Lady Helen Tugboat
A very good client asked me to paint a tug for him. Having recently lost his wife, Helen, he had a dream of an old tug battling through heavy weather in New York Harbor. The scene so reminded him of the great strength his wife had exhibited throughout her life, a life that had been full of adventurous peaks and valleys of obstacles, great joys and great sorrows; and through it all, she had persevered, bravely and without fear. This dream inspired him to have a painting made, something that would survive time and be there for generations to come: artwork portraying the tug Lady Helen crashing her way through heavy weather. New York Harbor – in the winter.
And so the artist searched through old books and magazines and files, looking for the tug that would do her justice, one with character and all the accoutrements needed for the base structure. At last he found one that answered closely to what his client wanted. She was unusual in that she sported a schooner rig (two masts) and also carried the classic cowl ventilators and round wooden pilot house, with a single life boat and davit on her superstructure deck, bumpers and pudding (pudding is the bumper right on the bow, in earlier times they usually made up of old rope which is braided into what in sailor’s terms is called ‘baggywrinkle’. In later years pudding was replaced by old vehicle tires.
In this depiction, the tug is proceeding from Manhattan to the open sea to meet an incoming ship, which she will then help moor, along with other tugs. Dark skies and steep waves greet her. Off her port bow Red Hook can be seen through a gap in the storm. The weather is rough – plenty of spray. Two sailors can be observed sheltering in the lee of the super structure on the starboard side.