tenth annual Waterford Tugboat Roundup.

The two-and-a-half day festival stretched along a waterfront set with bright greenery and glassy water in the sleepy canal town just up the Hudson from Albany and Troy.

Decker, built out of wood to ply the waters of Newtown Creek, is sometimes compared to a bathtub toy alongside her far-ranging steel-hulled sisters. Roundup founder John Callaghan called the Seaport vessel an “iconic, scrappy-the-tugboat little tug.”

Decker was the only tug at the festival with a U.S. Coast Guard certification to take on passengers. “That makes us very, very popular with almost everybody who’s around in Waterford this weekend,” Captain Josh Rubin drawled.

The Tug of the Year didn’t disappoint her public. In two days, the diminutive tug carried almost 200 delighted guests.

The passengers were among the thousands of revelers who enjoyed a bouncing assortment of Dixieland, folk, and big-band jazz, performed from the top deck of the brightly restored river barge Grand Erie. The music helped set a festive tone for a street-fair-meets-boat-show in the shadow of the Erie Canal.

The Waterford United Methodist Church was on hand with a seemingly endless supply of pies, from apple and blueberry to pumpkin, pecan, lemon meringue, rhubarb and key lime. Other vendors offered tugboat-themed memorabilia and handicrafts, rain coats to ward off Hurricane Hanna and wide-brimmed hats that sold well after the clouds broke for a beautiful Sunday afternoon.

Twenty-five tugboats from around the state pulled in for the festival. Visitors and crews meandered along the dock, stopping to compare notes on shipyards, fender construction, local fishing holes and the Methodists’ pies.

Decker will sail from Pier 16 through the end of October on tours of New York Harbor, and is available for charter. For more information, call (212) 748-8786 or visit www.southstreetseaportmuseum.org.