Book Review: Gentlemen of the Harbor

In the mood for a little time travel? Get a copy of William Eggert’s new, self-published book, “Gentlemen of the Harbor, Stories of Chesapeake Bay Tugboats and Crew,” and return to a time before cell phones and tractor tugs, before the corporatization of the waterfront, in this case, Baltimore harbor. Eggert recalls a time when small operations, run by colorful characters, kept this busy port moving without the intrusion of a lot of regulation, when “captain” was used as an honorific title of respect for someone who knew what they were doing with a boat.


Eggert spent 20 years running water taxis and charter boats in Baltimore and was fascinated by the work of the tugs. He writes appreciatively of his first ride with Herb Groh, the recently deceased docking pilot and captain of the Cape Henlopen, a Curtis Bay Towing ship-docking tug. Eggert even created a CD of the wheelhouse chatter as a companion to the book. Eggert spent a lot of time in Fells Point in the 1980’s gathering stories from the “gentlemen of the harbor,” and has compiled an entertaining assembly of historical vignettes interspersed with descriptions of the various harbor services.

What really makes the book, though, is the photography. Eggert has illustrated his short chapters with the work of the legendary maritime photojournalist Hans Marx. It is nice to see many of his, as well as other Baltimore Sun photographers’ shots, gathered in one volume.

This is light reading, not bogged down by technical detail, a snapshot of Baltimore harbor between the ’40s and the ’80s. The book would make a nice gift for someone who recalls that era or has an interest in tugs, the waterfront or photography.  

To order a copy, visit Eggert’s website at The book is $19.95 and a CD of wheelhouse goings-on is $9.95.  


About the author

Kathy Bergren Smith

Kathy Bergren Smith has been a correspondent with WorkBoat since 2002. She is also a writer and photographer for the Port of Baltimore Magazine covering shipping and port activities. Smith, also a noted commercial and fine art photographer, resides in Annapolis, Md.

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