The mark of experience, a certain kind of experience, that’s what the rust on the rails of a tug tween the quarter bitts and texas bar represents. I tend to agree with, as a mentor once told me, “A tugboat doesn’t have to look like shit to make money”. He was of course referring to rust, and dents, and torn up fenders. Though it might have also been a subtle dig at the various boats that appeared to be designed with framing squares, either through back yard engineering or professional CAD program.
However when working with the tow wire, there is a bit of rust that is inevitable, that only goes away for a brief fleeting moment during the height of painting season. The bright orange of fresh oxidation that is left behind from the wear and tear of the wire going over the rail of a tug while transitioning to and from alongside the barge. As operator commands his well choreographed ballet between the boat and barge, the wire slides fore and aft,is hauled in and out dragging the shackle, socket and pennant over the bulwarks. It only takes a couple repetitions of this evolution to color the rails a bright orange in that most working region of the back deck.
It is by this wear and tear, much like the occasional jagged broken antler of a buck, that you can tell a tugboat and its operators are exercising the full chest of tools they are equipped with. After all the ability to tow astern, and transition to and from alongside are what the winch and after controls are there for. It’s a shame when they, like the skill set necessary to make them work, doesn’t get exercised enough to cause a little rust. It’s the mark of a wire boat, which of all of the kinds of work boats, are my favorite.