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Take all the photos you like, but if you just sit on a dock by the bay watching the ships roll in and out, you’ll only know so much and nothing more.  If you suspected I was hinting at something in yesterday’s post, it was this review.

If you want to know more about working on a tugboat, you can get a job on a tugboat.  Of course, you’d have to survive the gauntlet of training, interview, application, physical, drug tests, etc.

Or you can pick up Tom Teague’s book, where among many other things he explains how he got hired for his first full-time tugboat job:  he got a telephone call from a tugboat captain the day before he was scheduled to meet with the US Navy recruiter.  The captain asked if he could start right away.  That night.  He did.  It was 1974.  The author was 20, and as he lets the reader know several times, he had good hair.

Teague describes how the towing business has changed in some significant ways since 1974.  Think about the photo below; “just having a beer” on a towing vessel today would trigger immediate firing.

Yet the same perils lurk whenever you work with powerful machines on the water in all kinds of weather.  A chapter entitled “Danger” illustrates the unforgiving environment of a workboat.  This chapter, framed by incidents involving unfortunate fellow crew and friends, makes the point that even knowledgeable, professional mariners might pay heavily for failing even for a second to pay attention.

By the way, if you’re a regular reader of tugster, do you recognize the tugboat on the cover?

You may have heard the aphorism “moments of terror interspersed by hours, days, etc. of boredom” in relation to a variety of fields.  It certainly applies to working on tugboats.  Boredom and dealing with it gets a whole chapter.  And Teague gets hilarious about creative attempts to alleviate boredom, without doing harm or damage.  Well, some coffee gets spilled, er… sacrificed.

Capt. Teague navigates story telling quite well, alternating, as he must have to aboard his boat, between abundant, straightforward explanation for a non-mariner reading the book and straying into the tales you’d expect of a mariner with many nautical miles under his keel.   He’s enlightening when recounting ordeals with weather and clarifying towing jargon.  Salty humor and fascinating characters abound when he catalogs nicknames–and their derivations–of fellow mariners he’s met over the decades.

Doing paperwork, I’m told, makes every captain’s eyes cross, but when Tom writes, not at all cryptically “Stay tuned for the next installment.  I’m still typing,” I suspect he’s going above and beyond the usual wheelhouse reports and confirmations.  There’s another book just over the horizon, and I for one am eagerly awaiting it.

Thomas Teague is still working in the wheelhouse as a tugboat captain after having started as a hawsepiper back in the 1970s.  With Tales from a Tugboat Captain, he seems to have gotten the call and jumped aboard writing about work with the likes of Studs Terkel and John McPhee.  There’s a whole genre here–Harberger’s Seized comes to mind as does Moynihan’s Voyage of the Rose City— waiting to be picked up and read on a cold winter’s day, or taken to the beach or on a cruise when the sun is hot.  And finally, I’m hoping that other mariners, upon completing their on-vessel reports, contribute to this genre.

Click here to order your copy of the book.  For additional photos and videos obviously not in the book, check out Captain Tom Teague on FB.  I’m told a book signing is planned for spring in Brooklyn and will post details about that when available.

See previous tugster reviews here.

Tangentially related, twelve years ago I posted this, which ends with a quote from Franz Kafka revealing how he imagined paperwork on boats.

And the boat on the cover, you may know it today as the “red” Cornell.

First, some context, and yes, today is that day.  I celebrate it without claiming to adhere to anything beginning with ashes.  This may be grasping at long shots, but I have not visited a location that celebrates this spring event in a long time.  I know . . . shame on me.  More on that later.

Anyone know the author here?  It’s a fat tome I’ve taken it from  . . . over 1600 pages, all from the king of fat tomes and rich language himself.

“We are off!”   It has not nearly the hook of a “Call me Ishmael.”  The short second paragraph, though, is a line that needs remembering.   As to location, Ravavai is contextualized with reference to Pitcairn, at place today with a grand total population of 50.   I’m not sure what the population was 150+ years ago when this was written.

Still in the first short chapter . . .  now that’s prescient .  . in the second paragraph here, describing the skipper!

By now, I hope you’ve concluded the author here has to be Melville, one of the top five authors of the sea and gallivants thereupon.  Anyone want to fill in the names of the other four?  I have my ideas.  Mardi is one of those fat books very few folks read.  I started last night, and hope to complete it.  You can start it here.

But in the spirit of mardi gras, here’s another story you may have missed . . . the houseboat Shameless, piloted down the Mississippi by a dying man, Kelly Phillips.  His first mate was Sapphire, recently honored among the float sponsored by the Mystic Krewe of Barkus.

