Book Reviews


From Vol 19-3 of TugBitts (mid-2009)

Tugs of Puget Sound, by Chuck Fowler and Capt. Mark Freeman. Arcadia, 2009. 128 pages, many B&W photos, stiff covers, perfect binding, 6.5” by 9-1/4”. ISBN 13-978-0-7385-5972-8, 10-0-7385-5972-5. $21.99 (includes a pack of 15 historic postcards.)

The two authors work together—that was demonstrated when the pair organized a splendid Pacific Northwest TES Gathering in the late Nineties and by the book, one on Arcadia’s Images of America series; historian Fowler’s Tall Ships of Puget is a sister to this book while Freeman operates several businesses for the shore of Seattle’s Lake Union and his office mini-museum’s walls are covered with hundreds of B&W tug photos. (Those who were on the Pacific Northwest Gathering will remember his office because his Fremont Tugboat was one stop in that three-day tour.)

I like the Images of America series because the photos are printed near their original quality and the authors generally know their subjects well. It is true for this book too. The authors start with what was possibly the first tug to operate in Puget Sound. It was the 1836 sidewheeler BEAVER, built for Canada’s Hudson’s Bay Company and converted into a tug in 1874. It may have operated south of the US/Canada border. The next chapter covers the period from 1891-1940.

After that comes an illustrative diversion to some family history. We meet author Freeman’s well-known businessman father, Mark himself, various businesses, and a virtual fleet of small tugs. Mark is shown as a lad of eight seated on a tug’s towing bitts; he is shown somewhat older salvaging logs with his first tug, an ex-Navy round-bottomed dory he named SEAL ROCK Then comes many of tugs he has used, usually larger and more-powerful than SEA ROCK but not always—his mighty BARF, of only 15 feet and 22 hp, did useful work because Mark’s fleet of what he labeled as “mini-tugs” specialized in handling whatever floated on Seattle’s inland waterways—floating hot tubs and residences, NOAA research ships, other people’s tugs, Foss’s big steam-powered crane FOSS 300, fishing and fish-processing vessels of all sizes, mega-yachts, normal yachts—you name it, he towed it. (BTW, BARF isn’t the smallest tug in the book—see page 103.) And Mark has not lacked imagination—some of his tugs are open-topped ex-seine boats, very useful and with great all-round visibility but remarkably little protection against the proverbial Seattle afternoon shower. His son and the son’s best friend now operate the tugboat business.

The final two chapters take the reader through World War II and on to 2008. That means the tugs shown range from the typical wooden-hulled, square-windowed PacNW tugs to the modern-styled ASDs and Voith-Schneider-propelled tugs such as can be found anywhere in the world. Luckily, the authors also devoted about 17 pages to those particularly Pacific Northwestern attractions—tugboat racing and retired tugs now lovingly used as recreational vessels and second homes..

Summary: A very good book for anyone who likes tugs and a must-buy for those who love the Pacific Northwest region south of the border. (The first printing of 1,500 copies sold out in the first week after the book’s release!) But read on—the next book review moves north. Hugh Ware

Boomsticks & Towlines, by S.C. Heal. Richmond Publishing Services, Vancouver, 2003. 200 pages, about 200 photos, stiff covers, perfect binding. 8.5” by 11”. ISBN 978-1-895590-24-8. 8415 Granville St Box 46, Vancouver BC V6P 4Z9, or tel 604-261-1695. CAN$29.99.

This book is the first of a series of Heal’s books that TugBitts will review in coming issues. Syd Heal sets the scene with the first two sentences of this book’s Acknowledgment section: “This series of books is the product of accumulated hands-on knowledge and experience of others as well as my own. I personally back it with a formidable memory and a tendency to be a ratpacker of books, plans, photos and knowledge that might be useful ‘at some time in the future.’” He later defines his subject thusly: ”Tugs and barge operations … are now the core of local marine transportation ….”

The tugs of British Columbia tend to differ from those south of the border. They tend to be smaller and they look different. One reason is Canada’s laws (no crew accommodations below the main deck, for example, and tonnage ratings that allow powerful engines to be installed in quite-small small tugs). Another factor is the sheer size of the province (16,800-plus mile of shoreline) and its scarcity of settlements. That means barge loads, and thus the towing tugs, tend to be small. But tugs and barges are absolutely essential, unless the desired object will fit into an expensive-to-hire seaplane. Need some fuel? It arrives by barge. Want to hire a bulldozer? It is delivered on a ramp barge. You sold some logs that will be shipped to Japan. Hire a tug to tow your rafts to a port where a big log-carrying freighter can moor and load. And other logs tend to be chipped rather than sawn into lumber, and it is tugs that tow up to three overloaded chip barges at a time, sometimes dropping one off at a pier without stopping in nautical tour de force.

