Monday, November 05, 2007

Early morning tug navigates the San Francisco Bay in the fog. There is nothing diminutive about the Tug Boat. It is the backbone of the San Francisco Bay. The guide that brings the ships in over the "bar" outside the gate. The "bar" is very shallow at points and is quite literally a sand bar that has collected from silt and other sediments flowing out the Golden Gate. In days of yore (before the GPS) entering the San Francisco Bay was a precarious endeavor. The Tugboats knew the lay of the ocean floor, the waters, currents and tides. They could guide an incoming ship laden with valuable cargo safely.

Of course, not to be overlooked, is the Potatoe Patch right outside the North side of the mouth of the San Francisco Bay near Point Bonita. Early navigators were heard to have downed a few shots of whiskey before navigating through the Potatoe Patch. The Potatoe Patch supposedly got its name in either of the following two ways: 1) The waters were so rough it made boats laden with potatoes heading for Sacremento spill their load. or 2)The waters get so frothed up in the winter the foam looks like mashed Potatoes. I have seen the latter at about four feet thick.
Of course if you know the tides, you can figure out what time of day the waters will lay down at Point Bonita.

There is nothing small about the tugboat. I have always seen the tugs as sort of bulldog tough with their thick rubber exterior. I guess if you compare it to the size of a Cargo Ship, a Cruise Ship or a Tanker it might seem small, but those vessels are lumbering giants, slow to start, and once in motion slow to stop, turns on football field (as compared to turning on a dime), not sleek and lean agile hydro machines.

Not being a local born and raised here, a recent transplant arriving in 1985, I was surprised to learn being a Tugboat Captain is a great and high paying job. It is a job passed down from generation to generation with the knowledge of the Sea. They refer to themselves as being in the lucky sperm club.

Read more on the rich San Franisco Maritime History on Find Maritime Musuems, Historic Vessels, and Marine Events. Marine Photography. Nautical HD + Film Services, image stablized motion capture and photography from boats and other moving vessels.

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