Book Reviews

From Vol 16-1, Winter/Spring 2005

The Tugworld Review, 2003-2004, Andy Smith, editor. (The ABR Company Ltd, 2004) 100 pages, many photos and illustrations, stiff covers. ISBN 1 904 050 107. Website at

In an idle moment recently, I was reflecting that today’s tugs, especially docking tugs, are beginning to have a disturbing similarity. The characteristics that once allowed one to say at a glance that a tug was from the Gulf of Mexico, or was a railroad tug, or was built in Japan, or the UK, or Holland, or … seem to be evaporating until regional and other differences have almost ceased to exist. But this annual summary of 35 of last year’s most-interesting tugs reassuringly shows that not all modern tugs look alike. The designs and resulting tugs range from small multi-purpose harbor tugs (“workboats” by British legal definition) to a giant deep-sea towing/salvage tug, an offshore (diving) support vessel that accommodates 61 crew and divers, and an ice-comfortable anchor-handing supply tug with a bollard pull of 200 tons. And, judging by newbuilds already in service, the selection in next-year’s edition of this annual should be even more exciting.

The text, photos, and general arrangement drawing of each design in this edition are worth considerable study. Andy Smith’s sampling shows 35 designs. Five were created by Robert Allan Ltd, four by Dutch mass-producer Damen, and two each by Bruce Washburn of Washburn & Doughty and Worldwise Marine Engineering (the design branch of Michael Wisjmuller’s burgeoning business. In passing, do appreciate the pun in that firm’s name.) Only six designs are for American tugs. The remainder were designed and built in a wide variety of nations for operators in a wide variety of nations. It seems that good tugs are now being built almost anywhere.

Twenty tugs use azimuthing stern drive propulsion, twelve have twin screws, with and without nozzles. There is one true tractor (drives forward of amidships), and one triple-screw workboat (here a barge-like tug with two cranes and two winches). Most surprisingly, the list includes a harbor tug (actually, three of which were built) with a single controllable-pitch screw in a steering nozzle—a rare bird nowadays. Several tugs had the entire propulsion chain supplied by one company—Niigata engines and azimuthing drives or Rolls-Royce Bergen engines and Rolls-Royce azimuthing drives.

Smith has done a fine job of assembling a wide array of facts on each design. There is a blunder here and there (for example, he assigned a tug built for Marine Towing of Tampa to New Orleans) and sadly he is addicted to English metaphors (“the “proverbial ‘curate’s egg’” for one) whose decoding may challenge some readers. But I forgive Andy these lapses because he is indisputably English and he is also the editor of the highly respected International Tug & Salvage magazine and no doubt his mind is cluttered with multi-national facts and besieged with rumors. My bottom line? Where else can you find in one source the pertinent facts about so many good tugs? If you are serious about knowing what is going on in the tug world, this year’s edition belongs in your library. Hugh Ware

From Vol 15-4, Autumn/Winter 2004/2005

Steamboats of Gloucester and the North Shore by John Lester Sutherland. The History Press, Charleston. SC, 2004. Stiff-covers, 160 pages, many B&W photos. ISBN 1-59629-000-5. $19.99.

“Let” Sutherland is in his late seventies—a Gloucester, Massachusetts fixture—ex-city councilor, ex-fisherman, ex-coastal warden, member of the Steamboat Historical Society of American, and ex-tugboat steam engineer. What started out to be notes for his descendants turned into this book. And a fruitful, charming little book it is!

A year or two ago, I heard that Let had written his memoirs about the little steam-powered tugs that used to service the great fishing port of Gloucester and surrounding waters.It was intened for his family but I contacted him and was given a copy. I fully intended to edit selections from it for publication in TugBitts because Sutherland’s memoirs provide such an unusual (and very rare) insight to what the small steam-powered harbor tugs did some decades back. Then Sutherland went ahead and got his memoirs published!

He first briefly describes the Gloucester waterfront of his youth, next covers the local steamers that operated between Boston and Gloucester, and then gets into Gloucester’s tugs Included as appendices are copious lists of related information. The book is a rich source for local historians and a real driver for anyone’s imagination.

One would think that tugs would have been busy moving the famed Gloucester schooners but such jobs were relatively infrequent compared with other work. Cheap skippers might move an unmanned schooner by passing a line from pier to pier and pulling the schooner along. They might even get the dories out and tow the schooner in or out of the harbor. But hire a tug! Not often! However, a tug was always hired to move a schooner hull after a launching at nearby Essex to Gloucester for outfitting and rigging.

