Tugboat Races, Take Three

By Johna Till Johnson
Photos by Johna Till Johnson

Tugboat Races 2014

Photogenic tug

The day wasn’t looking good.

This was the third year we’d planned to go to the Great North River Tugboat Race & Competition, but the day didn’t start well. It dawned dark and gloomy, with the threat of rain—the kind of day on which, despite your best intentions, you struggle to get out of bed.

Worse, Vlad, who’d been under the weather for a few days, couldn’t go.

So even though we’d already purchased tickets, I wasn’t enthusiastic about attending the race.  I had so many chores to do… not to mention work… and steaming coffee and a comfortable couch beckoned.

At the last minute, though, I threw my maritime radio and camera into a backpack, poured some coffee into a thermos, and set off downtown.

Almost at once, things started looking up. First my friend Marc showed up, camera in hand, to see for himself what the fuss was about. And then, just as the race started, the sun broke out of the clouds.

Best of all, I fell in love with a new tug—a brand-new tug, in fact. My previous favorites have included the Meagan Ann, a lovely teal boat that was in this year’s race as well, and the Resolute, a gorgeous red boat that performed stunningly well in last year’s race, and that still stops my heart when I see her escorting cargo vessels in the New York waterways.

Fells Point

The Fells Point

But this year my heart was captured by the Fells Point, a striking white-blue-and-green tug that hails from Baltimore.

She has particular resonance for me because Vlad and I recently spent a wonderful couple of days exploring Baltimore’s inner harbor, including the eponymous Fells Point, which is is Baltimore’s answer to Williamsburg. We ate mussels and Maryland crabs, and drank beer and marveled at the trash-collecting Water Wheel.

So I was delighted to see the Fells Point appear as one of the 22 tugboats that raced in this year’s event—and even happier when I learned she’d just been christened this year.

I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves. The race itself was a nailbiter of a finish, pitting the Meagan Ann against the Fells Point, the Robert McAllister, and the appropriately-battleship gray US Army tug Anthony Wayne.

Racing to the finish

Tugs race to the finish

But even better than the race was the parade of vessels, posing and at play, in the sparkling sunshine that sliced through the clouds.

Funny how that happens: The very day you don’t want to get out of bed turns out to be the one on which you discover sunshine, excitement… and maybe even a new love!

(click on any photo to start slideshow)

The results of the 2014 Tugboat Race & Competition are here. Our stories and photos from the 2012 and 2013 races are here and here. Other observers’—and in some cases participants’!—photos of this year’s race are here:

31 responses to “Tugboat Races, Take Three

  1. Enjoyed this post. I went to the race two years ago and I’ll have to mark my for next year.


  2. Sounds like great fun!


  3. lovely photos, as always and a great story. It sounds like a great outing and wonderful way to spend a day – you are right – some days fool us and end up being the best ever. Have a wonderful week.


    • Johna Till Johnson

      Thank you, and thank you again! You see, the photos were mine this time–Vlad cropped and processed them, but I have nowhere near his skill at photography. So when you write “lovely photos as always”… well, WOW, that makes me feel good! Thanks again for reading and posting.


  4. Thanks for these, I enjoyed last year’s and was thinking it must be close. Beautiful boat(s)😊


    • Johna Till Johnson

      It was surprisingly close this year! I still thing the Army tug could have won–maybe they were holding back. Thanks for posting, and agree on the beautiful boats.


  5. Great photos and story, Johna. Yes ‘Fells Point’ is a stunning vessel. :)


  6. Where does that Army tug park? I haven’t seen her. There’s a small military-gray tug-ish vessel at Brooklyn’s Pier 5 that I’ve been wondering about too.


  7. My own favorite remains the tugboat ‘The Bronx’.


  8. I was toying with the idea of buying one of Capt. Pamela’s benefit tickets and riding the Pegasus – a splurge, but for a good cost and would be good fun! Was set on mending my surfski though – that was a 2-day project and with the apartment still being covered with camping stuff from my trip, I decided I needed at least 1 day attempting to restore order at home.

    Quite likely next year though! :D


    • Johna Till Johnson

      Wait, you’re home already? Have been following the posts and hadn’t gotten that far… I hear you about order at home. Next year, for sure…


  9. Looks like a lot of fun. I agree, Fells Point is a beauty! Enjoyed the post and great photographs! :)


  10. Great photos and story of a NY event.


  11. Pingback: Tugboat Race Photos – p.3 | Working Harbor Committee

  12. We enjoyed the pics and the stories. :) I have never heard of Tug Boat races before. We are big fans of the fireboats here. I will have to pass this event on to my family there in the city. I think they would enjoy it!


  13. Pingback: Great North River Race

  14. Now this I’d like to see!


  15. This is amazing. I’d love to experience it. I think we have two working tugs stationed in Muskegon. There are a few others in nearby ports. Nothing like this. I could schedule a vacation around this awesomeness.


    • I don’t exactly how many tugs we have in New York Harbor, but it must be at least a hundred working ones…. and it often seems like there are many more! During a day kayaking in the harbor, we see dozens, often the same ones over and over. We recognize them and have our favorites :-)

      Thanks for following our blog!!


  16. Reblogged this on electnwa and commented:
    see city


  17. Pingback: Tugboat Race 2015 | Wind Against Current

Comments are most welcome!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s