New Jersey Scuba Diving
- shipwreck, tugboat
- 1960, Wilmington DE USA
- ( 105 x 24 ft )
- Spentonbush Red Star Company
- Friday February 14, 1986
- 40°07.942' -73°55.879'
- 80 ft
For 127 years the Cornell Steamboat Company dominated traffic on the Hudson River with its large fleet of steamers, tugs, and barges. In 1958, Cornell was bought out by Trap Rock Industries, their biggest customer, and by 1960 the once-proud Cornell fleet was reduced to a single vessel - the Rockland County. The Rockland County's sole duty was to move Trap Rock's stone barges between quarries along the upper Hudson River and docks in New York Harbor.
In 1964, owing to increased competition from railroads, Trap Rock sold their towing operations to Spentonbush / Red Star Group, and so the old Cornell Steamboat Company ceased to exist. Spentonbush / Red Star was a division of Amerada Hess Corporation, and the Rockland County ostensibly spent the remainder of her life moving gas and oil barges around New York Harbor, until she was donated and used as an artificial reef in 1986.
The Rockland County was the first pusher-type tugboat ( or "towboat" ) in the northeast. Such vessels are common on the Mississippi and other western rivers, but not here along the stormy east coast, and even today there are not many. A towboat differs from the more common type of tugboat in having a flat bottom and a square bow with large "knees" or vertical frames, evident in the picture above. Instead of pulling its barges behind it, a towboat pushes the barges ahead. Usually, many barges are lashed together into a large raft ( ironically called a "tow" ) which is pushed and steered as a unit.
A towboat and barges on the Mississippi.
To move such a huge load, the Rockland County fed 1,800 shaft horsepower through two highly efficient Kort nozzles, or ducted propellers. For control, she possessed a total of six rudders. A similar configuration is pictured at right. With her wide, flat-bottomed hull, relatively shallow draft, and great maneuverability ( she was capable of turning around within her own length ) the Rockland County was ideal for use on inland waterways, and in her day was probably the most powerful tugboat on the river. Her roomy deckhouse gave above-average accommodations for the crew.
Today, the cut-down remains of the Rockland County lie upright on a muddy bottom in 80 feet of water. Unfortunately, almost anything of interest was removed prior to sinking, including the wheelhouse, engines, propellers, and rudders. Except for the large push-knees that mark the bow, the Rockland County is indistinguishable from a barge. The forward part of the heavy hull is sunk well into the silty mud, leaving few places for lobster to burrow under; there is better hunting around the stern. The deckhouse is easily penetrated from the sides or the roof, and is home to some very big Blackfish. The site is often used for training dives.
The pilot house in this picture belongs to the towing tug, which did not sink.
Side-scan sonar image. The bow is at the lower-left, with the push-knees barely visible. The deckhouse is made apparent by its shadow on the hull.
In 1997, the Rockland County became a double wreck, when the "Fisherman" barge was sunk nearby. A three inch hawser once connected the two wrecks, running from the port side of the tug to the bow of the upside-down barge. Pulling yourself hand-over-hand along the mussel and hydroid encrusted line, you could easily cover the distance ( perhaps 100 yards ) in a few minutes. After several years, the hawser wore away, and I do not recommend going looking for the barge without it.
ST-18 "The Fisherman"
- tanker barge
- ( 242 x 42 ft )
- Spentonbush Red Star Company, Sportfish Fund
- Thursday August 7, 1997 - Sea Girt Artificial Reef
- 40°07.930' -73°55.942'
- 70 ft
This very big barge is connected to the Rockland County by a heavy hawser, or rope. This is the line that was used to moor her to the already-sunk Rockland County while she was prepared for sinking by the demolitions crew. The Fisherman barge is named for the Fisherman magazine, which sponsored her. It was donated to the reef program after the bow was damaged in a collision.
The Fisherman barge is flipped-over, and so presents a smooth upper surface, punctured in places by man-sized holes that probably allow access to the interior. The holes are either the result of the explosives used to sink the barge, or were punched through by the large chunks of rock and concrete that were dropped on and around the wreck. The barge also stands slightly off the bottom, not enough to get under, but enough for some nice lobsters to make homes well out of reach.
Unfortunately, the Fisherman is upside-down.
Side-scan sonar image of the Fisherman barge, bow at lower-left,
showing blast holes and concrete blocks all around and on the wreck.
The side-scan didn't pick up the hawser.
I make no claim as to the accuracy, validity, or appropriateness of any information found in this website. I will not be responsible for the consequences of any action that is based upon information found here. Scuba diving is an adventure sport, and as always, you alone are responsible for your own safety and well being.
Copyright © 1996-2016 Rich Galiano
unless otherwise noted