The tug Tyee is pictured here in the Puget Sound Tugboat Company colors in 1906 meeting the full-rigged ship, Star of France off Cape Flattery. The iron ship Star of France had been built in Ireland in 1877. After a time under Hawaiian registry, she was purchased by Alaska Packers in 1905 and was active in the fish cannery trade for many years.
The famous tug Tyee was designed by George Middlemas of San Francisco who had also designed the Puget Sound tugs Richard Holyoke, Mogul and later the Canadian tug, Lorne. The Tyee was built in Port Ludlow by Hiram Doncaster in 1884 and had a long and eventful career in the Pacific Northwest. She was a beautifully proportioned 150 foot sea-going steam tug designed especially to tow sailing ships from sea into the Puget Sound lumber mills.
In 1891 the Puget Sound Tug Boat Company was formed to combine the efforts of the many local lumber mills and Tyee became the pride of the newly incorporated fleet. A credit to her designer and builder, she was notably a very attractive tugboat as well as being the most powerful tug of her kind. The Tyee was a particularly good sea boat and performed well in her primary role, towing sailing ships in and out of Puget Sound. In addition to her main role of towing sailing ships, she figured in a number of rescues and salvage efforts as well as some innovative towing missions to and from Alaska.
With the end of World War I, the sailing ship era had passed and the Puget Sound Tug Boat Company was disbanded in 1918. The Tyee was sold to the Port Blakely Mill Company and she was operated as a unit of their shipyard subsidiary, the Skinner & Eddy Corporation. She reliably handled whatever varied tasks her owners required.
In 1920, she was chartered to Cary-Davis Tug Boat Co. in Seattle and returned to towing ships and barges for another five years.
In September of 1925, the Tyee was purchased by Bellingham Tug & Barge Co. and became an impressive member of the fleet for some 20 years. The veteran tug was used for towing large “crib” bundled log rafts and continued her long successful working career.
After World War II, she was no longer practical to operate and B.T.&B. sold her for scrap in October of 1945. She was moved to an old unused pier in Bellingham and the process of stripping her of all valuable metal and fittings began. In 1954, the seventy year-old derelict tug sank at the dock with only the top of her pilot house and forward mast showing above water for some time. In a final effort, a salvage diver dynamited her stern underwater and was able to get the big bronze shaft and propeller out of her. The dock is long gone, but the scant remains of the gallant old tug still lie underwater in the east corner of Bellingham Bay between Boulevard Park and the Port of Bellingham’s North Terminal.
- Steve Mayo – 2014