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Since I was a child I have always been curious about tugboats. One of my favorite books my mom would read to me was “Scruffy the Tugboat.” Over the 20 years living in Maine, I have watched from afar the fleet of tugboats working in Portland Harbor. This spring and summer I photographed the Portland Tugboat crew aboard its fleet and saw the vital role the tugboats play in Maine and the global economy.
The Andrew McAllister escorts an oil tanker into Portland Harbor. The tanker will pass through the Casco Bay Bridge and dock at one of six oil terminals in the harbor. The Andrew McAllister was built in 2008 and has 6,000 horsepower. McAllister Towing owns Portland Tugboat and operates out of 13 locations from Eastport, ME to San Juan, PR.
Capt. Sarah Kaplan pushes on a ship with the Andrew McAllister at an oil terminal in Portland Harbor. Kaplan receives commands from the docking pilot over a VHF radio and responds with peep whistles. Her hands rest on drive controls which can rotate each of the two props independently as well as their RPMs. Kaplan uses her right foot to operate the winch control pedal, which is used for paying in and out on the headline. Kaplan, a 2008 Maine Maritime Academy graduate and originally from Woolwich, has been with Portland Tugboat for 4 years and worked along the West Coast moving barges before moving back to Maine.
Capt. Brian Fournier, president of Portland Tugboat LLC and a docking pilot, finishes his coffee on the Andrew McAllister before heading out near Portland Head Light where he will climb a wood ladder hanging on the side of an oil tanker, take over for the sea pilot and guide the ship into Portland Harbor.
The view through the Nancy McAllister’s porthole of the Andrew McAllister docking a ship at a terminal in the harbor. One tugboat is at the stern of a ship and another at the bow pushing and pulling the ship with attached ropes. The Nancy McAllister was built in 1984 and is one of four tugboats in the fleet.
A fender on the side of the Nancy McAllister. Fenders are made from the sidewalls of recycled tire trucks and provide cushion between the tugboat and the ship the tug is assisting.
A grappling hook fastened to an oil tanker holds a wooden pilot ladder out of the way as a tug assists the vessel. Docking pilots use the ladder to get to and from the tugboat to the tanker.
The Andrew McAllister sails the BBC Arizona tanker through the Casco Bay Bridge out to sea. The docking pilot tries to limit the duration of the bridge in the up position to reduce the backup of auto traffic. Andrew McAllister Capt. Sarah Kaplan “Going under is the easy part, it’s when the bridge doesn’t open for an inbound or outbound ship that makes our job a little bit more challenging, especially for the pilot.” What happens when the bridge doesn’t open? “So, if it’s an inbound ship, we gotta get a line up real quick and start acting as the breaks for that ship,” she says.
Capt. Brian Fournier disembarks a ship after guiding an oil tanker through Casco Bay Bridge on a recent foggy summer day. Capt. Sarah Kaplan will dip the bow of the Andrew McAllister to pick up Fournier as the gangway lowers.
Deckhand Phil Doria pulls the headline over the H-bitt to flake out extra slack for coming along a ship at a terminal. The headline will be attached to the ship to help maintain the tugboat’s position along the ship as well as provide a way to maneuver the ship from the dock.
Senior deckhand Peter Rodriguez feeds extra headline through the staple to a ship. Rodriguez has been with Portland Tugboat for 22 years and works on all 4 of the boats in the fleet. “I kind of like what I do, being able to jump around from boat to boat and do all that kind of stuff,” he says. Rodriguez finds being on the water calming and enjoys being outside and not in an office.
The headline on a winch on the Andrew McAllister. The headline is made from an ultra-high molecular-weight polyethylene with the strength of steel but buoyant.
“When you are on the boat, you’re pretty much head on a swivel,” Capt. Sarah Kaplan says, “Day or night. At night you just can’t see like you can during the day, so that’s where we will light up the deck for the guy working the deck but also for us to see what we are doing. Not so much following the ship but when we are actually working on the ship like pushing, pulling.”
Tim Greenway is a commercial, editorial and fine art photographer. His photography has been featured in a variety of award-winning publications and has been the primary photographer for Mainebiz for 18 years. Tim’s current clients range from some of Maine’s largest companies to small businesses and sole entrepreneurs. To view Tim’s photography visit timgreenway.com
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