Skip to main content

Couple’s tug restoration goes a long way

Necessity, a dream and plenty of hard work brought a 71-foot Army tug back to glory in just one year

Some would call Matt and Wendy Fogg fanatics; others would say they’re dedicated. Either way, in one year the Beaver Island, Mich., residents completed restoring Wendy Anne, an 85-ton and 71-foot Army ST2199 tugboat launched in 1950, and then they took it on a 12-day tour of the Great Lakes this summer.

Matt and Wendy Fogg, with the financial help of Matt's parents, restored the 71-foot former Army tug in Fairhaven, Mass., and toured the Great Lakes with it last summer.

“This whole project has been a big, big, big deal and a lot of hard work,” says Matt, 32. “I had been looking around for a tug for a long time that would suit my purposes.”

Matt is a captain for the St. James Marine Company based on Beaver Island. The business was founded in 2001 to serve the roughly 500 year-round residents. Matt and his staff haul freight to and from the island — items such as building supplies and logs.

“There is a big logging industry here, and we transport a lot of them,” says Matt. “The tug we had, American Girl, was getting old and we needed something more suitable.”

American Girl is a riveted steel 62-foot tug built in Saginaw, Mich., in 1922 to haul fruit and food supplies from Benton Harbor, Mich., to Milwaukee, according to Matt. Sometime between 1942 and 1944 the Anderson family brought it to Washington Island, Wis., to haul a fuel barge from Green Bay, Wis., to the island. In 1971, American Girl found its home in Beaver Island when it was bought, along with Oil Queen, a 60-foot oil tanker, by Jewell Gillespie. American Girl worked for years bringing fuel to Beaver Island and it was passed onto Gillespie’s son, Johnny, when Jewell died in 1995. He still is the owner of the vessel.

Image placeholder title

“It is a great tug and a real workhorse — real fuel efficient,” says Matt. “But after so many years, it needs a lot of TLC. You’d need it, too, if you’d been working straight for 86 years.”

Matt admits he’s always had a love affair with tugs. He grew up in Holland, Mich., and summered on Beaver Island, taking rides on a tug owned by his grandfather, Clyde Fogg.

“However, I never really thought I’d own one,” says Matt. “Funny how life works.”

Matt attended the Great Lakes Maritime Academy in Traverse City, Mich., from 1997 to 2000 and graduated with an engineering degree and a 1,000-ton captain’s license. In 2001, he came on board with St. James Marine Company. Matt and his parents, Jon and Sally Fogg, decided in 2006 that St. James needed an equipment upgrade, and Jon decided to provide the capital. Matt and Wendy found their new tug online and traveled to see it in November 2006.

“It was in good shape,” says Jon. “There were eight to 10 bunks in it, but they were pretty much just metal with a cot on them and awful sparse. But it had all the potential.”

Turns out the Wendy Anne has quite the history. For one, she has two other sisters. According to Matt, the trio was built in 1950 at a military base in Port Everglades, Fla., during the Cold War and placed on a container ship to be dry-docked in England for almost 40 years.

“I’m not sure what they were doing in England, but they were there in case soldiers had to make a quick getaway,” says Matt. “The hull’s almost intact.”

In fact, his tug never hit the water until 1990 when it was towed back to the United States. His tug ended up at Fort Eustace, Va., where it was pressed into service for a while and then sat on the hard for a few years. It resurfaced in 2003 when Ed McDevitt and his family, who own several tugs in Boston Harbor, acquired her. The second sister was towed to Kingston, N.Y., where it now resides as a working, floating exhibit at the North River Tugboat Museum. Matt says he doesn’t know much about the third sister, except he saw it for sale online in the west coast of Florida two years ago, and it was the only tug that made it across the Atlantic without being towed.

“The instant we saw the Wendy Anne, we loved it,” says Wendy, 34. “It had this big, safe hull in great condition, but it needed some TLC on the inside. Gutting it, in a way, was a lot of fun, because, at the beginning, we sat and designed the way we wanted it to look on a paper napkin.”

The Foggs bought the tug from McDevitt for $35,000 in May 2007. However, Matt decided to leave her in the capable hands of D.N. Kelly & Son Shipyard in Fairhaven, Mass., for her massive renovations to begin.

“I knew it needed a lot of work, and, basically, there were no facilities in northern Lake Michigan that were suitable for a major refit,” says Matt. “I would go out there once a month or every three weeks [with Wendy], and I would work on it. We would discuss everything, and I would take a lot of pictures; I knew that boat inside and out.”

Matt and Wendy ripped out the sparse military bunks and put in new interior walls creating a master’s cabin with two separate bunk rooms, with two bunks each. It has a new head, and a 3508 Caterpillar engine with 850-hp, transmission, plumbing, pumps, motors, controllers and fans. The tug also has new wiring and a generator, and the cable steering has been replaced with hydraulics, bringing the project well into the six-figure range.

Many of the parts the couple donated to the North River Tugboat Museum in Kingston, N.Y. Matt decided to name the tug after Wendy, who was instrumental in designing the look and feel of the cabin and sleeping quarters, using her skills as an interior designer.

Wendy Anne clips along at about 10 knots and tops out at about 12. Wendy says they left from Fairhaven on Aug. 7, her birthday, to begin the sea trials, and, after a few adjustments and replacing a faulty heater exchange, they were on their way as of Aug. 20 at 1 p.m. They stopped in at Newburgh, and then headed toward the Erie Canal. Wendy’s parents, Don and Sylvia Harwood, joined them for the tour of the canal when they stopped in New York, and Matt’s parents came on board in Oswego, N.Y., and joined them for the tour of the Great Lakes.

“We had really smooth weather, and I was amazed at how the lakes were so big and so vast,” says Wendy. “The weather was so beautiful; we even jumped off and swam with our two dogs at one point. It was great.”

Wendy and Matt both agree that their favorite part of the trip was the Erie Canal.

“I believe it is a hidden treasure in the U.S. – it is so beautiful, and the water is so pristine and clear,” says Wendy. “As for the Great Lakes, Erie was very long and green and beautiful, but Lake Michigan was so clear – you could see right down to the bottom.”

Matt says after the initial setbacks during the sea trials, the Wendy Anne ran “flawlessly” for the whole trip.

“It was a really fun time,” says Matt. “I had a really good experience on the trip, and it was worthwhile taking the time to do it, finding out all the ins and outs of the boat.”  

This story originally appeared in the January 2009 issue.