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Crew Connection—Tony and Jeff Perez

Before they shared the role of Captain for Manson’s tugboat HARRY M, brothers Tony and Jeff Perez’s maritime journey started more than 35 years ago on the tropical island of Guam.

Born and raised in a Chamorro family in the village of Sånta Rita, Tony—the oldest of four siblings—and Jeff remember growing up in a two-story concrete house on the South side of the island. “Our house was one of the first concrete houses in the village,” Tony explains. “Our family was well-known in Sånta Rita’s tight-knit Catholic community, which gave us the advantage of having many cousins and friends to play with as kids. It was a fun time.”

Between attending school, attending church, and participating in extracurricular activities, the brothers divided their time hanging out at two family-owned stores. “My paternal grandpa was a local congressman and rancher who owned the Perez Store in Sånta Rita,” Jeff says. “My mom’s family owned a store in the neighboring village of Agat.”

Two men on a tugboat.
Jeff (left) and Tony Perez (right) on Manson's tugboat HARRY M.

When Tony turned 13 years old, and Jeff turned six, their lives changed forever. “We visited our maternal grandparents in Washington State in the late 1970s,” Tony explains. “After we went back to Guam, my mom convinced my dad that there were better opportunities in the States for our family. Soon after, we packed our belongings and hopped on a plane to Washington State.”

The family chose Silverdale, WA, as their new home, where Tony and Jeff’s father continued his civil service job as a heavy-duty mechanic at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. Their new surroundings and neighbors were a culture shock for the boys, but they found solace in the small Chamorro community in Silverdale.

“When we moved to Silverdale, we experienced snow for the first time,” Jeff says. “Everything was different, from the weather to the people, but we eventually adjusted to our new home and made new friends.”

Jeff and Tony’s parents divorced a short time later, and the brothers decided to move in with their dad. Despite the breakup, they stayed close to their mom and dad, valuing the importance of family as taught by their Chamorro culture.

After high school, the brothers set out on their career paths. Tony found employment with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), conducting ocean research along the West Coast from Puget Sound to Southern California. He eventually married into a tugboat family and enrolled into a maritime training school called Sea School to learn the family business and earn his captain’s license. Jeff decided to enroll in a local community college to take prerequisite classes. Realizing this wasn’t the route he wanted to pursue, he decided to forgo his post-secondary education and enroll in a commercial diving school. After receiving his certifications for diving and topside and underwater welding, Jeff moved back to Guam for a short time to work for Guam Tropical Dive Station—a Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) facility.

Despite being more than 5,000 miles apart, the brothers kept in close contact, but they wouldn’t remain separated for long. Soon Tony asked Jeff to join the tugboat business. “My wife’s family-owned Island Tug and Barge in Seattle,” Tony explains. “Seeing that we could use a skilled welder and someone who knew their way around the water, I asked Jeff to come to work for us because his knowledge would prove useful on the vessels.”

Jeff joined the company soon after, and according to his older brother, Jeff quickly rose through the ranks by impressing the captains and crew members with his hard work, attitude, and ability to learn fast." It was a natural transition for me to go work with my brother," Jeff says. “After putting in some time at the company, Tony encouraged me to attend Sea School so I can obtain my Captain’s license.” Eager to see their hard work come to fruition, both brothers put in the time, dedication, and focus to acquire their Captain’s licenses, often daydreaming, and joking about their future careers. “I remember one memory of us decking late at night and moving barges for one of the captains,” Tony says. “I looked over at Jeff and said, ‘We will have to think of a name for our future tugboats. I’m considering naming my tugboat 'Pugua'—a type of chewing nut enjoyed by people in the Western Pacific—‘What about you?’ We couldn’t stop laughing.” Shortly after, Jeff and Tony received their endorsements to become tugboat captains.

From 2010 to 2012, Jeff and Tony were contracted to work as tugboat captains on Manson’s Manette Bridge Replacement project for the Washington State Department of Transportation in Bremerton, WA. According to Jeff, one of the project’s highlights was the opportunity to work with longtime Manson employees Bob Edwards, Dave Nielsen, and Mike “Hollywood” Benton. “I saw how Bob and Dave managed their work, and I respected that,” Jeff says. “I developed a great relationship with both of them, and the conversation of working for Manson came up naturally.”

The same year, Jeff joined Manson as a tugboat captain. He Co-Captained the GLADYS M with Hollywood, working on the Port of Anchorage Maintenance Dredging project for five years. In addition, he worked on the tugs PETER M, JEFFREY M, AND ELMER.

Tony, who had stayed with Island Tug and Barge after the Manette Bridge Replacement project, kept himself busy by working on different projects with several companies. One of his jobs brought him to work on Interstate 90. “I got bored transporting gravel and wanted to do something more exciting, so I worked for a few companies to do different things,” Tony says. “It got to a point where my wife and I were doing pretty good financially, so I took a short break from the industry.” In 2020, Manson was awarded the P-834 SEAWOLF Class Service Pier Extension project at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor in Silverdale, WA. Realizing that the project would be a good opportunity for Tony, Jeff encouraged him to join.

Tony officially joined the LISA M at the SEAWOLF project in June 2020, spending most of his time learning how Manson’s vessels operate. “The transition was natural because I’ve been doing this for more than 20 years,” Tony explains. “The only learning curve was the equipment size because they’re much bigger than I’ve worked on before.”

After completing his work at SEAWOLF, Tony boarded the HARRY M—now Captained by Jeff—as Co-Captain to support projects in Manson’s west coast region. The addition of Tony on the HARRY M was an exciting change, allowing two brothers to captain one of Manson’s busiest tugs.

“I’m proud to work with my brother, and not many people can be able to say that” Jeff explains. “As Tony would tell you, our Chamorro culture taught us that family means everything, and here at Manson it’s just the same.”

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