Tug Along 

click to enlarge news06_boat_100.jpg

What do the Richmond Braves and a storied tugboat have in common? Both are very close to sailing off into the sunset.

Organizers of an effort to bring to Richmond the Tamaroa, a former Coast Guard cutter and Navy veteran of the Iwo Jima invasion during World War II, say they feel like they're just treading water. There have been more than five years of delays in getting the city to agree to their proposal to dock the ship here, so now they're looking east to Newport News.

Officials from Newport News, where the ship is docked for repairs, have expressed interest in keeping the ship there, says Tom Robinson, executive director of the Tamaroa Maritime Foundation, who has spearheaded the effort to rescue the 65-year-old ship and bring it here. The tugboat was immortalized in Sebastian Junger's "The Perfect Storm."

"All we want is the invitation saying we want you here, and we want this to be your home port," Robinson says of his request to city leaders. That invitation, he says, would cost the city nothing, but it would allow his not-for-profit organization to get historic landmark designations necessary to apply for grants to help restore the ship.

In lieu of an invitation from Richmond officials, Robinson says, the organization might be inclined to accept an offer from Newport News. A meeting with officials from that city, he says, is expected in the next two weeks.

"Newport News wants us and logistically we'd be better suited there," he says, maintaining that his primary goal is still to bring the ship to Richmond, where he says it would generate millions of dollars in tourism revenue for the city each year. "In Richmond, she'd be the queen of the James," he says.

Neil Morgan, an assistant Newport News city manager, confirms that Robinson's organization has made "inquiries about whether they can be a permanent tenant," though he says he's "not sure what the status of those [inquiries] are."

This is not the first time Robinson has threatened to row his boat off to bluer horizons. In 2004, he told Style Weekly he planned to dock the boat in Hampton. He also previously named Norfolk and the town of West Point as potential home ports.

"I don't want to play one city against the other," he says, "but whichever city gives us the invitation first, that's where we're going to go." S

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