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Marina owner to move historic tugboat stuck in river

A new effort is underway to remove a historic tug boat that's been stuck in the Kalamazoo River for years.
A new effort is underway to remove a historic tug boat that's been stuck in the Kalamazoo River for years.

DOUGLAS, Mich. (WZZM) -- A new effort is underway to remove a historic tugboat that's been stuck in the Kalamazoo River for years.

WZZM 13 went along on the water with a Douglas marina owner who is hoping to finally pull the Reiss out of the sand. It got stuck only a few hundred yards from land.

Tower Marine owner R.J. Peterson is making it his mission to get the Reiss unstuck. WZZM 13 followed along as he took us for an up-close look at the historic boat, which has some parts built more than a century ago.

"The engine is probably 1880, and the tug was built in the 20's sometime," says Peterson.

On-board, there was a one-of-a-kind steam engine, and the boiler room next to it.

"That's down about 15 or 16 feet, so you can understand why the tugboat is stuck in about 9 feet of water," says Peterson.

Peterson says the Reiss became stuck about a decade ago, on its way to a museum in Minnesota. Funding ran out, and it was left in the Kalamazoo River.

"Now, we're going back into a high-water period, so now it's time to move it to the dock," says Peterson.

Last week, Peterson used his own boat to push around the tug to see if it would move.

"We'll be able to spin it directly around so it's headed for the dock; right now, it's headed directly away from the dock," says Peterson.

"Pushed it back two or three times, had it moving pretty good," says John Kiss, the head of maintenance for Tower Marine.

Once the boat is turned around, the next step begins. Back on land, crew members are going to take about 200 yards of cable and tie one end to the boat and another end to the dock. Then, they plan to use a winch to bring the boat in.

Long-term, Peterson hopes to get the historic tugboat into a museum, "to get it someplace where it will be taken care of," he says.

Peterson says he may have a couple museums that are interested in restoring the tugboat. He hopes to have it on land in the next two weeks.