YTM Yard Tug Medium / Medium Harbor Tug
A chapter of naval history closed in 2000 when the Navy took out of service the last of its harbor tugs, with Fleet tug boat services now to be provided by a commercial contractor. Whether gently guiding a ship pierside as it returned from a major cruise or simply from a short underway training period, to easing a ship away from the pier as it prepared to get underway, the approaching tugs brought joy or sadness to the ships' crews the tugs were servicing - depending upon whether the pier was "slipping away" or approaching.
It was a dramatic change for the Navy, which in the mid-1980s had 104 harbor tugs in service throughout the Fleet. The workhorse tugs - designated as YTB (large harbor tug) and YTM (medium harbor tug) - were themselves crewed by men and women who could easily understand the emotions of the ships' crews they were servicing, since many of those tug crew members had themselves been brought in and taken out by the tugboats they now manned.
The tugboats offered one of the rare opportunities for Navy enlisted men and women to "command" their own ship - designated as craftmasters, tug boat captains were almost always petty officers 1st class, or senior, in rank. Rain or shine, hot or cold, Navy tugs were there, standing by to serve the fleet. Sadly, those days have now faded into history. However, for those sailors who have manned the rail aboard their ships as the powerful little craft came to bring them home, or get underway, they will never forget the sailors who provided this vital service. The tugboat crews were their Sea Service brothers and sisters who well knew the emotions coming into play when "UNDERWAY - SHIFT COLORS!" or "MOORED! SHIFT COLORS!" was heard aboard the ship they were guiding.
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