Louisiana lugger tug works the shallow-water bays and bayous


Capt. Kenneth Helmer and mate George Clement, the two-man crew on George C, a 68-foot-by-26-foot lugger tug moored at the Venice Marina, north of Head of Passes on the Mississippi River, were making ready to leave on a rig move in March.

The 1,200-hp George C is owned by Stan Cvitanovic of Cvitanovic Towing of Empire, La. It was built at Rodriguez Shipbuilding in Coden, Ala., one end of a loop road of boatyards connecting to Bayou La Batre.

Brothers Stan and Nedo Cvitanovic together own a total of four boats. They expect eventually to pass the lugger fleet down to their four sons.

Rodriguez delivered a similar tug, Ana Maria C, to Stan’s brother, Nedo Cvitanovic, owner of Cvitanovic Boat Service, in February.

The 16-foot draft of George C is ideal for the shallows lining the Gulf Coast. The shallow draft is typical of a lugger type of tugboat that derives its classification from fishing vessels, rigged with lug sails on two or more masts, that work the estuaries and coasts of northern Europe. Lugger tugs, sans masts and sails, are a common sight in south Louisiana, primarily towing or pushing in the wetland bays and bayous.

The Cvitanovics, with their combined fleet of four boats, conduct a wide variety of boat services along the Gulf Coast: towing rigs and pushing deck barges loaded with supplies, to name a few. The superstructure on luggers is set back, providing a generous deck cargo area, amounting to 450 square feet of wood lined space on George C.

“We used to carry supplies to the rigs on the deck, but now we are using barges more and more,” said Stan. However, the ample deck area is still used for moving small cargos. There are two 25-ton Parker deck winches set back against the house for making up a barge tow.

On the stern is a Pullmaster 50-ton towing winch from Pullmaster Winch Corp. of Surrey, British Columbia, with a three-inch soft nylon shock line and typically 300 feet of one-inch wire on the drum.

“The good thing about this winch is when you have the bridles on, you can bring it in without anyone having to be on the aft deck,” said Stan. “It’s all done from the aft control station.”

George C is powered by two Cummins QSK 19-M mains with Twin Disc 6.1:1 ratio reduction gears, turning 64-inch-by-48-inch four-blade propellers. The Cummins package includes two Onan MDDCA 40-kW generators for electrical power.

Stan, like many Croatian emigrants in Louisiana, set to work on the water downriver from New Orleans. Following several years of buying, operating and selling lugger tugs, Stan and Nedo are assembling an impressive fleet of new luggers to pass on to their sons. The succession of the Cvitanovic towing legacy will pass to Stan’s three sons, Andrew, George and Dominik, and to Nedo’s son, George Joseph, within a few years.

Capt. Kenneth Helmer on watch in the wheelhouse.

George C is equipped with a Pullmaster 50-ton towing winch on its stern, plus a pair of 25-ton Parker deck winches for making up a barge tow. The Pullmaster is run from the aft control station.

The captain’s view of the waterway from the wheelhouse, plus his array of navigation electronics.

George C’s mate, George Clement, tosses a line to another lugger tug, Pere C, upon landing.


By Professional Mariner Staff