Although logging once was big business, one can still find many log-broncs, very small, one-man tugs bullying logs into bundles or sections, and somewhat-larger tugs moving sections into rafts, and even-larger (but usually rather small) tugs towing away the rafts. And towing a log raft needs relatively little horsepower because a good tidal strategy beats big horsepower almost every time.

“Fish, furs, forest. We used to have them but not any longer” is a plaint I heard some 4,800 miles away in Newfoundland but it, sadly, also largely applies to British Columbia. Now, as Heal points out, ecological tours and tourism are taking over.

Now let’s look at the contents of book #1. Unlike the later books, it is somewhat of a hodge-podge of articles, most written by Heal but two contributed by others. A list of the ten chapters will both give an idea of the book’s contents and indicate the author’s extensive background: The Early Explores were Impressed, The Beginning and Development of Trade, The Log Supply: The Early Towboats, Working for the B.C. Forest Service (contributed), Davis Rafts, Log Barges and Mini-Log Barges, Career in Canadian Coast Guard (contributed), Marine Insurance in Vancouver, Salvage Unlimited, The Ro-Ro Concept, and Marine Link Ltd (a barge firm that has one barge fitted out as a tourist cruise ship!).

Summary: What can I say other than that Heal does have a formidable memory and extensive files, he knows what he writes about, and he writes clearly and well. This first book was enjoyable to read, and I eagerly look forward to the later volumes. HW

Tugworld Review 2008, edited by Dawn Gorman. An International Tug & Salvage production. (The ABR Company Ltd, Wiltshire, UK, 2009). 128 pages, stiff covers, perfect binding, 8-1/4 by 11-3/4 inches. ISBN 978-1-904050-18-6. £30 (about $40-45)

Professional Mariners’s Amercan Tugboat Review2008, edited by Gregory Walsh. An annual special issue of Professional Mariner magazine, 2009. 92 pages. ISSN 1066-2774. Available at better newsstands or as part of a subscription. $5.9the copy, US or Canada.

So alike and yet so different! TugWorld is an annual collection of items from International Tug & Salvage magazine assembled into what is essentially a high-quality, stiff-cover book while American Tugboat is a pure-and-simple magazine, albeit one thick enough to justify a spine to its binding. There is little duplication in the two Reviews’ coverage; five tugs, to be exact. TugWorld covers almost twice as many tugs as does American Tugboat but that magazine’s number of tugs is hard to count since editor Greg Walsh uses short articles that describe the recent and planned tug acquisitions of several tug companies. Both reviews have articles on the past year’s events and progress in the tugboating world.

Welcome to Dawn Gorman, the new editor of TugWorld. But this reviewer will miss Andy Smith’s wise statements (except for his acerbic comments about American tugs in one edition and his personal views about global warming, said views forming the basis of a continuing battle whenever we meet in person or via emails). He did a great job and Dawn has big footprints to fill.

Let’s look at the two Reviews. The mightiest tug in American Tugboat is the HARVEY WAR HORSE with 176 tons of bollard pull to tow Gulf of Mexico oilrigs. The weakest is Buffalo Marine’s bunker-barge pusher SAN KENNEDY with only 1,320 hp. Edison Chouest Offshore has eight true tractors with their azimuthing drives forward, a comparative rarity in North America.
This reviewer’s favorite is the Robert Allan-designed RAmparts 3000 JOHN COLLE, which was built in Colle’s shipyard over an eight-year period. American Tugboat also has invaluable lists of all US articulated tugs and their barges and a list of all “tractor” (azimuthing-drive) tugs in North America.—my, but those lists are getting long.

TugWorld covers more tugs and they come from almost anywhere in the world. The Vietnam-built Damen ASD 2411 BREAM BAY now works in the New Zealand tanker port of Whangarei while a Vietnam-built pair of Damen ATD 2412s were true tractors for Australia; the underwater shapes of the ASD 2411 and ATD 2412 are strikingly different. The smallest tug in TugWorld is an under-26-foot American sectional (and thus truckable) pusher with no name and no need for a licensed driver. Next-longest is the small Scottish tug UGIE RUNNER fitted with the world’s first Dynamic Oval Towing system, which will ensure the tug is never girted or overturned by the pull of the towline. Then come three line-handlers for the UAE, the first of Robert Allan’s new RAscal 2000 class. They are followed by the Gulf of Mexico lugger tug CHRISTYN RENEE, one of those handy shallow-water tugs can also carry a useful amount of cargo on its foredeck. And we aren’t up to 22 metres yet!

At the other end of the length spectrum are the biggies—they include HARVEY WAR HORSE II, a Robert Allan-designed AVT 36/70 E-class Voith-propelled offshore support and escort tug from Spain, several powerful tugs from Japan, an Italian-Turkish combine, Spain, Turkey, Norway, and Hong Kong,. Add in several tug-like 150-foot diesel-electric standby rescue vessels for Denmark , each of which have five generators creating a total of only 3,000 hp for two stern-mounted azimuthing drives plus two bow tunnel thrusters—there is always something to study and ponder upon in these Reviews!

