Sunday afternoon tug boat races capped the 39th annual Olympia Harbor Days, an event that features tugs and vendors along the waterfront at Percival Landing in Olympia and ends with a nearly two-mile dash up and down Budd Inlet.
Thirteen tugs entered this year’s race, and were separated into three classes. Before the race began, all 13 captains gathered on the stern of a tug called the Galene on Sunday morning to get an overview of the race and to share in some good-natured ribbing.
The Galene is a 127-foot Miki-class tug built during World War II. It offered tours to the public during the weekend-long event and also entered the race in the unlimited class intended for large tugs.
Maritime historian Chuck Fowler and Harbor master Bob Peck explained the details of the race, including one change this year: letting the large tugs race before the smaller tugs.
That’s when the jokes started to fly.
One captain said that if you let the large tugs race first, then Budd Inlet will be “too rough for the rest of us.” That led another captain to say, as he gestured toward East Bay and the Port of Olympia’s Swantown Marina, “The kiddie section (of the race) is over at Swantown.” After the race explanation, Jim Bennett, captain of the Thea Belle, approached Peck and wondered if the winners could receive a “$2 million purse so I can fix up my tug.”
The first-place winners in each heat receive a trophy and a plaque, Fowler said.
But while the captains were joking with each other Sunday morning, a special guest had taken his place on Galene’s stern, seated and ready for the race.
It was Ole Lindseth, 85, of Lacey, who served on a Miki-class tug during World War II.
Lindseth, at 17, spent seven months in the South Pacific, working as a deckhand or second mate on a tug that traveled as far south as New Guinea and then north to Leyte in the Philippines, either towing barges or crippled ships, he said.
The Army and the Navy had been in need of tugs for the war effort so shipyards built 67 Miki-class tugs, Lindseth said.
Technically, Lindseth was a civilian aboard the tug, but when he got to New Guinea he was urged to register for the draft to avoid any problems with the federal government. He wound up doing one hitch in the Army, he said.
tug race winners
Tug boat race results for Olympia Harbor Days include:
Heat 1: Large tug class
2. Holly Ann
3. R.W. Confer
Heat 2: Harbor tug class
Heat 3: Small tug class
1. Maggie B
2. Cedar King
3. Sand Man
5. Thea Belle