Go to the children’s
books section at barnesandnoble.com, type in “tugboat,” and
about 60 titles will pop up—everything from My Grandpa is a Tugboat
Captain by PMY’s own Capt. Ken Kreisler to Roger Burrow’s
The Little Tugboat That Sneezed. From a tender age we learn that
while tugboats may sneeze, they are nothing to sneeze at. Cute, capable,
and confident, these craft are among the most charismatic boats afloat.
Small wonder, then, that this small-wonder concept is making inroads in
pleasureboating. And little surprise that the tugboat trend is headquartered
in the Pacific Northwest, where workboats and motoryachts often share
the same marinas.
Tomco Marine overlooks one such harbor in LaConner, Washington, about
75 miles north of Seattle. At one end of the marina I found a half-dozen
salmon seiners from Southeast Alaska wintered in a proud rank. The other
end sheltered recreational boats of all kinds. In between rested Tomco’s
American Tug 34, a hybrid of the two extremes inclined decidedly toward
Only from a great distance could she be mistaken for an actual workboat.
Nearer at hand, her tugboat profile is stylized into smart, eager lines
set off by the jaunty angle of a faux smokestack amidships at the centerline.
Still, the contrast between her frank exterior and the fine comforts of
her interior is striking.
In the saloon, cabinets and valances are made from carefully finished
teak. The L-shape UltraLeather settee to port (which converts to a double
berth) wraps around a sleek, finely rubbed teak and ash table. To starboard,
the galley’s custom-molded, one-piece countertop provides 10 square
feet of work space between a double sink and a three-burner propane stove
and oven (a 110-volt unit is available). A microwave rests at head level
atop a 6.8-cubic-foot Nova Kool refrigerator-freezer. The entire space
is bathed in light—even on the rainy winter morning of my visit—streaming
from large windows port, starboard, and aft.
Three steps up a centerline companionway just below the molded stack,
the pilothouse is paneled and trimmed in teak and is obviously designed
for the sort of boaters who enjoy the run as much as the destination.
Large windows all around—including directly aft—provide exceptional
visibility from the skipper’s adjustable UltraLeather benchseat to
starboard and allow great sightseeing from identical port-side seating.
Below and to port of the helm console, which is designed to accommodate
an array of flush-mounted navigational electronics, a backlit breaker
panel is within easy reach. In keeping with its hands-on heritage, the
34 has a port-side chart table large enough for a full-size NOAA chart.
This proof that the designers at Tomco are mindful of boaters who still
value good, old paper-chart navigation pleased me. PWhile most tugs we
remember from childhood reading were coal-fired, this one was powered
by a gleaming optional 355-hp Cummins 370B diesel inboard engine accessed
through a pair of 2'x2' hatches in the pilothouse sole. Although you have
to crouch to get around in the engine compartment (which also shelters
a standard 5.5-kW Northern Lights genset), it is organized and uncluttered,
and you can work on any part of the engine from a comfortable seated position.
The 34’s interior is generously proportioned throughout, but nowhere
more than in the forward stateroom and head, where it becomes difficult
to remember that this boat is just 34'5" long. A queen-size walkaround
berth below a 20"x20" screened Bowmar hatch is the centerpiece in a room
that takes full advantage of the tug’s broad-shouldered bow. The
head, which has a direct entrance plus a second one for guests, is equipped
with a standard VacuFlush MSD, a sink next to generous counter space,
and a shower that, at 3'x3', is by far the largest I’ve ever seen
on a boat this size. Five opening ports are divided between the port and
starboard sides of this forward area. As in the rest of the boat’s
interior, headroom is 6'6".
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