Summary? Both are essential working tools for me as I try to keep abreast of what is going on in the tugboating world. Both are highly recommended! HW

The 20th International Tug & Salvage Convention and Exhibition: Complete Papers and Discussions, edited by Dawn Gorman. (The ABR Company Ltd, Wiltshire, UK, 2008). 271 pages, B&W illustrations, some color photos. Board covers, A4 size. ISBN 1-9904050-17-4. £100 (about $145 US)

Held every two years in a tug-rich city somewhere in the world, an ITS conference is the world's biggest gathering of tug, towage and salvage experts and it is always a formidable—and highly enjoyable—event. The papers presented and the discussions after each paper are instructive, there is usually a wonderful parade of local tugs (the parade at Rotterdam during the 19th Convention set a Guinness record for most tugs assembled in one place at one time—68 tugs spanning three centuries), meals (especially the gala dinner) are superb, and the trade exhibit is remarkably extensive and well-worth exploring in depth. This reviewer has happily attended five events, regretfully missing only the 20th at Singapore due to health constraints, and he looks forward to the 21st at Vancouver next year.

A few months after each ITS conference, the “book of papers” (or proceedings) is made available. Let’s stroll through my copy, stopping at the papers that intrigued or educated me.

At almost every ITS conference, Vancouver naval architect Robert Allan presents a long, thoughtful paper full of facts and details. His 2008 paper addressed the evolution of his wildly successful Z-Tech design—that ASD design with the topsides puts on backwards. (There were more than forty Z-Techs at last count.) Skipping over an paper on insurance (undoubtedly fruitful for those in that field), we come to Moya Crawford’s latest report about the extreme deep-sea salvage work she and husband Alec do using simple but unique equipment he designed. Nowadays their focus is on environmental problems such as retrieving oil from the tanks of deep-sunken ships. (Do find a copy of her book “Deep Water” if you want to know more about this amazing pair—and you should!)

Skipping over some papers on salvage and Lloyd’s Open Form but stopping briefly to read a long insiders’ report on the salvage of the MSC NAPOLI, a container ship deliberately beached on a pristine UK shore to keep it from breaking up, we arrive at four papers about environment-friendly tugs. (Here I must make a confession. Some months ago, I wrote an article about hybrid tugs and new fuels and I failed to include two developments described in the Book of Papers, because I simply found no mention of them in a Internet search—I should have attended the Convention!)

A tug produces the most soot when it changes power settings abruptly such as when docking a ship. Ship-assist tugs operate at full power far less than 20% of the time although an exact figure depends on many factors such as harbor layout—I have heard figures as low as 2%. The first paper described Foss’s hybrid tug (now in service as the CAROLYN FOSS) and its concept, necessary trade-offs, and execution. Foss chose less-powerful main diesel engines with electrical generators and batteries providing get-there and idling power and supplementing the main engines during the few minutes that mucho grunt is needed.

Finnish firm Wartsila pitched a hybrid-harbor tug concept that would use LNG because it is cleaner than diesel fuel. LNG has fueled other types of ships but its tugboat scheme would use dual-fuel engines and batteries, with propulsion by variable-frequencv electrical motors. (Diesel fuel would replace LNG on long-duration jobs such as fire-fighting or emergency towing.) Crowley also likes LNG as its primary fuel supplemented by a pair of small diesel generators for hotel power, although they are replaced by shore power when at the pier. Holland’s WorldWise went drastically further: it plans to use hydrogen and fuel cells to generate the electricity to propel an ASD and a small bow-mounted Voith unit would move the tug to and from jobs. The discussion period after these papers was, understandably, quite long.

Among the remaining papers were several of interest to tugmen. Among them were Robert Allan’s description of his RAmparts 3200-class tugs, how to retrieve a lost tow, and several papers dealing with synthetic-rope problems.

But the above is only a quick run-over of what the volume holds. One cannot understand the present if one does not know history. And this volume of proceedings is a record of significant history if you are in the tug business! HW

From Vol 19-4 of TugBitts (late 2009)


I Wasn’t Born on the Canal: “It Just Seemed Like it” by Capt Walter E. Hughes. 96 pages, stiff covers with one color-printed cover, many B&W photos, 8-1/2 by 11 inches. ISBN 978-0-9722215-4-2. Available at Borders at $24.95 or from Walter E. Hughes, 129 E. Main St, Port Jervis NY 12771-2113 for $16 plus postage (a $20 bill will do fine for US customers)

Your memories of good times, bad times, and the good old days disappear when you die and this reviewer has been urging older tugmen to get their memories down on paper or recorded on tape. One tug captain, William C. Alligood, did so in his wonderfully rich autobiography entitled “My Lifetime on the Water, as told in my own words about tugboating”, which was reviewed and highly recommended in Vol 19-1. When I heard that Capt. Walter Hughes had also written a book of memories, I looked forward with considerable eagerness to the book.

