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Below is a close-up of the telegraph in the engine compartment of Evelyn J. Let’s imagine the captain rings out “OLOAD” and go to flank speed . . . in this case related to origin of the tug label for these vessels. I wish I had more fotos of fish tugs, but for now I have only some “detail” shots. For all the images and info to satisfy your curiosity, you have to travel to the Great Lakes–in spite of the rough weather and even a lake seiche–or go to the fantastic sites maintained by Harvey Hadland or the good folks at Northeastern Maritime, both now added to my blogroll. By the way, I have a friend from waaaay back to thank for the word “seiche.”

So . . . why are they tugs? Here I quote Harvey Hadland’s explanation: “The first fish tugs were large towing steam vessels fitted out for fishing by setting up the net lifting machinery on the forward deck. The nets were reset over the stern. As time went by, the tugs were partly enclosed for protection from the elements. By stages the boats were completely enclosed. As they now appear they have very attractive lines and are state of the art. Some boats have the pilothouse aft, and some have midship pilothouses with a raised shelter at the stern. The different designs are the owners’ personal preference. They are a unique design, found nowhere else in the world. The sad part of the whole situation is that it’s a dying industry, partly the result of political and sportsfishing pressures, and the changing times.” Below is the stack with forward curving exhaust on Judy Ann, pictured a few days back.

Mac Mackay writes from the Nova Scotia perspective as follows: “These boats were used to tow fleets of rowing/ sail craft out onto the lakes. Much like Grand Banks dory fishermen, the small boats caught the
fish. The tug took the fish and men onboard and towed the boats back to port. The first engines were too expensive to put one in every small boat, so fishermen economized by putting one engine in one big boat instead. In the late 1920s and early 1930s when diesel engines became affordable, the fishermen dispensed with the small open boats entirely and used their tugs to fish from. The enclosed deck allowed then to sort, gut and stow their fish sheltered from the weather. They are still called tugs – a unique use of the word tug as far as I am aware.” Below is a view of the bridge in Evelyn S. See the glossy foto lower right?

Finally, Daniel Meeter, from a sociological and linguistic perspective that befits the scholar he is, writes “Some of the nautical terms on the Great Lakes are isolated from the terms of the Atlantic (and therefore evolve), because some workers on the lake boats were later than the maritimers by at least one generation” and “There’s no reference to fishing tugs in the Oxford English Dictionary. But tug could be used for any boat that worked laboriously. The words tug and tow come from the same Old Engish word togian.

See the close-up of the glossy? Well, from the commercial fisherman/tug driver peering through Evelyn S‘s porthole and me, thanks to Harvey, Mac, and Daniel and all who read this. Oh, some stats on Evelyn S: 50′ x 13′ built in 1939 and an iron-sheathed hull to break lake ice up to 14 inches thick if needed.

Unrelated, thanks to Mike and Scott for sending me to Telstar Logistics, now also on my blogroll, and a post about a high-tech tug–non-fishing–that concludes with a stern view of one of Alice‘s sisters! Alice, by the way, is now off the coast of Ghana. If you’re new here and don’t know Alice, (Alice Oldendorff) type it into the search window.

Photos, WVD.

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June 2008