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River Commerce terms: Differences between towboats and tugboats

Shamarie Claiborne used correct terms with photo of towboat. Writer recalls his late father's career on the river, where he rose from deckhand to good chief engineer
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By Jeff Johnson

I am so glad that Shamarie Claiborne used the right term to describe the boat on the river in Henderson. So many people mistakenly refer to all riverboats as "tugboats,"



However, some are "towboats."

With river commerce, "tugboats" gather barges to make a "tow", then a "towboat" pushes the tow to the next destination.

Tugboats usually use local crews. On the river, towboats are more powerful than tugboats.

They also carry a larger crew of a captain, pilot, chief engineer, engineers, and deckhands who usually spend 30 days on/30 days off work.

This was told to me by my father, Larry D. Johnson, who started out as a deckhand and quickly became a good chief engineer for several large barge companies before his death.

He said he could have been a pilot and maybe captain, but he didn't want to spend 12 hours at a time in the wheelhouse. But he did give the pilots breaks when he could. -Jeff Johnson

Thanks, Jeff Johnson so much for noting the distinctions in river terminology, and for noting the care Shamarie Claiborne uses choosing words. Maybe her gift is from her many hours on college campuses, from her knee high days at Lindsey Wilson to the time she's spent acquiring advanced degrees. -CM


This story was posted on 2011-03-29 03:26:17
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Scenic Kentucky: Henderson, KY



2011-03-28 - Henderson, KY - Photo by Shamarie Claiborne.
Shamarie Claiborne took this photo of a towboat pushing 12 or 13 barges filled with coal upstream on the Ohio at Henderson, where she was temporarily stationed on a work assignment. The river was up. The gauge on the right side of the photo tells the clearance under a nearby railroad bridge. She came back from Henderson with what seems to be a consensus opinion: It's one of Kentucky's most beautiful towns. Clicking Read More accesses related essay by Jeff Johnson

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Scenic Kentucky: Dusk on the Ohio



2011-03-28 - Henderson, KY - Photo By Shamarie Claiborne.
The Ohio River is hauntingly beautiful just after sundown, at this broad stretch at Henderson, KY. Clicking Read More accesses related essay by Jeff Johnson

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Scenic Kentucky: A seat by the Ohio



2011-03-29 - Henderson, KY - Photo by Shamarie Claiborne.
In Henderson, KY pleasant Spring days like this one can be used in quiet appreciation of the Ohio River, watching towboats push huge cargoes past. The bench affords a great view of of the railroad bridge, as well. Of all the beautiful photos Shamarie Claiborne took while on a work assignment in Henderson, this was her personal favorite. Clicking Read More accesses a river commerce essay by Jeff Johnson

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The Towboat Peter Fanchi



2011-03-29 - Louisville, KY - Photo Joe Schneid, Louisville, Kentucky. The towboat Peter Fanchi, down-bound on the Ohio river at Louisville, Kentucky. (Posted under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:PeterFanchi.jpg.)
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