Peter Foss

by Hans | July 18th, 2009

Andrew Foss Whittled a Wooden Tug that Would Become Model for Five New Vessels

 It was late in 1926 at the Foss Launch and Tug Co. headquarters in Tacoma.Andrew Foss was meeting with his three sons Arthur, Henry, and Wedell. Arthur and Wedell, who were heading up the recently opened Seattle office, drove down to the Tacoma office for the meeting. The discussion centered on building several new tugs to add to the growing fleet of the Tacoma based company. The fleet based in Tacoma in 1926 numbered nine harbor tugs and launches, and nine line-haul tugs. The average age of the Tacoma fleet at the time was twenty-one years, with some tugs dating back to 1888.

Significant growth in coastwise towing, cement, sand and gravel, chips and hog fuel, and log towing were putting high demands on the aging and underpowered fleet of Foss tugs. Ships arriving in Tacoma were larger and required more horsepower for safe docking. The decision was made to immediately begin construction of a new series of tugs that could be used in local harbor work as well as towing on Puget Sound, in British Columbia and coastwise. It was a unanimous decision, and all the tugs would be built at the Foss Marine Ways in Tacoma utilizing Foss’ experienced shipwrights. The number of tugs to be built was undecided at the outset. Construction would be based on market conditions with the plan to complete one tug per year. The agreed-upon design of the tugs was pilot house forward with a long trunk cabin aft over the engine room. They would be constructed using white oak frames and fir planking. The galley and crew accommodations were below decks, forward of the engine room. The early tugs built by Foss were planned and the construction supervised by Andrew, who before construction began, whittled a pine model of the proposed tug for everyone’s guidance — and the finished tug ended up having the shape of the model. The symmetrical lines of the Foss-built tugs were the result of Andrew’s attention to detail, a quality instilled in his three sons and his shipwrights. The Foss No. 11 entered service in July 1927, powered by a Fairbanks Morse 120 horsepower heavy-oil engine. Total construction cost, including machinery, was $17,371. Subsequent boats in the class were the Drew Foss, which entered service in April 1929, and the Justine Foss, which joined the fleet in January 1930 with a larger, 200 horsepower engine. Next came the Peter Foss, a 66-footlong, 18-foot-wide tug with an eight foot draft, designed specifically to assist the larger steamships calling the Port of Tacoma. At 375 horsepower, the Peter was one of the most powerful diesel tugs on Puget Sound when launched in 1930. The fifth and last tug in the construction program was the Henrietta Foss, designed and powered as a harbor “juggle” and towing tug and commissioned September 15, 1931. The Henrietta measured 52 by 15 by 5 feet and was powered with a 160 horsepower Washington diesel. She was nicknamed by the Foss family as the “Little Peter” since she was a smaller version of the recently built Peter Foss. She had accommodations for three men as well as a roomy and light galley just aft of the wheelhouse. Another new feature was the use of a large air drill motor to drive the anchor windlass. The towing winch was turned by a direct power take-off from the forward end of the main engine. The tug was also equipped with a fire pump and fire monitor atop the pilothouse, which developed 700 gallons per minute. The recently restored Henrietta is now owned by Mike Garvey, one of the principal owners of SaltChuk Resources. SaltChuk owns Foss parent company Marine Resources Group. Another two of the five tugs also are still in service under private ownership, a tribute to the design and workmanship of the Foss shipwrights who built them.

Shipwrights posed on the main deck as the completed hull of the Peter Foss was ready to be launched from Foss Marine Ways, Tacoma.

Significant growth in coastwise towing, cement, sand and gravel, chips and hog fuel, and log towing were putting high demands on the aging and underpowered fleet of Foss tugs. Ships arriving in Tacoma were larger and required more horsepower for safe docking. The decision was made to immediately begin construction of a new series of tugs that could be used in local harbor work as well as towing on Puget Sound, in British Columbia and coastwise. It was a unanimous decision, and all the tugs would be built at the Foss Marine Ways in Tacoma utilizing Foss’ experienced shipwrights. The number of tugs to be built was undecided at the outset. Construction would be based on market conditions with the plan to complete one tug per year. The agreed-upon design of the tugs was pilot house forward with a long trunk cabin aft over the engine room. They would be constructed using white oak frames and fir planking. The galley and crew accommodations were below decks, forward of the engine room. The early tugs built by Foss were planned and the construction supervised by Andrew, who before construction began, whittled a pine model of the proposed tug for everyone’s guidance — and the finished tug ended up having the shape of the model. The symmetrical lines of the Foss-built tugs were the result of Andrew’s attention to detail, a quality instilled in his three sons and his shipwrights. The Foss No. 11 entered service in July 1927, powered by a Fairbanks Morse 120 horsepower heavy-oil engine. Total construction cost, including machinery, was $17,371. Subsequent boats in the class were the Drew Foss, which entered service in April 1929, and the Justine Foss, which joined the fleet in January 1930 with a larger, 200 horsepower engine. Next came the Peter Foss, a 66-footlong, 18-foot-wide tug with an eight foot draft, designed specifically to assist the larger steamships calling the Port of Tacoma. At 375 horsepower, the Peter was one of the most powerful diesel tugs on Puget Sound when launched in 1930. The fifth and last tug in the construction program was the Henrietta Foss, designed and powered as a harbor “juggle” and towing tug and commissioned September 15, 1931. The Henrietta measured 52 by 15 by 5 feet and was powered with a 160 horsepower Washington diesel. She was nicknamed by the Foss family as the “Little Peter” since she was a smaller version of the recently built Peter Foss. She had accommodations for three men as well as a roomy and light galley just aft of the wheelhouse. Another new feature was the use of a large air drill motor to drive the anchor windlass. The towing winch was turned by a direct power take-off from the forward end of the main engine. The tug was also equipped with a fire pump and fire monitor atop the pilothouse, which developed 700 gallons per minute. The recently restored Henrietta is now owned by Mike Garvey, one of the principal owners of SaltChuk Resources. SaltChuk owns Foss parent company Marine Resources Group. Another two of the five tugs also are still in service under private ownership, a tribute to the design and workmanship of the Foss shipwrights who built them

Source:
  • By Mike Skalley
  • Editor’s Note: Mike Skalley is Foss’Manager of Customer Service in the Pacific Northwest, the company’s historian, and the author of “Foss — 90 Years of Towboating.”

 

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