Life on the waterfront is tough. One is exposed to all kinds of weather and life in the transportation industry is no more attractive today than it was a hundred years ago. The romance of life on the canal is embellished by selective memory.
The Tugboat Frances Tericoma was tied up with its sister vessel historic Pennsylvania Railroad Barge at the Terminal Dock in Halfmoon during the summer of 2008. Captain Steve Trueman had a vision of restoring the barge to a state that it could be a floating exhibit along the Mohawk Towpath Byway. It would be a living museum of the commerce and life on the Erie Canal from wartime (WW1) through the 1960’s.
The only sanitary facilities on the floating venue was a small, cramped head* on the tug which discharged to a holding tank below deck. During operation as a tug even as late as the 1960s the holding tank… if there was one, was emptied legally in open water between ports-of-call. The alternative in 2008 was a restroom in the nearby convenience store. It became obvious after a month that the holding tank was too small for the vessel parked as a “permanent” display. During an attempt to install a larger holding tank a spark from a welder’s torch ignited some methane and exploded the tank and contents over the below deck engine room. No one was hurt, but the heroic effort to clean up the mess for the Byway’s mid July Board meeting as an unexpected quest of Captain Steve… a story for another day.
* Picture an primitive version of the tourist class restroom on a commuter jet, but the small shaving mirror was hung in the galley behind the pilot house.