Monday, December 8, 2014

Crounse Week, Day 3: Three generations of boats

Back in May of 2009, the job I had done for more than thirty years was eliminated in a corporate downsizing. That give me the opportunity to spend more time down by the Ohio River as I figured out what my next step in life would be. Little did I know that few people wanted me, at least wanted me and my experience and everything else at more than what amounted to a starting wage.

That meant I spent a lot more time by the river than I thought I would. Lucky for me, I had a new camera to go with that time, and it was a time when companies were having new boats built. AEP and Marathon were ordering or taking delivery of their next generation of boats to push coal and petroleum products. And so was Crounse Corp.

Crounse’s fleet, at least the part that I saw in the Meldahl, Greenup, Robert C.Byrd and Racine pools and beyond, was mostly of two designs in keeping with the company’s overall strategy of standardization. The first generation of Crounse boats that I was familiar with began with the Sara Page, which was built in 1966; the Barbara, Donna York, Eva Kelley, Hazel and Sue Chappell, which were built in 1975; the Edith Tripp, Nancy Sturgis and Sandy Drake, built in 1976; and the Chris, the Eleanor and the Jincy, all built in 1979. Not all of these made it up to the Greenup pool while I was around, by the way.
M/V Barbara upbound on the Ohio River north of Huntington, W.Va.

All those boats were built by St. Louis Ship, which stopped building boats around 1984.

While other companies were buying 5,600-horsepower Dravo Vikings and boats from Jeffboat and St. Louis Ship, Crounse was sticking with its older design of boats with engines generating about one-third the horsepower of the bigger boats.

In 1993 and 1996, five boats in the Crounse fleet were built at Jeffboat: the Yvonne Conway, Ginger Moller, Debi Sharp, Mary Artie Brannon and Enid Dibert. They were larger than the previous generation.

(All dates listed above are from All names are the ones on the boats now as best as I can find. As I am not familiar with all Crounse boats, there may be one or two that I have wrong, have omitted or that may have been sold. If so, please let me know, and please be kind.).

In 2009, one of my river contacts told me Crounse had a new boat headed in my direction – the Linda Reed. It would be the first of five boats to be built for Crounse by Eastern Shipbuilding Group at Panama City, Florida. These boats would have engines generating 4,000 horsepower, as compared with 1,800 horsepower of the first generation and 3,600 of the second.

My younger son Adam, who had become an enthusiastic towboat chaser, accompanied me as we went looking for the Reed when she was in our area. The first weekend of January 2010 we heard about the Paula Ruble. It was headed down the river toward us, and we followed it several miles on its slow journey. The weather was bitterly cold that day. The wind chill must have been around zero. But we saw the boat and got our pictures, even if we had to sit up on a bridge for a while so we could get the overhead view.
M/V Paula Ruble passing under the East End bridge at Huntington.

As you can see here …

Deadheading below Gallipolis, Ohio.

… there is a size difference between the first and third generation of Crounse boats. But the new boats, we learned, might not be as big as they looked. From this overhead view …


… you can see the Linda Reed is not quite as wide as a barge. Coal barges are 35 feet wide. The Linda Reed is 34 feet wide.

Next: Photographing Crounse boats.