Olympia Harbor Days Tug Races and Festival’s Tug of the Month: RELIANCE

Tug RELIANCE 2011 in Seattle. Photo courtesy: lg evans Maritime Images

Submitted by Les Eldridge for Olympia Harbor Days

RELIANCE was built in 1909 in Bay Center on the eastern shore of Shoalwater Bay (now, Willipa Harbor). She was built for the E.E. Case Logging Company, and was a log patrol and camp tender on the Washington Coast.  There are more stories about the Reliance that people have told over the years, the most notable is that a Chinook Tribe member named Joseph George built the Reliance.  In 1976, she was purchased by veteran tugboat skipper and owner Phil Shively, son of Otto Shively. Phil owns Shively Towboat Company of Seattle.

Tug RELIANCE 2015. Photo courtesy: g evans Maritime Images

Shively bought RELIANCE in 1976, after many decades under many owners on the Washington coast, and began towing in Puget Sound.  Her length over all is 40 feet.  She was an active participant and competitive racer at Olympia Harbor Days (OHD) tug races and festival, winning her events in 1980, 1981, 1982, 1988, and 2011.  She also raced in 1983, 1985, 1987, 1990, 2009, and 2011.  Shively owned her in the earlier years, replacing her engine in 1980 which is still in service today.   Pat Little was the registered owner from 1987 – 1990 period.

Her present owner, John Dierck of Allyn, WA, first raced her at OHD in 2009, but lost his hydraulic steering just before the start.  In 2010, the year of Tug Sand Man’s 100th Birthday party, Dierck brought RELIANCE to Olympia and participated in a “staged TV race” against Parthia and ran out of fuel at the finish.  Parthia towed RELIANCE to the dock.  However, Dierck has this to add I was headed to nearby Zittle’s Marina to get fuel when the real race between Reliance and Parthia happened.  We were both passing Johnson Point about the same time and wound up racing to Olympia before “the staged race” when in fact, I did run out of fuel.”

Reliance 0511 cKarlaFowler 2011
Tug RELIANCE ahead of Tug Cayou at Olympia Harbor Days 2011. Photo courtesy: Karla Fowler

He beat Parthia in the 2011 race, the year RELIANCE was Logo Tug. Dierck still loves Olympia Harbor Days and attend the Tugboat Show regularly but no longer races.

Dierck recently began a series of voyages in tribute to the late Robin Paterson, Retired Tug Association president and Mosquito Fleet historian.  Dierck identified all the Mosquito Fleet stops in South Sound, and then logged times and routes.

John is obviously a dedicated tug historian.  We hope he continues to bring RELIANCE to OHD for many years.

Sources:  OHD archives, The Olympian newspaper, John Dierck interview, Tugboats on Puget Sound by Fowler and Freeman, Arcadia Publishing.

About Les Eldridge:  Les is president of the South Sound Maritime Heritage Association and author of a number of maritime histories, a series of novels on the American Civil War at sea, and a book of humorous verse. The Tugs at the Capital City, Volume 1, a collection of Tug of the Month stories was published in 2018. He lectures frequently ashore and afloat, and narrates the OHD races each year.  In 1989, as a Washington State Centennial Commissioner, he chaired the Commission’s Maritime Committee.  For more, see EldridgeSeaSaga.com.

Tug of the Month is sponsored by Olympia Harbor Days Tug Boat Races and Festival, an Olympia Kiwanis Club event free to the community.  It takes place every Labor Day weekend on the Olympia waterfront since 1974.  All Tug of the Month stories can be found at www.harbordays.com/blog.   For festival information, see www.HarborDays.com, or on Facebook@OlympiaHarborDays.  Questions to Executive Director Carol Riley at info@harbordays.com.




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