Freeze frame from "Tugs"

Tugboats have always interested me. I mean, who doesn’t love a cute, rugged tugboat? After living within walking distance of the East River for years, I became curious about the history of these hardworking boats. The waterways are the city’s sixth borough, with history, industry and recreation that are largely overlooked by most New Yorkers. Profiling the humble tugboat was my way of showcasing this unheralded part of the city.

Set against the backdrop of one of the world’s busiest harbors, “Tugs” is an ode to the hardest working boats on the waterways and the people who pilot them. Once filled with scallywags and salty dogs—rugged seafarers who virtually lived on the water—the marine towing industry in New York City has matured, but the traditions of family, community and hard work persevere. “Tugs” admires the legacy and longevity of these boats and the strength of their position in the country’s history and future.

Jessica Edwards‘ films have screened at festivals around the world including Sundance, SXSW, Hot Docs and on PBS’s documentary series POV. 

Other stories from Drifters

The Park Bench

New York's waterways are right there, out in the open, but they remain full of mystery. Share your thoughts and experiences and discover more from our contributors and subjects.

I Remember the Shoeshine Man

A Staten Island native revisits his childhood commute and discovers a foreign yet familiar ferry.

Through the Porthole

A harbor-dwelling photographer explores the craziness of life at sea level.

Defending the Marsh

Seed by seed, a community bands together to save the lifeblood of Jamaica Bay.
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