For the first time since before the pandemic, the South Street Seaport Museum is offering public rides on the W.O. Decker, the last wooden tug built in New York City.

It’s a trip back in time to when steam tugboats were a common sight in the New York Harbor.

The Decker was constructed in Long Island City in 1930 when there were many more like it working the harbor.

What You Need To Know

  • The W.O. Decker is the last wooden tugboat built in New York City

  • It was constructed in Long Island City, Queens in 1930

  • The South Street Seaport Museum is offering public rides on the tug for the first time since before the pandemic

"She's now diesel, but even her diesel engine now, which was converted a couple of decades after she was built, is quite an antique, so she is still very much an early 20th century tug,” said Captain Jonathan Boulware, president and CEO of the museum.

Boulware took me out on a ride similar to what will be offered Saturdays starting July 31 through August 21.

It’s a 75-minute tour of the harbor, a chance to get a different perspective of city landmarks from the water, including the Brooklyn Bridge, the Skyline, and of course, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. 

The Decker is also still a working tugboat, helping seaport museum staff and volunteers who maintain and care for a fleet of five historic vessels based at Pier 16. 

“Even though her principal business is getting people out on the water, she is still actually a tugboat,” said Boulware. 

Captain Boulware let me take the wheel for a bit, and I managed to continue the voyage safely. Of course, Boulware is the pro: he said he was first in a boat when he was six days old. His father worked on historic ships at the Mystic Seaport Museum in Connecticut and he became a professional mariner at the age of 19. 

The Decker was donated to the museum in 1986 and renovated a few years ago. Boulware said she is in the best condition she's been in in a very long time. 

"Decker is the cutest boat in the harbor, possibly anywhere in existence, but there's all kinds of little touches that have been done that make her even sweeter,” said Boulware. 

To plan a trip on the Decker and find out about tours of the museum’s other historic vessels, head here.