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.
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.
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
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'.
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.