BOOKS - Of full steam and taut hawsers

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The 170-year history of Williamstown’s tugboats that serviced Melbourne’s wharves have been perpetuated in a soon-to-be-released book.

BOOKS - Of full steam and taut hawsers
BOOKS – Of full steam and taut hawsers

Throughout the history of Victoria, the city of Williamstown and shipping have been synonymous. Fundamental to this history have been the tugs of Williamstown. Since 1840 more than 110 tugs have guided ships into the docks of Melbourne and a soon-to-be-released book celebrates the unique stories of these tugs.

Written by local historian and keen boater, Geoff Dougall, the 236-page hardbound book Of full steam and taut hawsers features rare photos and stories of the tugs of Williamstown, their crews and the companies that ran them. Over the 170-year history of these working boats and their crews, there have been many challenges. This book describes those and documents the courage and extraordinary efforts of man and machine as these tugs applied full steam with taut hawsers.

Every tug from the 1830s to the present day has been documented and its story told. It is also a fascinating history of the seafront of Williamstown and the people who worked the port. From the smoke belching monsters of a bygone era to the powerful diesel tugs of today, they all contributed to the prosperity of Melbourne and the small village of nearby Williamstown

Of full steam and taut hawsers, will be launched at 2pm, October 9 at the Royal Victorian Motor Yacht Club, 260 Nelson Place, Williamstown. Light refreshments and afternoon tea will be provided (bar and dining room is open from noon).

The publisher said there has been a limited print run of the book and advance orders are currently being taken. The recommended retail price is $75. All books purchased at the launch will be discounted to $65 and Geoff Dougall will be on hand to personally sign copies.

For more details or to place advance orders contact Williamstown Maritime Research, phone (03) 9397 7542; 0416 235 366 or email:

Note: A Hawser is a nautical term for a thick cable or rope used in mooring or towing a ship

Photo: From a bygone era, the tug James Paterson.


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