The tugs had plenty of other work. They were maids-of-all work. In winter, ice had to be broken so the schooners could arrive or depart. Frozen gill nets were steamed pliable again. Starting air sometimes was furnished for a fisherman’s engine. Water (some Gloucester tugs had non-condensing engines and thus carried something like 3,000 gallons of fresh water) was brought out to ships. And many kinds of barges had to be moved. Here, perhaps the most-challenging were the giant coal-laden schooner-barges brought North by large, powerful coastal tugs like the D. T. SHERDIAN to a spot off a North Shore port and transferred there to a local tug. The little tug would latch onto the barge and struggle it through narrow places and into an often-crowded unloading spot. Fun and games! Oh yes, there was work! And author Sutherland was there and tucking observations in his memory for later retrieval.

He was usually operating the engine’s levers when his father rang the bells from the tiny wheelhouse above so he is well-equipped for telling the personal side of the family’s tugboat business as well as detailing the company’s history. Family members and other tugboating people come alive in these stories of tugboating, small tug-style. His book includes the other tugs in the harbor too. My conclusions? A very good book and an especially worthwhile book for those interested in old-time tugboating. Hugh Ware

Complete Papers and Discussions, The 18th International Tug & Salvage Convention and Exhibition, The ABR Company Ltd (Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire, UK) 2004. 250 pages plus many color and B&W photos and diagrams. ISBN 1-904050 11 5. For details on this and back issues, click on https;//

Once every two years, the cream of the towage and salvage world assemble in some friendly location to present learned papers or listen to them, to meet the exhibitors of equipment related to their fields of endeavor, network among themselves, see a parade of local tugs, and have a good time. You may judge the quality of each convention if you know its fine publication International Tug & Salvage. Some months after each convention, a report is published. The report being reviewed here documents what happened at Bal Harbor in Florida last April, 2004. (Here I give a bit of advance warning, a heads-up. In 2006, the meeting will be held in Rotterdam and the tug parade promises to be the best ever! I have attended six of these events and certainly plan to be a delegate at Rotterdam and so does my wife because the hosts ensure that spouses also have a good time while the papers are being presented and discussed.)

What is in this volume? Two superb papers on ATBs by Bob Hill (OT&BE) and Guarino & Cox, how to handle hazardous and noxious substances, an overview of the Panama Canal’s tugs, discussions about ports of refuge and the salvor’s preventative role in marine pollution, DNV’s towing recommendations, the Z-Tech concept (Rob Allan’s “backwards” tug), external firefighting systems, bollard pull, underwater oil recovery, the latest on azimuth thrusters, and more. A rich feast of ideas and results, all very typical of other convention reports.

If one were to assemble all the collected papers from the 18 conventions held so far, one would have a library of about 465 papers. They would form an archive of inestimable worth, a collection of hard, solid, valuable knowledge assembled in easy form to reference later. Some papers would inform a researcher of how certain things came about and were then developed. Of course, the papers would also include the records of things that failed to live up to promises but such information has a value of its own. The more-recent papers would document the state-of-the art and from them a tug owner or salvage operator could decide in what direction he wanted to progress. Such information is hard to come by and the costs of acquisition can be high. This volume and back issues are not inexpensive but they are cheaper than learning something the hard way. In summary. I have frequent recourse to the six volumes from my attendances plus the few other copies I have found in the second-hand book market. All are valued. HW

Best Endeavours: Inside the World of Marine Salvage by Tony Redding. The ABR Company Limited (see review above for addresses). 265 pages, large format, over 150 color photos. ISBN 1-904050-09-3

This is not a tug book as such. It is a wonderful collection of vivid descriptions of over 100 salvage jobs, most with personal statements by the salvage master, those hardworking and ever-ingenious workers. (One tale tells how a Greek salvor swam out to a grounded yacht to beat out a rival salvor already on board for the job.) Published to celebrate the Fiftieth Anniversary of the International Salvage Union, the book tells in appropriate length what happened when ships got into trouble and a salvor appeared. You will recognize the names of some vessels but most will be strangers—innocent ships that caught fire, went aground, were attacked by missiles, collided or allided, rolled over or went blown ashore, or were simply overwhelmed by weather. One chapter deals with the process of how salvors get paid—a fascinating tale of traditional practices continually being modified to incorporate salvage that prevents pollution, not merely saves the vessel or its cargo. This is a great read, a keeper book. Hugh Ware

From Vol 15-3, Summer/Autumn 2004:

The Fascination of the Voith-Schneider Propeller: History and Engineering by Birgit Jürgens and Werner Fork (Koehler, Hamburg, 2002. 208 pages. Dozens of photos and drawings, some in color. No index but very thorough Notes. ISBN 3-7822-0859-5. (ISBN for the book in the German language is 3782208544.)

