The energy and determination of Dr. Robert Peck know no bounds.  When we left his story in Volume I of “Tugs at the Capital City” (2018), he had just completed work on his third mini or scale tug, the JANE B.  Here is her story, and that of his fourth mini tug effort, now a-building, the CHAUNY C.


Jane B bow shot. Olympia Harbor Days Photo Collection c Shanna Paxton Photography

JANE B is named for Bob Peck’s daughter-in-law. She is designed along the lines of an early 1900s Great Lakes harbor tug.  This replica is twelve feet long, with a beam of five feet, six inches, and draws eighteen inches. She is powered by a twelve horsepower Volvo engine.

Most of the harbors of the Great Lakes are located at the mouths of rivers. As a result, a distinguishing feature of the Great Lakes tugs is their low pilot house, so they can go under low bridges.  The earliest ones were steam-powered, with a tall smoke stack for “draft.”  The many bridges made a hinged smoke stack necessary so it could be lowered.  These tugs pulled only, and did not push, consequently, they have no fenders on the bow for pushing. They were used in Great Lakes harbors, and up the canals and rivers that flowed into the lakes.

Great Lakes tugs were broad of beam, and their tow bitts were cleats on each side of the pilot house, to reduce the lift of their sterns by their tow ropes when they towed the high-prowed lakes vessels. They needed to be highly maneuverable, and so steered with a short tiller bar inside the wheel house, rather than a wheel. Each had a pronounced sheer, that graceful rising curve of the bulwark from aft to forward, and they had very high prows.

Dr. Peck notes that “they could pull anything that floated, and go anywhere required. This marriage of the beautiful with the utilitarian is seldom better done than with the Great Lakes harbor tugs.”

Olympia Harbor Days Photo Collection


This vessel, now under construction, is named for Bob’s wife, whose given name is “Charlene,” and whose nickname is “Chauny.”  This mini tug is a scale replica of a Danube River towboat.  These craft can be seen all along the Danube, from the headwaters to the Black Sea. Bob mentions that a distinguishing feature of these “sassy” ships is that they include family living quarters. They are individually owned and operated and provide the home for the owner’s family. An intriguing characteristic is children’s toys and family gear piled on the after deck, including bicycles. Hand railings along the sides support canvas covers to keep small children from falling overboard.

Mini Tug Chauny C under construction. Photo Courtesy Bob Peck.

These work boats range from 40 to 75 feet in length and are very broad of beam. The after deck is small, as is the working foredeck.  They carry a few fenders along the sides, but none on the prow. Bob’s scale replica is twelve feet in length, with a five foot, eight inch beam, and draws 20 inches. CHAUNY will be powered by a three-cycle, 27 horsepower Universal Diesel engine.

Without a doubt, Bob’s fascination with boats and boatbuilding far exceeds the label of “hobby.”  It is beyond a craft, it is a calling.

Sources:  Tugboats and the Sea by Robert Peck, 2017.  Interview with Bob Peck, 2018. Tugs at the Capital City by Les Eldridge, 2018.

About Les Eldridge:  Les is president of the South Sound Maritime Heritage Association and author of a number of maritime histories, a series of novels on the American Civil War at sea, and a book of humorous verse. The Tugs at the Capital City, Volume 1, a collection of Tug of the Month stories was published in 2018, with Volume 2 expected to be published this year.  Eldridge lectures frequently ashore and afloat, and narrates the OHD races most years. In 1989, as a Washington State Centennial Commissioner, he chaired the Commission’s Maritime Committee.  For more, see

Tug of the Month is sponsored by Olympia Harbor Days Tug Boat Races and Festival, an Olympia Kiwanis Club event free to the community.  It takes place every Labor Day weekend on the Olympia waterfront since 1974.  All Tug of the Month stories can be found at   For festival information, see, or on Facebook@OlympiaHarborDays.  Questions to Executive Director Carol Riley at