Actually that’s not what it’s called. Towing on the hawser is the phrase instead even if what’s on the hawser here is not the typical barge.


It’s Robert Smithson‘s Floating Island, a mobile piece of geography for a time in late summer 2005. Below is the island as seen under a full moon.

The nighttime tell-tale of a tug with a barge is the set of two lights one directly atop the other on the right side of the photo. Standing watch at night in the harbor involves looking for light combinations like this. It’s sort of like looking at consellations in the night sky.

When a tug has no load, it is said to be light, as is the case with the “retired” tug Gowanus Bay below.

Click here and scroll down to see more of Gowanus Bay, currently docked in Brooklyn Navy Yard after working from 1956 until 2002. It has a 600 hp Atlas direct reversing diesel. “Direct reversing” means that to “shift” from forward into reverse, the engine is shut down for a second or two and then restarted in the opposite direction.

If it’s September and you’re way up the Hudson in Waterford, the eastern end of the Erie aka Barge Canal and there are a few dozen light tugs around, you may see a pushing contest.

More tugs tomorrow.

All photos by Will Van Dorp.