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Mason County Memories

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Tugboats History Column Dave Petersen In 1939 Little Toot, by Hardie Gramatky a children's book about tugboats is first published, maybe that's the reason we look at tugboats the way we do. They are fascinating boats, built for power and towing and with a grand history going back some 200 years. W e have had several in our local history as well, and one not so long ago, remember Tugboat Annie? I heard recently that she was dry docked up north, having her here was a good idea and with the new emphasis on a Maritime theme locally it might be nice to see something like that again. The first towing vessel went to work in 1802, but it wasn't until 1817 that the word tug came into use when describing them, and the name stuck, Webster defines a tugboat as "a strongly built powerful boat used for towing and pushing" and that they are, maneuvering larger boats through the harbor, going to their rescue when they loose power the tug was an indispensable part of maritime operations on the Great Lakes. One of the tugs that plied our shores was the W.L. Mercereau named after the Pere Marquette Railway's longest serving (1899-1931) marine superintendent, William L. Mercereau, In this photo she prepares to cast off at Ludington. The tug was chartered from the Great Lakes Towing Company during the winter months from 1911 to the early 1930's to keep the Ludington harbor free of ice for the ferry fleet. Shortly after the fast and powerful icebreaking ferries City of Saginaw and City of Flint appeared, the tug Mercereau's winter charter agreement was terminated and was sent back to her owners. She was renamed New Mexico. PIC#138-001 The harbor tug W. L. Mercereau, was owned by Great Lakes Towing Company and on winter charter to the PM Railroad. Here she assists one of the car ferries in winding around into her slip. The small powerful steam-powered tug was affectionately known as "the little giant." PIC#138-002 Ice Breaker W F Mercereau about 98 feet long, 20 foot beam, 12 to 14 foot draft. Two carferries on left, the PM 22 is leaving Ludington after laying in for bad weather." PIC#138-003 The W. L. Mercereau works a path through slush ice in Ludington's Pere Marquette Lake. PIC#138-004 PIC#138-005 Tugboat Favorite out of Duluth. PIC#138-006 An unknown tug guiding an ore boat PIC#138-007 The Tug Edna G under full steam Like many of the once common sights on the lakes the tug has disappeared from many ports of call and although not as rare as a schooner there are fewer of these grand little ships in the lakes as there was 75 years ago. If you have any stories or photos you would like to share with our readers please feel free to contact me at 757-3240 or davep@blackcreekpress.com, mail should be sent in care of the Ludington Daily News PO box 340 Ludington Mi 49431.

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