Humble Tugboat Pentagoet Is Part of MMA Curriculum
By John Hubbard

CASTINE—The training ship State of Maine returned to its homeport last week.

The 500-foot-long, 16,000-ton training vessel is Maine Maritime Academy’s showpiece, but a ride on the tug Pentagoet gives a visitor an intimate introduction to what the academy is all about.

Pentagoet tugboat Captain Tim Leach communicates with the State of Maine during docking operations last week. Leach, who is in charge of all waterfront activities at Maine Maritime Academy, has worked as an instructor with the academy for 23 years.

Maine Maritime Academy’s training ship, the State of Maine, sports a new color, “Holland-America Blue” as it steams into Castine Harbor last week on a return from the annual training cruise and maintenance done in New York.

Three hours recently spent on board the tugboat showed observers what is involved in small vessel management, an important part of seafaring. A ship the size of the State of Maine cannot be docked under its own power. It takes the skilled hand of a tugboat operator and crew to manage that.

That’s where Tim Leach, manager of the academy’s marine operations and waterfront services, comes into the picture. Leach supervises everything that happens at the dock except for the internal business of the State of Maine.

Leach also is captain of the Pentagoet, a 1,200 hp steel-hulled workboat. He says the tug’s pulling ability effectively is 1,900 tons, thanks to twin propellers driven by two 600-hp V-16 Detroit diesels whose thrust is focused through culvert-like Kort nozzles.

The 100-ton Pentagoet is small, but on a recent exercise, Leach did not use even half-throttle to nudge the big ship into port.

The Mack Point, a larger ocean-going tug, pushed the bow section while the Pentagoet took on the aft section of the training ship, working the ship into place precisely enough so a gangway could be put in place for crew and visitors.

The tug is part of two courses taught at the academy: ship handling and workboat operations.

Junior year students who are learning ship handling dynamics and the basics of maneuvers get to work on the tugboat, Leach explained.

“We do docking drills and work on boat handling,” he said. The experience may be a student’s first in handling a workboat.

One of the first things a visitor sees is Leach manipulating the controls of the tug so that it “walks” sideways out from its berth at the MMA dock. That is just one of the “tricks” that students at MMA learn.

A small vessel operations course also involves work with the tugboat, Leach said.

Each communication between the State of Maine and Pentagoet demanded some confirmation, often done by Leach giving a short blast on the tug’s air horn.

At one point, the black rubber tires used as a fender on the bow of the tug scuffed the bigger ship, leaving black marks on the newly painted white “State of Maine” letters. A student deckhand who immediately set about cleaning the letters, got elaborate praise from Leach, who said that it was rare for anyone to do anything without being asked or ordered but that this particular student showed remarkable ingenuity.

 Leach gave the young man a “thumbs-up” sign through the windshield of the tug.

The Pentagoet is capable of doing small salvage and ocean towing and could serve as a research vessel, Leach said, although it has not been used in diving or oceanography.

The tug was built in 1980 at the Gladdings and Hearns yard in Somerset, Mass.


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