Historic Tugboat LunaPatrick Otton
LUNA Preservation Society, Inc.
P.O. Box 368
Charlestown, MA 02129
so said the press when Luna first appeared on the Boston waterfront. Now, Boston's seafaring history can smile for its future. The Queen of the Fleet, the one-of-a-kind historic tug Luna, is on her way to recovering her past glory, coming back from the brink of disaster.
Luna was the first diesel-electric tug built for a commercial towing company. Luna represents a step in the continuing evolution in propulsion, power, and control.
Imagine a tugboat from the drawing board of a famous yacht designer -- Luna's design is the work of one of the honored names in yacht design, John Alden. When she was built in 1930, she got "cutting edge" or the "state-of-the-art" technology for her powerplant: a diesel-electric system that allowed precise handling in the tricky maneuvers close alongside ships in port. Luna was among the first to be built with this industrial advance. General Electric was so proud of her system that 20 years later and well into the 1950s, Luna still appeared in GE ads. While she was still part of the "working fleet," Luna docked the great passenger liners as S.S. Normandie and often towed USS Constitution on parade. She represents the "working waterfront" that gave Boston one of its vital links, the link to foreign commerce and the world economy. Now, Luna is the last of her kind.
Maritime transportation has evolved from sail, steam assist sail, steam, direct drive diesel, diesel-electric, diesel with transmission/reduction gear boxes, and now hybrid systems using both diesel-electric and diesel systems.
The propulsion system designed for Luna evolved from the railroads. Tugboats and trains have the same problem: acceleration of very heavy loads at very low speeds. What worked for the RR was applied to tugboats. Penn RR was first to implement the design in their push boats dedicated to their RR barges in NY harbor.
For the first time, tugboat captain's were able to control with ease both power and direction directly from the pilot house or the aft steering station. The drive was efficient, giving Luna tremendous thrust at low speeds. The diesel-electric drives gave good weight distribution and space utilization, enabled optimum engine speed, effective propeller speed, and instantaneous motor control, with eight speeds both forward and reverse. Luna represents an engineering design transition in maritime transportation that is still being used today.
Owners: Mystic Steamship Co., Boston MA
Hull: Oak on oak, with yellow pitch pine ceiling plank:
Exciters: GE Two @ 25K.W. each
Main Motor: GE One double armature, 516H.P. @125rpm
Fuel Capacity: 21 tons
LUNA Preservation Society's (LPS) STORY:
Fall 1991, Original involvement
For about two years, Luna lay with the aft deck awash in the Charles River basin, Boston, MA. Without the constant care afforded to the wooden hull, Luna slowly settled into the mud. Left without a caretaker, the State of Massachusetts stepped in to dispose of Luna and her sister tug, Venus. Luna Preservation Society, Inc., was formed with the vision of preserving the NHL tug as a historic artifact -- to be utilized in the process of learning.
Luna represents much more than just another sunken wooden boat to be saved. Luna is a NHL, with cultural and community value. Luna's diesel-electric system can be approached from K through 12 and continuing onto the graduate study level.
LPS was Incorporated July 1992, in the State of Massachusetts and received 501(c)(3) designation July 1994, as a Museum/Educational Institution.
Raising from Charles
In 1991 the State of Massachusetts deemed Luna a hazard within Navigable waters and initiated plans for her disposal. In August 1992, the State's contractor raised Luna, but without a destination or plan Luna was simply towed to the contractor's yard in Boston Harbor. And again without proper care, Luna was allowed to sink - but this time in salt water and exposed to a 12' tidal wash up to the pilot house. Luna spent over a year, nearly the whole of 1993, sunken and awash in Boston Harbor subject to the tides and storm surges. Also, left sunken, a barge crushed parts of Luna's hull.
Not having preservation in mind, the State continued with plans for disposal. LPS was arguing for acquisition and preservation.
Finally in recognition of Sec 106 for Historic Preservation for Threatened Landmarks, the State, under the threat of the loss of Federal funding, decided to dry dock Luna and execute HABBS/HAER photographic documentation as a pre-requisite to disposal. Additionally, Luna was to be prepared for disposal, satisfying EPA requirements. LPS was still arguing for acquisition and preservation and surveyed the vessel with the criteria of evaluating Luna's historic significance as well as determining Luna's structural condition.
At this point, Luna stood in badly damaged condition. No stabilization of the hull, structure or equipment was done. In fact, the State, in compliance with asbestos regulations, striped Luna of protective water proof coverings and left decks and pilot house exposed to the weather. No attempt was made to keep Luna free of fresh water accumulation in the bilges - which later froze, Nor was any attempt made to flush Luna's equipment of salt water contamination.
Luna was left without protection or stabilization as the State continued with plans for disposal and LPS was arguing for preservation.
WINTER, SPRING, SUMMER, FALL WINTER 1994/5
The State initiated plans to move Luna, and covered the hull with 4 mil plastic, 1x2" battens, dry wall screws, and built false-bulwarks using 1/8" Luan plywood. The only benefit is that the wooden hull is kept wet - but with fresh water.
The State decides to auction Luna as surplus property, with "As is - Where is" qualifiers. LPS was the only bidder. In February, the State began demolition of Venus, Luna's sister tug, using an excavator claw and disposed of Venus in a landfill. LPS was not permitted to salvage parts from Venus.
The State intended to break-up Luna as well. Before, the State began demolition, LPS went before Superior Court, and was awarded an injunction against both the State and their contractor, with a Cease and Desist Motion, winning a decision which allowed LPS 10 days to acquire Luna "as is - where is".
Since she escaped from imminent demolition, Luna's defenders have had all they could do just to put the brakes on her decline. It has taken serious effort and cash just to get to the point where her condition could be "stabilized."
In February 1995, Luna lay in a drydock about to be demolished. Instead, she got a last-minute reprieve. With the wrecking claw figuratively in mid-swing, her supporters finally got a chance to go to work to save her. They hastily made her much-neglected and abused hull watertight by covering the hull with an industrial roofing membrane, (PVC) and floated her to safety in the nick of time.
Between 1995 and 1997 LPS received State and Federal dollars for the preservation of Luna. Our objective has always been to stabilize Luna -- allowing time for qualified objective assessment of historic preservation and programmatic development rather than disposal. Like her sister tug, Venus, once Luna is gone - the qualities and potentials that she represents would also be lost.
LPS has successfully carried out much of the stabilization and initial preservation of Luna principally though volunteer effort thanks to her ardent supporters and thanks also to educational programs that use her as a platform for teaching. This has occurred through 50 hour per week of volunteer time, 48 hours per month of community service time, 18 hours of on board time per month for an education curriculum, this totaled this past summer 800 hours of hands-on learning experience.
Within this time span, Luna has qualified for some $700,000 in grants to restore her former grace and integrity.
LPS, in conjunction with South Shore Charter School, Hull, Massachusetts, has developed a 400 page curriculum, studying Naval Architecture, Electrical engineering, and Mechanical engineering.
LPS has also worked with, MassPEP, Massachusetts Pre-Engineering Program, which provides engineering experience and exposure for Jr. High School students, with work study program onboard Luna.
Luna provides opportunities for interpretation and teaching of an abundance of subjects and skills, including:
LPS, as caretaker, and Luna, as an NHL, offer a unique experience for utilization of a cultural resource. Luna can will continue into the future, not as a commercial tug with ships in tow but instead as part of the historic water front with people in tow.
PLEA for Help.
There are many aspects of running a non-profit and this project offers many aspects for participation. These include administrative functions, planning and programmatic development, as well as historic preservation and operation of Luna.
Return to the Preservation Conference Schedule page.