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The Harbor Report: Meet the tugboat skipper

This week I talked to Peter Paget, captain of the Terri L. Brusco. And, no pun intended, he gave me a boatload of information.

The Terri L. Brusco is the tugboat you see in Newport Harbor, moving the barges from Newport to the Port of Long Beach and back. Capt. Paget has just completed a month of work and now must take a month off.

He started his career some 30 years ago in Alaska, and has kept his hand on the helm ever since.

“As a kid I sailed in Portland, Ore., and became fascinated with the tugs,” Paget said. “The only way I could find work was to move to Alaska and work seven days a week for six months. After a couple of seasons, I had the experience to look for other jobs.”


The purpose of this story is to give the Newport Harbor users a better idea on what the tug captains have to deal with and a better understanding of how to give the tugboats enough room. I am going to assume that my readers are not the harbor users who take their electric boats alongside the barges, while they are moving, or the paddleboarders who paddle through the tugs’ wash.

Let’s review some of the information that Paget reviewed with me. While the barge is being pushed, the tug and barge become one, and the barge is maneuvered “basically like a large vessel,” the captain told me.

“When we are maneuvering at the five-point mooring, the turning basin, things can be a little tricky,” he said. “When the barge is empty and if the wind is up past 10 knots, along with an outgoing tide, we have to approach our mooring at a 90-degree angle and make adjustments for whatever else confronts us.”

I then asked him: What are some sound signals we should listen for?


“Five short blasts, danger, danger. We try not to use sound signals in Newport Harbor. I don’t think the residents would want to hear every sound signal at 3 a.m. every day … " the captain said.

He also informed me that if you are in the harbor at night and you notice two white lights on the forward mast of the tug and a red and green light coming toward you, that’s your first indication that the tug is pushing the barge toward you.

If you want to contact the tug you can hail it on VHF Channel 16 or Channel 13.

“If there was one thing I would like your readers to remember, VHF Channel 13 is it,” Paget said.

Most of the commercial shipping information is passed along this channel, and you should also note down Channel 14 for Vessel Traffic Service San Pedro (VTS) and Channel 74 for the Long Beach Pilot.

Also, keep in mind that while at sea the barge is traveling about 6 knots and is roughly 900 feet behind the tug, and in rough weather it can be double that. The tug will not be towing in heavy fog or big seas with waves over 8 feet.

“If the cargo starts sloshing around because of high seas and winds, we will not be able to complete our run,” Paget said.

After talking to him, I felt like I was talking to a longtime friend at the yacht club. He is a sailor at heart and loves being on the ocean. As a seat-of-the-pants sailor myself, I felt lucky that we have Capt. Peter Paget at the helm.


This weekend, apart from the Wooden Boat Festival at the American Legion, we will have the last race of the Newport High-Point Series with the Argosy Race to Catalina, and the Roy Woolsey Lido 14 and Laser race at Lido Isle. For more information, about what’s going on this weekend, go to my blog at

Sea ya!

LEN BOSE is an experienced boater, yacht broker and boating columnist.