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Marvin Shepherd, author of “A Sea Captain’s Odyssey,” the first book length biography of Captain H. H. Buhne, presents “Captain Buhne, the Tugboat Wars, and Other Adventures,” at the Humboldt County Historical Society program meeting on Saturday, June 4 at 1 p.m., in the first-floor conference room of the Humboldt County Library, 1313 Third Street, Eureka. Admission is free and everyone is invited.

In this talk, Marvin Shepherd focuses on Captain Buhne’s two tugboats, the “Mary Ann” and the “H.H. Buhne.” Shepherd will relate many thrilling stories of these two tugs, which were responsible for bringing ships in and out of Humboldt Bay from 1852 to 1890.

Find out how Buhne gained a monopoly in the lucrative tugboat business, and how he held onto that monopoly for almost forty years. Of course, he had the advantage of his reputation. Captain Buhne, who had piloted the trailblazing Laura Virginia over the bar on April 14, 1850, was Humboldt’s premier pilot.

It was not until 1889, that the Humboldt Lumber Manufacturers Association, made up of various redwood mill owners, undertook to break Buhne’s tugboat monopoly by obtaining their own two tugboats. With the entrance of these two rival tugs on the scene, a most extraordinary chapter in Humboldt Bay maritime history began: the tugboat wars.

Now when a schooner arrived off port, the rival tugs would head out over the bar, each attempting to approach the schooner first. Many tug captains greeted these competitive skirmishes with relish, gambling their own lives as well as those aboard the schooners. It would take more than one catastrophe to bring the tugboat wars to an end.

Submitted by the Humboldt County Historical Society

photo caption:

1. PHOTO BY ZOANN REDMOND KINSEY

Buhne’s tug “Mary Ann”

2. PHOTO COURTESY OF HUMBOLDT COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY

The tug “H. H. Buhne” with a four-masted lumber schooner under tow at the harbor entrance.

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