Left: The Lee T. Moran under construction
at the Washburn & Doughty shipyard
Photo: David Platt
by Bob Moore
The Working Waterfront
At precisely the time of high tide on May 24, the tugboat Lee T. Moran will slip into the Damariscotta River at East Boothbay for the first time. At 92 feet, with 5,100 horsepower and 136,000 pounds of pulling power, she will be the pride of the growing fleet of tugboats owned by Moran Towing Corporation of New Canaan, Connecticut. The launching from the ways at Washburn & Doughty Associates shipyard also signals a new heyday in East Coast tug building.
The Lee T. Moran will be the eighth tug delivered by Washburn & Doughty to Moran, though all but the last one, the Diane Moran, had less horsepower. The Lee T. Moran is the second in Moran’s Diane class of tugs, of similar hull and horsepower design specifications.
For many years, new tug construction lay in the doldrums. Owners stuck to the basic combination of high horsepower, low speed and maneuverability that reliably carried tug design out of the 19th century and through most of the 20th. Advancements in propulsion and maneuverability — most notably the Z-drive — were adopted in Europe long before they caught on in the U.S. “The East Coast tug fleet is old — the average age is 35 years,” says Katie Doughty before we embark on a tour of the construction bay where the Lee T. Moran is taking shape. She runs the shipyard’s front office and is daughter of company vice president Bruce Doughty.
“Since the Exxon Valdez [the oil tanker that ran aground in Alaska in 1989] people have gotten more serious about escorting and docking ships. There’s more of a consciousness of wanting the best available technology,” says Doughty. That puts shipyards like Washburn & Doughty in a good position to capitalize on the overhaul of the aging tug fleet.
If a tour of Washburn & Doughty’s massive gray construction bay is any indication, it is going to keep a lot of people busy. Inside the shed, the hull of the Lee T. Moran towers on scaffolding above the shop floor. The cavernous room is abuzz with activity, confronting every sense. Flashing arc welders fit pipes, plates, and bits into place. Grinders send showers of sparks into the air. The pungent stench of hot metal and ozone are subtle compared to the acoustic assault generated by swarms of workers shaping raw steel into the shape of a boat. A single man with a sledgehammer offers ample noise; amplify that twenty-fold and the result is sheer cacophony. Oddly, given the noise, each person in the crew seems to have brought his own boom box to work, tuned it to his own radio station, and turned it up loud to overcome the numbing atmospherics.
The Lee T. Moran is an expression of brute power and utility that belies the refinements of technical engineering below her waterline. There, twin ports are cut into the steel hull to make room for the tug’s Z-drive units. On the floor of the shop they look like the lower units of giant outboard engines. Made by Ulstein, a subsidiary of Rolls-Royce, the Z-drive functions much like an outboard. Imagine two outboards extending straight down through the hull, each having the ability to rotate 360 degrees. That makes even a heavy, 92-foot tug with a 450-ton displacement very maneuverable. “It can turn on a dime,” says Doughty. “The hull bottom is slightly flatter to adjust to the two drive units. By turning each drive out 90 degrees, the captain can go from full-ahead (14 knots) to a dead stop in no time.”
Up in the pilothouse, the captain’s seat will be situated between two bulkheads. A joystick in either hand will operate the drives. The Lee T. Moran’s 5,100 horsepower, delivered by twin 2,550-hp EMD diesels turning two 7.9-foot diameter props, will be controlled by the small motor movements of her captain’s wrists. Mobility will be instant and efficient. With the drives directed abeam, she will ferry sideways, lugging or shoving whatever is alongside in the desired direction. When positioned dead astern, the drives give the tug 100 percent thrust in that direction.
The whole tug is ringed with fendering, with her snubbed bow receiving a giant rubber soft-loop “nose” for dead-on pushing. The hull is amply reinforced to withstand pressure and impact from every direction. Steel framing at two-foot intervals and thick hull plating may seem like overkill, but considering that the Lee T. Moran will spend the next 30 years banging into things much larger and heavier than herself, the excessive armor is well justified.
The tug is also being equipped to perform fireboat functions. Twin nozzles mounted before the wheelhouse will each be capable of pumping 1,500 gallons per minute.
Doughty says the cost of a tug in this class ranges from three to four million dollars, with Z-drives adding only a small fraction of the overall cost. Other options drive up the tally, including the hawser winch, with a 400,000-pound braking capacity, and twin Caterpillar 3304 generators. With all her trimmings, the Lee T. Moran will be a versatile tool in Moran’s fleet. But the feature she will most rely on will be the core tug attribute — brute strength. With a strong hawser tied around her massive stern bit, she will be able to deliver 136,000 pounds of pulling power. But when she slips down the ways on May 24th in her fresh black and maroon paint, the Lee T. Moran will also be one smart-looking workboat.