Life on a Tractor



This is the first time I’ve ever worked on an inland boat. All I can really say about life on a tractor tug in the Puget Sound is that it’s pretty boring compared to towing barges to Alaska. I admit that time is flying by – I’ve been on this boat for two weeks now, and the days all sort of blur together – but still, everything is very low-key. I am doing day work 8 to 5, so I get to sleep all night every night. There is exercise equipment in one of the state rooms and I work out at least once a day, which I must because I eat nearly as much on this boat as I do on the run to Alaska – which is to say, too much.

The other day I ran a deck crane for the first time, to lift the scow pumps (ballast pumps, trash pumps, whatever you want to call them) out of the forward hold and onto the main deck so we could test them. I also have learned how to release and weigh the anchor, and how to set up a transom link. I’ve spent a lot of time sanding and painting that damned staple on the stern deck (they couldn’t have made it out of stainless steel?), and other than that I mostly just keep the decks clean and hang out in the wheelhouse watching ship jobs, and getting lines up to ships for assists and escorts.

This morning after we finished a ship job at the Shell terminal, the captain taught me how to operate this boat (look up Voith Schneider cycloidal propulsion – the steering system on this boat is unbelievable) and I managed a few maneuvers under his guidance. We used our sister ship, which was anchored nearby off Cap Sante in Anacortes, as a reference point. The steering controls are bizarre compared to those on a conventional boat or even a z-drive, but once you get used to them it’s not too difficult, and it’s gratifying when the boat does what you want it to

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