TugboatInformation.com is a collaboration of an idea devised by Birk Thomas and Harold Tartell. As tugboat enthusiasts, the two found a mutual frustration with not so much the lack of websites that cover tugboats and their histories. But, the fact that it was necessary to go to many sites to locate different pieces of information on one boat. Harold and Birk's goal was to create "one stop, shopping for tugboat enthusiasts.
Construction on the original site began in 2009. When the idea was proposed initially for a book about the towing industry. However, the enormity of the material that would need to be covered was greater than a book could provide. Hence, initial construction began on the website with information and pictures that Harold and Birk already had on file.
The original site eventually grew too large for the site's original server. And the site's growth halted. In 2009, pairing with Tugboatinfomation.com's sister site Narragansettbayshipping.com. Birk and Harold retained the services of Craig Verrastro and utilizing Coldfusion software and servers with larger capacities, the original version of the site was dismantled and construction began on the current incarnation of Tugboatinformation.com.
Since 2009, the site has grown to become what Birk and Harold envisioned, not only as a single site for information on tugboats. But, as an active community that allows the site's viewers to add and contribute to a collective exchange of information.
BIRK I. THOMAS (Co-Creator, Administrator, and Photographer)
HAROLD E. TARTELL (Co-Creator, Administrator, and Photographer)
My name is Harold E. Tartell. I was born and raised in a small town called Milton, New York, which is 64 miles north of New York City, and 64 miles south of Albany, N.Y. My hometown is on the West bank of the Hudson River, and from early boyhood I always enjoyed going down to watch the trains and vessels on the river with my parents. Shell Oil Company had a terminal here, and received barge & small harbor tanker shipments of petroleum products. In 1958, the dock was enlarged by Shell, and T-2 tankers started to become regular callers at Milton. During the winter months, while there was ice in the river, the tankers would not call until spring when the river finally became ice free. The tugs and barges would take their place throughout the winter, and in the ice free months, they would still call in between tanker shipments when petroleum supplies for Shell became low.
I became fully hooked in 1958 when the first T-2 Tanker, S/S TICONDEROGA (Keystone Shipping Co.) arrived on August 11. In October, Grace Line's Passenger Ship S/S SANTA PAULA made a maiden voyage cruise up the Hudson from the Newport News Shipbuilding Co., Newport News, Va. (her builders) to Albany on Columbus Day weekend, with a return trip back to New York. I started going aboard the tankers when they would arrive at Shell, and also went aboard many of the tugs & barges. I had been aboard a few when I was younger with my parents, but now I was old enough to go down to the river alone. I made friends with the crews, and they would save for me all of the trade journals MARINE ENGINEERING/LOG, MARINE NEWS, etc. One trip a very special magazine was in the bundle that was saved for me. TOWLINE. This magazine increased my interest and fascination for tugboats.
TOWLINE was Moran Towing Company's house magazine. A letter to Moran got me on the subscription list, and also got me friendly with the late Frank O. Braynard (editor), & Jeff Blinn (co-editor). This friendship by mail lead me to New York City to finally get to meet both of them in person. I also got the pleasure of meeting another key person in Moran who opened another door for me. Terence J. O'Connor. Terry was in charge of sales. He went aboard all of the passenger liners that Moran assisted in and out of New York. I was very fortunate to be able go aboard many of these ships with him after we had met. I also went aboard many of the Moran tugs too numerous to mention, docking & undocking the liners. My collecting of photos, magazines, & other maritime memorabilia started in 1958, and has multiplied over the years.
Getting back to Milton, I was a "River Rat." I spent every waking moment down at the dock when there was no school, and after school, whether there were vessels down there or not. In the winter, I would observe the Coast Guard vessels breaking ice in the river, and I said to myself numerous times, "I would love to do that someday." My wish did come true. During my teen years, I rode many of the tankers up to Shell Rensselaer with the Hudson River Pilots. I also got to ride up to Poughkeepsie on the tugs at numerous times when they went up there to get grub, or to pick up a crew member getting off of the train to join the tug. Also in the winter, the tugs bound for Milton would leave their barge out in the track if there was heavy ice, and come in to break ice alongside the dock to be able to get the barge moored. I would jump aboard and get to experience what was going on.
After graduating high school, I joined the U.S. Coast Guard. My decision to join was made while I was still in eighth grade, after seing the vessels in the river that I had previously mentioned. In March, 1966, I was sworn in, and completed 13 weeks of boot camp in Cape May, N.J. After boot camp, I was assigned to the 311 foot ex-Navy seaplane tender USCGC MACKINAC WHEC-311 based in New York. After being transferred from her, I had a short stint of shore duty in Groton, Ct. and Governors Island. My dream come true was getting closer. In November, 1967, I was transferred to the 110 foot icebreaking tug USCGC MANITOU WYTM-60. I was a quartermaster on her, and spent two winters breaking ice in the Hudson before getting off in 1970. Many times aboard her, I reflected back to my boyhood days of saying, "I would love to do that someday." I was honorably discharged from the Coast Guard in 1970.
I was hoping to pursue a career working on the tugs after being discharged from the Coast Guard, but problems getting into the union prevented me from doing so. I worked in the early 80's for a short time as a dispatcher for both McAllister Brothers Towing & Transportation, & the Hudson River Pilots. I never lost interest in the industry. I continued collecting and keeping abreast of the latest happenings throughout the years. I became a member of the Tugboat Enthusiasts Society in the early 1990's shortly after the late Joe DeMuccio founded it. I also worked with the late Carl Wayne in setting up a tugboat database.
I was often asked by family and many friends, "What are you going to do with all of those tugboat photographs?" "They will come to good use someday," I would say. The computer age has done wonders in terms of sharing photos, researching information, etc. I got the "brainstorm" of having my own tugboat information website. I knew that tackling such a project was no easy task. I put it on hold for a bit. Enter Birk Thomas in 2008. We became acquainted after Birk had requested tug information and photos from me via the TES Yahoo Group. Over a period of time, Birk also got the "brainstorm" to start a website, and asked me to come aboard and assist, in which I had accepted the offer. Our website was born, and is something that we can both be proud of. Birk has also found out that it is no easy task. In fact for both of us, there is a lot of work in maintaining this website. There are constant changes not only from day to day, but hour to hour in this industry. The satisfaction that we get after hearing positive comments from both members and companies for our efforts makes it all worth while. This website will NEVER be completed or have an end. I have a lot of my photos to still add to the site. Also many of the older companies that I was familiar with in the past, and are no longer around must be added. This all takes time.
Our Facebook page has proven to be very popular. We have a wonderful group of over 300 members from all different parts of the United States, Europe, & one that I'm familiar with from Australia. This page is a forum where photos, stories, and other tug related information can be shared by all, along with discussions amongst the members. Birk & I are very proud of what we have both put together in a very short time. I enjoy the pleasure of working together with him on this wonderful project, and hope that our working relationship will last for many years to come. We hope that everyone will enjoy, and continue to enjoy our efforts. Please do not hesitate to use the "Contact" section to contact either one of us.