It arrived and I must confess that, as an editor (repeat—as an editor) I cringed—its layout and format breaks just about every rule of book-design possible. However, let me quickly add that, as a tug-nut, I thoroughly enjoyed the book and recommend it highly!

We meet him in 1937 at age twelve when a new step-father takes him on the Erie Canal tug FIDELITY as a deckhand at $3 a week! We follow him as he grows into adulthood, somewhere along the way deciding how much formal education he needs (not much), and becoming a skilled tugboat man and eventually captain of the RUSSELL 20. He sails on the Hudson River, the New York State Canals, the Seaway before it became the Seaway, the Connecticut River, and other waters in all kinds of weather. In his book, he does a great job of describing his shipmates and their influences on him. Shipmates are described faithfully and tersely (“A good Engineer But a lousy Seaman. Would get seasick if a duck Swam across the Bow. Couldn’t drink”) Alcohol played an important role in Canal life because the tugs tied up so often, and from personal experience he identifies some of better bars and saloons (for example, the Oswego Hotel was ”one of the Best watering holes on the Canal.” Or the bars at Sylvan Beach…).

Life, of course, wasn’t always routine. There was the terror time when he was on the tank barge RUSSELL POLING 24, loaded with 20,000 barrels of gasoline, and it got away from the tug and ended up perilously pressed against the spill of the dam above Troy during high-water conditions. At least twice, Walt and a fellow deckhand were lowered in a rowboat on a rope tether to check on the barge’s condition and to close valves. (This incident was covered in detail in Vol 17-4 in an article written with contributions from Captain Hughes.)

Two events deeply impacted his tugboating career. One was meeting Mary Cutola, a no-nonsense, conservative, good-looking girl who, Captain Hughes proclaims, became “the compass that kept me on a straight course. And the guiding light of my life.” She sailed with him on at least one trip and was always the source of good advice and loving support. Their marriage lasted 56 years until cancer took her away. It was because of the long absences from her that he swallowed the anchor in 1955 and eventually became a tug dispatcher, a position he held for 33 more years. The job allowed his artistic side to float to the surface in the form of numerous tug-related cartoons and short poems, some of which he has passed on to the Society’s archives.

The second event was World War II. Although deferred as an essential worker, eventually he felt he had to go off to war. He returned safely, a decorated 82nd Airborne paratrooper. What happened overseas is not detailed (maybe a third book, Cap?) but an email may provide some clues: “This year is the 65th Anniversary of the Market Garden operation in Holland (The Bridge Too Far, Sept 17 1944) which I participated in and I have been invited to take part in the Celebration. As far as we know there are only 3 of us still alive that survived the Waal River crossing portrayed in the movie by Robert Redford. Only proves one thing. If you live long enough and become an old geezer, anyone can become a celebrity. Even a Kid from South Brooklyn.”

So what does the reader get from this book? Considerable first-hand knowledge of life on the Hudson and Canal in the years before and after World War II, an insight to the steady growth of a male into manhood , and a charming love story. It is a remarkable, one-of-a-kind, very realistic book written in the vernacular of the trade and I hope other “old geezers” will write a gazillion books just like it! Walter is writing a second book, this one covering his career as a tug dispatcher, and I look forward to its publication.
Hugh Ware

[In this age of self-publishing and books-on-demand it is relatively easy to transfer memories into printed form. There can be expensive pitfalls along the way but solid advice is available in Jack Simpson’s “Self-Publish for Profit by Avoiding Booby Traps,” which was reviewed in Vol 17-4.]

Always Ready: Tugboats along the Coast; The Evolution of an Industry by S.C. Heal. Cordillera Books, Vancouver, 2003. 204 pages, 204 photos, stiff covers, perfect binding. 8.5” by 11”. ISBN 978-1-895590-24-6. 8415 Granville St, Box 46,Vancouver BC V6P 4Z9 or tel 604-261-1695. CAN$29.99.

This is the second book in Heal’s West Coast Maritime Series that reports on the immensely varied maritime world that is British Columbia. As mentioned in TugBitts’ review of the series’ first book in Vol 19-3, he stated, “This series of books is the product of accumulated hands-on knowledge and experience of others as well as my own. I personally back it with a formidable memory and a tendency to be a ratpacker of books, plans, photos and knowledge that might be useful ‘at some time in the future.”’

This book is a further demonstration of his statement. It starts off with a chapter on the Fraser River, which Heal calls the “main street of the lower mainland.” Drainage ditch for industrial and agricultural run-off it may be but the Fraser is also the province’s greatest salmon-raising river and the core of the region’s economy. Heal describes the river’s various conflicts and businesses quite well. Many involve BC’s small but powerful tugs with their typical high bows and very low after decks.

