Well coming to the end of week three here in my temporary home port of Philadelphia, well technically the dock is in Gloucester City New Jersey, but thats beside the point. Things are going quite well though, we have been fairly busy. Steady in a sense that we have had ships to dock most days, and not steady in the sense that on some days we have one ship, on others its non stop action. After spending my first two weeks on a what can be considered a very new tug, built in 2008, I am back to something of a more appropriate vintage. This boat is actually one of the earlier examples of a tractor tug built on the east coast, and a familiar site from my neck of the woods during my child hood. Its been a lot of fun continuing to hone my tractor tug skills on this boat, especially because she is a whole lot larger, and have much worse visibility than the other boat I am on here in Philly.
All in all its been a great three weeks so far, and I couldn’t have gotten a better group of guys to work with while getting me broken in on these boats. Several of them have been driving tractor tugs since I was in kindergarden and being around that kind of experience and watching them work has done nothing but good things for me. I was lucky to already have a couple years driving supply boats with z-drives, and therefore already had a basis in how things work. The idea of thrust vectors and the intuitive hand movements with the controls. What is missing is how to use the boats capabilities safely and with maximum effectiveness. I’ve also had to get used to running the winch with the foot controls, often while making transitions in direction. In layman’s terms hitting the right button while I chew gum, rub my stomach and pat my head. The hardest part is making the movements with the controls to go from walking sideways with the vessel while keeping my line slack, and then pushing, reeling in my line, stopping again and continuing to hold the tug at 90 degrees ready to push or pull. Driving the boat and working the winch have to become one fluid and subconscious effort, so while I do that I can talk with the pilot on the radio or plan my next move should the situation change. I’m not there yet, but every job things get a little better and my movements are getting smoother and smoother.
As usual, now that you’ve read through all of that, here are some pretty pictures.