One of my secret guilty pleasures in life is a fascination with tugboats. I blame my grandfather for infecting me with the tug bug. One day while we were out on his bass boat, he pointed to a huge barge. "What do you think pushes that big, heavy barge?" he asked. No older than ten, I replied, "A humongous gigantic ship!" He laughed, and then the tug boat, dwarfed in size by the barge, came into view. This unexpected sight made quite the impression on me, I was thoroughly amazed with the tug's power. They quickly became mythologized in my mind as tireless, hard-working, under-appreciated folks of the boat world, while useless divas like yachts got all the attention.
So, I was very happy to discover a thriving tug community around the Beaufort area when Eric and I arrived here for my summer studies at the Duke Marine Lab. For the most part, the best tugs hang around the large bridge that connects Beaufort and Morehead City, where there is a state port.
My favorites are three burgundy tug boats, all belonging to Moran: Fort Macon, Fort Fischer, and Grace Moran. They help the large freighters visiting the nearby Potash Corporation move in and out from the Atlantic Ocean four miles from the port. These tugboats, built in 1949, 1956 and 1967 respectively, have aged quite nicely and look great. Much to my husband's amusement, I lovingly refer to them as the "tugboat family" because they are all of different heights; so naturally I anthropomorphized them into a daddy tug, a momma tug, and a baby tug. One of the highlights of my day is getting to see them chugging about, although I've yet to have the pleasure of witnessing one pushing a ship.
The blue Palm Coast can often be spotted on the opposite side of the bridge, attending to a sizable barge. We've seen it pushing the barge up the Intracoastal Waterway from the Core Creek Lodge dock. Of course, a few other tugboats patrol the area, especially smaller ones pushing tiny platforms around the inlet, but I haven't caught their names yet. On that note, TugBoatInformation.com is the best website ever for looking up tugboats, including equipment and histories; you can search by company or tugboat name.