Here’s more on the voyage of Shameless from Wisconsin to Venice LA, and all the great folks along the river who lent a hand.

And if you need some language yourself, click here for a fat Tuesday glossary.

 

Private planes can’t be fun for slow and prolonged travel, and RVs–unless I could drive something wild like these or a Fuller— leave me cold, but these yachts seem a popular way to see the world . . . at least one of the loops.   What I might enjoy more than a loop is a crossing, a la William Least-Heat Moon, with a smaller and more adaptable vessel.

I was not stalking the yacht below, but here I caught Ann Marie Rose entering the Upper Bay on June 8,

under the 9W bridge in Kingston on June 16, and then

on July 1 in Little Falls, NY.  Maybe I can find them on AIS.  She’s 48′ and registered in Virginia.  I’d say they travel at an appropriate pace, around 200 miles a month.

Copesetic is 46′ and registered in Chesapeake City, MD.  It’s maybe owned by someone with the last name Cope?  I’ve never been inside a catamaran motor yacht.

Ocean Star is truly from Ketchikan, AK and headed eastbound in the Erie Canal. From the West Coast they traveled by truck until they splashed into the Mississippi in Minnesota.

You can tell Scott Free (61′) is in the Canal by the fact that her radar dome and all that supports it is set on her nose, to make the low bridge.  I did a double take upon seeing her, imagining this was a boat inspired by Blount’s Grande vessels.

The natural beauty of the Canal envelopes these three cruisers as they

make their way west to share lock E-18.  The green boat in the middle appears to be a 42′ Kadey Krogen;  a friend has done two crossings of the Atlantic with his, and is now off California, after starting in Panama about a year ago.

I can’t tell you much about Sláinte, but she was pretty in the dawn light.

And this one . . . Boatel I  was headed to Toronto for the season.  It’s a floating accommodation, not to be confused with Botel, where I stayed back in 2014.  Scroll here to see my photo.

Anyone know where she spent the winter?   Maybe it’s “no tell motel.”

All photos by Will Van Dorp.

 

It’s Cornell, westbound under the Bayonne Bridge.  Now that’s a sight not often seen.  Cornell (1949) occupies a niche likely quite unexpected, as documented here.  In this post (scroll), you see Cornell in 1978!  Hear her inimitable whistles (wait for it) here.

Ivory Coast has truly an unusual name, but I’d never call her Côte d’Ivoire.  That’s been her name now for 20 years;  previously she was Crusader for over 30 years.

Nicole Leigh Reinauer is the first (of three? ) Atlantic II class tug.

Her dimensions and design are similar if not identical to Lincoln Sea, but Nicole has CAT engines instead of EMDs.   This class of ATB is the product of Bob Hill, whose boyhood home in Troy NY  gave him a front row seat to an earlier generation of tugs and barges.

Looking very similar to Nicole Leigh Reinauer, it’s the newest ATB in the boro . . .  Bert Reinauer, photo thanks to Lisa Kolibabek.  Bert,  almost two decades newer, has the same dimensions as Nicole Leigh, but with GEs generating 8400 hp, versus CATs at 7200.

Viking has operated out of the sixth boro since 1992.  Before that, she spent 20 years in the fleet of Nolty J. Theriot, whose rise and fall is documented in Woody Falgoux’s excellent book, Rise of the Cajun Mariners.

For various Viking appearances on tugster over the years, click here.

Discovery Coast spent a lot of time in the sixth boro a few years ago, but these days she’s rarely here.  Here’s her first appearance in this blog, in 2012.

And the newest ship assist tug in the boro is Capt. Brian A. McAllister.  Here’s a Professional Mariner story about the tug.

The photo of Bert Reinauer thanks to Lisa Kolibabek.  All other photos here in the past week by Will Van Dorp.

 

“one of the toughest ports in the world, sharing that distinction with Shanghai and Calcutta . . .”  I believe that’s “tough” as quantified in black eyes, missing teeth, and blood spat out onto the gravel.  I wonder who had the breadth of experience to render this judgement.  Why would such ports as Rio, Murmansk, and Oswego not be included . . . or others?

Besides that, those few sentences render a great description of mechanization.

Mississagi is wintering over here in Ashtabula. She’s appeared on this blog a half dozen times . . . working.   I’m coming home is Norfolk Southern’s mantra.

I believe this archway is a coal conveyor belt.

That’s all you get of GL tug Rhode Island.  Mississagi (1943) is only a year younger than Alpena.  But Rhode Island dates from 1930.   The white tug in front of it is Nancy Anne. based in Cheboygan, MI.

