By Johna Till Johnson
Photos by Johna Till Johnson
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.
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.
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:
- Working Harbor Committee 1
- Working Harbor Committee 2
- Working Harbor Committee 3
- Working Harbor Committee 4
- Mitch Waxman
- Tugster 1
- Tugster 2
- Tugster 3
- New York Media Boat
- Nelson Michael Chin (Facebook): Tugboat Race 2014
- Nelson Michael Chin (Facebook): Stern to Stern (video)
- Nelson Michael Chin (Facebook): A huge wake (video)
- Narragansett Bay Shipping 1 (video)
- Narragansett Bay Shipping 2 (video)