Classic Lake Erie tug a colorful sum of its parts

Lef Dover 1

It is impossible not to notice the handsome cherry-red fish tugs of Mike Scruton’s fleet lining the bank of Lynn River at Port Dover, Ontario, on Lake Erie’s north shore, especially the 45-foot Lef-Dover.

In the late 1800s, Lake Erie fishermen — then fishing from Mackinaw sailboats — began switching to steam-powered tugboats. Steel began replacing wood for fish tug construction in the 1930s. The steel on Lef-Dover is the only indication of the tug’s earliest approximate birth date.

Originally 30 feet long, Lef-Dover, first owner unknown, began life as Donald T., built in Tilbury, Ontario, by Goodreau Steel Boats. The second owner, Maurice Tiedman of Grand Bend, Ontario, worked the boat from 1975 to 1984. A few owners later, the tug ended up at Harry Gamble’s scrapyard in Port Dover. Scruton’s father, Murray Scruton, bought the boat for $300 and gave it to Mike as an eighth-grade graduation present, a gesture that led to a lifetime of work.

Mike founded Mike Scruton Marine 23 years ago. “I started with a pickup truck,” he said. “Not very much. Then I got a welder and started piecing the boat together. One year we did the stern, the next the bow, then the midsection and the engine. My father said I should call it the Left Over.” Hence the name of a boat made up of parts left over from other boats.

“It’s tough,” Scruton said. “You’re working the boat, at first with no money. You just do it when you have the time.” He fabricated a new pilothouse at his shop and rebuilt Lef-Dover at John Van Halteran Jr.’s marina in Port Dover. The tug, ice strengthened with thicker framing and bow plate, is powered by a 365-horsepower 12-71 Detroit Diesel engine. “She really kicks up, does 13.5 knots,” Scruton said.

Lef-Dover, shown cruising along the waterfront at Port Dover, is powered by a 12-71 Detroit Diesel that delivers 365 horsepower.

Today, Scruton’s fleet consists of Lef-Dover, Silt Prince and Silt Master. Silt Prince is a 46-foot fish tug built in 1947 by Russel Brothers of Owen Sound, Ontario. Scruton rebuilt the boat and installed a 12-71 Detroit Diesel. Silt Master, a 62-foot fish tug built many years ago as Irene Lloyd, was acquired by Scruton in 2010.

Prop-wash dredging is the mainstay of Scruton’s operation: Lef-Dover and Silt Prince can dredge to a depth of 10 feet, Silt Master to 17 feet. The tugs are also employed in marine construction, salvage and icebreaking.

Depending on the required depth, all three tugs can line up, drop the spuds and conduct dredging operations. “We get all three vessels working in unison, churning the silt and keeping it in suspension within the current created by the propellers,” Scruton said.

Scruton also owns Scruton Marine Services, a boat brokerage operated by his sister, M.J. Marshall, and conducts marine surveys as well. His avocation is marine and mechanical consulting. “I do most of that for free because I enjoy it,” he said. Another of his community projects is organizing an annual tugboat pull in late June.

“For me, the most satisfying work is salvage recovery,” he said. “You have to pull all of your resources, your equipment and expertise together to have success. It’s a challenge, but very gratifying.”


Lef-Dover passes Silt Master, formerly named Silt King, a 62-foot fish tug that is Mike Scruton Marine’s most productive vessel for prop-wash dredging. All three boats in the Scruton fleet are active in dredge work.


Silt Prince and Lef-Dover moor on the Lynn River. The mouth of the waterway forms the harbor at Port Dover, Ontario.


A Mike Scruton Marine crane barge awaits its next job with Lef-Dover. The company augments its dredging operations with salvage work, light towing, icebreaking and marine construction.



By Professional Mariner Staff