A bit farther east in Ashtabula, Calumet winters over.  Previous posts including Calumet can be found here.

and off its stern, it’s the upper portion of tug Olive L. Moore (hull launched in 1928) and barge Menominee.  I caught them on Lake Huron in August 2017.

If you wanted to start reading that historical marker from side one, here it is, then if you want, you can go back to the beginning and read that in proper context.  If you want the short history of Ashtabula, click here for a review of a good book.  If you want the juicy details or at least the gritty ones, buy Carl E. Feather’s Ashtabula Harbor:  A History of the world’s Greatest Iron Ore Receiving Port.  My copy is on order.

All photos by Will Van Dorp.

 

Here, from a year ago, were previous Gmelin photos.

All I can tell about the photo below is that it shows Homeric, 1931.  Of the three tugs to her starboard and the six or so in the distance as well as the small sloop and stick lighter to the right . . . I can say nothing else and hope someone reading this will have some detail to add.

Six years earlier, some had criticized Capt. John Roberts for being unable–not unwilling–to rescue anyone from Raifuku Maru some 500 miles off Boston.

Homeric went eight years between keel-laying and entering service because a war intervened, then saw service for less than 20 years.

As was true for Homeric, RMS Empress of Australia was built in the German shipyard now located in Poland.  This Empress of Australia was launched in 1913;  Kaiser Wilhelm II made her into the royal yacht, imagining he would receive the surrendered allied fleets from her.  Oh well . . .

Other details here on the photo marked 1931 . . .  to the right behind the ship I can see a pier marked Ellerman’s Wilson Line, although I don’t know what pier number that would be.  And on the stern of the assist tug I can make out  the Howard portion of  . . . Howard C. Moore, a Moran boat by then.

My point is that visual detail and charm notwithstanding, there’s a vacuum of fact in these photos.

Which brings me to a book I reread yesterday and would recommend–Sailors, Waterways, and Tugboats I Have Known–although the title is bulky.  The author–Capt. Fred G. Godfrey, who also wrote a novel Fugitive Deckhand–though born ashore, lived from infancy on a canal barge his parents operated in the New York Canal system.  In the first chapter, he mentions the first tugboat he ever rode aboard, a Buffalo-built 1899 steam tug named Triton.  He was four then, and then later he worked aboard as a deckhand and cook.  To be fair, Godfrey included three photos of Triton, but I wanted more, although his details about the galley of a tug of a century ago are rich.   In chapter two, he writes about George Field, an 1882 Buffalo-built tug his father captained.   And again, there were two pictures, and I wanted more, although the anecdote of the time he intervened–as a kid–and shoved a helmsman bent on sabotaging the boat  . . . is great.    Third chapter  . . . it’s Junior Murphy, built 1909 in New Baltimore NY.  Again, two photos of the boat are included as well as info about cargoes–including hay– and ports of call that included St.-Jean -sur-Richelieu, QC.

I read this book a few years ago before I’d gained familiarity with these waterways and it was unsatisfying.  Now I know most of the references, and I want a thousand more photos and would have loved to converse with Capt. Godfrey.

I’m not being whiney.  I love the Gmelin photos and the Godfrey books. In fact, if anyone wants to trade some vintage photos of tugboats for my second copy of Sailors, Waterways, and Tugboats . . ., let me know.

I hope a satisfying record remains for the readers and researchers working here in 2117.

 

 

 

Enjoy this sampling of boats and the dates associated with their launch starting from Arabian Sea (2007) on Dry Dock No. 7,

Stephen Reinauer (1970) nearby on 4,

Miss Circle Line . . . (1954 as ST 2124 and later Betsy) ,

Alex McAllister (1985),

Joyce D. Brown (2002) headed home after completing the daily chores,

Crystal Coast (1983) and Justin (1981) heading south into the Chesapeake,

JRT Moran (2016) holding onto an argosy,

Ivory Coast (1967) waiting on the next job,

All photos by Will Van Dorp (1952).

Unrelated, for a long interpretation of Moby Dick (1851) and connections between “grammar school literature” like the Odyssea (est. 1000 BCE) and All Quiet on the Western Front (1929) and connections with folk songs, listen to Bob Dylan (1941) making his Nobel Prize acceptance speech (2017)  here . . .  It’s the best 27 minutes of listening you’ll do today, I believe.

