David Boone, Tugboat Painter A Hobby Revisited

Friday, December 14, 2001
If David Boone had disobeyed his father when trying to decide on a career path, he probably would have never honed his talents as a marine artist. As a young man, Boone wanted to follow in his father's footsteps by becoming a Camden, N.J. firefighter - a profession that is as rewarding as it is dangerous. The elder Boone, however had alternative plans for his son, steering him away from the profession he so dearly loved. It was a dangerous time in the early 1960's in Camden, N.J. - the state was in the midst of the tumultuous Watts riots - not exactly a time to start a career as one of the city's bravest. Following the instruction of his father, Boone decided to chase his dream of working for a tugboat company. Boone parlayed this into a career, which has included several years as a dispatcher for Moran Towing, but would also develop his skills as a marine artist, sketching and painting various historical and significant tugboats - not to mention becoming president of the Tugboat Enthusiasts' Society.

When MarineNews met with David Boone at its New York, N.Y. editorial offices, the City was beginning to return to a sense of normalcy following the terrorist attacks of September 11. Boone, who comes from a family of firefighters expressed his dismay, as well as heartfelt gratitude in regards to the response of the City's police officers, firefighters and rescue workers. A marine artist by hobby, Boone, presented MNwith his own tribute to these individuals - a replica of the now famous photo depicting three Brooklyn firefighters raising a flag above the rubble from the Trade Center, silhouetted by the brave soldiers, who raised the American flag at IWO JIMA during WWII. (See next page)

Boone, who also serves as president of the Tugboat Enthusiasts Society, has made a name for himself, not only as a marine painter/artist, but also among the "family" of tugboat operators and owners. Ironically, this "family" atmosphere was what originally prevented Boone from breaking into the business that he admired from afar for so many years.

According to Boone, it was tough to break into the tugboat business unless you were part of that family of owners. These owners, such as Moran, McAllister and Turecamo, traditionally passed down their business through each generation. Knowing that he might never succeed in his dream, Boone made alternative plans and attended Pierce Junior College where he received a degree in Accounting. While he realized he had a family to support (dreams don't pay the bills), Boone still managed to fit in some time within the maritime industry by working as a deckhand on tugs during the weekends.

A new beginning occurred (two-fold) in his life, when on March 5, 1971, Boone received a call at the hospital (where his wife had just given birth to their daughter, Tracey) from Curtis Bay Towing, which offered him a full time position as a dispatcher out of its Mid-Atlantic Division in Philadelphia, Pa. Without mulling over the decision for even one second, Boone told his wife of his new position, and then made the call to the accounting firm where he was working, telling them his number crunching days were over. Boone served in his position at Curtis Bay until 1988 when the company was bought by Moran Towing and Transportation of Pennsylvania. In 1992, Boone was promoted to operations manager, a position in which he served until 1998 when Moran moved its headquarters to Baltimore, Md. At first, Boone traveled a total of four hours each way from his home in New Jersey to Baltimore, but realized that it was taking a toll on him both physically and mentally. Not wanting to make the move to the Baltimore area, Boone and his wife decided to stay in New Jersey — and he called it quits in the tugboat industry. Though not leaving the industry entirely, Boone saw his decision as not the end of his career, but the beginning of a new one — as a marine artist and tugboat painter. Since retiring, Boone has taken on a few dispatching jobs here and there, mainly one with Dann Marine in Chesapeake, Md., which he finished in 1999. But for the most part, Boone has been spending his days in the basement of his New Jersey home focusing on his painting, and developing new ideas for the Tugboat Enthusiasts' Society. His retirement has also allowed him to serve as a volunteer working on the restoration of the USS New Jersey, which has been berthed in his hometown of Camden, N.J. where his love for tugboats began when he was 13 years old.

Evolution of A Dream Growing up in Camden, N.J. along Newton Creek, opposite N.Y. Shipyard, Boone had a bird's eye-view of all the ships that would transit the yard on a daily basis. The yard, which was located less then one mile from his childhood home, constructed mammoth vessels such as Kitty Hawk and Savannah. Boone's love for the sea was furthered when his father, who built boats as a hobby, built for him a little eight-ft. pram when the younger Boone was only five years old.

The elder Boone handed the small wooden boat over to his son, but not without warning, "Don't ever let me catch you out on the river." The younger Boone obeyed his father's wishes - for the most part. While he did manage to take the small boat out in the river, his father never caught him in the act. It was during those forbidden trips out into the creek that Boone viewed what one day would become a large part of his family's history - the tugboat Reedy Point. It was also during these excursions that he would begin to discover his artistic talents, by sketching the boats steaming along the river. Boone first saw Reedy Point moving Kitty Hawk into N.Y. Shipyard in May 1960, when as a teenager he would sneak into the shipyard's grounds. The 2,400-hp tug, which was owned by Curtis Bay, was known as the most powerful boat on the river. An avid tug enthusiast, his first thoughts of course were, "How can I get a ride on this tug." Using a photo of Reedy Point launching the Savannah that he saw in N.Y. Shipyard Magazine, Boone sketched and painted this photo through his own interpretation and decided to show it to Reedy's Captain George Barnes. Impressed with Boone's skill and interest in the tug, Captain Barnes invited him back three days later for a ride on Reedy Point. "I came back for a ride on Reedy on July 28, 1960 - the tug would stay with me for over 40 years," Boone said. Boone, who generates most of his ideas for his sketches through photos, said that he gets little enjoyment from painting usual subjects such as mountains and trees. "There are not too many tug boat artists out there, so it's easy to make a name for yourself," Boone said.

The tug, which broadened Boone's horizons within marine artistry, also played several other roles in his life. On April 12, 1994, his son Steve used Reedy Point as a prop when he proposed marriage to his wife by etching a four by eight-ft. heart in plywood with the words "Will you marry me?" placed on the deck of the Reedy, on Pier 30 near Eli's Restaurant. Ironically, five years to the day that Steve proposed marriage, the Reedy sank in the exact same spot where David Boone saw the tug for the first time in 1960. Eventually, the vessel was salvaged in Port Newark and was eventually scrapped. But not before Boone had the chance to grab hold of the tug's docking whistle, which carries on the history of not only the Reedy Point, but for his family as well.

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