Above: John Wanamaker at Fish Island, New Bedford,
MA. March 2005. Ken C Photo.
From Virginia Thorndike, author of On
Tugboats, which has good coverage of the Wanamaker:
She was built in 1924 in Baltimore for the city
of Philadelphia, for which she served as ice breaker and barge-handling
tug (though her last master, John Doak of Belfast, Maine, says
she wasn't a very good icebreaker), but she was very fancy, with
mahogany cabin and bar and settees, and her primary job may have
entertaining the mayor's friends. As the Clyde B. Holmes she worked
from Belfast up until the end of 1975, at which time she was said
to be the last working coastal steam tug in the US.
She was converted to a restaurant by Capt. Jim Sharp of Camden,
Maine, in 1977.
The book has stories from both John Doak and Jim Sharp, who are
both fine story-tellers. Here's a short excerpt - John Doak is
The Clyde B. was a comfortable boat. “I’ve seen
that old girl coming up from Portland when it was nasty. She was
an easy boat, that old girl. She’d dive deep and come up
slow and go again. You didn’t worry about whether she’d
be under you when you looked around—she was there.”
He admits she did have a bad feature or two. “If you were
tied up beside a ship, she didn’t like to be towed. She’d
crawl up the side of a ship.” Inch by inch, she’d
roll, the side against the ship rising, the outboard side dropping,
“I’ve had her beside a ship, her rail right down in
“But she’d handle like a dream. No
man who ever handled her didn’t say that.” He corrects
himself. One of her masters hated her. “But that was a love
affair with his previous boat.” No boat would have matched
up to that one, no matter how good.
“When you had steam on, you could go full
ahead to full astern—if you have a good man on the throttle
in there and plenty of steam, the only thing near steam is diesel-electric.
You could back and fill her almost in her own tracks.”
In Searsport, if there was a ship at each of
the two docks, the 117-foot-long Clyde B. Holmes couldn’t
go in between them and turn around. Not a problem for Captain
Doak. He’d back her in. It’s not always an easy trick
to steer a single-screw boat going backwards. “She was a
sweetheart that way,” he says.
Jim's story starts with a wonderful scene:
The next stage of the Clyde B.’s life was
a different matter altogether.
“Yeah, it was the dead of winter,” Captain Jim Sharp
starts his tale of the Clyde B. Holmes coming to Camden in February
1977. “The ice cakes were flowing all around Camden harbor.”
Jim had agreed to buy the old tug if the owner of Eastern Maine
Towage, Clyde Holmes, would deliver his namesake to Camden. He’d
much rather see her preserved as a restaurant, where the public
could enjoy and help support her, than broken up for scrap. “That
old tug has a history as long as your arm and an amazing story
to tell the world!”
Jim had gone to town to make sure it would be
all right to have a floating structure in place at his wharf.
The Camden code-enforcement officer said it was a harbor issue,
not in his bailiwick. The harbormaster said it was behind the
wharf line and so it wasn’t his problem. The Coast Guard
said it wasn’t in their jurisdiction as long as it was permanently
docked and chained to the wharf. It seemed that the only permit
needed was a victualer’s license from the state. But, one
suspects, perhaps Jim didn’t make it clear just how large
a vessel it was he was bringing in. “After all,” he
says, “I didn’t want to stir up too much fuss ahead
Jim continues. “They were going to tow
her in with the tug Mary Holmes at the crack of dawn. That night,
late, I went down to the slip where the vessel would be lying
to push the ice cakes out of the way, dozens of them. Sam Manning
came walking by. I couldn’t believe it. ‘Hey, Jim,
what the heck are you doing?’ he asked.
“’Oh, I’m playing games with
ice cakes,’ I said.
“'What on earth for?’
“'Well, couldn’t sleep and got nothing
better to do, I guess.'”
“A leftover relic,” Jim calls the
Clyde B. Holmes. Eastern Maine Towage had tried to sell her but
no one wanted her. They tried to donate her to a foundation but
couldn’t even give her away. “So Clyde decided he
was going to scrap her. I couldn’t let that happen.. I was
between marriages, infected with the utter abandon you get after
a divorce, and decided to buy her.” Jim paid the scrap price.
The old Clyde came in to Camden and nosed up
into the slip at high water early, early in the morning. “I
had pushed the ice out of the way, and we shoved the boat and
grounded her as far up in the slip as we could.”
the rest, you gotta see the book!