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New York Central No. 16, first launched in 1924, may be demolished if supporters can’t raise funds to save it.
New York Central No. 16, first launched in 1924, may be demolished if supporters can’t raise funds to save it. (Bill Greene/ Globe Staff)

Bourne tugboat in need of rescue

Landlocked vessel faces demolition

Ever since Charles Schneider was a teenager, an old tugboat, New York Central No. 16, signaled the start of his family's summer Cape Cod vacation as they drove past the landlocked vessel near the Bourne Bridge.

When Schneider, now 42, learned a few months ago that the old tug that fascinated him as a youth will be demolished soon to make way for a CVS pharmacy, the Raynham man started working to save the boat. But with an estimated $250,000 needed to rescue the tug, its future is murkier than the waters of New York Harbor it once plowed.

``I've been looking at this thing for the 24 years it has been sitting there and wondering what's going happen to it," Schneider said. ``It's a shame really."

Tugboat No. 16 has been a Cape Cod landmark since local maritime history buffs rescued it from a scrapheap on Staten Island in 1982.

Developers said this month they plan to destroy the old tug, one of the last of the steam-powered boats that tugged barges filled with goods up and down the Hudson River.

Maritime enthusiasts such as Schneider hope to save the boat from demolition, but have yet to find the money to relocate the tug, which currently sits on a 30-by-90-foot concrete pad near the Route 25 onramp. They say the removal of the landmark to make way for a drugstore will damage the visual character of the Cape. Others want it relocated to a maritime museum.

But the developers say they can no longer wait. Although a specific date has not been set, No. 16 will be torn down after CVS closes on the property sold by The Hegarty Family Trust, which could be in a matter of days or weeks, said Patrick Butler, a lawyer representing the developers.

The tug's possible demise has left some in the local and maritime community in mourning.

``Because the tugboat is not a historic structure, they really couldn't protect it," said Coreen Moore, town planner, of those who want to save the boat. ``But it is a landmark. When people come to Bourne, they say, `Hey, take a left at the tugboat.' People know it is here. So, it is disappointing to lose it, but that's the price of development, I guess."

The boat, which was launched in 1924, received an 11th-hour reprieve and its backers a bit more time to raise money, because developers are in a dispute with the town over traffic lights on the property.

Until their appeal to the town Planning Board is resolved and they close on the property, demolition of the tug will be delayed, Butler said.

Schneider hopes there is enough time to save the tug. Most recently, officials from Connecticut's Mystic Seaport, The Museum of America and the Sea, have expressed interest, especially since they are planning a 2007 exhibit called ``Tugs," said museum spokesman Michael O'Farrell, adding that the museum must find a donor to help bear the costs.

``The boat is very savable, and we would like to work with CVS to move it to Mystic Seaport," Schneider said. ``They said they have a space for it. We just need CVS to give us more time."

Butler said that over the past nine months they worked with local associations and outside museums to preserve the tug. In the end, he said, relocating the decaying boat could cost more than $250,000. It would involve taking it apart, possibly moving it by barge, and then restoring it.

Mike DeAngelis, a CVS spokesman, said engineers hired by the company and developers called the tug structurally unsafe, saying there was significant rusting and corrosion, making it costly to relocate.

DeAngelis also said that the Bourne community has not rallied to keep the tug, instead outsiders have been trying to drum up support.

The CVS store will be designed to blend with the colonial architecture typical of Cape Cod.

Still, some scoff at that, saying that a 21st-century colonial-looking CVS cannot replace a true piece of history.

``Tugboats are beautiful, and they are really significant in this part of the country," said Joy Sikorski of the Hoboken Historical Maritime Museum in New Jersey, who also tried to save No. 16. ``It seems heartless and lacking in vision to destroy it so CVS can . . . make the store look like a fake Disneyland-New England cottage. Why not use that money to enhance the real thing?"

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