An early Spring campaign created for outdoor retailer Filson.
As one of the oldest trades on Earth, the maritime industry is a lasting symbol of man’s–
STRENGTH, INGENUITY, and SPIRIT.
Where water meets steel, the sea constantly tests the limits of the tools we create to navigate and withstand its challenging environment.
FAILURE IS NOT FORGIVEN.
This is the second stage of a two part maritime campaign.
Year round, every Wednesday and Friday, Western Towboat Co. dispatches a Titan Class Tug on an eleven day sailing between Seattle and Southeast Alaska. The towed barge delivers cargo to ports too difficult to access by traditional freight ships. This barge, SITKA PROVIDER, carries a relatively light load with nearly nine million pounds of cargo, ranging from produce and hard goods, to machinery and mining equipment.
Western Towboat Co.’s distinct blue, yellow, and white colored tugs at the company’s shipyard in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle. Ship names such as WESTERN MARINER, HORNET, and ARCTIC TITAN keep with the founder’s (possibly superstitious) belief that boats shouldn’t be named after people.
Since its founding, Western Towboat Co. has designed and built their own boats at their shipyard in Seattle. Part owner, Russell Shrewsbury shows his pride on his wrists: WTB 1948.
The barge is at its fullest when it leaves Seattle on its northbound sailing. Roughly the size of a football field, cargo can be stacked six containers high.
The tugs operate with two Z-DRIVE engines that allow the propellers to spin a full 360 degrees. Because the tug can operate at nearly full speed in any direction, the crew is able to maneuver the barge in ports without the assistance of additional tug boats.
Deckhand Jim sprays a section of the tow cable bright yellow. As the tug navigates different waters and conditions, the tow cable will be loosened or tightened change the distance between the tug and the barge. The yellow section will offer an easy to identify neutral point.
Engineer Joe performs his daily duties in the engine room. A lot of care is given to maintain a clean environment, with near immaculate paint and chrome. According to Captain Neil, “Its amazing what you will catch when you have a clean engine room. Small leaks or stains show up really well when everything around it is well kept”.
During the three day transit north to Southeast Alaska, the crew makes a daily inspection of the cargo on the barge.
The barge inspection operation is performed while underway. The tug slows and moves aside, allowing the barge to pass. The Z-DRIVE engines allow the tug to approach the side of the barge and transfer crew.
2nd Mate Mike shuffles the cards, getting one more game in before his watch. The cribbage board never leaves the mess table, and the loser’s debts (displayed on a nearby whiteboard) are never forgiven.
The crew of OCEAN TITAN brings aboard several freight container lifts to load and unload cargo in the ports. These lifts will stay on the barge for the remainder of the sailing, and will be dropped off in Ketchikan on the Southbound return.
The barge, SITKA PROVIDER, is brought in close to the tug as it transits the infamous Wrangell Narrows, toward Petersburg. Navigation markers feel, at times, close enough to grab as the captain skillfully pilots OCEAN TITAN through the winding, 22 mile waterway between Kupreanof Island and Baranof Island. Large cruise ships are unable to enter the narrows due to the incredible risks posed by the unforgiving waters, which sometimes see a tidal difference of up to 25 feet in a day.
2nd Mate Mike observes the crew performing duties in inclement weather. The cold Alaskan waters pose a fatal risk to anyone swept overboard.
Rough seas encountered in Lynn Canal. 80 mph winds and 12 foot seas reduce the tug’s speed from 10kn to less than 2kn.
The crew operates on a rotating schedule, allowing the tug to operate 24 hours a day. 2nd Mate Mike pilots the tug on the 11-4 watch, twice a day.
Port operations begin as soon as the tug arrives, regardless of time of day or weather. 2:00 AM in Juneau.
VIDEO: Freeride Entertainment
PHOTO: Scott Serfas
UNDERWATER: Ian Seabrook
MY CONTRIBUTION: Concept, producer, location art director, video art director, writer, photo