 

A month or so ago, I talked with Don Lake, who wanted to tell me some family history, which I transcribe here:  “My family has been on tugs for many years, beginning with my grandfather, Captain James Lake, who began his career as a young boy on Rondout Creek, NY, in the late 1800s and later moved down to New York harbor where he acquired his Master Mariner’s license with unlimited tonnage and pilotage.  In the early 1920s he was also instrumental in the formation of Local 333 along with Captain Joe O’Hare, who organized the tug boat workers of NY harbor.

I have relatives who worked for M. J. Tracy for many years, an old line company in NY, specializing in coal delivery to the power generating stations in NY and NJ at Con Edison and PSE & G.

There’s a great history of the company in a back issue of Tug Bitts from the Tug Boat Enthusiasts organization.”  [The organization is now dormant.]

Helen L. Tracy has since ultimately been rechristened Providence, and I posted a photo of the boat here a few months back tied up on the Mississippi just around the bend downstream from New Orleans. That is, it is the same boat unless I’m confused here.    Another question . . . what was the connection between Avondale Towing Line and M. J. Tracy Towing Company?  I could call Don, but I’m putting the question out to blog readers.  Here’s what I learned about the photo from the Portal to Texas History.

At times like this I really wish there was a digital archive of the years of Tug Bitts.  Is there any plan to do this?  I’d be happy to contribute some ducats for this to happen, and I’m sure lots of other folks would too.

Again, many thanks to Don for writing and sending along a photo I need to frame.

Here’s more on Rondout Creek, currently home to Hudson River Maritime Museum and formerly headquarters for Cornell Steamboat Company. And if you haven’t read Thomas Cornell and the Cornell Steamboat Company by Stuart Murray, here’s how you can order this must-read.

Click here for a Tracy boat from the 1952 tug boat race.

I visited Southport once before, six years ago, when I met a wonderful gentleman who showed off his 1938 restored fishing boat Solomon T, here.

This time a small dredge operation was going on near shore, involving P&L’s Hercules.  Also

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there was Sea Oak (whose fleet mates have some great names here)  and

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Candice L.  Thanks to SM.

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Also, working on the project was crew boat Captain Tom.

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I plan to get back to Southport in late spring.

Part of my interest here is explained by this book:  Masters of the Shoals. 

 

 

. . . and in case you’re rummaging through your change drawer for some cash to buy something for yourself or someone else special, here are some ideas.  Buy a raffle ticket for an opportunity next summer to ride an Interlake Steamship vessel on the Great Lakes . . .  Here’s a post I did a few months back on the classic Interlake Oberstar.   And from International Shipmasters’:  The funds from sales keep our lodge financially secure and we donate every year to other various maritime related non-profits. Sea Cadets, Whistles on the Water, and Shipmaster Grand Lodge Scholarship Fund.  Our own scholarship fund is endowed and gives 3 scholarship awards each year of $500 to each, 1 Canadian, 1 US, 1 hawse piper.   Click on the image below for information on purchasing a raffle ticket.  I have mine . . . and I imagine these would make a great gift for lots of folks you want to give a gift to.

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If you win and need something to do when you’re not just mesmerized by Great Lakes scenery, here are some books to consider.  Of course, you can read them any time . . . real books, not device books. Here’s what the Icelanders say about giving books.

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Here are some of the books I’ve read this past year.  I’d recommend all of them.

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The Big Book of Real Boats and Ships was an impulse buy after someone mentioned it on FB.  George J. Zaffo did a whole series of these books back in the 1950s and 1960s.  Here’s more on his and similar books. What makes it interesting for me is that real means real;  here’s the info on C. Hayward Meseck, the vessel in the illustration below.

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Also from Zaffo, here’s info on the tug in the foreground below, Barbara Moran (1948), scuttled in 1990 and sits upright about 70′ below the surface. 

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This past year I’ve met lots of folks whom I’ve encouraged to write their stories or have someone else write them.  Bob Mattsson did that a few years ago, and I finally read it this year.

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Here’s part of page 1.

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Up River is another one I read this year, one that helps you see what you can’t see from the river.  The cover photo below shows Tomkins Cove Quarry, one of many quarries whose scale you get no sense from the river.  Recently on a trip from NYC to Waterford on the river with some folks who had never done the trip, I brought this along and noticed they paged through during the entire trip as a way to “see” what they otherwise couldn’t.  Thanks to Capt. Thalassic for introducing me to this book.  You can “page” through the entire book here!

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All those books . . . this time of year, it all reminds me of a post I did here 10 years ago about the circumstances around the first Christmas presents I ever got .  .  .

 

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Graves of Arthur Kill

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