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New Jersey Scuba Diving


New Jersey Scuba Diving


A tugboat is a small sturdy and powerful vessel designed to push or tow other vessels and barges

Tenacious tugboat

You will see them in every sizeable port; smart, businesslike small ships, low in the water and surging out to a large inbound ship. Tugs represent power for pushing and pulling, an engine with just enough hull for adequate buoyancy. Thick fenders for close quarters work, pushing a big ship alongside the quay against the wind, hauling her off at the end of a towing wire.

Tugs might be thought of as essential port services, enabling big unwieldy ships to be handled into small spaces, hauling very large vessels through locks and protecting them against the unexpected wind or tide that could sweep them out of a channel, or bang them against a quay or another ship. Tug skippers are fine ship handlers, who can work with pilots and operate as a team to handle big ships safely. They escort tankers in and out of oil ports, ready to act as an emergency brake and rudder if there is trouble with the tanker's engines or steering gear. They push and pull barges, floating cranes or other "dumb" non-propelled craft, applying their considerable muscle to wherever it is needed.

Other, seagoing tugs are more powerful still; able to accomplish long ocean tows, taking a floating dock or a drill rig to a new location, or hauling a redundant ship on her last voyage to the breakers. Power will be their priority, with the biggest having up to 22,000 hp available. And there are salvage tugs which are equipped with a whole range of emergency equipment, such as fire monitors, powerful pumps and air compressors, in addition to their high horsepower.

tugboat towing a barge
A tugboat towing a barge.

Power and maneuverability are the twin assets brought by the tug, and the modern harbor tug is a spectacular fusion of them both. With either directional propellers or Voith Schneider vanes coupled to (usually) twin medium speed diesels, a tug is able to turn in its own length and often is able to apply the same power in virtually any direction. A crew of no more than three will probably man a modern highly automated harbor tug, with the skipper in his conning bridge, where he has an all round view and joystick controls to handle engines and steering, along with all the communications he needs to speak with the pilot of a ship he is assisting, other tugs and the harbor control station. There will be two other hands, one doubling as Mate and one as Engineer, available to take and let go the towing wire.

Not every ship, however needs harbor tugs. Even large ships these days are equipped with powerful bow thrusters and many vessels which might have taken two or more tugs to help them on and off the berth, will take only one at the stern. Some ships may elect to take tug assistance only when the weather is foul. Giant cruise ships might be thought to represent good customers for harbor tugs, but the most modern vessels tend to be equipped with both bow and stern lateral thrusters to help them in and out of ports where there may be no tugs available and mostly do without. Some ships are equipped with their propulsion system in rotatable "pods" so that they are effectively multi-directional. Thus the complement of tugs stationed in ports tends to be declining and tug companies have tried to design a more multi-role and flexible vessel, which will be capable of providing emergency services, or undertaking coastal towage.


The tugboat arose in the 1800s, when steam power became more than just a curiosity. Robert Fulton built the first successful commercial steam vessel in 1807, the 150 ft North River Steamboat, more commonly, although incorrectly, known as the Clermont. "Fulton's Folly" Clermont plied the Hudson River 150 miles between New York and Albany at speeds up to five miles per hour, and most importantly, did so profitably. In 1808, she was completely rebuilt much larger. ( There were earlier similar developments in steamboats, but none of them were commercially successful, most being little more than demonstrators. )

sidewheel tug
"Clermont", 1807, there seems to be no records of her demise

By 1840, there were more than 100 steamboats operating on the Hudson, and some were turned to towing. The side paddle wheeler Rufus W. King was one such vessel, it was converted for towing in 1828. The Norwich, built in 1836 as a passenger vessel for Long Island Sound, was similarly converted in 1842, and served on the Hudson until 1924. Stern decks on these vessels were cleared to make way for line handling, and wheelhouses were raised for greater visibility ahead and astern. This powerful new type of horsepower quickly made its predecessor, the mule, obsolete. The tugboat was born.

canal mules
Many of the old tow paths along canals are today wonderful linear parks, great for hiking and biking along the water. Locally, the Delaware & Raritan Canal runs for miles through the center of the state.