The next three chapters focus on tugboats and tugboat companies. Tugs depicted range from a log-bronc lying over at a 45° angle as it chases a log to big tugs fit for deep-water work. Included are a lengthy list of past and present tugboat companies, each with a mini-history, and much more. The last of this trio of chapters contains a history of the Canadian Tugboat Company from 1911 to 1962 plus three longish letters from sailors telling of their careers.

The next chapter deals with wooden scows and their successors, the steel barges. It is a highly informative and, at times, deliciously technical discussion. Did you know that “scow” came from the Pennsylvania Dutch “schouw,” and that same word had been used in Holland for centuries to describe any leaky old tub? Or that, due to its massive keel and keelson, a wooden scow can withstand the strains of being beached better than a thin-skinned steel barge?

Captain Peter Tull then contributes a chapter on how he switched from vacuum-cleaner salesman to tughand via an improbable sequence of events. He continues onward to describe an interesting career on tugs until he felt he had swallow the anchor.

The Sunshine Coast is the region of the southern mainland coast of British Columbia just northwest of Greater Vancouver. It can be reached only by boat or aircraft; because of the steep, rugged terrain, no roads connect the Sunshine Coast with the rest of the province and so the area, especially the pulp and paper mills of Powell River, are serviced by tug and barges, and the next chapter describes their history. Like the rest of the book, it is not a shallow, superficial treatment. Remember that Heal is more than a mere historian; he has been deeply involved in the Province’s maritime community and intimately knows its functionings and politics.

Successive chapters deal with the distribution of coal, aggregates, cement, petroleum products, chemicals, and explosives plus dredging and marine construction. Lew Brewer then tells of the early days of radar in the Province when he was one of the few technicians back when the equipment was bulky but life was delightfully less-formal.

In the final chapter, Heal demonstrates the expanse of his vision when he addresses the now-defunct whaling industry, then moves on to fish-farming with its associated needs for a wide range of maritime support, and briefly touches on a business that just might become of increasing importance to the Province—the transportation of pure, clear glacial water to a water-short outside world.

If you’re interested in learning more about British Columbia’s several maritime industries, get this highly competent book and its companion volumes. HW
The Tug Book: Second Edition by M.J. Gaston. (Haynes Publishing, Somerset, UK, 2009) 240 pages, 212 color photos. Hardback covers. Available through and other booksellers or at ISBN 978 1 84425 527 6. £25 (about US$41 list)
[M.J. “Jack” Gaston is perhaps today’ most-knowledgeable and most-prolific writer about the modern tugboating scene. For example, he contributed six pages of tug news to each and every issue of British publication Maritime Journal for decades, and that was before he turned professional! He is also a superb photographer of tugs and has been hired by several companies to photo-document their tugs. This book is the fourth he has written for one publisher in its attempts to keep with the ever-changing world of tugboating.
I would have been delighted to review this book but—full disclosure—I must reveal that Jack is a close friend, my tug-writing mentor, and a sometimes-collegue. (You can find articles we jointly wrote for Bob Beegle’s Marcon International in its website’s archives—see August and October in “news and articles” for 2001.) In place of an perhaps-over enthusiastic review from me, TugBitts reprints the following review (probably written by Nico Giltay) from Lekko International, the English-language voice of the International Tugboat Enthusiasts Society.—Hugh Ware]
This fully revised and updated second edition of the The Tug Book provides a detailed, up-to-date account of the design and operation of tugs of many different types all over the world. You will find it an authoritative study and unique insights into these increasingly diverse and sophisticated vessels, along with the roles they perform and the dramatic advances being made in the lesser known branch of the shipping industry. In this unique guide to international towing and tugs, leading maritime writer Jack Gaston describes and illustrates virtually every facet of the present-day tug and towing scene. He has brought together over 200 full color photographs and diagrams in order to offer a definitive portrait of the vessels and their work. A level of technical content has been incorporated to make the book a useful reference in the towing industry, but it will appeal to enthusiasts and those with a general interest in tugs and towing.

ShipSim, 2008 Collector’s Edition

[There is a wide variety of maritime-related software available, some of it free, for PCs and some of the programs deal with shiphandling. One series that has gotten good reviews is ShipSim from Holland and TugBitts asked Captain Bill Brucato to take a few hours from driving his favorite ATB to test out one of the several ShipSim programs. The website at provides full information and in North America ShipSim can bought at Amazon, EB Games Canada,, J&R, Computer Gameglobe,, and Interact! Here is Bill’s report.]

I’m not much of a gamer and a ship-handling simulator is so close to a “busman’s holiday” for me that at first I was not entirely impressed with the idea of a really advanced shiphandling simulator “game,” no matter how awesome it was. I just didn’t think it would be all that and a bag of chips.

But curiosity and the challenge of handling vessels I had only read about proved to be too seductive to resist. The idea that I could complete the voyage of the TITANIC into New York Harbor was sexy as hell. (I’ve really got to get out more).

