Tugs and barges first began to appear on the East Coast during the late-nineteenth century. This was the time when steam ships and the developing railroads began displacing the slower and less reliable sailing vessels in the coastal trades.
Rather than scrapping all of these sailing ships, folks took advantage of their sound hulls and the new steam technology by converting the steam ships into barges and towing them behind steam tugs. (However, by 1950, tug-barges became practically extinct on the East Coast.) (Marcus)
Not so in the Islands …
The Youngs went to Hawaiʻi from San Diego. Good seafaring men of Maine stock, whose parents went to California in Forty-nine, they followed a natural inclination, and the application of Yankee methods soon built up a business which has grown to be one of the most important in the Islands. (Rogers)
In 1929, the tug Mikimiki ((‘to be quick, to be on time’) designed by Leigh H Coolidge and built by the Seattle-based Ballard Marine Railway Co) was launched.
The original wood-constructed Mikimiki was powered by twin Fairbanks-Morse diesels developing a total of 1,200 horsepower. At the time of completion, this power made her the most powerful tug in the US.
She made the voyage to Hawaiʻi from the West Coast, towing a 140-foot steel barge, in eleven days, sixteen hours and ten minutes. This worked out to an average speed of 8.5 knots, bettering the record of the earlier Seattle-built Mahoe by almost three days.
The Mikimiki spent her entire career working in the Hawaiian Islands, with an occasional tow to the West Coast included. (YB-100)
The design of the Mikimiki tugboat, although devised for commercial use, had a major influence on World War II tugboats and the post-war towing industry, particularly in the Pacific Northwest. (Port of Anacortes)
The excellent performance of the original Mikimiki led to the adoption of her basic design for a large fleet of tugs produced for the US Army Transport Service in West Coast shipyards for World War II service. (YB-100)
At the beginning of 1942, more ships were needed for the war effort. Folks recognized the Mikimiki design “could be used as it was a proven, reliable tug that has already been drawn and lofted, and was available with only slight design changes”.
Miki-class tugs were built for the US Army during World War II to haul supplies and rescue stalled ships. They were designed to move barges with supplies and equipment as efficiently as possible. But that they ‘did more than they were built for’’ a Miki-class tug landed men on the beach in Normandy during World War II. (Benthien; Port of Anacortes)
These tugs were classed as LTs (large tug) with an overall design length of 126 feet and a beam of 28 feet. They were heavily constructed with 15-inch square fir keels.
Bulwarks were solid with iron bark rail. Although they were constructed of wood, the tugs were at least ‘one-third iron.’ Although the tugs were built “heavy” meaning that they were of solid construction, they retained their graceful lines and they were fast. (Jones; Port of Anacortes)
The Army contract for construction of the vessels was written so that the shipyards could use local wood for building the tugs. Those Miki-class tugs built on the West Coast were constructed from fir, oak and cedar, while those on the East Coast were composed of oak for the structure with white pine. Inside sheathing was ¾- inch waterproof plywood. (Port of Anacortes)
Of the 61 Mikis built for the Army, most of the tugs were built on the West Coast; however, 10 tugs were built on the East Coast, 38 were built at various yards in Washington State.
Actually, there were Mikis, which had a single main engine, and the Mikimikis, which had two main engines. Each tug had about 1,500 total horsepower. (Towingline)
After World War II the Miki class tugs worked in the commercial tug and barge industry, and filled the gap and became the backbone of the towing industry after they were surplused by the US Army.
They also played a major role in the commerce that aided the development of the Territory of Alaska, and bolstered the tug and barge trade between the West Coast and Hawaii.
They were instrumental in the expansion of several Pacific Northwest tug and barge companies. No class of tugs contributed more to the success in the postwar era than the Miki-class tugs built for US Army service. And it all started in Hawaiʻi, with Young Brothers. (Jack Young, the youngest brother of the Young Brothers, is my grandfather.)
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