Great Lakes Warriors follows tug boat captains in winter

July 24, 2012

Tug John Selvick in Bay Ship Canal

Tug John Selvick in Bay Ship Canal, photo by boatnerd06

The Great Lakes Echo tipped me off to the new History Channel series Great Lakes Warriors. The show follows five captains battling winter storms on the Great Lakes as they break up ice, tow barges into port and try to stay alive. The second episode airs at 10:00 PM on Thursday, and the History Channel will rebroadcast the first episode, “The Lethal Season,” at 11:00 PM tonight. You can also watch it online at the History Channel.

That episode features the tug above – The John M. Selvick captained by John Selvick. Check it out background big and in Nathan’s massive Family Collections slideshow.

More boats on Michigan in Pictures.

4 Responses to “Great Lakes Warriors follows tug boat captains in winter”


  1. Cool show, like most shows that have deckhands every third word needs to be beeped, I only wish they would cover the East side like the Detroit River and Erie.

  2. Dale Behler Says:

    I watched the first episode last Sunday evening and enjoyed it a lot. That show featured three boats, one on Lake Superior from Thunder Bay, Ont. and two on Lake Michigan based in Wisconsin. Hope at least one of the remaining two are Michigan boats. I will continue to tune in to the program.


  3. I have it ready to go on my DVR, I hope it’s good! :)

  4. Disenfranchised Says:

    I too have also been waiting for a reality TV show to give a perspective of what boat life is like for some of the rest of we merchant seaman that make our livings in various aspects of the merchant shipping industry and not just a select few crab fisherman in Alaska burning the candle at both ends that haze “Greenhorns” for kicks to be our representatives.
    I am however very disappointed that one of the best tug companies that the History Channel could find to ride with was Cal River Fleeting of Chicago, IL and John Selvic “The Legend”.
    Cal River Fleeting aka “Selvic” is widely known by most other Great Lakes merchant shipping companies to be one of the unprofessional companies to do business with on the Great Lakes.
    Furthermore any sailor that has sailed the Lakes for any length of time has probably heard that “Selvic” is one of the most dangerous companies you could ever accidentally find yourself working for.
    His vessels are unseaworthy and his business practices are unsafe. I think the first episode demonstrates my point very well when you see a tug that doesn’t even have a Dutch bar pulling barges on the hawser.
    Or in another scene, one of his “most trusted” Captains is more concerned with “getting home” than the safety of his vessel and tow, let alone his crew. Going against all the rules of good seamanship he leaves port in an approaching weather system that he knows to be dangerous and that could potentially put his crew in a life threatening situation. And of course the bad weather causes his “shock hawsers” to part in the rough seas while towing “inland” barges across seas they were never meant to be placed in.
    If I were the owner of those barges and saw them on national TV being abused in such a fashion Selvic would never lay lines on another one of my barges again.
    Does anyone recall the company symbols/letters for those barges? I do.
    I am considering sending a letter to the company that owns those barges in case they have not already seen their equipment being abused and put at risk of severe damage and or sinking in such an unnecessary manner by one of Mr. Selvic’s most trusted wheelmen and all of the aforementioned being condoned by the owner of the vessel and company, John M. Selvic.
    Furthermore, is not such an incident in which you lose your tow and your barges are set adrift a Coast Guard reportable incident?
    I didn’t see the captain radio the Coast Guard to report the severity of the situation or even a 2692 being filled out so that the USCG could investigate and help to prevent such an incident from happening again in the future.
    What if those barges would have gotten away from that tug and collided with the Lake Freighter that was shown in the distance at anchor awaiting orders to discharge at the Port of Indiana?
    Hello USCG Sector Lake Michigan 9th District are you out there?
    What is even more ridiculous are the previews of the next episode showing this same Captain debating whether to leave port with a questionable tow while a bad weather system is approaching.
    From what I saw in the previews of the next episode of “towboat drama”, of course as can be expected with Selvic’s equipment, one of the unreliable engines on Selvic’s unseaworthy tug goes down when the Captain does leave in the approaching wx system.
    In this same preview I did not see, and do not expect to see, the USCG 9th District Sector Lake Michigan being notified of a “Loss of Propulsion” let alone the necessary 2692 being filled out and handed to the boarding team or investigating Officer so as to allow them to conduct a full investigation as to the reasons why the engine went down and why the vessel lost propulsion while engaged in towing from astern; Again……..Hello USCG are you out there?
    When in doubt stay at the dock and wait for the system to pass. If your vessel is unseaworthy tie it up.
    If the company you are working for is operating on a shoe string budget and safety is the last priority instead of the first then you might want to think about what is more important to you; your life, the lives of your crew members, and your license or your crappy job at an unsafe workplace?
    I will not work for a company that puts the safety of the crew and the vessel last while at the same time puts moving the cargo first because the boss is 100k in the red and the company may go under if the delivery is not made “on time”. Any decent customer will understand that we have no control over the weather and that a truly professional company is going to put the “Safety of Life at Sea”, or SOLAS as it is known by any professional sailor, first above anything else.
    Duct tape, baling wire, and bubble gum are SOP for Selvic and for that same company to be a representative of actual professional Great Lakes sailors and vessel operators to me is shamefully embarrassing.
    But I guess watching crew members taking unnecessary risks and making stupid decisions makes for good drama and ratings for reality TV.
    Unfortunately CRF is one of the only tug companies left operating in South Chicago or on Southern Lake Michigan because of the decades old continual decline of Great Lakes shipping and I can only speculate that is one of the reasons why he got picked.
    There is however much more safe companies to sail with that could do a better job of representing the modern merchant seaman such as Kindra Lake Towing or Great Lakes Towing but maybe they didn’t need a reality TV show to help drum up business because their professionalism and reputation as safe and efficient operators (instead of being a garbage can outfit) precedes them.
    If you are working for CRF you have truly reached “rock bottom” in my humble opinion.
    I think the History Channel or Compass Point Productions should follow Mr. Selvic to the Horseshoe Casino for a “bad night” in the high stakes room where he has been known to get belligerently drunk, spit on and use profanity directed towards the dealers and wait staff, and worst of all, lose the company payroll two days before Christmas to the point of not being able to pay his employees.
    Mr. Selvic gets his deckhands from Cook County Jail work release programs and treats them like borderline slave labor.
    They have turned a real bottom feeder into a hero. How disgusting.
    Shame on Mr. Campbell, Compass Point Productions, and the History Channel for promoting this ruthless scumbag.

    God Save The US Merchant Marine


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