Tug Use Offshore, Bays and Rivers, Nautical Institute, 2006

The authors cover in considerable detail the methods which are used to maneuver tugs and tug/barge combinations. The book covers Boat Handling; Towing Equipment; Ocean Towing; Towing and Maneuvering in harbors, bays and river; Towing close astern, North American, Canadian and European approaches; Multiple barge towing; Emergency ship towing; Dead ship towing; Watch standing priorities when towing; and Command.


The forward written by Rear Admiral D.G. Ramsey states “The authors of this book display a deep understanding of the difficulties that can be encountered when undertaking any towing assignment. They provide, in a most comfortable way, the physics of tugs, barges, and two units acting together.” The book has been noted in book review sections of The Journal Of Maritime Law & Commerce, The Professional Mariner Magazine, Seaways Magazine, etc.


The following is a review of Tug Use Offshore by Alan Haig-Brown:


From Baird Maritime:


Subtitled The Towmaster’s Manual, Tug Use Offshore, In Bays and Rivers is more than a simple “how to” text book. The technical detail of boat handling covered in the book is extensive, comprehensive and detailed. At the same time there are great sea stories to illustrate each of the 12 chapters. A good many of these are from the authors’ own experiences while others are from noted master mariners in various locals and still others are gleaned from various inquiries into actual incidents. The result is a book that is more readable than one might expect from an ordinary textbook.


A listing of some chapters gives a good idea of the book’s comprehensive nature: Boat handling; Towing equipment; Ocean towing; Towing and manoeuvring barges in harbours, bays and rivers; Towing close astern; Multiple barge towing; Special tows and disabled ships; Flat towing/dead ship movement; Pivot point; Watch standing priorities when towing; Command.


The chapters are well illustrated in many cases with the authors’ own photos and in other instances with those of colleagues. When the authors are not themselves fully experienced in a particular technique they have gone to someone with more knowledge.


This was the case in consulting Canadian Don Larson on the subject of controlling a barge close astern by winching the barge right snug with the stern of the tug when manoeuvring near a dock. At other times the authors cite their own extensive experience on the west coast of the United States. A section on bar crossings with ocean barges includes detailed discussions of each of the five major west coast bars from Grey’s Harbour in the north to San Francisco in the south.


The descriptions may in some cases cite the Coast Pilot but always they add more detail. Case studies of actual incidents that have occurred on the river bars are presented in sidebars to the on going text. It is clear in these accounts that the authors have been there in good weather and foul. The tone of their teaching is well expressed in this paragraph on bar crossings:


“There is a fine line for the master in the winter. Caution needs to be exercised, but at some point the bar must be crossed. Be mentally prepared and aggressive enough to go when the one opportunity presents itself. Being too timid in the winter can lead to more problems later. The key to successful winter towing in the northwest is being ready to get across the bars when the weather windows open.”


This balancing of the objective descriptions on navigation and boat handling skills with the more subjective discussion of attitude and mental readiness is what distinguishes this text from many others in the field. At the same time it contains a highly detailed index that allows quick and ready reference to specific subjects from “abating weather” to “Z-drive.”


Throughout the book numerous other texts are quoted and they are all included in an extensive bibliography. A half dozen Appendix cover topics from the New Towing License requirements of the USCG to a manual for conducting mariner assessments.


It happened that this reviewer was onboard Western Towboat’s tug ‘Pacific Titan’ while preparing this review. This gave me an opportunity to get the opinion of a highly regarded master mariner Capt. Doug Myers. His initial reaction was hesitation at the idea of teaching the most essential aspects of boat handling from a book. But as he read through it his opinion rapidly shifted, “I am only at page 47,” he told me, “And already I want to buy my own copy.”


At the time we were rolling around in an easy ground swell off Pine Island in Queen Charlotte sound at the beginning of a ten-day trip. The book had passed the peer test - buy it.


Ordering this book

To order the book please visit The Nautical Institute and enter “Tug Use” in search box.