Thursday, January 17, 2013

Tug Journaling

Correspondence from Jeffery, sent from onboard the tug Triton:

The Triton is a pretty good boat. The company bought it a few year's back and it was initially in pretty rough shape. The engineer and the mate have been working for some time to whip it into shape. She's a handsome working boat, but I can see right now that there will be plenty of chipping and painting in my future. 

The tug took on 65,000 gallons of fuel at dock prior to departure. The Triton can hold up to 110,000 gallons of fuel,
so they filled several of the other empty tanks with water to help weight her down. This doesn't impact the engine, as it has a centrifuge that spins water out of the fuel continuously, (I emptied about 2.5 gallons of water at the end of a six hour watch). 

After waving goodbye to the family in the Ballard Locks, we headed to Tacoma to pick up the barge. The first time hooking up the gear went well. The hardware is big and heavy, but the winches make it easy to handle. Basic, common sense safety precautions keep it all safe. My old rule from contracting seems to apply here as well, things are thought out and talked about before we begin. 

We motored up the Strait toward Port Alberni. Aside from some rollers outside of Neah Bay, the sea state was calm. We reached Port Alberni the next day and started to load the lumber.

Log Bronc craned overboard

Loading was easy. The company flies a crane operator in to meet the barge and the lumber camp guys tow the logs over. The logs are banded together before they arrive and are floating together in a group of about 150-200 log bundles. The logs are chained end-to-end and dropped into the "bag". They crane the log bronc off of the barge in one of the bags and  We use the log bronc to push the bundles against the barge so that the crane operator can load them. The log broncs are really fun!

With the logs loaded and secured on the barge, we headed south. The run into Coos Bay was a piece of cake. I was bummed that I missed my first bar crossing, but conditions were so calm, I didn't miss that much. One of the other deckhands and I were positioned on top of the logs on the barge as we came into Coos Bay to call distances. The railroad swing bridge is only about 40' wider than the barge and the assist tug steered the barge from its stern. We passed though the center of the swing bridge at slack to avoid the wicked currents that could have swung the barge into the bridge.

Calling distance from the barge into Coos Bay

We off-loaded the barge and had a long work-list of projects to take care of while at anchor. 

Morning in Coos Bay.

The work is really not that difficult, but it is fairly physical when we're on deck. I haven't had a cup of coffee since the second day. They drink Folgers and the acid just sits in my stomach. Eating really well, no booze, lots of water and milk and  working hard--I should be coming home in really good shape.

Leaving Coos Bay--headed up to Cathlamet and then further north to Gold River, (Nootka Sound). We've been dodging crab pots all day. As we left, we watched a crabber place his string of posts right down the center of the towing lane. Triton moves at about 7-9 knots light, and has a twelve foot diameter prop and couldn't avoid running over at least four of them. I looked back and saw that we were trailing three floats on our tow-line!

It's just after midnight and we're now on our approach to the Columbia. Expected to cross the bar around 0330 and start the  run up the river. Today was a good day aboard; we washed down the boat so I spent two hours working my way around the whole boat underway. The swells were running over ten feet and we had a following wave pattern on top of that. The boat was rolling around, water was everywhere, decks awash and most of the time I was having a blast! I couldn't stop watching as each swell would roll up on the boat and we would rise up over it.

After washing the boat, I sat in the wheelhouse and just gazed at the frigate birds flying around. They skim just over the water; wingtips barely touching the surface. They're pretty cool to watch!

We  spent four days in Gold River. The Nootka Sound is 2/3rds of the way up the west side of Vancouver Island. No cell phone reception, no AIS, no anything really. The loggers that work in the camp have to radio down to the next town and have somebody drive a boat to pick them up and take them into town to use a satellite phone. The logs weren't ready to load, so we had to sort and bundle them. We wasted a few extra days up there because of it. I was on pins and needles knowing that Chris couldn't reach me, nor have any way to find out why I hadn't phoned her.

The up-side to Nootka Sound was the view and the wildlife. Bears, eagles, and oysters everywhere. Breaded oysters, sauteed oysters, souped and frittata'd!

Triton in Gold River

We lashed down the load, secured the crane and headed back down to Puget Sound on Monday morning.

lashings for the crane

We arrived in Tacoma on Wednesday.
Chris texted, all excited that the AIS indicator showed her the name and photo of the little assist tug coming alongside of us. She described it for me, and as I was cooking in the galley, I had to walk up on deck to see what she was referring to. Sure enough, there was the little orange and white tug, Whidbey alongside of us.
The Whidbey tug

I'm going to wrap this letter up. I miss my family very much. I'm glad that we will have some money banked finally. The time apart is not fun, but the time together when I'm off the boat is going to be better than ever. I'm really looking forward to time with Chris and the kids.

Chris and Juliet surprised Jeff with a visit to Tacoma Wednesday night.



  1. To follow Triton's voyages on AIS, go to, register and click on "My Fleet". You can then type in the tug Triton (call sign WDC9955, MMSI 368157696) and pull them up any time you wish. You can also get their track, speed and last port.
    It is very interesting to log on and watch the commercial traffic in the Salish Sea!

  2. I need a little more here. I am very interested in the barge part. Is there an actual barge with logs in it, or is it barge made from logs? (like Benson did, hey, I was must up on his plateau). And I want to know why the log manipulation thing was cool. What did it do? Is it a boat thing?

    But I am glad you are back safe.