The earliest tugboats were typically side-wheelers. These had the distinct advantage of being able to spin in place by putting one wheel in 'forward' and the other in 'reverse.' They were used to get otherwise relatively helpless sailing ships in an out of port, regardless of wind or tide. However, paddlewheels are no match for screw propellers, and as the power requirements grew with the size of their charges, the paddlewheel boats died out.

sidewheel tug
M.T. Belle of Moran Towing, 1860s

By the 1860s, steam tugboats were commonplace. In 1860, Moran towing was founded. Tugboats found many roles in the Civil War, where most of the naval actions took place on restricted inland waters unsuited to sailing ships. Before the ironclad Monitor could have her famous 1862 duel with the Merrimack, she had to be towed to Virginia from New York by the ocean-going tugboat Seth Low, nearly sinking along the way. Monitor sank under tow later that year.

sidewheel tug
Seth Low, 1878

Tugs of this era were not yet very specialized. Seth Low went from towboat to excursion steamer and back over her career. She was noted to have fished the 'Cholera Banks' off the New Jersey coast, before burning up in Florida.

tugboat stampThe advent of the steam-powered tugboat in the 1800's was probably the final nail in the coffin for sail-powered working ships, as it became cheaper to dismast them and tow them around as barges than to pay a crew of capable men to sail them.

towing flagThe 'Zulu' signal flag at right was once used by vessels entering port to call for a tugboat.

Margaret reef
Steam tug Margaret - 1915

Margaret reef
Margaret converted to diesel, with a new pilot house

The next major development for the tugboat was the replacement of steam by diesel engines. This was spearheaded by the Moran company. The advantages of diesel over steam are many: instant-on - no steam-up time, far greater power and responsiveness, and smaller crews. Many steam tugs were converted to diesel, in the process losing their distinctive and elegant tall smokestacks for stumpy diesel exhausts. Iron hulls also supplanted wood. Diesel-electric drives were developed around World War II, resulting in vessels which could be reversed almost instantaneously, unlike previous direct-drive steam and diesel engines, which had to be stopped and then run in reverse with a change to the valve timing.

schooner barges
A tugboat and tow transits the Cape Cod Canal, circa 1950. These very late schooner barges are dismasted.

tugboat pushing a barge
What appears to be a ship here is actually a tugboat nestled into the notch in the stern of a push-barge.

The tug and barge above are lashed together so firmly as to act as one vessel. The conning tower on the tug actually telescopes up for visibility and down for bridge clearance. This sort of combined tug / barge arrangement is much more efficient and seaworthy than simple towing, allowing higher speeds, better control, and reduced fuel consumption. It was not long before specialized vessels were built just for this sort of operation.

Rockland County reef
The Rockland County - a "towboat" of the type common along the Mississippi and other inland waterways. Note the large knees on the bow, for pushing.

A later development of the tugboat is the ironically-named 'towbout' - a blocky square-nosed vessel designed to push barges rather than pull them. Often, dozens of barges are tightly rafted together to be pushed on calm inland waterways by a single powerful towboat. Swiveling 'Kort nozzles' replace fixed propellers, resulting in a vessel which, like its ancient paddlewheel ancestors, could once again spin around in place.

Tugboat Operators

The two oldest and biggest towing companies in the area, and all along the East Coast, are Moran and McAllister. Moran tugs can be identified by a white   M   on a black smokestack. McAllister tugs have a red-and-white striped smokestack capped with black. Weeks Marine operates a number of tugboats as well, mainly in support of their construction and dredging business. There are many other companies in the area that own and operate tugboats.

Two of the oldest and largest tugboat operators in the New York region are Moran and McAllister. Bothe these companies have donated numerous vessels as artificial reefs. In years past, Merritt-Chapman, and Tracy companies were prominent, and there are many others.

Moran Towing Company

Carol Moran reef
Carol Moran

Founded in 1860, by Michael Moran as a towing and brokerage firm, the Moran Towing and Transportation Company of New York, New York. In 1863, the company transitioned from a brokerage firm to an owner/operator of towing vessels when the company acquired a one-half interest in the tugboat Ida Miller for $2,700. In 1880, Michael Moran painted the first white "M" on the stack of a Moran tugboat.

During the companygrew during its first seventy five years of operation. When New York City celebrated the centennial of George Washington's inauguration, Moran Towing reenacted George Washington's boat trip to Lower Manhattan. Moran tugs and barges transported the excavated soil from the construction of the New York City subway system. A Moran Towing tug was the first vessel to enter Havana Harbor after the Spanish-American War. Another Moran tug sailed around the tip of South America, to win the contract to transport material excavated during the construction of the Panama Canal.

Early in World War I, Moran provided tugs to the British Government, and after the United States of America entered the War, the United States Government built numerous tugs, based on Moran Towing designs. During World War II, the company operated both Moran Towing and government-owned tugs. As part of the war effort, Moran tugs transported barges across the North Atlantic for a crucial rendezvous with a Moran-operated tug fleet in the English Channel. The Channel-based fleet transported artificial harbors to strategic points off the coast at Normandy beach where they would be installed so that heavy equipment could be unloaded onto the beaches during and after the D-Day invasions.

