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"R. B. Forbes" (Tow Boat)

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One of the earliest steam tow boats built in the United States for coastwise towing, the "R. B. Forbes" was built in Boston by Otis Tufts for the Boston Board of Marine Underwriters, at the behest of Robert Bennet Forbes, for whom the vessel was named. The first iron-hull vessel built in Boston, she measured 320 tons. Her two Ericson screw propellers were driven by a pair of condensing engines, each with a bore of 36 inches and a 32-inch stroke. (1)

A pioneer in coastwise towing, the "R. B. Forbes" was mainly used to tow newly-built sailing ships from New England shipyards to New York, where their owners would complete the fitting-out process and send them to sea. Unable to use her profitably to this end, the owners sold her, as did her subsequent owners. She was sold to the U.S. Navy in 1861, soon after the outbreak of the Civil War. She was lost when she went aground on the coast of North Carolina, near the Hatteras Inlet on February 25, 1862, a total loss. (2)

 – Erik Ronnberg


1. R[obert] B[ennet] Forbes, Personal Reminiscences (3rd. ed. Revised, Boston, 1892), appended list of vessels.

 2. Francis B.C. Bradlee, “Some Account of Steam Navigation in New England,” The Essex Institute Historical Collections LVI (1920): 187.  

Related tables: Forbes, Robert Bennet »  //  Steamship / Engine-Powered Vessel / Coastal Steamer »  //  Tow Boat / Tug Boat »

Description of the wreck of the "California" in 1857
Alfred Mansfield Brooks (Joseph E. Garland, footnote editor)
Book excerpt
Joseph E. Garland, "Gloucester Recollected: A Familiar History," (Gloucester, Massachusetts, Peter Smith Publishers. 1974), 69, n. 9.
view ]
List of ships owned by R. B. Forbes
Robert Bennet Forbes
Table within book

From R. B. Forbes, Personal Reminiscences (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., first published 1876).

Citation: "Historical Materials." Fitz Henry Lane Online. Cape Ann Museum.§ion=%22R.+B.+Forbes%22+%28Tow+Boat%29 (accessed July 24, 2024).
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