The Wheel House

Deck Department Resources


Anyone working on deck of a tugboat should be able to go to the wheelhouse and get some advice on how to make a knot or make the paint stick a little better.  If you work in the wheelhouse of a tugboat you may have a bit of advice to make that job easier.  If you can't get that kind of help in your own wheelhouse, you may be able to find it here.  If you think you can pass on some advice or some tips for the deck department, drop us an e-mail.   We'll post it for all to see.

Submit your ideas and sites here.

We're looking for ideas in the categories of:

Deck Seamanship Marlinespike Seamanship

Make a variety of common knots using these diagrams.

Painting & Preservation

Clean any paint brush like new.


Tugboats and pleasure boats have to play nice together.

Pleasure boater voices his disgust with tugboats.

Tugboat captain returns fire at the pleasure boater.

Boat Handling

Knife and tool holster by Nite-ize.

Here's the best knife holster you'll ever use.  Not only will it accommodate a full size Buck knife or Leatherman tool, but you can also carry a Mini Mag-Lite and a tiny crescent wrench as well.  This is very handy for the deck hand who has to tinker with machines while on watch.  This holster is virtually indestructible and can be machine washed over and over.  We're trying to find a link where you can buy one of these.


The deck department of a tugboat is a small group of a few ratings. In it, you will usually find a Captain, his Mate or mates, and the deck hands.

The Captain is the sole individual responsible for the safety of the crew, the tug, and her tow. To fulfill this responsibility, he has the final say in all matter aboard the tug and all decisions rest on him. He is solely accountable for the result of those decisions.

The Captain has a Mate, sometimes two, and in rare cases he may have three mates as on the bridge of ships. The mates are next in line from the captain and exercise his authority while he is away from the vessel or resting. They may have to work on deck alongside of the deckhands depending on the size of the crew.

The deckhands are the crewmembers who do the day-to-day chores and the work necessary to make the tow. They can be rated ordinary seaman but most crews have able seamen in the mix.

Here is an article about a tug captain.  It also gives insight into the other postions aboard a tugboat and show how a tow is handled.  Read it here.



Aids to Preservation are not an End to Preservation

          Painting and deck preservation aboard tugboats is has been a never ending process and is evolving as the coatings technology changes.  Labor saving metal treatments and paints that are being developed are supposed to save the deckhand a little time and make his paint job last longer.  Managers may be using these products as short cuts rather than time savers and in the end, the rust still comes through the new paint as fast as it ever did before- maybe faster.  Manufacturers created these products to make the labor more efficient.  They didn't intend to end all the work of the crew.
          At first, the deckhand used the standard procedure for steel preparation and painting.  That was to chip the rust off down to hard steel, then wire brush the loose surface rust and loose paint off.  When the surface was smooth and shiny, two coats of primer and two coats of topcoat were applied.  Sometimes a coat of phosphoric acid was applied to the open steel before any coatings were applied.  That would treat the rust and convert it to an inert substance.  This process took a little time but if all of the steps were completed properly, this paint job would last about a year.  Mangers complained about the time, and rushed crews to finish often moving too fast to do a good job.
          Then, there came along steel treatments that contained the conversion acids suspended in a water-soluble base.  The deckhand would chip the steel of any loose rust.  The loose and chipping paint would have to be knocked off but any tight rust or paint could be left on the steel.  A good coat of the steel treatment was applied and the acids converted the rust to an inert ingredient while the water-soluble base dried to a clear protective coating.  This saved a deckhand quite a bit of time because now he didn’t have to spend as much time running the electric wire wheel over the job as in the past.  Managers are using this to treat and cover huge amounts of rust and the product can’t convert all of it efficiently.  The job turns into nothing more than just painting over disguised rust.
          Now there are epoxy coatings that claim to completely seal in the rust.  The deckhand now only has to brush off the loosest rust and apply the sealer.  The sealer is so dense that it will prevent the oxidation process from continuing, Topcoats can be applied to this sealer without the need to prime and the rust will lie dormant under the shiny new paint until the seal is broken.  This method is saving time because now the deckhand only has to scrape the rusty area with a minimum of power tool use.  With only two or three coat of paint over so much rust, the job doesn’t last as long as it should.
          The fundamentals of deck preservation will always remain the same:  1.  Remove the rust and failing paint.  2.  Clean and prime the bare metal. 3.  Apply liberal coats of finish paint. If these new products save time and labor on one phase of this process, more time and labor should be used in another phase to get an extra step ahead of the corrosion. To think that the crew can now completely skip a crucial step in surface preparation without compensating for that step elsewhere is just taking quality time away from a well-done paint job, no matter what product is used.