World War II initiated a period of rapid growth and geographic expansion for Moran Towing. Moran maintained a large fleet. Embracing diesel propulsion, played an active role in the expansion and consolidation of the harbor tug industry. The company's early acquisitions were centered in New York Harbor. In the following years, Moran grew geographically, establishing operations in multiple ports along the United States eastern seaboard and Gulf Coast.

In 1958, Curtis Bay Towing of Baltimore became an affiliate of the Moran Towing Corporation. In the 1970s, Moran expanded further into the marine transportation sector with an ongoing program of tug and barge unit construction and acquisition. The current Moran barge fleet services utilities, municipalities and commercial customers, carrying petroleum products, coal, aggregates, grains, fertilizers, scrap metal, and heavy-lift cargoes, as well as a multitude of commercial and military vessels, including ships, commercial container barges, petroleum barges, dry-bulk barges, LNG spheres, oil rigs, bridge sections, dry-docks, and spent nuclear fuel. In addition to providing ship docking, offshore contract towing and LNG activities, Moran vessels have supported various cable-laying operations and have performed many rescue tows.

In 1994, Paul R. Tregurtha and James R. Barker acquired the company from Thomas Moran, and between 1998 and 2007, Moran acquired several other towing and towing-related companies. In 1998, Moran acquired Turecamo Coastal and Harbor Towing Corporation of New York, as well as several Turecamo-affiliated companies. In 2007, the company acquired the River Parishes Company of New Orleans, and in 2007 Moran purchased Morehead City Towboat Company and the Cape Fear Towing Company, both in North Carolina. In 2011, the G and H Towing Company became part of a joint venture with the Moran Towing Corporation of New Canaan, Connecticut. The Bay Houston Towing Company and the Superman and Young Towing Company of Houston, Texas, were acquired, serving the Cameron LNG facility near Lake Charles, Louisiana.

-- Moran Towing Corporation

History of Moran Towing

McAllister Towing & Transportation

McAllister colors
McAllister colors

McAllister Towing is one of the oldest and largest marine towing and transportation companies in the United States. They operate a fleet of more than seventy tugboats and twelve barges along the East Coast from Portland, Maine to San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Although their corporate headquarters is located in New York City, they operate in the ports of Portland, Maine, Staten Island, New York, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Baltimore, Maryland, Hampton Roads, Virginia, Wilmington North Carolina, Georgetown and Charleston, South Carolina and as Jacksonville, and Port Everglades, Florida, also San Juan Puerto Rico. McAllister engages in ship docking, general harbor towing, coastal towing and bulk transportation.

Captain James McAllister started the first McAllister enterprise shortly after he arrived from Cushendall, County Antrim, Ireland. Together with his brothers and in-laws, McAllister formed the Greenpoint Lighterage Company. They augmented the lighterage business with towing, with the acquisition of their first steam tug, the R.W. Burke, in the 1880s, while the Brooklyn Bridge was still being built.

In the early twentieth century there was a period of innovation and expansion. Captain James was one of the first to convert a sail lighter into a bulk oil carrier, for the transport of oil around New York Harbor. The company also became known nationally for its salvage work, which extended from the West Indies, along the Atlantic Coast as far north as Maine.

In 1909, the company acquired the Starin fleet of steamboat excursion vessels, forming the McAllister Steamboat Company, which was then among the largest excursion boat operators in New York, with regular runs to the Statue of Liberty, Bear Mountain, Coney Island, and Long Island. After the death of Captain James in 1916, his four sons assumed control of the company. The new partnership consisted of James, John E., Charles D. and William H., the second generation of McAllisters.

By 1918, the company had moved into the ocean towing business. McAllister inaugurated one of the first deep-sea tug-barge combination with the 156 foot long towboat C.W. Morse, carrying molasses from Cuba to New Orleans. Always an innovator, in 1927 McAllister installed a 375 horsepower diesel engine into the Daniel McAllister, making it the first diesel powered tug in New York Harbor.

During the First World War, James McAllister served on the Board of Embarkation for the U.S. Government. He also held the post of Acting Director for the Army's floating equipment. Between the Wars, a fleet of twenty ocean going tankers was operated by McAllister to all parts of the world for the U.S. Shipping Board.

With the death of James McAllister in 1936, the third generation of McAllisters assumed control of the company. Anthony, James, and Gerard McAllister are credited with maintaing the company's stability through the Great Depression. They also brought the company to its present-day prominence. During the 1940's and 1950's, the company expanded to include operations in Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Canada.

Today, those operations have expanded to include offices in Portland Maine, Baltimore Maryland, Wilmington North Carolina, Georgetown South Carolina, Charleston South Carolina, Jacksonville Florida, Port Everglades, Florida and San Juan, Puerto Rico. In recent times McAllister helped pioneer the development of the Kort Nozzle, and Flanking Rudder steering systems aboard tugboats.

-- McAllister Towing and Transportation

Tugboats as Reefs

Tugboats make excellent artificial reef subjects. Because of their sturdy construction they last a very long time, while their generally small size makes it possible to sink them in relatively shallow coastal waters. It also seems to be practically impossible to sink a tugboat in anything but an upright position, unlike many other types of vessel that are used as reefs. They are also used to tow other vessels to be sunk as artificial reefs.

tugboat towing bit
A huge towing bit in use on a turn-of-the-century tugboat. Notice the smaller deck cleat, and the steam-powered capstan in the foreground. Old tugboat wrecks are readily identified by the presence of such large and obvious artifacts.

Venturo reef
The bow towing bit in front of the wheelhouse on a more modern tugboat - the Matt Turecamo.

HRFA reef
HRFA reef
HRFA reef
HRFA reef
Old tugboats are commonly donated and sunk as artificial reefs, like the Steven McAllister here.

DPC-1 - note the three-faceted front of the wheelhouse

One very common class of tugboat that has been used extensively as artificial reefs is the Navy YTM ( Yard Tugboat Medium ) and the equivalent Army ST ( Small Tugboat. ) These are vessels of 90 to 100 feet. During World War Two, the military requisitioned every usable boat they could find, and built hundreds more to standardized designs. Many were built to the Defense Plant Corporation design. These bats have DPC numbers. Another common designation was WSA, for War Shipping Administration. After the war, most of the boats were suplussed - returned to their original owners or sold-off. These tugboats are over 70 years old now, at the end of their working lives, and frquently offered up as artificial reefs:

G.A. Venturo reef

Above is a typical DPC-type tugboat. The layout of the doors and windows is a good identifier. Over their long lives, they may have had portholes and doors added or plated-over, but you can usually tell where that has been done.

Tugboat - Artificial Reefs - New Jersey Scuba Diving Another video from NJScuba.net -- Tugboat - Artificial Reefs - New Jersey Scuba Diving
Sinking and diving the Brooklyn

Local Tugs

tugboat Lil Toot
The tiny Little Toot has been a fixture around the Jersey shore for over 20 years. Along with big sister Ingrid Ann, she moved the Cranford out to the reef in 1982.

tugboat Ingrid Ann
Ingrid Ann hauled-out for some badly needed maintenance.

tugboat Ingrid Ann

tugboat Ingrid Ann
Note the pronounced overhang of the stern

Oxford Companion Ships SeaTUG - a relatively small and heavily built vessel of considerable engine power used for the towage of ships at sea or to assist in maneuvering them in confined spaces, particularly when berthing or unberthing. They were known originally by the generic name of tug-boat, but the suffix was dropped very early on and the single word tug was in use at least by 1817, very shortly after the genesis of the type which, of course, did not appear until the application of steam power to maritime propulsion. The first steam vessels in the Royal Navy, the Comet and Monkey, purchased in 1822, were tugs used for towing the ships of the line out of harbor when the wind was unfavorable.

Tugs generally can be divided into two groups, harbor or short-haul tugs, and ocean-going or long-haul tugs. Harbor tugs are usually fitted with a single screw or paddle-wheels, but are twin-screwed if needed for work beyond a harbor, developing up to 2,500 horsepower, with a tonnage up to about 250. Ocean-going tugs are much larger, being built up to 2,000 tons displacement with a horsepower of over 15,000. They are of specially long endurance and used either for ocean salvage of ships disabled at sea and requiring a tow to a dockyard for repair, or for the towing of ships, floating docks, etc., to far distant destinations.

A feature of the design of all tugs is the very pronounced overhang of the * counter. This is required to ensure that the towing hawser, if it parts or falls slack into the water, cannot foul the tug's propellers.

crane barge
An enormous crane barge is held in place in the Manasquan River by two tugboats during the salvage of the sunken clam trawler Michelle K in October 2004.

Navy tugboat Mohawk
US Navy sea-going fleet tug Mohawk T-ATF-170 - 226 ft, 2,000 tons

see also: Barge | Schooner Barge



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since 2016-09-11