Russ Mullins is a workingman and he owns a workingman’s boat.
Mullins, 62, grew up on Offatts Bayou, where boys and boats just naturally went together.
“We all had bikes and little boats with little motors,” Mullins said. “I think we spent more time in the boats than on the bikes.”
He has worked 37 years for Biehl & Co., a steamship agency founded in Galveston in 1905. So his childhood and his working life both are closely linked to the water and seagoing vessels.
It makes sense then that when Mullins, now a vice president at Biehl, went looking for a boat to provide little escapes from his high-pressure job, he ended up with a tug.
The Bayou Rascal, named in honor of boys in boats with little motors who drove parents crazy with their exploits on Offatts back in the day, is a 21-footer built in 2005 by Ranger Tugs of Kent, Wash. Mullins bought it from the Monterey Peninsula Yacht Club, where it earned its keep as a starter boat for yacht races. The Bayou Rascal is powered by a three-cylinder diesel engine that’s easy on the fuel and generally easy to operate; just step aboard, fire it up, cast off and get underway.
“I used to sail,” Mullins said. “That’s too much work.”
Bayou Rascal also is easy on the eyes, with a classic high tug bow, clean lines sweeping aft and panoramic wheelhouse windows.
“I wanted something different,” Mullins said. “I didn’t want to see the same boat going by every couple of minutes. We get a lot of toots of the horn from people. Even people on big yachts call us over so they can get a better look.
“People say it’s cute. I never thought I would own a cute boat. To me it looks like a working boat; it’s a workingman’s boat.”
One of Mullin’s friends braided some “bow puddin’” for the Rascal, giving the little boat a businesslike air, sort of like a necktie.
“Some people think it’s a working tug,” Mullins said. “We’ve gone by people who’ve run sailboats aground and they want us to pull them off, but it’s only got 30 horsepower. It can’t pull a 45-foot boat off an oyster reef.”
And the Rascal makes only about seven knots, running with the wind.
“It’s slow,” Mullins said. “That’s the point.”
Mullins’ favorite cruising spots are in Offatts Bayou, around the Crash Boat Basin and short jaunts along the Intracoastal Waterway.
“People always want to go under the causeway. It is pretty neat, especially when there’s a train going by.”
Bayou Rascal can carry a sizable group of passengers, but his favorite trips are with just him, Leah, his wife and their dog, Ranger.
“That’s what I like best. When it’s just the three of us.”
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