Most of us at one time or another have enjoyed a boat cruise on a river, lake, or the ocean, but until you experience a unique cruise of Portsmouth Harbor aboard "Tug Alley Too," you haven't lived that dream come true. In Rita Pelland's case, she had the singular pleasure of being the honorary tugboat captain for a brief moment in time as she steered Tug Alley Too up Portsmouth Harbor towards the open ocean.
Tugboats are usually seen, and imagined, in the harbors and smaller waters of the world, docking and undocking ships. They are more commonly known as harbor boats. Picture in your mind, the tug captain moving alongside the ship. The tug crew sends up a large line that the ship's crew makes fast to the ship. Then the tug's crew attaches that line to the tug. Once everything is in place, the docking pilot, who is aboard the ship directing the operation, calls out orders over the radio and the tug maneuvers as necessary to assist the vessel into or out of her berth. And so goes a typical day for the tugboat and her crew. They are seasoned professional men and women who love their jobs and take great pride in what they do.
Allow me to backtrack and give you some history of Tug Alley Too. Built in 1966 for a lobster pond in Maine, the "Seasmoke" began its working life delivering live lobsters to several islands off the coast of Maine. Hartley Marine Services bought the Seasmoke at an auction in 1997 and renamed it "Matinicus" after one of the Maine islands. It was subsequently leased to a construction company and used to tow a barge, 120 feet by 40 feet, with an operating crane. The tug Matinicus towed its barge from Portland to Boothbay, Maine. It was used in and around the Boston area towing construction barges and participated in rescue operations at Bath Iron Works.
Fast forward — Bob and Natalie Hassold purchased Matinicus in November of 2001 and officially renamed it Tug Alley Too. Ever since that time, literally hundreds of visitors/tourists/locals have enjoyed a life changing experience aboard Tug Alley Too, seeing a working waterfront from an entirely new perspective from the deck of a tugboat, piloted by Captain Bob and his first mate Natalie.
I asked Bob a series of questions and here are his responses.
Q: Is there a book in store for you on the life of tugboating?
We have a book in process and hope to have it completed by the end of this year.
Q: Are you actively involved with the Portsmouth Chamber of Commerce, and have they been a big part of your success and name recognition?
Absolutely, the chamber has been huge for us, and we play an active role in many of their activities.
Q: I understand that this year you will be offering a new and exciting promotion called 'Picnicking on Tug Alley Too.' Can you elaborate a little more on this?
Yes, we will be offering a two-hour picnic venue on board Tug Alley Too, moored off the pier, able to accommodate up to 10 people. They can bring their own food and beverage and enjoy the beautiful sunset as they celebrate their special occasion. We believe that this will be well received by the general public.
Q: Can you give some background on your first mate, Peter Cherico?
Peter has been a longtime Navy man, having served as a merchant marine for 25 years. He served three years on the icebreaker 'Northwind," five years at a search and rescue station in Long Island, and has been a proud and able-bodied seaman during his entire career in maritime service. I welcome him as a valued crew member.
Q: What is there to know about your tugboat collectables store?
We proudly own and manage our very unique and diversified tugboat store. We are open year round and we're located on the waterfront in downtown Portsmouth. For years, Natalie and I have taken photos of tugboats and their captains and kept a "captains log" of our visits. You'll delight in the photos and their stories. We offer a complete selection of tugboat toys and a marvelous selection of tugboat models, books, videos, unique nautical gifts, jewelry, brass clocks, matted photos of tugboats and clothing. We welcome you to our store as we add new tugboat items and information regularly. Come see us often! You will delight in what you see. We guarantee it.
Whether your interest in history, lighthouses, nature or the industrial waterfront, Portsmouth Harbor and the Piscataqua River offer it all. Looking for an intimate, relaxing cruise on the river, celebrating your wedding or anniversary, Captain Bob is also a justice of the peace, so you can get hitched or renew your vows on board in a festive intimate setting. Whatever floats your boat, Tug Boat Too can do it all. Pack a picnic or let Captain Bob supply it as you embark for a breathtaking daytime or sunset excursion. Tug Boat Too can accommodate up to six people. Your hour and a half cruise begins at Tug Alley Too's dock directly across from the world famous Moran Tugboats. Proceeding under the Memorial Bridge, you'll have a firsthand view of the historic Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, where you just might catch sight of a submarine, the same location where the U.S.S. New Hampshire Nuclear Powered Attack Submarine was commissioned into the United States Naval Fleet as its newest state-of-the-art submarine. Continuing on, you'll see four historic forts, the Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse at the U.S. Coast Guard station and the Whaleback Lighthouse along the route. The quaint villages of Kittery in Maine and New Castle in New Hampshire, along with the world famous Wentworth by the Sea Hotel & Spa and the Wentworth Marina, provide you with firsthand views of the unequalled treasured of the Seacoast.
The Piscataqua River, one of the swiftest and most powerful of the world's rivers, was the scene of historic trade and defense before the United States of America came into being. It has a strong maritime past and continues to support 21st century commerce, defense, exploration, education and recreation. Tug Alley Too has been a working tugboat for almost four decades in the Gulf of Maine portion of the treacherous North Atlantic and now sails the mighty Piscatagua and the Gulf of Maine. To this very day, the working maritime tugboat sailor continues to face the elements and assists ships into and out of port.
For those of you who are interested in what tugboats do, Captain Bob and his first mate/tour guide Peter Cherico will share some fascinating historical and anecdotal facts that will bring to the forefront the workings of a tugboat and her captain. However, your primary mission is to totally relax and immerse yourself in the wonderment of exploring the river aboard Tug Boat Too. On average, Captain Bob and Tug Alley Too do 150 to 200 trips between May and October of each year.
Upon returning from his marvelous cruise, another great treat awaits you, the Tugboat Alley retail shop owned and managed by Bob and Natalie, where you can purchase that perfect gift as a remembrance of a day to cherish. You'll find them at 47 Bow Street, Portsmouth, N.H., 03801. They are just a few steps away from the Moran tugboats.
To book your cruise or for detailed information, call Tug Alley Too at 603-430-9556 or go to their website at www.tugboatalley.com. Bob and Natalie Hassold, our hosts for the day, will be delighted to answer all of your questions.