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Much more catching up to do, but first, I share some New Orleans photos from last week and then related photos and response from my inbox to the review of Tugboats Illustrated here.

This first series I include because I’m amazed by this maneuver, but it does not effectively depict it because a) I was moving behind and then alongside and forward of it in the series of photos taken over a 30-minute period of time, and b) I would need to get the photos from a fixed aerial position as it made the turn, and c) this is a relatively small tow . . . only 12 barges in relatively calm conditions.

Starting at 4:23 pm last Tuesday, I was following Ingram Barge Co. Mike Schmaeng.  Many years ago now I did this post on Ingram.  Ingram is a company that operates 150 boats, 5000 barges, over 4500 miles of inland waterway . . . all approximate numbers.

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4:47

fl2

4:49

fl3

4:50

fl4

 

fl5

4:51

fl6

4:53.

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On my next trip to Nola, I’ll set up on a tripod at a fixed point, maybe the upstream end of Crescent Park.  I also intend to check out some tighter points, such as Wilkerson Point, shown below.

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So now, in response to this photo from my review of Tugboats Illustrated . . .

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in my inbox, I got this note from a retired professional brown water mariner who wishes NO fistfights or pissing contest:

“RE: Sketch from the tugboat book.

The sketch showing a tow in a flanking maneuver is not how we do it on the inland rivers. If a tow is flanked as shown in the sketch, it will ALWAYS end up against the bank below the bend.   Attached is a photo of a towboat flanking Wilkerson Point, just above Baton Rouge.
asg1
You can see from the wheel wash that the pilot is backing full astern to get the stern of the tow near the inside of the bend. He is not quite in position yet, but the tow will take up nearly the entire river. The stern of the boat will only be a hundred or so feet off the point all the way around the bend. A pilot will call on the radio, stating his intention to flank such and such a bend, point or bridge. Because for all purposes, the channel will be blocked, ALL northbound traffic, including ships will be required to stop well below the bend. From the time the pilot stops his engines to get into the flanking position until he can come full ahead coming out of the bend, it may take 30 to 45 minutes. The tow will probably not be in a position to come full ahead again until it is in the area of the refinery at top right.
asg2
All “heavy” tows like this will flank certain bends and bridges between St. Louis and New Orleans at certain stages of the river. Before departing St. Louis, a downbound tow will place “flanking” buoys at each outboard stern barge. The buoys are marked on the second photo [with letter Os]. Since the current is used to float the tow around the bend, the inner buoy will show the pilot when there is no sternway or headway in the current and it is this buoy which tells the pilot that the flank is being correctly done. A flanking buoy is in place on the other corner because there are both left and right hand flanks required.
A tow of 35 loaded barges is common on the Mississippi River. A downbound tow will be made up seven wide and five long, not as stated in the book. A pilot has better control of such a tow during a flank. A northbound tow will be made up seven long and five wide, to get it through the current better.
The boat pictured in the photo is the AUSTEN S. CARGILL (now Justin Paul Eckstein), owned by Cargo Carriers, Inc., Minneapolis, a Cargill subsidiary. It is 182 by 55 feet. It is triple screw and at the time of the photo had a total of 6,630 hp. This photo was taken in 1964. It had 57,908 tons of grain in 40 barges, according to Cargill.  A tow being flanked may need just a gentle touch on the head of the tow;  that is why the tug is approaching the head of the tow, to assist if needed.
/s/ USCG licensed “Mate, Upon All Inland Rivers, Steam and Motor, All Gross Tons”

 

Thank you, sir.  And I hadn’t known about flanking buoys.

Click here for a 5-minute video by Towboat Toby who gives a really clear explanation as he walks a tow downstream around Wilkerson’s Point in high water.  Towboat Toby, I’m your fan!

So,  what think you, readers . . . and I don’t mean to backpedal on Paul Farrell’s excellent book, could that particular drawing have been modified to improve verisimilitude?  I like the looseness of Mr. Farrell’s drawings for the most part, but I think the Mate makes a good point.  And just calm talk . ..  not punches, please.  The writer makes a reasoned and constructive comment.

Actually, the full title of this book is Tugboats Illustrated: History-Technology-Seamanship with Drawings by the author Paul Farrell

I first heard of the book and Paul Farrell last February;  I got an email from an editor at W. W. Norton expressing interest in licensing one of my photos for the cover of the forthcoming book. The photo was the 9th in the post called “Helen’s Last Waltz.” I was thrilled, as you might imagine, and we arrived at a price. Then I hoped it would be an attractive, technically accurate book.

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A few months later, Norton’s publicity department sent along a five-page sampler and asked if I’d write a review of the book. The cover letter described Tugboats Illustrated as “gorgeously detailed guide to the evolution, design, and role of tugboats” from “ the earliest days of steam up to today’s most advanced ocean-going workboats” and referred to its “dynamic drawings that show how different kinds of propellers move, to explanations of the physics and engineering that allow this movement to happen.”

Mr. Farrell, an architect with almost a half century of experience, was described as having spent a quarter century researching and writing this book, his first. When someone spends that amount of time focusing on a subject, I’m impressed. But I wasn’t ready to do a review until I saw the entire 156-page book, which arrived in November.  The photo below should illustrate how comprehensive this slim but well-designed book is.

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I first paged through it and then read it cover to cover. Paging through, I noticed how many of these “dynamic drawings” there are, more than 70 of them at least, depending how you count.  Below is a sample of a set of drawings from p. 114, illustrating an evolution that always mesmerizes me . . . a flanking turn with a long tow on a winding river, and he shows it from both the downstream and upstream perspective.

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Indeed, an architect’s drawings honed by years of professional work complemented with captions, guided by the experts in the wheelhouse, illustrate complex maneuvers in this and many other instances.  Ironically, Farrell never intended to showcase his illustrations in the book; he says it began as “rough sketching intended to guide a mythical illustrator who would intuit just the right feel and content” until he realized this these sketches, such as they were, would work. He reports that doing the set of drawings to illustrate hull chines as seen from underwater were pivotal. I find them charming, below (p. 93),  a boon to the book and not just “limited” or “enough.”

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Then there are the photographs, over 80 of them in total and more than half of them in color, many of them taken by photographers whose work I know and have great respect for: Brian Gauvin, Alan Haig-Brown, and Pat Folan.  There was one photo by Rod Smith, who has so many to choose from in his albums on the shipbuilding work at Senesco. Many of the black-and-white photos come from the collections of Steven Lang and Brent Dibner. Other photos introduced me to photographers I’d like to see more of in the future.

In the “Acknowledgements,” Farrell reveals that he first sent a draft of the book to Norton in 1996, a full twenty years ago. When a book takes shape over such a long period of time as this one, it gets vetted for accuracy and thoroughness, which this one has.

Got friends who want to learn about tugboats? Want to expand your own knowledge of the history and variety of these vessels? Then order it here.

I’m just so thrilled that my photo from that July 17, 2012 move graces the cover of this fine book that I’ll digress and post three more photos from that day.

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Helen, she is a classic from 1900!   Does anyone have photos of her working out of South Carolina waters as Georgetown?  In that photo above, Helen looks just slightly like Little Toot in Hardie Gramatky’s wonderful watercolors, reproduced on p. 11 of Paul Farrell’s book.

Click here for some previous reviews.

All photos by Will Van Dorp.

 

 

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