Narragansett Bay Shipping
Home Blog Search Albums Photographers Links Contact About Login

Rod Smith

This website is dedicated to my parents Ned and Pat. Both, in their own ways, nurtured and grew my love and passion for Narragansett Bay and the boats and ships of all sizes that ply its waters.

I grew up on the south end of Jamestown Rhode Island at a place called Hulls Cove right on the beach. The view from the house and to a greater extent,the beach, afforded a wide viewing area at the proverbial mouth of the bay. As such, nothing could enter or leave Narragansett Bay with out me being able to see what it was.

My earliest memories were not of commercial ships but rather navy ships. Navsta Newport was, up until 1973, home to Cruiser-Destroyer Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet. I have many memories of watching, with great fascination, the multitudes (in my eyes as a child) of navy ships coming and going by the front of our house at all hours. It was just as fun when the fog was in. While being on the beach, with thick fog, I could not see them, but I could hear their engines as they went by the front of our house. The best part was listening to their loud and distinctive fog horns come rolling through the fog. It is a sound I can still hear in my mind 30 years later when I am in the fog and by the ocean.

In 1982, I signed on to work as an ordinary seaman on MV Yankee on the Providence to Newport to Block Island run. The Yankee was a beautiful (steel hulled, wooden superstructure) side loader that, at the time, was the oldest continually operating passenger ferry in the country as she had been built in 1907. The money was good and the work day was long and arduous (sometimes as long as 18 hrs a day). However, riding on the fantail while underway listening to a single slow moving propeller as we ran the four 2 hour legs of our daily trip to Block Island left an undeniable impression on me. After finishing out the season on the Yankee, I worked the following 3 years to Point Judith on the ever increasing fleet on subchapter T boats. Over the years, the boats increased in size, but when the company subsequently retired the Yankee and her 2 side loader fleet mates (the Quonset and the Block Island), I felt their departure left a great void in myself despite the fact that their retirement was inevitable. The newer boats were faster and required much less crew then the older beloved side loaders. Over the time the new T boats grew in their numbers, hauling the ever increasing crowds, freight and vehicles to Block Island. With one exception, none of todays boats on the Block Island run will ever have the look and the lines of the Yankee.

After 4 years working on the boats (1986), I took my A.B. test and passed. However, I failed my color blind test and as such was unable to get my A.B. card. I left the industry and had a successful career in computers and telecom. However, I never lost my interest in ships. Wherever I went and whenever I could, if time and opportunity allowed, I would seek out ships either tied up or underway. Whenever time allowed, I would travel on ferry boats large and small. It did not matter where the destination was as long as I got to ride on the boat. 20 years later, after standing by the sidelines and watching ships, I started a new phase by purchasing a Canon digital slr camera . The pictures you see on this website represent my efforts to produce an ongoing photo essay of commercial shipping in Narragansett Bay. Commercial shipping as had highs and lows over the years but in recent years, there seems to be an increase. One can only hope the increase continues.

Fair winds and following seas!

Jamestown RI

May 2008

If Once You Have Slept On An Island
If once you have slept on an island
You'll never be quite the same;
You may look as you looked the day before
And go by the same old name,

You may bustle about in street and shop
You may sit at home and sew,
But you'll see blue water and wheeling gulls
Wherever your feet may go.

You may chat with the neighbors of this and that
And close to your fire keep,
But you'll hear ship whistle and lighthouse bell
And tides beat through your sleep.

Oh! You won't know why and you can't say how
Such a change upon you came,
But once you have slept on an island,
You'll never be quite the same.

--- Rachel Field



(Tom Rush)

I grew up in Providence, R.I., on the Elmwood Ave. end of Sumter Street, between Roger Williams Park and Columbus Square. I went to St. Matthews School, in Cranston, R.I. (1954 to 1957) and then on to Hope High School, graduating in 1961.

My association with Narragansett Bay and the Providence Steamboat Co. was primarily through my uncle, Capt. Edward Lofstrom. He was Captain of the Tug Reliance at the time and also held a pilots license for docking and undocking ships in Providence Harbor.

During the school year, I would accompany him on most weekends, but summer time was the best of all as I had the opportunity to spend all day on the boats.

Every once in a while, with the permission of the ship captain, of course, I was allowed to accompany Uncle Eddy on the bridge of the ship to observe the docking process. That was an education in itself.

I addition to the normal daytime work, there were many mornings in the pre-dawn when I got up at 0-Dark-Thirty to go with him on a job. We would board whichever tug had the morning orders and when the crew was all present, we would shove off. Providence Harbor looked quite different in the wee hours of the morning.

On the way to meeting the ship, the cook would prepare breakfast and we would eat while waiting for the ship to arrive. There were many meals enjoyed on the boats.

Another thing I enjoyed was going to Quonset Point NAS to assist the navy tugs in docking aircraft carriers. There were four carriers that regularly came into Quonset Point. They were Wasp-CV18, Hornet-CV12, Antietam-CV36, and Tarawa-CV40. I have some pictures of the Antietam & Tarawa.

During the years I spent on the tugs, I got to know the crews quite well. They are the ones I have to thank for passing on their seamanship knowledge to me. They gave me quite an education.

I planned to follow in my Uncles footsteps. So, in 1959 I obtained my Z-Card and was rated for wiper, Mess man, and ordinary seaman. However, that was the year the St Lawrence Seaway opened. Now ships could by-pass Narragansett Bay and go directly into Cleveland, Chicago, and other Great Lakes ports. The future of tugboat work in Narragansett Bay was in some doubt, to say the least. That is when my life then took another track. I joined the Army and was assigned to the U.S. Army Signal Corps at Ft. Gordon, GA. After attending telephone installation school I was sent to Germany where I served until 1964. After returning to the States, I joined General Telephone Co. (GTE-now Verizon) in Fort Wayne, IN and have been here ever since. Even after all these years I never lost my love for tugboats. My only regret is that, during the time I spent on the tugs, I did not take enough pictures. I guess I was too busy living the experience to consider taking pictures. Now, whenever I find myself in a city that has a commercial shipping port, I keep looking for that one good shot of a tugboat.