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What is the history of the old wooden tugboat directly across the Cape Fear River from downtown Wilmington?

Merton Vance

It’s the tugboat Isco, which was abandoned there in the 1960s.

While it’s the most visible derelict from the other side of the river, it is one of more than 30 wrecks along Eagles Island, including at least nine tugboats and an assortment of paddlewheel steamers, barges, launches, skiffs and ferries.

In 1985, Richard Lawrence, director of the underwater archeology unit at Fort Fisher, which is part of the N.C. Division of Archives and History, cataloged the wrecks in a 1985 report. Other research has continued over the years.

According to his 1985 survey:

“This wood hull vessel had been identified by Mr. Donald Bordeaux, of Bordeaux Salvage and Marine Construction Company and Mr. William Murrel, of Wilmington Shipyard, as the diesel powered tugboat Isco. The vessel was abandoned sometime in the 1960s. It is not known when or where the Isco was built but it is reported to have come to Wilmington from Virginia. The site is located between the Hamme and Stone Marine Railways and the 55-foot-by-16-foot vessel lies perpendicular to the river alongside a dilapidated pier.

“Although the wood hull of the Isco is severely weathered and partially covered with vegetation the vessel is relatively intact. The superstructure is still in place and includes the wheelhouse, galley and head. The diesel engine was removed before the vessel was abandoned, however, two fuel tanks are still located in the hull as are the rudder and towing bitts.”

For more information on the Eagles Island and its wrecks:




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