This program has all the earmarks of a slick high-end game system that installs on your computer. But until I had a powerful enough laptop to accommodate the resource hungry code (minimum 2.0 gHz, dual core, and 3 gigs of RAM), I could only tinker with the apparently slow and difficult to load graphics and odd keyboard controls. I had a rather low opinion of the program’s performance. My fault, I’ll admit.

Well, bless my lovely wife’s heart, she purchased a new laptop and presented it to me for my birthday and, as I was thanking her profusely for her thoughtful gift, I admit beneath the surface I was thinking of how the new toy might handle this software. With adequate processing power and sufficient RAM, the program loaded and ran effortlessly. I was able to run pre-programmed scenarios as well as create my own. If I didn’t want to get too involved, the ability to roam free with any of the virtual vessels is a fun option.

Now let me warn you, the programmed missions take a loonggg time to complete; you’ll need to have a relief at some point, and the esc button can be used for a bathroom break. The realistic time frame of the missions offered will test your stamina for watch-standing as well as your ship-handling skills!

I naturally found myself drawn to the port of New York Scenario and was stunned to find how close the rendering matched the real thing. It was quite impressive. Only a few quirks here and there, which I suppose are necessary in the virtual world. I didn’t feel as though the programmers took any shortcuts laying out their scenery.

The vessels I chose to play with, of course, started out with the biggest tug I could find. They have a Norwegian Fjord scenario that lets you tow a North Sea Drill rig to sea with two huge tugs. Little pop-ups give you your mission step by step as you complete each step. You have to leave the standby berth with each tug and attach a towline to the rig (with each tug or the rig won’t move) and then co-ordinate the piloting of both tugs to get this monster safely out to sea. It took over an hour and a half to clear the shallows and was rather intense. I think my wife was beginning to rethink her generosity at this point.

I had my laptop connected to my 42-inch LCD HDTV for the whole mission, and herself had to miss a couple of her favorite TV shows while I tinkered in the North Sea. I thought she’d be proud of me demonstrating my skill and grace under pressure as I piloted a huge drill rig safely on its way, but I was getting the eye…. I knew I was in trouble.

Do I think this software is worthy of your time? I have to say there were times during my test drive that I was looking for my relief to come up and give me a break, at least send the deckhand up with a cup of coffee. But the long missions are the exception rather than the rule. There are plenty of craft (high-speed and otherwise) to play with. You can handle a jet-ski, a hovercraft, a speedboat, pilot boats, tractor tugs, supertankers, cruise ships, container ships… the list goes on and on.

Most had realistic handling characteristics; indeed the TITANIC was a handful given her twin-screw/single-rudder, a handful indeed. She took a good long time to get up to speed, with her 75 rpm maximum. Her top speed, however, was about 16 knots as I piloted her out of the Solent. And I had to pilot a super tanker, of course, very slow and cumbersome, not much action…. I get enough of that at work.

The smaller faster craft were a lot of fun. The tractor tug was a particular challenge and it took a while to get the hang of the drives and how to steer the damn thing.

The program touts an online play capability. I decided not to try that function since I didn’t want to add any more distractions to my limited gaming abilities.

I must say, though, that the learning curve for this game is a bit steep. I can see you’d need to be a fairly dedicated ship fanatic with a lot of free time to want to really master the game and all its applications. The toughest part I dealt with was designing scenarios of my own. I’d recommend printing and laminating the instruction manual; you’ll be using it frequently.

Overall, I can recommend this game to the truly bitten. If you want to try your hand at ship-handling with the benefit of a reset button, this is it.¬—Captain Bill Brucato

American Tugboat Review 2009, an annual special issue of Professional Mariner magazine. Edited by Gregory Walsh. 76 pages, paper covers, many color and B&W photos. Available by subscription or at some bookstores.

This issue carries several articles overviewing the tugboat industry, how the industry is handling the economic down turn, and the near-term prospects. And then there are the customary lists of North American tractor tugs and US ATBs. plus twelve detailed reviews of thirteen of North America’s newest, latest, and best tugs plus a Z-drive pushboat, and a tug conversion for a Great Lakes ATB. Three types are Canadian-built, the rest were US-built. For once, Robert Allan Ltd wasn’t the prevalent designer. That firm shared honors with Entech and Associates and Jensen Maritime Consultants with two designs each.

This issue is remarkable because it reports on three drastic design breakthroughs, One is the world’s first hybrid-drive tug. Another is the trademarked Facet Tug, whose hull underwater has no curved plating, just flat sections, yet the angled hull is at least as efficient as a chined or rounded hull of the same horsepower. Maybe the result is ugly as sin but, hey, it works! And above water OT&BE’s Bob Hill played with angles and surfaces to make this ATB pusher extraordinarily handsome. And the third breakthrough is the use of z-drives on the inland rivers. The discussion makes it clear how life for the steersman is made far easier, and why the owner may dance with glee on his way to the bank. (In fact, one wonders why the pushboat industry was so slow to adopt azimuthing drives. After all, back in 1990 Eddie Conrad put Niigata Z-peller drives on his MISS NARI, the motive force for the two big barges forming the luxurious floating-hotel RIVER EXPLORER, and they operated successfully up to this year when Eddie had to cease operating due to an understandable lack of çustomers. Perhaps, like most New Orleans tug operators once felt, inland operators feared damage to the expensive drives. But now, most new ship-assist tugs on the Lower River are ASDs and further use of azimuthing drives on towboats seems inevitable.)

