Tug John Purves

Tug John Purves

Enjoy an all-access, 40-minute guided tour of the John Purves, an immaculately restored 1960s era Great Lakes tugboat. Explore the entire 149-foot tug, from her engine room to crew cabins, galley and wheelhouse, and get a feel for the daily life of her hard-working 13-man crew.

The Big Red Tugboat

Built in 1919 as an ocean-going tug, the John Purves has many exciting tales to share. She’s sailed everywhere from the Great Lakes to the Caribbean to the Bering Sea. She had at least 10 different action-packed lives, including rescuing foundered ships and serving in World War II. 

The tug began her storied career as a floating U.S. Navy radio station in the Caribbean. Later, she worked towing barges of pulpwood on Lake Superior and then served in WWII as a supply boat to Army garrisons in the Aleutian Islands.

In December 1956, Roen Steamship Company of Sturgeon Bay purchased the John Purves and put her to work on all five Great Lakes taking on towing and salvage jobs. The Purves was well known throughout the Great Lakes for her strength and towing capabilities. In fact, due to her might, she made a good living after the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway, rescuing many a saltwater vessel that ran aground in the tricky channels of the Great Lakes.

In 2003, she was donated to the Door County Maritime Museum, and sports the crisp colors of the Roen Steamship Company. More than 27,000 volunteer hours were invested to bring the tug back to her glory days of the 1960s.

There are age and height restrictions for children to safely tour the tugboat.  They must be 4 yrs or older and/or 38 inches tall.

For more information on the life of the John Purves, click here.