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Old 11-02-2014, 08:50 AM   #1
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"Tow" as a noun

One of my pet peeves (I have enough to start a zoo) is the usage of "tug", "barge", "tow" and "towboat/pushboat". I would like to explain the usage of these terms as applied to the Gulf Coast Inland Waterways and Western Rivers.

Tug- a typically model (pointy) bow boat used to assist ships to and from docks. Ocean going tugs are also used in large bodies of water pulling or towing large ocean going barges. Some of these are capable of fitting into a notch at the stern of their barge and pushing for greater control in smaller or restricted bodies of water.

barge - A vessel designed to carry large capacity cargoes (bulk or liquid) and is not normally self propelled. There are some that may be self-propelled but in my book that makes them a boat. River barges are typically 195' x 35' with a potential for 9'-10' draft and are flat bottomed. At 8' draft they usually are carrying in excess of 1400 tons.

Tow - as a NOUN- one or more barges linked together by wire and ratchets. Typically 1-6 barges are linked and pushed on the ICW. Usually 15 on the Upper, Tenn. and Ohio Rivers. Often over 50 on the Lower Miss. Once they are all linked together they are referred to as the "tow" and a "Towboat/Pushboat will link to the stern of the group and push it. The size of the "tow" is often based upon the size of the locks (1200' x 110'). If you need to push say a 30 barge tow on the Ohio you would have to split it into to 15 barge tows at every lock and "double lock". Note: no locks on the Lower Miss.

Towboat/Pushboat - The vessel in control of the "tow" (noun). These boats are distinctive in their square shaped bows with "Tow Knees". The tow knees allow them to make solid connection to empty barges. These boats typically range in horsepower from 800 to over 10,000 hp. The larger ones may have triple screws several quads have been built. These boats house the crew, supply the power, and effectively control the tow. Normally these boats have "flanking" rudders which set forward of the props and are used when backing up. When underway and hailing it is common to refer to them as "the ____ bound tow at _____" . If the boat has no barges but a square bow with tow knees it would be referred to as a tow boat or push boat but not as "tug".

Thanks for the opportunity to get this off my chest.

Dan
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Old 11-02-2014, 10:26 AM   #2
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Agreed, and around here a Towboat or Pushboat with no barges usually call themselves a "Light Boat". The first time I heard that I couldn't imagine what they were talking about.
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Old 11-02-2014, 10:33 AM   #3
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I have a friend that when in the USCG he would get to the point of almost punching people when they used the word "chopper" when referring to his helicopter.

I could have cared less and I really have the same opinion of tugs, pushboats, and barges when talking to most everyday recreation boaters. Usually because they could care less and won't learn the lingo any how. On the radio or with other people in the business I try to be more accurate.

I wouldn't get to excited about what people call them here...many are still arguing what a trawler is and isn't....
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Old 11-02-2014, 10:38 AM   #4
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Like a "bobtail" truck on the road? It's a semi tractor without a trailer.
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Old 11-02-2014, 10:59 AM   #5
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The re-fueling barges here in San Diego are called "lighters."
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Old 11-02-2014, 12:21 PM   #6
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Some boats around Galveston Bay are called TUBs
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Old 11-02-2014, 12:48 PM   #7
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Dan is this proper usage?

One night in a driving rainstorm I was coming out of Big Lagoon. I came upon 2 tows (n) meeting in the turn at St. Johns Bayou. one of them wiped out marker 59 where I was to make my turn to go to Perdido Pass.
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Old 11-02-2014, 01:13 PM   #8
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Don: Yes, sounds like proper usage for us. One of them would have said "I had a couple of empties and met a loaded tow and pleasure boat before I nicked marker 59"

The next tow they would have met it would have sounded like "Marker 59 is missing, wish the CG cutter would get out here and repair it".

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Old 11-02-2014, 01:18 PM   #9
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Actually, Dan, I missed my turn because of it. When I got to the next marker I realized what had happened. I went back to where 59 should be and shined a light down into the water. There it was leaned over below the surface with the reflectors shining back at me. That is kind of an "S" turn in there with little room for two tows (n) to swing.
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Old 11-02-2014, 01:36 PM   #10
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On AIS, I've only noted the descriptions "tug" and "other" for what are tugs, towboats, or pushboats. Seems the maritime industry isn't hung up on making the distinction.

Towboat, barge, and tug:

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Old 11-02-2014, 02:34 PM   #11
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Don: Yes that is a tight spot, you would think they would have met a 1/2 mile either way.

Mark: AIS is not the "Maritime Industry" It is a tool to be used by the Maritime Industry. What you have pictured above may have the same designation as an Inland River Towboat on AIS, I would not expect to meet the sea going tug towing (verb) on the Mississippi River or on the ICW in the configuration shown. Note the higher pilot house for when it may get "in the notch" of its barge and push. None of the above pictured vessels would be considered a Towboat on the Rivers or Gulf ICW. Neither of the boats have tow knees, both are considered tugs.
Houston traffic control using one of the earliest marine traffic systems in the U.S. was and is very specific on the type of vessel and its type of tow since they encounter both sea going tugs, towboats, bulk carriers, tankers, and such.
You though are certainly free to call them anything you like but there are distinct differences and distinct abilities for each. As is a sailboat under sail or under power makes a difference but AIS fails to make a distinction.

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Old 11-02-2014, 02:53 PM   #12
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This little guy is all "knees"
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Old 11-02-2014, 03:05 PM   #13
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Steve: We would have called that one a dinner boat in that it was all wheel house and engine - no galley so you'd have to bring your own dinner. Looks like the Houma canal and he's headed down to G.I.

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Old 11-02-2014, 04:31 PM   #14
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They call that configuration a "Deer stand"
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