They Don’t Make ’em Like This Anymore


Red Griffin 
       While waiting in Mobile for a break in the weather, this fine old boat caught my eye.


Christened as the Gilda Sheridan when it was built in 1947, it was the flagship of the Sheridan Fleet. Back then, boats were constructed with some style. I guess one reason was that steel was cheaper. Thus, not only was there no reason not to put some character into the design of the boat, but the steel used was of a thicker gauge. Thicker steel lasts longer, so some of these classy old boats are still around, whereas boats I that worked on that were made later, in the sixties and seventies, on the cheap, have already been consigned to the scrapyard.

Quite roomy inside, they even have a cook on the crew, nowadays a very rare thing on towboats that push less than 20-30 barges. There are guest rooms for visiting bosses, and a lounge for the crew when they are off duty. Much longer than our boat (135′ vs. 56′), and also 10 foot wider, notice the lower height in comparison to the boat behind it. Many boats that work the Upper Mississippi and the Ohio have to contend with low elevation of fixed bridges on the tributaries and canals that connect to those rivers.

The Red Griffin has a contract to push two asphalt barges, each 350′ x 54′. That is the equivalent of six or seven of the barges that we push. And they have 2400 horses vs. our 1200hp with which to shove. The main difference between their work and ours is that they almost always push the same two barges. Our work is called tramping, and we pick and drop off various barges along our route, according to whatever work the bosses can come up with for us.

    Cooper Fleet, in Mobile , Alabama. I have never seen the fleet this full of barges, 
        around 200 loads and empties, and I have been coming here for 20 years.


2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by James McPherson on February 7, 2013 at 4:15 am

    I’m probably cluelessly romanticizing it from afar, but it looks like a cool job that you have.


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