An American Tugboat Tale

Posted by Sarah Seippel on

Why did the little tugboat do what all the other tugboats told him to do?

Because he gave into pier pressure.

History of the Tugboat

Steam power entered the transportation engines in the late 1700’s, and the first tugboat steam engine was patented in 1802 by William Symington of Scotland.  One of the earliest tugboats, known as the Charlotte Dundas, made her first trip with twenty passengers in 1802.  This six-hour trip was her one and only voyage because the captain feared she would erode the canal banks if she approached the surface past her stopping point.  Five years after, American Engineer Robert Fulton brought the steamboat to North America.

            The introduction of the tugboat to mechanisms for transportation created new jobs in the country: captain, mate, and engineer.  The captain position is that of any of ship.  Not only did the captain have to be a leader, but he was also required to have previous experience working as a shipmate and to having knowledge in respects to how the boat operates.  Additionally, some companies even required that a Captain have experience navigating through specific water areas.  The next position, the mate, was the second-most important job on the ship.  The mate had to work with the captain to ensure that the tugboat operates smoothing. Such responsibilities include overall navigation ad towing functionalities.  The third job that was introduced with the introduction of the tugboat was more extensive engineer positions.  Because tugboats were responsible for moving passengers as well as cargo, the vessels had to go through constant matinee checks.  An engineer’s primary role was to check both the main and supplemental engineer to ensure it was operating properly.  And one can not forget that a captain is nothing with out his crew.  The three main job positions were captain, mate, and engineer; however, the seamen carried out the menial activities in the tugboat, as did the onshore crew members.  Not only were these boats used for businesses and travel, but they were also used by Armed Services.

            During World War I and World War II needed tugboats for war efforts.  Specifically, during World War II, four different types of tugboats were requested.  At 186 feet long, the largest tugboat was the type V.  Only a total of forty-nine of these ships were constructed.   Some of these types of tugboats were involved in helping building Normandy ports, while others served different purposes. Regardless of their specific tasks, tugboats were maneuver vessels, moving vessels that were either too large to move alone or those that had been disabled. 

A Personal Connection Made

An example of a tugboat was found in these recovered negatives from Worthpoint’s Founder William Seippel.  Once developed, the negatives were difficult to read at first; however, once they were thought the cleaning process, William successful discovered some neat historical information on them.  After making out the name “Clare H” on the side of the boat, he found that the ship was a 1900s model of the Clare H Doanes.  In recent years, William traveled to and restored Doanes Wharf in Kennebunk, Maine, which made this connection so fascinating, as the slide relates to a place he has helped restore.  There was not much other information that William could gather on the slide, but he deduces that the ship was responsible for supplying the British efforts and the end of World War II.  Regardless of its specific tasks, isn’t it interesting to see just how history has a way of sneaking into our lives?  Imagine investing your resources to preserve a bit of historical land just to one day stumble upon a variety of slides that turn out to have a tugboat that belonged to the same family as the land you restored.                                          



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