Thursday, April 22, 2010

Ahab of the tramp tugboats

Burkhard Bilger has a great profile of Latham Smith, pater familias of a tugboat family.  He's a Shakespearean sort - lives large in a small world.  If you want to tow a dredge up the Congo River where you'll find the spirit of Joseph Conrad he's your man.  If you  want to bring a bargeload of anything to any unlikley place call Latham Smith first - if his rival and son Dominque hasn't gotten there first to take the load.

You've gotta pay for it at  The New Yorker (April 19, 2010) unless you already have a subscription.  And don't all wives who live in Manhattan or who went to Barnard have one?  Borrow hers.  There is at least one freebie: a video of Allen Ginsberg aboard Ellsbeth - the first of the tugs Latham designed and built and named after his ex-wife the mother of his five kids.

It's a great read in the John McPhee genre - and of course Bilger does get a memorable ride on a tugboat.

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