WANTED: A good home for old tug Mount McKay

Don Bergholm came by the old tugboat honestly. He owns a pier on Lake Superior where people park boats, and years ago someone showed up with two tugboats, leaving the Mount McKay sinking in his harbour.

Duluth man looks to sell restored 1908 tugboat with Thunder Bay connections

Don Bergholm aboard his restored 1908 tugboat, the Mount McKay (Supplied photo)
Who will buy the Mount McKay tugboat? Don Bergholm is the Duluth man who's selling a vintage tugboat with a storied history, and a Thunder Bay connection. 5:54

Don Bergholm came by the old tugboat honestly. The Duluth man owns a pier in Superior, Wisconsin where people park boats. Several years ago, someone showed up with two tugboats, leaving the Mount McKay sinking in the harbour.

Bergholm said he had to save the boat but couldn't find the owner, so he acquired the tug through a sheriff's sale, adding "there I am with an old tug and a lot of work ahead of me."

The restoration took over three years to complete, with about eight volunteers working all the time on it. "The tug was totally scrapped, wire-brushed and painted, the engine was totally gone, it had been re-wired, the galley had been totally re-done so it's been extensive updating on the tug and it's a pretty beautiful boat right now." 

So there the tug is, all done, and we don't have anyone that can use it- Don Bergholm

The tugboat was built in 1908, and has had a storied history, including a chapter in Thunder Bay. 

Bergholm said the tug has gone through about five different names in its lifetime, but the latest is the Mount McKay. He said the boat was named after the mountain near Thunder Bay.

Bergholm said Thunder Bay is the last place the boat operated, pulling logs between the city and a location in Michigan.

The decision to sell the Mount McKay 

His friend, who was an engineer, died in 2013, and a few months later Bergholm had a heart attack. "I ended up at the hospital, dead on arrival, so it's been a real tough time for me because I lost my engineer and I can't be around anything that has electrical seals in it like generators and stuff so I can't operate the tug either."

Bergholm said he spent over $90,000 to restore the tug but he knows he won't recoup all of those costs.

Still, he has one condition for the sale. Bergholm will sell it but only if the buyer will take care of the tug. "That really is the first key card.  If they're just going to take it and do something with it that's going to ruin it, no, I wouldn't sell it."

Bergholm added that the boat is special to him because of the way it looks, saying it's got a perfect tugboat profile and it's set up so it's just like a floating home.