Early Towboats

……….. Old Wood & Rusty Iron – by Mike Creasy


Tugboats have been a fixture on the west coast for as long as there have been engines to run them. ​​ Steam, naptha, gas and diesel, with fuel cells and hydrogen yet to come.


You’ve heard of the Beaver, the first tug on the coast in 1836 – towing sailing ships out to sea between freight trips for the Hudson’s Bay Company. ​​ A 101 foot paddlewheel steamer, she was very early steam technology, putting out about 75 hp at a working pressure of about 2 ½ psi. ​​ That’s less than the pressure in your water pipes!


The Beaver also sported a small cannon on her foredeck, useful for keeping the locals at bay while the crew were ashore on their frequent firewood expeditions to feed the inefficient boiler. The general routine was, steam for 1 day and spend the next 2 days gathering wood.