I was introduced to tow boating through a family friend. Ted Davis owned a small yarding tug out of New Westminster and needed occasional help on weekends. Ted was a patient man and made the job fun and interesting. The food was good too and as a bonus he even paid me! At the time it never dawned on me that this might end up being my career.
Several years later, while preparing for Labor Day weekend, a call came in “does anybody want to work on a tugboat ASAP?“.
I borrowed a pair of caulk boots, a car, made some lunch and I was off.
That was 42 years ago.
I spent my first year working the North Arm of the Fraser River on a small yarding tug servicing most of the many mills in the Marpole area. We were towing log booms and chip barges. Of course it was probably the worst job in the fleet, but I didn’t know any better.
I was lucky to have some great mentors who took the time to teach me some valuable skills mostly associated with log booms. Of course my old skipper taught me a lot about patience. Reflecting back now I’m glad I stuck it out.
After my first year it was time to spread my wings and the coastal division was the next adventure. I spent 13 years towing log rafts and barges, freight, sand and gravel and bulk paper from Vancouver up the coast through Alaska.
Six years through that journey I took time out for schooling and in 1982 achieved what today is a 500 Ton Masters. I spent a brief time working as a coastal mate but was eventually recruited to run a boat in the River division.
In those days there was no training, the phone just rang and they told you the start time, the dock and the boat. Most often I had never set foot on the boat. Those times were extremely stressful.
Today it’s much different. Seaspan has a strong training culture. It starts with onboard familiarizing on each boat in your division. For upcoming Masters it may start in the simulator. Then six weeks onboard training with a training master on various tugs in a variety of locations.
These guys are good and ready when they are cut loose. For the past 4 years I’ve been active with the Seaspans onboard training program and assisting with instruction in our conventional tug simulation which is championed by our Port Captain Chris Jensen.
Recently I took Neil and Steve of SeaWays for a tour of our local operation based out of Port Kells onboard the Seaspan Tempest. We ran them through the paces, on a typical day we would tow up to 12 barges in a 12 hour day. The tugs are purpose built 80 ton 64 feet, 1800 hp twin screw with a bow thruster. Having great equipment keeps the job safe and manageable.
Recently Seaspan signed an impressive training contract with SeaWays and I look forward to seeing what the future Master will look like.