Tugboat Video Visit

I had the good fortune of heading back to the Philadelphia waterfront, only a stone’s throw from where I used to work. I visited a handsome tugboat and made this video, showing you some of the particulars. Take a look.

I want to thank the captain and crew for having me aboard. It was fun to check out a newer boat with all the latest equipment. I hope to stop by again soon.

Tugboat Tour, video

In conversations at book signings and other events, people ask me how I came to be a writer. It was a winding path, though plenty of interesting places. One of those locales was the Philadelphia waterfront, including the Delaware River and Bay as well as the Atlantic Ocean. Part of my business involved tugboats and barges. So, here’s a video tour of the tug High Roller, a boat that I worked with while in that environment.

That’s quite a piece of floating machinery, isn’t it? One of the main engines has just been rebuilt, to the tune of about $250,000. That gives you an idea of what things cost in this field. While underway, the boat burns close to a hundred gallons of diesel fuel an hour. Do the math at today’s prices and you come up with a steep number indeed. Nonetheless, the job has to be done and working with the High Roller was always a fun challenge. Hopefully, I’ll have a chance to interview the owner, a fellow who is a real character. Stay tuned.

Published in: on October 17, 2011 at 12:52 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Heavy Lifting

Once again, I was in the New York Harbor area, aboard a tugboat with the legendary Captain Silva. This time we tended to a few barge shifts than returned to Staten Island where there was a heavy lift operation underway. DonJon Marine moved in with their Chesapeake 1000 floating crane. This unit proceeded to lift a newly constructed floating drydock from the shipyard into the water. Here is a photo of the scene.

liftaThis can be a tricky procedure, full of pitfalls if the weather changes, something goes wrong, or simple human error. However, the job went easily enough. The drydock was lifted, the crane pivoted around, and then the drydock was set into the water like a dozen eggs in the fridge. It takes copious amounts of cooperation between the people on the ground and the fellow operating the crane, who may not be able to see everything, including obstacles in the way.

Just another way to travel and things to do. Great story material, too.

Old Tugboats Never Die

But they do sink! Sadly these two boats sank in a slip along the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.

They sat on the bottom for a while. Then a salvage crew hoisted them onto the pier using a massive floating crane. The Carol Wales is what’s known as a “railroad tug.” She was built by one of the railroads, probably in the 1930’s or 1940’s. The railroads used to have large marine departments. Railcars were loaded onto barges known as “car floats.” These car floats typically had three sets of tracks onto which the railcars where rolled and secured. Then the barges were towed across rivers and to a special type of bridge onto which the railcars could be unloaded and sent on their way. The Big Boy was a “navy hull,” meaning that it was built during World War II under a Defense Plant Contract. These tugs are sometimes referred to as DPC hulls.

That gash in the wheelhouse above was probably caused by one the cables strung under the tug by the salvage crew. It’s a shame for these old boats. They’re big and clumsy compared to their modern counterparts. However, they have proud lines and a long history. Trouble is, they’re obsolete.

They’re both single screw, having only one main engine and one propeller. Many ship owners want twin screw boats helping their vessels to the dock simply for the sake of reliability. This is especially true in the case of oil tankers.

That propeller on the left is about seven feet in diameter, which means the Carol Wales probably had an engine in the 1700 horsepower class. I worked with plenty of single screw boats and never had a problem. A good engineer and crew keeps things in reliable condition. And if you have an anchor, you drop the hook, fix what broke, and get on with the job. If not, well, chances are you’ll be in for plenty of misery that happens slowly enough that you can see it coming.

I’m glad to have taken these photographs. Both of these boats will be cut up for scrap iron in the next couple of weeks. Two more for the boneyard and a piece of history gone from the planet.

Published in: on September 6, 2008 at 11:24 am  Comments (1)  
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