One of my owners, John Heater, who also has aBlack Crown 31, has had an everlasting intrigue with tugboats and over the years that we have known each other, many sketches and drawings have crossed both of our desks as we attempted to translate the other’s ideas and wishes. His latest sketch was for a small, 22 foot long harbor tug, well under the 26 foot length limit that requires a Masters License for operation as a true tug. Accommodations would be Spartan and befitting the size of the boat with mostly day use as a small push-boat and barge hauler. I was instantly captivated by the type and his sketch immediately sent me to my drawing board where in just few hours the “Godzilla” concept was given life. Off to the post office to send the drawings back to John and in a couple of days and a few phone calls later, a deposit check was in hand, lumber ordered up and a clear shop waiting for another boat start.
A few months later, the little “Godzilla” was launched and she is a real “cutie” in all the sense of the word. I can’t tell you how much fun this little tug has been to build with her small but perky pilothouse and fantail stern. I felt like a little boy building my dream boat just waiting for her days out in the sun poking around the shallow waters in our inlet. The finish was purposely intended to be simple and work-boat-like with no shiny fancy paints but just good old paintbrush-type ones that you apply by hand and take joy in her annual maintenance, The beauty of this type of finish and work-boat character is that with just a few hours of care each year, the boat looks and feels new with the added bonus of the sweet, faint smell of fresh drying paint for a couple of months whenever the sun comes out.
For her engine the “Godzilla” has a used, but rebuilt, Sabb (not related to the car and aircraft manufacturer Saab) diesel engine, a big, single cylinder beast with a large heavy flywheel that makes a reassuring chunk-chunk-chunk noise when she is running. These little engines are made in Norway and find themselves into the most interesting boats, almost all of them as eccentric as the engines themselves. They don’t use a normal reduction gear with forward and reverse shifting but instead, have a feathering propeller that, with a lever, moves the blades of the propeller back and forth and with rotation all the same direction, gives you forward, reverse or stationary all without a clutch shifting. Getting used to this kind of an engine and drive takes a couple of hours but in time becomes second nature with its capability of going from forward to standstill to reverse all without changing the rpm and all uncannily calm and smooth. The boat needs to be literally built around such an engine and much of the installation is unlike your normal Yanmar or other such small diesel. With the Sabb engine, she runs out at a top speed of almost 6 knots with a flat and very unnoticeable wake (this is a good type of boat for running around marinas or places that have a restricted wake zone). Top rpm on the Sabb is 1800 rpm and she seems happy at almost any revs including the 300 rpm idle.
There’s lots of deck space on the “Godzilla” with twin port and starboard opening doors on the pilothouse and a short, 6 inch step down into the house. The deck is walk-around, self bailing and deeply bulwarked. There is a small trunk cabin forward with a berth flat long enough for most at 6 foot 6 inch length and with a small air mattress, you could take a nap or the off-watch crew could sleep on a long tow. We fitted the cabin with a small butane cooker, teapot, pan for heating soup, and a plastic cooler to hold drinks and the groceries. That’s about as small, compact and useful a galley as you can get but it works extremely well. There is excellent visibility through the nine windows in the pilothouse, all of simple, laminated glass construction and when it gets too hot, you can open one or both of the pilothouse doors for some air. A large bench seat, the full width of the pilothouse, can seat up to 3 adults and the best helm seat is a bar-stool. John came up with a neat sounding chime horn that runs with compressed air. With polished copper air lines and a brass ball valve for the control, it can toot with the best of them.
There are tow bits forward and aft, substantial things of heavy wood construction with grown knees for reinforcement at the decks, a mast with the required 3 white towing lights shown and that about sums it up except for the excellent fenders that Barbara Merry made for us. A bow puddin forward for pushing and six fenders at the sides for coming up against a barge, dock, or boat. The fenders are aircraft tires with a puddin of baggywrinkle for chafe resistance. All and all, she looks very workmanlike as she sits at the dock waiting to start her day’s worth of work. John just sent me a sketch of a twenty foot barge that his small John Deere tractor can fit on and with a small deposit check, it looks to be the next project. As for me, I am content with thinking about building my own “Godzilla” and can just imagine idling away a warm summer day. Taking a break from the grind by letting her just drift on the tide with the engine shut down listening to the small noises it makes as it cools down. A cup of good strong tea and if it’s a special day, perhaps a good cigar saved for just this type of moment. Ahh….life can’t get any better than this, unless I add a bit of rum to the tea! — Sam DevlinShare This: