In New London, Conn., the Wronowski family knows the waterfront and is present on much of it. In 1967 John Henry Wronowski bought the Thames Towboat Co. from the Chappell family, who had founded the company in 1865, naming it after the river running between New London and Groton and emptying into Long Island Sound. The acquisition included a shipyard, a key component in the Wronowski business plan.

“My grandfather, John H., the H for Henry, had a keen sense for buying good used equipment,” said Adam Wronowski, vice president of Thames Towboat Co. Adam’s father, John P. Wronowski, the P for Peter, is president of the company.

Upriver, in distant view, are two splotches of red indicating the company’s two z-drive tugs, contracted full time to the Navy’s Naval Submarine Base New London.

One of the tugs at the submarine base is the 90-foot, 3,600-hp azimuthing stern drive (ASD) tug Paul A. Wronowski built at the Thames Shipyard in 1980. “It is one of the first ASDs on the East Coast,” said Adam. “And it was the first z-drive tug to assist tugs for the Navy.”

The design for Paul A. combined the innate engineering instincts of John H. Wronowski and the expertise of naval architect Bob Hill, who at the time was working at John Gilbert Associates of Hingham, Mass. Hill is now owner of Ocean Tug & Barge. The tug is named for Adam’s late uncle.

Paul A. Wronowski is powered by two Cummins KTA-3067-M mains with Niigata reduction gears at a 2.51:1 ratio and Niigata ZP-2 z-drives. Unlike most modern ASD tugs, the towing winch is on the stern. And that keen eye for good used machinery led John H. to choose an Almon Johnson towing winch.

Adam Wronowski explained that the Almon Johnson winch was designed by the Navy as an anchor winch for its LST fleet. Each of the tank landing ships carried two of the winches on the stern. “They built hundreds of them,” said Adam. “This one is 70 years old, but we rebuilt it and it’s a great winch.” Cape Henlopen, one of the 10 ferries in the Wronowskis’ ferry fleets, was LST 510 when it landed at Normandy on D-Day.