I have been cleaning out old files and I came across two emails. One was from Capt Bill Smith, a highly respected Scottish tugmaster, and the other was from Jack Gaston (see the adjacent review of his new book). Both had received copies of earlier issues of American Tugboat Review and both expressed their surprise and pleasure at the high quality. The issue for 2009 is probably even better and more insightful than the issues they read.—HW

Design 327 US Army Small Tug. A model kit from BlueJacket Shipcrafters, 160 East Main Street, Searsport ME 04974. Price: $245. Telephone: (800) 448-5567, E-mail:, Website:

Over the last several years, Searport, Maine’s BlueJacket Shipcrafters has released several new models. These models consisted of the clipper ship RED JACKET, the battleships MAINE and OLYMPIA, the AEGIS destroyer ARLEIGH BURKE and the four-masted schooner CHARLES NOTMAN, all of which were challenging to build and expensive. As they looked for a new model to do, they decided to do a series of workboats that would be affordable.

The newest model was created by Al Ross of BlueJackets who said, “Suzie and Jeff (owners of BlueJackets) wanted to create a new series of kits in a moreaffordable range than some of the last ones that we’ve done and they wanted to do a series of American workboats. The first one is an 85-foot tug, which this particular design is an Army design from 1944. We built a pile of these and then after the war a lot of different companies picked them up as surplus. They are traditional-looking diesel harbor tug, which was seen in harbors all around the United States.”

Ross added, “This is a traditional BlueJacket kit in that it has the machine-carved basswood hull. There are a lot of laser -cut pieces, like all the superstructure, are laser cut. The stack is resin, which is the only resin piece in the kit. It is a little unusual or a little out of the traditional mode in that because of the way the tug bulwarks were formed, they had tumblehome. There is a laser-cut deck, with slots in it, that screws down over the hull. Once the hull is shaped there are temporary formers that go across the deck so that when you bend the laser-cut bulwarks in place these formers keep it at the right angle as it curves around the stern. Once everything is set and dried, you take a pair of pliers and snap the formers out and since they are underneath the cabin so you don’t see where they were.”

Difficulty is relative, but one should have a little experience before they try to build this one. “It is like the rest of our traditional wooden kits,” said Ross. “The hull is mostly carved and the only thing you’ve got to remove is a lug on the front and back from where it was carved. We have templates if you want to get really, really precise. The instruction book is about 60 pages and is a standard step-by-step with exploded-parts diagrams for the whole boat. I also make a CD that goes with all the new models, which will make building the model easier. We also did a website while I built this model. We are keeping this particular site set up for the series. So when the next kit comes along there will be teasers up on that site to see what is going on. Once people start building the tug, hopefully they’ll share their experiences as they go along.”

With a number of these already shipped to customers Bluejacket are now thinking about the next one in the series. They are thinking maybe a Florida shrimper, a New England eastern-rigged dragger, or possibly a West Coast tuna boat. Owner Jeff Marger said, “What we are trying to do is come up with iconic American boats. Everybody has done the Chesapeake boats to death and the other types of regional boats have almost totally been ignored.
Since these models are being built 3/16 of an inch to the foot, or S gauge, the model railroad guys should be happy since this is a scale they like.

Besides building this model, Ross has been busy doing custom models. He has just finished a four-stack destroyer for a customer, as well as a Hinckley Sou’wester 42, a minesweeper, and a seaplane tender. He still has a couple more to do, which will keep him busy through the summer and into the fall.—Jon Johansen

Modelers who want to add fine details to their ST model will find a wide range of objects in the photos of Jaap Bijl’s “ST Tugs design 257 and 327” (reviewed in TugBitts, Vol 17-1). BlueJacket also carries a superb model of the LACKAWANNA, a steam-driven coastal tugs from the era when such tugs towed coal-laden schooner-barges to New England.

