The Boats of Buffalo
One of the many benefits of living in a waterfront city is the opportunity to see the various boats and freightliners traveling through the harbor and Buffalo River. As a photographer, it sometimes adds an additional element to the photograph I'm trying to capture. For many, it's a temporary show we get to enjoy as it enters Silo City or glides across Lake Erie in the distance. I was recently down at the Lighthouse a couple weeks back shooting when by chance I got to witness The American Mariner turning around in the harbor. It's a surreal experience viewing these Great Lakes freightliners up close, their size is astonishing!
Now a permanent fixture on Buffalo's waterfront, the USS Little Rock is a World War II era light cruiser that was commissioned in 1945. Never seeing combat in the world war, she made numerous voyages to South America, the Caribbean and Mediterranean areas. While operating in the Mediterranean, Little Rock was ordered to the waters of Santo Domingo to provide stability during a state of unrest shortly after the assassination of Rafael Trujillo. By the late 1950's she was converted to a guided missile cruiser and extensively modified forward to become a flagship, most notably for the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean in the early 1970's. She decommissioned for the last time in 1976 and parked permanently in Buffalo, now serving as a museum ship at the Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park.
In 2015, the Great Lakes Towing Company was contracted to bring the 105 year old "Boblo Boat" SS Columbia to Buffalo from Toledo, Ohio for restoration. This was organized by The SS Colombia Project - a non-profit who's mission is to restore and enable the SS COLUMBIA to serve as a cultural flagship reconnecting New York City to the many waterfront cities along the Hudson Valley where excursion steamboats were once a familiar sight. The Towing Company’s 2,400 horsepower twin screw Tug MICHIGAN arrived in Toledo overnight. With the assistance of The Towing Company’s Harbor Tug NEW JERSEY, the Tug MICHIGAN, with the SS COLUMBIA in tow, departed Toledo for Buffalo. For decades SS COLUMBIA and its sister ship the SS STE. CLAIRE ferried thousands of passengers from Detroit to Boblo Island Amusement Park. The vessels largely sat unused and unprotected after they were decommissioned in 1991.
Buffalo's famous fireboat, the Edward M. Cotter, is considered to be the oldest operating fireboat in the world and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1996. Laid down in 1900 and originally named the William S. Grattan, the fireboat shares a rich and trying history serving the sea, including a fire to an oil barge in 1928 that nearly destroyed the boat. The William S. Grattan was refit n 1953 due to aging boilers and upon completion was renamed the Edward M. Cotter after longtime firefighter and respected union leader. Not only a fireboat, she is used as an icebreaker on Buffalo's rivers during our harsh winters to make way for the various freightliners entering Silo City. The Edward M. Cotter has five fire monitors aboard that can pump 15,000 gallons per minute. She is often seen sailing near the break wall in the summer months firing all five monitors as she returns to dock, providing quite the show for spectators enjoying activities along the harbor or Canalside. From the U.S.S. Little Rock and U.S.S. The Sullivans to the Edward M. Cotter, boats are a significant part of Buffalo's history and still play a role today. Here's a collection of images I've gathered over the past year during my kayaking and coastal adventures.