Tug signalling - Ships Nostalgia
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Tug signalling

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  #1  
Old 11th July 2012, 07:33
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LEEJ LEEJ is offline  
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Tug signalling

Could any of the older pilots explain the methods and signalling when a ship had multiple tugs when manouvering before the day of VHF?

Cheers,
LeeJ
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  #2  
Old 11th July 2012, 08:16
Barrie Youde Barrie Youde is offline  
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Hi, Lee,

There were variations from one Port to another.

The Liverpool system was by ship's whistle to the stern tugs and pea-whistle (the good old Acme Thunderer) to the head tugs, as follows):-

1. Long and two short - pull to port.
2. Long and three short - pull to starboard.
3. Two short - pull directly ahead (or directly astern)
4. Long, short, long, short - Hold her where she is.
5. One short - stop.
6. Five or more shorts - let go.

And that was it!- as far as I recall.

There were some private calling-up signals for individual tug companies. Cock Tugs answered to coc-a-doodle-doo (long, short,long,short, long). There were others, too.

Best,

BY
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  #3  
Old 11th July 2012, 10:05
Barrie Youde Barrie Youde is offline  
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Signals to pushing-tugs were simply by hailing, through a megaphone if necessary.



Until some point in the early 1950s, the signal long-and-two-short or long-and-three short related to compass points:-

Long and two shorts meant (I think) pull north and west.

Long and three shorts meant (I think) pull south and east.

These signals were abandoned after general recognition that they were ambiguous (to say the least) and were brought into the standardised form mentioned above, which certainly applied from 1960 onwards, and probably a few years beforehand.

Until my mid-twenties (1969) our family home was within hearing-distance of whistle-signals on the Mersey. Music! At home in the evening I could hear a long and three on a compressed air whistle, look at my watch and see that it was an hour before high water; and understand that there was (probably) a Blue Funnel boat docking at Birkenhead, with the stern tug being ordered to stand up into the flood tide.

A short blast! Stop pulling! And in she slides!

Last edited by Barrie Youde; 11th July 2012 at 10:21..
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  #4  
Old 11th July 2012, 11:50
Barrie Youde Barrie Youde is offline  
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Similarly, five short-and-rapid, followed by a similar response from the tug if heard a little earlier (say, an hour and a half to high water) would be an outward-bounder letting go her stern tug. Next stop Port Said!

'Tain't the same today!
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  #5  
Old 11th July 2012, 16:46
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Many thanks for that Barry. You have resolved a long pondered issue for those on our ship!

Rgds,
LeeJ
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  #6  
Old 11th July 2012, 18:22
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There were other signals used in Liverpool ie: 'Blowing for tugs'.
A ship requiring the attention/assistance of tugs from individual Company tugs would use a series of blasts that that Company used as it's own 'call-sign' eg: Alexandra tugs -- five long blasts (Blow Five), Cock/Liverpool Screw tugs -- 'cock-a-doodle-doo'.... I cannot remember what Rea Towing or Lamey Tugs call-signs were maybe other members will remember and add them in a footnote.

Jim
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  #7  
Old 11th July 2012, 18:40
Barrie Youde Barrie Youde is offline  
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My pleasure, Lee.

Happy days.

Relief time for tug-crews was usually 0900 at the landing stage. At busy times, tugs would be berthed five-off (i.e. five abreast) at the stage. I think I'm right in saying that there were about sixty tug-boats operating in Liverpool in, say, 1965. Possibly more.

ps. I still have my Acme Thunderer. And my Dad's, too!

Last edited by Barrie Youde; 11th July 2012 at 18:42..
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  #8  
Old 11th July 2012, 22:30
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I sometimes listen in on my scanner to pilot/tug communications on the Mersey.
It seems far more laid back than in the old days with the cacaphony of ship's whistles, and Acme Thunderers.
Mostly the pilot sorts out which tug he wants on the bow, and lays out a general plan of action, and then they just get on with it.
By the way Barry,
You could always identify the two-tone horn of a Bluey, a sound I would dearly love to hear once more.
Regards,
Pat
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  #9  
Old 11th July 2012, 23:01
Barrie Youde Barrie Youde is offline  
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Many thanks, Pat.

As I'm completely tone-deaf, it never occurred to me that a Blue Flue whistle might have been two-tone! But it always did sound fairly distinct, even to me.

I wonder what the tug-signals might have been in other ports? I'd love to know.
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  #10  
Old 11th July 2012, 23:53
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Barrie Youde View Post
Many thanks, Pat.

As I'm completely tone-deaf, it never occurred to me that a Blue Flue whistle might have been two-tone! But it always did sound fairly distinct, even to me.

I wonder what the tug-signals might have been in other ports? I'd love to know.
You may recall Barry, that East of Suez, much was accomplished by shouting and gesticulating!
Pat
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  #11  
Old 12th July 2012, 09:28
hughesy hughesy is offline  
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That was a saying in Hull "Hes blowing for tugs" meaning someone was
knackered or all done in?

all the best
hughesy
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Old 12th July 2012, 12:20
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Varley Varley is offline   SN Supporter
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That's what I understood it to mean too.
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  #13  
Old 12th July 2012, 16:20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hughesy View Post
That was a saying in Hull "Hes blowing for tugs" meaning someone was
knackered or all done in?

all the best
hughesy
Like all 'catch phrases' there can always be an explanation of 'truth' somewhere in it's origin... eg: 'Blowing for tugs'... the ship could go no further or was in trouble and required tugs to enable it to continue or get out of the 'danger/trouble' it was in and would blow the whistle to attract tugs to help it on it's way.
Much like myself these days I could certainly use help on the occasion when my breathing gets too difficult and an immediate 'rest stop' is required....puff puff- pant pant.

Jim

Last edited by todd; 12th July 2012 at 16:22..
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  #14  
Old 12th July 2012, 17:05
hughesy hughesy is offline  
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Todd I know the feeling.
Were I live in Portland Oregon, there is no way to get to my place.
without encountering a hill. I try to ride my bike when I am there.
Usually on the ride home, not only am I "blowing for tugs" but
requiring "Air Sea Rescue" as well,but its like banging your head against a brick wall? "Its nice when you stop"

all the best
Hughesy
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  #15  
Old 12th July 2012, 17:38
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Oi! Kyrenia, where are you on this one?
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