[The next book is not about tugs but features tugs being repaired, rebuilt, revised, and rejuvenated at Caddell’s Dry Dock on Staten Island. The book is impressive enough and the yard is now such an integral part of the New York Harbor tugboat scene that TugBitts reviewed the book and added a final note by historian Brent Dibner.—ed]

Caddell Drydock: 100 Years Harborside by Erin Urban with contemporary photos by Michael Falco. Foreword by Peter Stanford. 115 pages, hard covers, many photos. ISBN 978-0-9623017-3-5. or 718 447—6490. $40.00

Marine historian Peter Stanford describes Caddell Dry Dock & Repair as ”the oldest, largest, and most technologically advanced shipyard in New York.” The yard is located on the north shore of Staten Island. Six years ago, Caddell celebrated its 100th birthday and its CEO denied requests by Erin Urban that she write a celebratory history. Luckily, John B. Caddell II eventually changed his mind and this volume is the result
So who is the author? Her credentials are good: She is the founding and executive director of the nearby tugboat-oriented Noble Maritime Collection and author of three tug-related books (“John A. Noble: the Rowboat Drawings,” Hulls and Hulks in the Tide of Time: The Life and Work of John A. Noble” and “John A. Noble”). But why this review of her book about an elderly shipyard? The answer is simple; the yard largely services tugs although barges, NYC ferries, large sailing ships, and other vessels also appear.

A history of the company and those that created and operated it kicks off the book, followed by a detailed chapter on dry-docking. Many fine photos, such as before-and- after shots of the sideswiped ESSO TUG NO. 11 in 1953, illustrate this text. Thereafter, the fine photos taken by Michael Falco take over the back half of the book and depict both of the processes of drydocking and ship-repair —the featured tug is the ASTB tug BARBARA E. BOUCHARD, in for two new propellers, fender work, and a repaint.

It is hard to take meaningful photos of cluttered areas such as a busy drydock but Falco does it well. There are photos of clusters of men at work. Often, a single worker is silhouetted—machinist Cleveland Hah Sang or electrician Ricardo Hoffman, for example— and the remaining photos on that page show him at work. The photos are sharp, well-composed, carefully selected and those in the photo essay were printed in a very soft, just-off-black brownish tone that is not quite sepia but is most attractive. One final photo shows just about every Caddell worker. It is a magnificently evocative group photo.

It is both interesting and puzzling to scan the author’s Bibliography. Most of her material was derived from interviews with Company executives and historical materials they had prepared, but one wonders what useful information she found in “Science and Civilization in China” or “The Deipnosophists, or banquet of the learned of Althenaeus.” Perhaps finding traces will be a task for the educated reader.

In style (but not shape or heft), subject matter, and overall book quality, this history is a fitting companion to George Matteson’s wonderful “Tugboats of New York: An Illustrated History. “Caddell Drydock” is a high-class book.— HW

Copies of the book selling for $40 plus $7 postage are available in the Noble Maritime Collection gift shop (call 718-447-6490 or write Noble Maritime Collection, 1000 Richmond Terrace, Staten Island, NY 10301) and from
Brent Dibner’s comments: This is a beautiful book on a gritty subject. TES readers interested in New York Harbor will enjoy the photos culled from Caddell’s massive archive of repairs to steam tugs, lighters, tankers, diesel tugs, tug conversions and other harbor craft. Like all books that Erin Urban has written pertaining to the Harbor, it is written with sensitivity, accuracy, and a strong sense of context. TES readers should remember that the wonderful Tugs Exhibition at the Noble Collection remains on exhibit until the end of 2010. It is a must to see. Visit

Olympia Harbor Days, 2008. A CD-ROM video report by John Earle. Approximately 63 minutes. $10 postpaid from Earle at PO Box 130, Sweet Home, OR 97386-0130 or

This is home video, folks! I’ve got hours of similar stuff I took of tugs at work or play in the US and abroad. I even have tapes of the Olympia tugboat races. It’s crude, catch-as-catch-can cinematography. No editing except by the operator selecting what he shoots, no dubbed narrative or music, just voice-over descriptions by the camera operator as things happen. There are moments of camera shake and wind noise. There are strange breaks in what’s being photographed, and the like. You know—home video!

But this video has two over-riding virtues. It is remarkably inexpensive and it is a compelling labor–of-love by someone who is turned on by tugs, knows the Olympia Tug Races scene intimately and was on a tug in a race. It is true that some scenes abruptly terminate for no apparent reason. Others scenes, such as the dinner for the tug crews, may seem to consume too much airtime. But Earle captures the totality of Harbor Days and gives us wonderful moments such as when a gigantic 110-hp Atlas engine is started and then ticks over, the brass-tipped pushrods pogo-ing up and down, or during the race when other tugs are photoed close at hand, futilely straining to stay up with the camera tug as it threads the needle between them.

More importantly, John Earle has put together an in-depth, insider’s record of the tug races and other events during Olympia’s 2008 Harbor Days, from arrival of tugs at crowded Percival Landing to the next-day presentation of prizes, plus much, much more. For those who have been to Olympia Harbor days and the races, this CD will refresh pleasant memories—it’s a fun place and event! For everyone else, it records a charming holiday weekend featuring well-loved, well-preserved tugs and a holiday-minded crowd. And Earle won’t make any money with this video at the paltry price he asks. (Yes it’s only ten dollars and postpaid at that!) As I said above, this CD is a labor of love, tug-love. HW

© 2007. Tugboat Enthusiasts Society of the Americas