Maggie B – Olympia Harbor Days 2015

posted Friday, September 11, 2015 by | no responses |

Story by Chuck Fowler, photos by Karla Fowler

An extraordinary act of sportsmanship, or more appropriately “tugsmanship”, took place yesterday afternoon {Sun., Sept. 6] toward the end of the Small Tug class race at Harbor Days.   It was a fitting, heart-rending epilogue to Molly Gilmore’s great HD advance story in Friday’s Weekend insert about the late Mike Buse and his family tug, Maggie B.    The tug was selected as this year’s honored “logo” tug, and featured on the Harbor Days promotional poster and all other marketing materials.


Mike wanted to win another small tug race in Maggie at last year’s 2014 HD event.   But he didn’t make it.   At 66 years old, he had a sudden, serious stroke on the dock in Gig Harbor while he, his wife Penny and son “Tug” were on their way to Olympia.  He died few days later in the hospital in Tacoma on Labor Day, exactly a year ago today [Mon., Sept. 7].


So this year with Tug at the wheel, Maggie B. was in the lead 300 yards from the finish line when smoke started coming out of the engine room and she slowed to a stop.

At the time it looked like something serious might have happened, and both the second place tug Cedar King from Olympia, and the and third place tug Atka from Eagle Harbor, stopped racing and came to Maggie’s aid.     In addition, the Thurston County Sheriff’s and Port of Olympia’s patrol and fireboat Integrity, and the Olympia Harbor patrol boat, also responded to the emergency.


After it was determined that there was no actual engine fire, and no one was injured, Gary Sanford, the captain of the Dunlap Towing Company’s Cedar King, secured lines on the disabled tug and proceeded to tow her over the finish line, followed by Atka with skipper Alan Glaser at the wheel.   As a result of this generous act of tug racing sportsmanship, Maggie B. was declared the official winner of the Small Tug race, followed by Cedar King in second place, and Atka third.  And Cedar King towed Maggie B. back to the dock at Percival Landing .

This spontaneous act demonstrated what true competition, in its best and most humane form, means.   It also showed how much respect and reverence the tugboaters, who have participated in the Harbor Days festival and races for more than 40 years, have for each other and for the event itself.   In so many ways, they are personally, professionally and emotionally tightly-bonded as a “family”.   And it makes the rest of us who do not own and race tugboats, but have helped as Harbor Days volunteers through the years, proud to be friends of these incredible people.


– Chuck Fowler

Penny, Tug and Mike Buse – Harbor Days 2013

photo by Juliann Tallino

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