Mystic Seaport Museum of America and the Sea


The image of the tugboat as a happy little sea-faring ship with coal-smoke bellowing out of its chimney most likely originates with some of the children’s books that have been published. Tugboat Annie was the subject of a series of Saturday Evening Post magazine stories featuring the character of a female captain of the tugboat Narcissus. Little Toot (1939) is a children’s story that tells the tale of an anthropomorphic tugboat child, who wants to help tow ships in a harbor near Hoboken. He’s rejected by the tugboat community and dejectedly drifts out to sea, where he accidentally discovers a shipwrecked liner and a chance to prove his worth. The children’s book Scuffy the Tugboat, first published in 1946 as part of the Little Golden Books series, follows the adventures of a young toy tugboat who seeks a life beyond the confines of a tub inside his owner’s toy store.

In spite of these images, the tugboat is actually a key component of every cargo port in the country. Historically, they were the first seagoing vessels to operate by steam propulsion, representing freedom from the restraint of the wind, and the capability of going in any direction.  Today’s tugboat operates with a diesel engine, and is strongly built and powerful for its size. Since a tugboat is able to navigate with ease and can maneuver other vessels by pushing or towing them, they are used to assist large ships docking or leaving a harbor. Many are used as icebreakers or salvage boats, and many carry firefighting equipment allowing them to assist in firefighting instances in harbors.

You can enjoy learning more on the subject by taking little more than a one-hour drive north on I-95 along the shoreline from our Hamden rental apartments at Seramonte to the Mystic Seaport Museum. There you can see “Tugs,” an exhibit highlighting the story of the American tugboat.  For further information on this and other events and collections representing the American maritime experience, programs and camps offered at Mystic Seaport, contact You can be assured that a day trip on any upcoming spring weekend will be a great source of education and inspiration for you, your family and friends.

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