Tremendous Tugboats

The SS Jeremiah O'Brien getting a push from a friendly tugboat

When the ship is going to leave the dock at Pier 45 I always know because one or more tiny tugboats show up.  Here are a few pictures of these helpers.  When the ship needs to leave these guys are used to push or pull the ship until they are clear of the wharf.   From my standpoint I always like to see the tugboats because that means food will be on the deck.  For some reason they continue to follow the ship around as they cruise on San Francisco Bay.  I think it is because they know that food will be served and that they will get fed.  In the pictures below you can see a bucket being lowered from the ship to the tugboat.  I have tried to ‘intercept’ the food in the bucket while it is being lowered, but the ship and the tugboat are too close together and the guys with rope are too fast and tricky.  Sometimes they bribe me with a donut and I lose track of the bucket going over board.

It seems that the little tugboats are more active depending upon  the wind and the tide.  I know that when I am flying on the windy days it is difficult to keep up with the ship depending upon which way the wind is blowing. That is why I like to hitch-hike on board the ship and ride on top of the crow’s nest.  Speaking about that, I don’t have any idea why they call it a crow’s nest since there are no crows in the neighborhood.

Editor’s Note:  The SS Jeremiah O’Brien needs to use the tugboats to help maneuver while near the pier.  They also require a ‘Bar Pilot’ to be onboard while cruising on San Francisco Bay.  The term Crow’s Nest came from the lookout point on old sailing ships.  In the days before radar this was the lookout point high on the tallest mast and was not a pleasant place to be sent during heavy weather.  Because the Crow’s Nest is high above the deck the motion of the ship is accentuated and seasickness was not uncommon among the lookouts.  Bob does not seem to be adversely affected by the motion of the ship or the swaying during heavy weather.  For more information on the SS Jeremiah O’Brien please visit the web site at 

The original lunch bucket being delivered to the tugboat crew


Lunch being delivered by a rope and bucket


Tugboat positioned off Pt. Bonita near the Marin County headlands



One comment on “Tremendous Tugboats

  1. Sarah says:

    Great explanation of the tugs, Bob. I’ve been on many a cruise and wondered what was in the bucket. Thanks for leaving the food for the operators. The O’Brien might not make it back to port if the tugs had to go hungry!

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