By Virginia Thorndike

Tugboats carry a fascination not just for an individual who has labored aboard a vessel or round a harbor yet for plenty of land-bound fogeys to boot. there's something approximately their chunky, strong construct and their usually dicy yet important paintings that excites our curiosity and admiration. The captains and crews of the tugboats are justifiably pleased with what they do, and so they have a few nice tales to inform concerning the ships and barges they tow or push; the harbors, storms, tides, and unsafe passages they need to negotiate; the unions; the pilots; different designs and capabilties in their boats; and how the boats and their livelihood are irrevocably altering.

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In the merchant marine, he has the advantages that come from working for a big corporation, such as health insurance, yet he has his own business too. Russell and Lenny both run commercial sportfishing boats. Russell would like to move into the pilothouse. He has run as second mate occasionally when his boat went offshore and the vessel had to have three watch officers. “I got higher pay then, and experience in the pilothouse. But I’ve yet to get the experience Lenny has, making up to barges and docking.

Many tug companies do some of everything, while others specialize in what they push or pull around. As an example, a string of companies along the north shore of Staten Island demonstrate the range of specialties that tug companies can hold. K-Sea Transportation Partners transports petroleum products: gasoline, jet fuel, diesel fuel, heating oil, bunker oil. , with offices in ten Atlantic ports from Portland, Maine, to San Juan, Puerto Rico. They do just about every kind of towboating, but in New York Harbor, the greatest share of their work is ship docking—assisting large vessels entering and leaving busy channels and piers.

And always, team­work is important. Says Captain Elburn, “Most everything you’re doing, you depend on somebody. Guys on deck depend on the guys running the boat or operating the machinery. In the wheelhouse, we depend on the guys on deck, tying up barges and all. If you’re expecting them to catch a line, you only get one chance or you’ll have to back out and start over. Some places you go, once you miss, the second try is ten times harder than the first. ” In backing up and remaneuvering, the wheelwash (turbulence off the propellers) creates a whole new system of currents.

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