NEW TUG – The Gretchen Dunlap, the newest tugboat in the Dunlap Towing Company fleet, was launched last week. The workboat is named for someone who has spent many years working on behalf of children in La Conner.              – Photo by Meghan Dunlap-Rice
NEW TUG – The Gretchen Dunlap, the newest tugboat in the Dunlap Towing Company fleet, was launched last week. The workboat is named for someone who has spent many years working on behalf of children in La Conner.              – Photo by Meghan Dunlap-Rice

Closing in on two years in the making, the latest and most powerful addition to Dunlap Towing Company’s tugboat fleet is setting sail soon.
La Conner-based Dunlap Towing is putting the finishing touches on the Gretchen Dunlap, a new tractor tug scheduled to be in operation by the end of February. The new tugboat is 101 feet long with a beam of 42 feet and a fuel capacity of 80,000 gallons.
Designed for ship assist, the Gretchen will continue Dunlap Towing Company’s work assisting ships into berth at the Port of Dutch Harbor, Alaska.
While the new tug will not be part of the La Conner waterfront scenery, it does have another local connection: It was named for Gretchen McCauley, who served many years on the La Conner School Board. McCauley is also on the Dunlap company board, said her brother, Dunlap Towing Company President Jim Dunlap.
He said the new tug will improve the company’s ability to perform the service of docking ships in Dutch Harbor.
“Freight ships keep getting bigger, so we needed bigger equipment,” Dunlap said. “This tractor tug has more power than our current tractor tug in Dutch Harbor and will be capable of assisting larger ships to dock when weather conditions are more adverse.”
With the Gretchen Dunlap, new Caterpillar engines and Rolls-Royce Z-Drive propulsion units have significantly upped the horsepower compared to the company’s current tug assisting at the port. The increase in horsepower provides the Gretchen with 90 tons of bollard pull, the most of any tugboat in the company.
“Our current tractor tug in Dutch Harbor works with around 4000 horsepower. The new tug is capable of considerably more,” Dunlap said. “The Gretchen’s horsepower is rated at approximately 6800 horsepower.”
Hansen Boat Company of Marysville, Washington began construction on the tugboat in March 2014 and its launching ceremony was last week.
Right now the new tug is back in dry dock as final touches to the boat’s living areas and exterior painting are made.
Dunlap officials say the tug is not likely to make an appearance in La Conner, because it drafts too deep to be brought through Swinomish Channel.