Thursday, December 1, 2011

The little tug that could

This one is called a Pushboat
I love little tug boats. They remind me of a book I had as a child, "The Little Engine that Could," about a tiny train chug, chug, chugging up a mountainside. The storied red train's mantra is: "I think I can, I think I can, I think I can," and, of course, eventually it does.

Just stand on the banks of the Mississippi and marvel at the power of those tugs. I watched one push 19 barges linked together upstream against the current of the mighty Mississippi River. That's something! They make it look so effortless. And they are so cute, so compact and painted red, white and black.

I consulted Wikipedia today (and made a donation), learning that a typical tugboat's engine produces 500-2,500 kW, which in landlubbers' terms means 3,400 hp. More powerful boats can have as much as 27,000 hp. I'm going to bet the ones I see out on the Mississippi are pretty powerful.

Not only can they push huge vessels, but they can maneuver. The Mississippi does not follow a straight line, in case you didn't know. The river curves quite dramatically a few times as it passes through New Orleans, but those little tugs just swing their cargo around the wide turns.

I'm inspired watching. Their captains go unrecognized for their skill except in the rare instances when they goof up.

In 2008, a captain abandoned his post to investigate whether his girlfriend was cheating on him in Illinois. He left an apprentice at the wheel, resulting in an oil spill - unfortunate but unusual.

Of course, that incident was nothing after what BP did to us.

1 comment:

  1. Living in Louisiana my whole life and seeing them go up and down the Mississippi river. I know exactly what you are talking about. It is a great site to see.