Man in charge: Captain Donald McMahon’s maritime career spans 30 years. *Photo by Simon Jones

Man in charge: Captain Donald McMahon’s maritime career spans 30 years. *Photo by Simon Jones

For more than 20 years Powerful and Faithful have been part of the welcoming committee that greets ships sailing into Bermuda.

The tug boats play a vital role in making sure the huge vessels that bring in fuel, gravel and other supplies dock safely.

If you’ve ever seen the tugs at work as they swivel the monster car carriers through 180 degrees in Hamilton Harbour you’ll appreciate the job requires precision and expertise.

There’s not a lot of room for error when you are shunting a 50,000 tonne machine in a busy waterway.

Powerful and Faithful are manned by a six-strong crew that pull, push and manoeuvre vessels more than twenty times their size into port and then out again.

The crews head out from their base in Dockyard whenever tankers, car carriers and gravel ships enter Bermudian waters.

And that can mean in the middle of the night or at the end of a 12-hour shift.

They also oversee the arrival and departure of cruise ships just in case anything goes wrong.

Captain Donald McMahon has skippered both Faithful and Powerful in a maritime career that has spanned 30 years.

And he has seen what can go wrong when you’re a small boat dealing with the biggest ships in the business.

“A cruise ship nearly capsized us once — it was a pretty scary moment,” he said.

“Whenever we are bringing in a ship or taking out a ship we attach tow lines between us and the vessel.

“On this occasion the cruise ship took off with the line still attached.

“It dragged us right over until the line snapped. It was lucky it did too otherwise we would capsized.”

He added: “The way the crew works makes the job look easy.

“We rely on the pilots on board the ships to relay instructions down to us too.

“But you are always aware of what could go wrong and need to have a backup plan just in case things don’t work out.

“It’s an exciting job — no two days are the same.

“It may look straight forward but things can change in a second.”

So the next time you see Powerful and Faithful at work try and spare a second to watch their little ballad on water.


Elsewhere this week it’s the usual containers and cruises.

The Veendam heads into Hamilton today on her 11th trip of the year.

The ship dropped anchor at Murray’s Anchorage yesterday while her passengers were tendered into St. George’s.

The Norwegian Dawn arrived in Dockyard this morning for a two-day stay. She heads back to New York on Friday afternoon.

This weekend Explorer of the Seas arrives in the West End on Saturday morning and is joined by Norwegian Spirit on Sunday.

Two cruise ships, both capable of holding more than 2,000 passengers, mean it’s likely to be a busy weekend at Dockyard.

Early risers tomorrow will see the Bermuda Islander making her way into the capital.

While the Oleander should be with us on Sunday afternoon — as per usual.