Heavy duty gas engine tug Argos

by Hans | February 26th, 2014

On June 25, 1957 my dad “Doc” Freeman traded a surplus refrigerated 110 foot barge to Dave Updike & Jim Vallentyne for the old American tug ARGOS. Her official Number was 212779 and she was built as a gas boat in 1914 at Birmingham, WA. 

I think that was the name of the town of Irondale or Port Hadlock I was told. She was 56.6 feet long (registered length) and about 65 feet overall and had a 70 HP heavy duty gas engine. I don’t know when American Tug Boat Co. got her but some time during the 1920’s she was repowered with a 100 HP Fairbanks Morse CO (crude oil) semi-diesel which was a very good replacement for a gas engine and a good puller with a 54 inch diameter wheel. 

Later American replaced the Fairbanks with a 120 HP Atlas Imperial full diesel and she towed logs for American based in Everett. When I first saw her she had no engine as Dave & Jim had removed it. Dad installed a model 1879 Buda diesel of 171 HP with a 2:1 reduction gear which swung about a 50 inch diameter wheel at 450 rpm’s. She had a throne for a toilet in the starboard aft end of the engine room. It was perched up high with a straight pipe out of the hull. When you looked in it and straight down you could see sea water. Of course when you were on the “throne” you could examine the tail shaft turning and looking up at the engine you could tell how much water was leaking out of the Sherwood pump which was the fresh water circulating pump – they always leaked and were built with poor seals. We had about a four gallon expansion tank on the back of the stack and you were always filling it. Having it up high helped the circulation of the fresh water in the engine and taking any bubbles out of the system. She had an air ram for steering but you had to help it along as I think the leathers were worn out. She had a wood stove in the galley which someone mounted but forget to install a damper in the stack so it was always too hot or cold, but in those days you just lived with those things. It is different now. Jim Vallentyne cut a minesweepers’ stack in half for the ARGOS’ stack and it was just the right size. Dad had a winch off a surplus power scow so that became the tow winch. I remember he and Ed Anderson, our chief engineer, talking about the power for the winch. The ARGOS had big air tanks still installed for the Atlas, so they put an air motor on the winch but we found that when you went to shorten up your tow, you didn’t quite get the tow wire recovered when you ran out of air. Of course the clutch had an air shifter a Naud control so you could not shift the clutch and take in your tow wire… so that wasn’t what you would call a success.

We took off the air motor and put a 32 volt motor on the winch for power because we had a 32 volt bank of batteries for starting. Since the engine was already running you were okay even if you used up all your battery power as it would soon charge up, so that worked just fine.

She carried lots of tow wire and I once scared myself as I had too much wire out. I was coming from the Olympia Reserve Fleet with a power scow that we had bought surplus and had to be really careful on my line-ups, watching out for the set at the Narrows Bridge. Did not want to wrap the tow around those piers!

I cleaned her all up and put her in dad’s favorite colors just like our boats are nowadays, except we had a red stack. We used her for towing all the boats that dad was buying and selling and did general towing with her. I was talking to Austin Hemion at Landweer, the customs house broker, about her title and there was an outstanding loan against her from 1916 that had never been satisfied. We both decided that there was no one alive to collect on it, so we just went on with our business.

I got one fun trip into the San Juan’s with her.  Dad died in 1963 and I sold her to Leroy Dry taking the tug DWARF in trade, but that’s another story. I think that she was lost in SE Alaska at the end of a towline. If anyone has any more info I would love to hear from you.

(Source: Mark Freeman; Photo: LOCKE OF EVERETT)

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