It is with sadness and regret that we announce that Captain David Gore, Chairman of the Master of Towing Vessels Association Executive Board, passed away onboard the tug Royal Melbourne last Monday in Richmond, California. Dave was born October 9, 1943 in Seattle and grew up in Longview, Washington. There he spent much of his youth fascinated with watching the ships and tugs ply up and down the Columbia River near his home. While his brother pursued a career in commercial fishing, Dave worked in the marine shipping and transportation industry, making a career out of his childhood fascinations, spending most of the time with various steamship lines and only entering into the towing industry later in life. His most recent years were with Harley Marine Services, serving in a variety of positions. After working ashore in what he referred to as “those goddamn necktie years” Dave eventually returned to the water and was operating tugs in the San Francisco Bay area. He is certainly missed by his family, friends and colleagues, and will be remembered by each in their own way.
I met Dave about three years ago after transferring to S.F. Bay from Alaska. Getting to know his quirks and traits was very interesting, and he was definitely not your average tug skipper, if there is such a thing. He had the mind and ability to do almost anything and could just as easily have served as the Ambassador to Norway as be a tug captain. However, he really dug being a tug captain and that was the role Dave chose. One especially valuable skill he had was the ability to grasp and reason with a complicated subject using a calculated and methodical approach, all while considering the side effects and implications of any action. This made him a very predictable tug operator with a strategy and bailout plan for the most difficult of situations. Dave always stressed how in this industry you are often only one step away from a major catastrophe, and he planned accordingly. He also stressed the value of having a basic level of professionalism, an appropriate level of oversight, and the importance of some common sense in the standards and procedures of our industry.
A couple years ago, after having taken the time to learn what our M.T.V. Association was all about, he came onboard to begin helping with the effort. When we formed our 7-member executive board, Dave was nominated for and then elected as chairman. He could easily have declined and spared himself the headaches, but he didn’t. He apparently saw enough virtue with this organization to accept the position and try to help us reach our goals. From what I know of him, Dave didn’t jump on too many bandwagons in his life and you would be hard pressed to make him endorse anything he thought was a stupid idea. One of my last conversations with him was about the MTVA Training Tug and why he thought it could provide a real benefit to the towing industry and spur some serious interest from potential recruits. He shared an interesting story which shed some light on why he, or I, or anyone, might want to volunteer their own time to do this.
When Dave was still fairly green, and had been busting his ass on the deck of a tug for a while, a day came when the captain called him up to the wheelhouse and asked him to steer for a spell. Dave, a little surprised, took the helm and asked a few questions. The captain gave him some pointers, and over time he eventually began steering on a regular basis and really learning the wheelhouse. After a watch one day he thanked the captain for taking the time to work with him and tried to express just how grateful he was for the effort spent to develop his potential. That’s when the captain explained that Dave certainly wasn’t getting these lessons for free. There was a catch with which he had to agree to in exchange for the time and energy put forth on his behalf. The captain described how he had learned the trade from an old man who recognized his potential. That captain had taken the time and shown the patience to work with him and develop his seamanship skills. He had been asked to make a similar deal as a beginner and this was their way of passing it on. If Dave wanted to keep learning he would have to agree to this “deal.” When Dave was the veteran, and came across a sailor with some potential who was hungry and willing to learn, he would then have to pay back the time and the effort, or “pay it forward” as they say today. Dave never forgot that deal and he said it was part of why he was involved in the M.T.V. Association and why he took some joy from passing on what he knew.
Not too many months age we lost another senior captain named Daniel Nystrom. Like Dave, Dan was a veteran and a mentor who possessed an ability and a willingness to pay forward the skills and knowledge of a trade he had spent a lifetime acquiring. Like Dave, Dan also took pride in teaching what he knew and was part of the M.T.V.A. for some of the same reasons.
This really puts in perspective what we sometimes do and how our trade is learned. While some things can be effectively taught, and sometimes are even best taught, in a classroom, most practical aspects of our profession require considerable time on board and underway for someone to learn and master. It also takes considerable time and effort on board from someone to teach them. With this in mind we will stay the course and make whatever progress we possibly can. I’m sure Dave would be sorely disappointed if we did anything else besides pay it forward.
Capt. Jordan May
Co-Director, Master of Towing Vessels Association