Tug Photos & Archives

New England


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 speaking.

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 the water.

“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 of time.”

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.”
For the rest, you gotta see the book!

This shot is of her shortly after delivery in 1924.
This shot is of her breaking ice off Port Richmond in Feb. 1948.
Grand Island. Charles Crosby Photo.
Above and Below: Here is Ross Towboat fleet in April of 1978. I think the Bear was old Boston tow Hercules and tug in foreground was Providence?..( a Bushey boat). Also the Cornell which went to BFT. Charles Crosby Photos and details.
© 2005. Tugboat Enthusiasts Society of the Americas