International Tugboat Race 1998

small US flag small embossed image of tugboat small Canadian flag

Once again I was at the International Tugboat Race on the Detroit River, between Detroit, MI and Windsor, Ontario; June 27, this year. I had a somewhat better viewpoint than last year -- a ride on the tug that won last year: the Patricia Hoey of Gaelic Tugs.

Flying Start After a ride down to Mill Cove Marina, just below the Ambassador Bridge, we transferred (courtesy of the Windsor Police boat) to the Patricia Hoey. The pre-start maneuvering is something to see. The rule appears to be: if you want a favorable place at the starting line and some other tug is already occupying that place -- push it out of the way. The Patricia Hoey waited out in front of the start line until just before the gun and then backed into place. With a count down to the signal flare, it is a flying start to cross the line at speed.

Julie Anne (partially obscured by flag), surfing the wakes of bigger boats The smaller tugs race against each other among the higher horsepower tugs. Don Schmidt (Julie Anne) has developed a method of hitching a "ride" on the wakes of the big ones. The wakes of the larger tugs are big enough for Don to surf on, gaining him a considerable boost of speed. He does need some fancy footwork, since he spends more time standing on the bulkhead than on the sole. I tried several times, but this was the best picture I got. He was heeled over farther than that several times, and the Julie Anne is partially obscured by a Red Wings (REPEAT!) flag. (BTW, Don is the one who got me this great ride; thanks Don.)

Giving the spectators a bath As I said, the wakes are immense. Waves and wakes are very hard to judge from a boat, but I suspect that some of these wakes were over 10' high, and higher where multiple wakes coincided. The seawall on the Windsor side is not all that high, so every year some spectators get an unintended bath. Comparing it to the size of the people on shore, I'd estimate that particular wake at about 7'.

Coming to the finish The finish line is near the RenCen (Detroit) and Casino (Windsor). As you can see, both the Karen Andrie (blue tug in background) and the Shannon (green tug in foreground) are trying to extend their leads by any means possible -- including boathooks and water from the fire hose. I have no idea whether either of those ploys affected the outcome. After rafting up at Windsor's waterfront park, crews and passengers retired to the courtesy tent for refreshments and the awards ceremony. Results below. I took notes and referred to a few other sources, but I find that I'm still missing some details (indicated by "??"). Any additions or corrections will be gratefully received.

I sure had a good time, and I'll be back for next year's race if I possibly can.

1998 Results (by classes):

          (Name; HP; Length; Year built; Captain; Owner.)
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Created: Wed. 8-July-1998 6:23 PM
By: Peter W. Meek
Net-sig: --Pete <>
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