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The Workhorses

Wharfside

The Workhorses

Galen Koch

Ships come in-and-out of Portland Harbor daily carrying precious, and sometimes even hazardous, freight. This is the story of one ship's passage through the port and the tugboats, and crew, who make that trip possible. 

To listen to this story, watch the slideshow above. If you prefer audio only, go here


Captain John Reeves on the tugboat Andrew McAllister.                 Jenny Rebecca Nelson © 2016

Captain John Reeves on the tugboat Andrew McAllister.                 Jenny Rebecca Nelson © 2016

Tugboat Rowan McAllister in Portland Harbor.                                   Jenny Rebecca Nelson © 2016

Tugboat Rowan McAllister in Portland Harbor.                                   Jenny Rebecca Nelson © 2016

On the eastern side of the Maine State Pier a fleet of tugboats are tied to the dock. The tugboat Andrew McAllister waits to be called out for the third run of the morning. Today it's the job of this tugboat, and the crew on board, to guide the tanker Acadian through the harbor. 

Brian Fournier, president of Portland Tugboat, grew up in a tugboat family. His father was a docking pilot and founded Portland Tugboat in 1985. In 2001 the company was sold to McAllister Towing, one of the oldest tugboat companies in the United States, and Brian remained on as president and docking pilot.

The tankers that come into and out of Portland Harbor typically carry gasoline, heating oil, asphalt, rock salt, and clay slurry. The safety of the harbor relies on this cargo being transported without incident. For Brian and the crew, piloting these boats is routine but its important that they get it right every single time. As Brian says, "Something could go wrong in a second. Tugboating is... 99% boredom and 1% sheer terror." 

The tugboats Andrew and Rowan McAllister work together with Brian to bring the Acadian from its anchorage off of Spring Point to a dock near the Fore River. Listen to the audio slideshow above to go on this journey through Portland Harbor. 

Brian Fournier on the Acadian.  Jenny Rebecca Nelson © 2016

Brian Fournier on the Acadian.  Jenny Rebecca Nelson © 2016


Wharfside: Stories of Portland Harbor's Working Waterfront explore the people, places, and work in Portland Harbor through photos, audio stories, and video. This project is made possible by the Waterfront Alliance and Casco Bay Estuary Partnership. Photos for this story by Jenny Rebecca Nelson. Music for this piece provided by Ross Gallagher. Animation assistance from Lake Buckley.

Produced by Galen Koch © 2016