A tale of two tugs

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There is one further matter worth recounting during this cruise

That matter had to do with meeting tugs pushing barges.

Caper II passed starboard-to-starboard with this ug in the Pocomoke River channel with a wide berth.

Going into the narrow channel leading to the Pocomoke River, I was being followed by a returning tug that had just dropped a barge loaded with sand at an anchorage with another barge to be taken down the Bay. As he made his way at a faster speed than I was going, near the narrower part of the cut-through back into the Pocomoke River, I paged the captain of the tug. I offered to pull hard to the starboard side of the channel to give him plenty of clearance to pass. Interestingly, he replied, “No, that’s OK, I’ll just hang off your stern. Take your time.” Evidently, toward the end of the workday, he was enjoying a slow return upriver to Pocomoke City so he wouldn’t arrive before quitting time, or maybe he wanted a little extra overtime.

My next encounter with a tug captain was a little dicier and a bit more like one would expect — except I came out ahead. On the last day back to my yacht club, I had just cut through Swash shoal channel and was about to cross the York River a bit west of R-16 when I noticed a tug pushing a barge coming toward me past Tue Point near G-19, about two miles away. As I realized we might have a close crossing, I paged the captain to identify my location and indicate my intended path. He registered, “I’ll keep you in sight” — a considerate reply. At the time I was sailing wing-on-wing, with a fairly strong following sea and was having difficulty with the wallowing of the boat keeping the boom from jibing because of the wide swings of the stern on the steeper rollers.

When it became apparent our “crossing” would be closer than anticipated — by maybe half a mile, even though I was moving at a good 5 knots — I decided to check in again.

“Captain, I’d like to keep this tack because I’ve had such a hard time keeping my sail from backing in this wind,” I said.

He replied in a questioning way: “Maybe you should change course, captain.”

“But captain, when I called you before, you said you’d give me some consideration. Captain, would you give way just a little, maybe just give me 10 degrees to port?”

Well he did, and I made it by with plenty of room to spare. While you can sometimes bargain with a tug captain, that certainly only applies when there’s plenty of room. He really had the whole breadth of the river to port to adjust his course just a bit.

This story originally appeared in the February 2009 issue.

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