WARNING: Initially, I was told that this book may be available only through Voith, whose US product manager, perhaps with tongue in cheek, suggested that a potential reader might have to place an order for a ship set of VSP's to be given a copy. A Google search seemed to indicate that the book in the German language may be available thru—I do not know for sure because I do not read German. And I learned later that Lekko Maritime books, a division of the International Tugboat Enthusiasts Society in The Netherlands, sells the English-language version.

Did you know that many ferry captains prefer Voith-Schneider drives because they allow a master to smoothly maneuver his ferryboat into its berth for a gentle landing, no matter what the tides, currents, and winds are doing to the ferry, whereas a conventionally screwed ferry may need to bang and grind against dolphins and dock edges before slamming into the berth? I was told by that Voith product manager that the masters of the Staten Island ferries are upset because their new ferries, now starting to be delivered, do not have Voith drives.

But what is a Voith drive and where did it come from? One information source is this book, a remarkably straight-forward history of this propulsion device invented and developed in the Twenties and Thirties by a creative but complicated engineer named Ernst Schneider and produced by the family firm named Maschinefabrik J. M. Voith. In a time of general depression, the three Voith brothers needed a product that could be built and sold more quickly than the turbines and paper-making machinery their firm made. Schneider’s creation attracted their attention. The rest is history, and historian Jürgens tells it well in admirable English. Did you know that in 1940 the US Navy wanted to use Voith-Schneider Propellers (VSP) on a tanker but restrictions by the Third Reich prevented any deliveries? And two VSPs were to provide steering on Nazi Germany’s only aircraft carrier, the GRAF ZEPPELIN. Although launched, it was never completed.)

The book’s second half addresses the engineering aspects and operational history of VSPs. Engineer Fork also writes cleanly and clearly, and the reader can spend hours exploring his detailed descriptions of events and mechanisms. The 1929 installation of two Voith units at the stern of the Danube River tug UHU marked Voith’s first commercial application and it was the first pusher tug on that River. Some years later after several hundred drives had been produced, Voith shifted its attention to a concept that offered maneuverability at very low speeds and created the Voith Water Tractor featuring a specialized hull form, two drives side-by-side forward of amidships, and a large skeg aft. The first Water Tractor for commercial use was the 700-hp STIER (“bull”) of 1954.

As for engineering details, take angling of the blades; Voith has figured out many methods and mechanisms and all are described, plus much more. Fork even covers similar drives including the Kirstein-Boeing cycloidal propellers built between 1922 and 1954, a Japanese drive built by Mitsubishi around 1959 that may have been an original design or may have been a knock-off of a VSP, and several hundred variants of a Voith called “blade-wheel drives” that were based on confiscated documents and built by the Soviets for some years after the end of World War II.

This is very good book. Seriously considering adding it to your library even if that means ordering a pair of Voith drives. Hugh Ware

Tugs of the World: Third Edition. Oilfield Publications Limited, Hertfordshire, UK, 2004. ISBN 1-092157-55-7.

The Third Edition, like its two predecessors, tries to describe all of the larger tugs in the world. The bad news is that that OPL has yet to reach that goal. The good news is that the Third Edition is massive, a real handful, because it now covers over 4750 vessels, including 174 newbuilds and 205 tugs under construction, and provides detailed information on 3000 tugs with horsepowers of over 2400 hp. Also included are indices listing tugs alphabetically, by homeport, by horsepower, and by owner and manager. A final touch is the addresses of over 930 international owners.

Can I find errors of fact and omission? Yes. But I also find a great deal of good data. Tugs of the World quite often get pulled from the bookshelf whenever I need information and I’m feeling particularly fit—this is a thick (nearly 600-page) tome and it weighs more than my aged muscles sometimes care to lift! Maybe the Fourth Edition, if it continues the ever-upward spiral of this series’ size, might be on lighter paper and use a tighter format? Of course, one cure is the database, available on CD-ROM or online for $345.

(WARNING. The following offer probably is no longer in effect.) But wait. There’s More! OPL’s principal is Tony Madsen and he has joined TES and is offering all TES members a thirty-five percent discount off the price of the Third Edition (normally costing $175). One catch: you will have to pay the postage. The US mailing address is: Oilfield Publications Inc, 888 W. Sam Houston Parkway S, Suite 280, Houston TX 77042. The telephone number is 713-334-8970, fax is 713-334-8968, and emails go to. Hugh Ware

© 2007. Tugboat Enthusiasts Society of the Americas