Wednesday 3 February 2016


She's called the river that never sleeps and what better way is there to see all that Mississippi River boat action than on the authentic steam-powered paddlewheeler NATCHEZ like my wife and I did back in May 2014. The view is quite incredible as the 40 year old steam-powered replica  NATCHEZ sauntered along at an anticipated "Big Easy" pace passing sleepy neighbourhoods behind the high man-made levy on either side of the river, the lay in waiting barges and tow boats tied off to the shoreline waiting for dock space or a wide body Panamax bulk carrier to motor up from the Gulf and take on their loads of coal, grain and various aggregates. Then there's the in your face action of underway tow boats & barges, container and cruise ships, tankers, coast guard launches or speedy harbour tugs like the LOUISIANA (up top) looking pretty impressive in her tan and red Crescent Towing colours pushing water all the way to her home base after completed another call of duty. c):-))

Just like what any of their tugs may be tasked to push or pull on any given day, Crescent Towing's headquarters is located on a huge and long barge. How apropo is that? Established in 1942 by the Smith Family of New Orleans and after 37 years of providing premier service of ship escorts, dock or undocking from Baton Rouge to the mouth of the Mississippi River, Crescent expanded their operations to Mobile, Alabama in 1979 and Savannah, Georgia in 1983. Crescent Towing & Salvage has a fleet of 28 tugs of which 18 are based in New Orleans. However, when the NATCHEZ paddled by their floating HQ, five of the veteran tugs sat idle but like any harbour tug, ready and waiting for their next task.
The first tug we came across while heading back up river towards Algiers Point was 94' PORT ALLEN. She was originally built for the U.S. Navy at Consolidated Shipbuilding in Morrison Heights, New York, and designated YTB-541 (OCETTE). Soon after launching in 1945, the yard tugboat was assigned to the 1st Naval District in Boston, Massachusetts. In 1970, OCETTE was decommissioned from the navy and named DIRIGO, and after 45 years of working the waters around Boston for other government agencies, the single screw harbour tug as acquired by Crescent Towing & Salvage Inc. in 1980 and renamed PORT ALLEN.
Sitting just above the PORT ALLEN were another pair of beauties, the twin screw  LOUISIANA and the single screw PORT HUDSON. The 98.4' LOUISIANA was built in 1959 by Dravco Corporation of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania and after launching she worked as a railway tug for Pennsylvania Railroad Company of Philadelphia while named HARRISBURG. Her name was changed to ELIZABETH SMITH when Crescent Towing purchased her in 1985. The hard working girl got repowered and quite the facelift with a new wheelhouse, stacks and window to improve visibility in 2004 during a life extension rebuild in 2004. ELIZABETH SMITH became known as LOUISIANA in 2008.
Meanwhile, the 93.1' PORT HUDSON was built in 1943 at Canulette Shipbuilding of Slidell, Louisiana, for the United States Maritime Commission. In 1945 she was transferred to the U.S. Navy and designated YTB-724 (WABAQUASSET) until she was acquired by Crescent Towing in 1946 and renamed PORT HUDSON.

In her early years, the 98.4' MARGARET F. COOPER  also worked as a railroad tug for Pennsylvania Railroad while named CINCINNATI. Like the LOUISIANA, she was also built at Dravco Corporation of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania in 1959. Her names was changed to REBECCA SMITH when the tug was purchased by Crescent Towing and transferred to New Orleans in 1978. Soon after she was repowered and given a life extension rebuild, her name was changed to MARGARET F. COOPER in 2008. Yupe, that's her sitting high and dry just across the river in Bollinger Shipyard's floating drydock, MISS DARBY. Check out her huge twin screws, eh!! Oh YAA c):-D
 ...and last but not least during our NATCHEZ paddle-by was the 95.4' MIRIAM WALMSLEY COOPER who started her life as the New York City Fireboat HARVEY H. ARCHER M.D.. She was built in 1958 at John H. Mathis Shipyards of Camden, New Jersey and when bought be Crescent Towing in 1995, she was converted into a towing vessel and renamed MIRIAM WALMSLEY COOPER.
Sometimes tugs and their crews have must go above and beyond their regular call of duty to save lives or keep a community going. Like while Hurricane Katrina lashed her wrath on the people of New Orleans and along the Gulf coast just almost ten and a half years ago, the crews and tugs of Crescent Towing served as first responders on the Mississippi River, working around the clock to catch break-away ships, hold-in large vessels to various docks, dock and moor ships delivering military personnel and crucial supplies needed to support rescue operations as well as fight many large fires that engulfed several wharves. For your gallant efforts during New Orleans and Louisiana's greatest time of need, I say thank you and my hat c) goes off to you all.  :-))


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