Tugboat Races 2013

By Johna Till Johnson
Photos by Vladimir Brezina

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Last year, on the spur of the moment, we attended our first-ever Great North River Tugboat Race & Competition (see the writeup, “We’re Off to the (Tugboat) Races!”).

We were stunned, blown away, and delighted by the experience.

So it’s only natural that this year, we were conflicted. On the one hand, we were eager to go again; on the other hand, how could it possibly live up to the previous time?

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Let’s just say… it did.

Not only was the weather perfect (cool and cloudy) but the competition was cast right out of Hollywood: It was clear from the get-go that the real contest in this year’s event would be between the gloriously retro red Resolute and the ultra-modern white Red Hook. Both are gorgeous boats, with stalwart crews. And even though the Resolute won the actual race, the Red Hook picked up a number of awards—including the surprise twist of its captain winning the spinach-eating contest!

Another notable first was this year’s winning mascot—the first-ever donkey in the event. It was Buddy, the Debora Miller‘s mascot, and it placidly munched hay throughout the entire event—on its perch three stories up.

Retelling the narrative from start to finish is beyond the capacity of this blogger. So, let’s go straight to the photos (click on any photo to start a slideshow).

1. The tugs arrive and the fireboat John J. Harvey leads the parade of tugs up the Hudson River:

2. The race!

3. Nose-to-nose pushing contests:

4. The tugs tie up at Pier 84 for the land-based contests:

5. Spinach-eating contest:

6. And finally, the one we’d all been waiting for—the tattoo competition!

That’s it, folks—it’s all over, until next year!

All over for this year

The official race and competition results are here.

Many other photographers, present on shore, on attending boats, and on some of the tugs themselves, have also posted great photos and videos of the event. Here are some of them:

38 responses to “Tugboat Races 2013

  1. I think my companions and I might have been among the sneaky kayakers. We cut our day trip short due to weather forecast and got to Pier 80 around 1130, at which point NYPD and CG Aux required us to paddle in the middle if the river to ensure we were well away from the tugs.


    • Johna Till Johnson

      Julie, were you in the yellow sit-on-tops?

      Or did you come up later in the boats with the white hulls? (Party of 3) I spent a long time trying to figure out who might have been out there.

      Pretty sure we saw you…


      • Probably the latter. Party of three, all white hulls. My boat has a dark blue deck and red seam, another had a yellow desk, and the third had a light blue deck. Apparently we missed the really good stuff, though we caught some tug wake earlier when we crossed from Hoboken.


  2. Wow! Wow! Wow!
    Were you in your boats? Where did you watch from? Next year it is a very likely date!
    Great pics as usual. Thanks for making me feel like I was there.


    • Johna Till Johnson

      Thanks so much! We watched from the Circle Line (which runs a special 2-hour cruise). They won’t let kayaks too close, as Julie notes above. Thanks for reading, and posting.


  3. WOW! Fantastic shots! You really captured the excitement of the whole day. Thank you both for such a lovely write-up and collection of amazing photos of WHC’s 21st running of the Tugboat Race! We do this every Labor Day Sunday, we hope to see you next year for the 22nd running!


  4. That sounds and looks like a lot of fun!


  5. God!!!! What a crazy day!!!! So funny and different!!! :)


  6. Not sure about the spinach eating contest and the tattoos, but the boat pix are great. I love the way the red is so vibrant against the foggy grey and white. It works extremely well.


  7. Wonderful pics, Vlad, and thanks for the excellent commentary, Johna. It looks like a very exciting day indeed. :)


  8. Thanks for these, what a day !


  9. It must be that I read Tuggy the Tugboat too many times, but I just love tugs. They are the totally cool little boats that could. GREAT pictures that bring back almost forgotten memories.


  10. God this looks like so much fun. I wish I could get on a plane and time machine thingamabob and catch this in person. Thanks for the post!


  11. That looks like a lot of fun!


  12. Looks like a really fun event… and tug boats are cute. :)


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  14. Magnifique reportage ! Les photos si saisissantes, dans des gerbes d’eau, font ressentir toute l’excitation de la course.


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