With powerful engines and winch, shallow-draft tug handles variety of jobs


The 75-foot tug Sea Cypress has been busy since it was delivered from Rodriguez Shipbuilding of Bayou La Batre, Ala., to Garber Bros. Inc. in March. The vessel’s first assignment was tending dredging operations in Tampa, Fla., and on the Mississippi River. 

In late July, Sea Cypress was between jobs and moored at Garber’s fleet in Berwick, La., on the Atchafalaya River across from Morgan City, within sight of the old Highway 182 bridge.
“So far I’ve been towing deck barges, derrick barges and working with dredges, hauling their equipment and moving them around from one location to another,” said Capt. Harold Plaisance.

A captain’s view of the main pilothouse console aboard the Garber Bros. boat. 

The tug’s shallow draft of eight to 10 feet, depending on the load, is an attribute of triple-screw propulsion, making Sea Cypress a natural for dredge work. The model bow tug is also well equipped for pushing and towing.
For pushing barges in a model bow makeup, the crew rig two 95-foot, 1-inch-diameter face wires from the bow running aft, around the port and starboard quarter bitts, through two stern deck rollers fastened on the stern centerline, and then back up to the SMATCO 55 double drum towing winch. For towing, the muscular SMATCO towing winch on the stern, wound with 1,500 feet of wire, has a line pull of 125,000 pounds. “It’s a powerful winch,” said Plaisance.
The propulsion on Sea Cypress is three electronic, Tier 3, 660-hp Cummins QSK 19M mains with Twin Disc 522200TW gears at a reduction ratio of 6.10:1. The tug is similar in most respects to Sea Oak, constructed at the Rodriguez yard in 2007, except that Sea Cypress is fitted with the electronic version of the Cummins engine installed in the older boat.

Capt. Harold Plaisance controls Sea Cypress on the Atchafalaya River near the boat’s Morgan City homeport.

“The best thing about this boat is the electric controls,” said Plaisance. “You can synchronize them when you want to operate one throttle for all three engines. The boat also has quick steering.”

Another deviation from Sea Oak is the addition of an aluminum elevated pilothouse that affords the helmsman on Sea Cypress a 39-foot height of eye. Garber Bros. has a fleet of 11 tugs, ranging from pusher tugs of 900 hp to the 2,400-hp Sea Oak. The company has a fleet of five shell barges and seven bulk tank barges. Garber Bros. recently took delivery of the Cummins-powered 1,320-hp Sea Otter, a lugger-style pusher tug, also constructed at Rodriguez Shipbuilding.


The boat’s SMATCO waterfall towing winch boasts a line pull of 125,000 pounds.


Serving aboard Sea Cypress are, from left, deck hands Alex Landry and Bruce Campbell, Relief Capt. Leroy Verrett and Plaisance.


Campbell and Landry wear ear protection while on watch in
the engine room. 


One of the tugboat’s three 660-hp Cummins QSK 19M marine
engines, which meet Tier 3 standards.


By Professional Mariner Staff