Louisiana towboats’ heritage stems from family relations, old gearbox


LeBeouf Bros. Towing of Bourg, La., named one of its two new 95-foot towboats Karl Senner for the founder of the marine equipment supply company, Karl Senner Inc. The second boat, Dickie Gonsoulin, is named for LeBeouf President Jon Gonsoulin’s father, who acquired full ownership of LeBeouf Bros. in 2005.

The boats represent the second and third deliveries in a five-boat series designed by Frank Basile of Entech & Associates and built at LeBeouf’s captive shipyard, Bourg Dry Dock. The first boat out was Teddy Meyer in 2011, with the remaining two under construction. Most of the company’s 38-boat fleet consists of 72-footers, primarily pushing two barge tows on the lower Mississippi and Gulf Intracoastal Waterway.

Capt. Rodney Robichaux at the bridge controls.

“We’re building a few boats with more horsepower and length to give the crew more room for comfort,” said Bobby Barthel, vice president of Bourg Dry Dock. “And we needed a little more hull to get the 2,500 to 2,600 hp for the longer hauls on the upper river (Mississippi).”

Mark Bourgeois, LeBeouf’s vice president, explained that the increased horsepower will allow the longer boats to make up tows of three 297-foot, 30,000-bbl tank barges. He added that the new series is replete with alarm and safety features that exceed current regulations. “And with 38 boats in the fleet, we’re able to use these longer boats to accommodate larger crews with three wheelmen and trainees,” said Bourgeois. “We have an active training program so we need extra bunks for the training crew.”

The first Reintjes gearbox sold in the United States sits on display alongside Karl Senner.

Deck hand Kyndal LeBouef with a Mitsubishi main engine and new Reintjes gearbox.


The features that address crew comfort include Vulcan isolation mounts under the two 1,260-hp Mitsubishi mains on Karl Senner and two 99-kW John Deere generators. (Dickie Gonsoulin has Caterpillar mains and Cummins generators.) All of the exhaust piping joins are isolated by Soundown rubber mounts. There is also a double rubber coupling between the main engines and the Reintjes 660, 6:1 gears to further dampen engine vibration noise.

LeBouef communicates with the captain from a 297-foot tank barge on the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway.

“It is definitely quiet,” said Rodney Robichaux, captain on Karl Senner. “You can hardly hear the engines from the bridge or the staterooms. And they are very spacious.” But most of the accolades are directed at the lounge, dubbed the “Saints Room,” fitted out with two big couches and a big flat-screen TV, ideal for watching New Orleans Saints games.

The Gonsoulin and Senner family relationship goes back a long way. In 1967 Karl Senner sold the first Reintjes gearbox in the U.S. to LeBeouf Bros. It was installed in Mary R. The company decommissioned the vessel in the 1980s and gave the gear back to Senner as a memento. Since then it has been displayed at the International WorkBoat Show in New Orleans and the Reintjes factory in Germany. The gear was shipped back to Houma from Germany for the christening of Karl Senner and Dickie Gonsoulin in mid-September.

The layout of the wheelhouse systems and the captain’s view of the waterway.

The Karl Senner crew, from left, pilot Oris Marie, training mate James Gaudet, LeBouef and Robichaux.

Karl Senner’s galley and mess.


By Professional Mariner Staff