In the area I’m living, there is a shipwreck and a lot of people are taking pictures from it nowadays. This is because of a popular bicycle track that is leading towards it. The wreck is in the formal safe harbor from Hansweert.

The captain James A. Duffy is a formal small tow. One of its owners has been the American army and they used it for war tasks, like cleaning mines or military transportations. The ship was completely build out of wood and after the army usage it was sold.


The James A. Duffy is a so-called tow from the Miki class. The dimensions from the ship where 38m long and 8.5m width and the engines where two Fairbanks-Morse diesel engines with a total power of 1200HP. Both engines had a double propeller. Later in the war when materials became scarcer they switched to a single propeller. During the war they build 25 double propeller and 31 single propeller ships. Their bow was made of wood and the ships build at the west coast from the USA made of pine and cedar wood. At the east coast they used oak and firewood to build the ships.

After the war many ships where sold. The Captain James A. Duffy came through the company van de Kerkhoven in the harbours of Antwerp. They sold it to the Terneuzense ship-building company so they could use the ship as a hotel for crewmembers who’s ship was being repaired. They removed the engines, so the ship got more space for housing people. Later the shipyard in Hansweert bought it. The shipyard bought it so they could use it at high tide. The purpose was to fill the wreck with water and at low tide clear it off course. This was because the fairway needed to be at the same depth for passing ships. This idea wasn’t successful, and when the shipyard went bankrupt the towing service company Polderman bought it. They transported the ship to its current place. The plan for the Polderman company with the wreck was to keep anchors and chains under water.

There was once a plan to completely remove the wreck but this is never executed. At 9 October of 1994 a storm crossed the Netherlands. A big piece of the side drifts away into the fairway. Salvage company Beenhakker got the project assigned to salvage the drifted piece. They towed it to Vlissingen after they found the piece in the formal ferry port from Hoedekenskerke. Once in Vlissingen they dropped it at the scrap yard at the inside of the small sluice.

Captain James A. Duffy

But who was Captain James A. Duffy? He was no war hero but an Irish immigrant and a tow captain. He married with a member of the Howard family. The Howard family is known from the famous Jefferson shipyard. Bij business successes he became a prominent local businessman from Port Fulton. This place is alongside the Ohio river. He arranged coal transportations over the river. In this business he was running all the lines. Other business opportunities like building ships he took his chances as well. He lived opposite the shipyard and the local tradition was to build a house that looks like a tow ship.

Uptill now the house is still a local place of interest. The house itself has a view at the river. In the direct area from the house is a steamboat museum established. Maybe you can say that Captain James A. Duffy was the embodiment of the American Dream.

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