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For Chris Mack, Foss Maritime is a family affair

By Hilary Reeves

The first time Chris Mack saw the painting of the Craig Foss propped up in Foss Maritime headquarters last spring, there was a jolt of recognition.

“I can’t remember if I was eight or nine years old then, but my dad was the Chief Engineer of the Craig Foss at the time,” he explained.

Chris Mack, Jr., Foss’s Manager of Operations, grew up with the company. His father, Chris Mack, Sr., is a Chief Engineer with 43 years at Foss.

Mack, his mother, and his sister had gone down to visit his dad in Aberdeen and spend Christmas Eve and Christmas morning with him.

“But at that age, my sister and I were both terrified missing out on Santa Claus,” he said. “We’d planned to stay in a hotel, but Dad had to stay on the boat overnight, so I decided to spend the night there with him – just him and I. It turns out, Santa found my sister in the hotel and me on the boat. It was something I’ll never forget. When I saw the painting of the Craig Foss and the log barge, I recognized it right away. My dad spent 11 years working on the Craig Foss towing that log barge around.”

A history of maritime tradition

Mack was born and raised in Tacoma, attended the California Maritime Academy, and now works as Foss’s Manager of Operations, managing day-to-day operations for the Harbor Services fleet. His father, Chris Mack, Sr., has been a Marine Transportation Chief Engineer at Foss for he past 43 years. His sister, Andrea Mack, works in Operations for Young Brothers in Honolulu.

“ I consider both my parents and my brother my best friends,” she said. “It’s fun to work together in an industry where we can work together and share ideas.”

“We have a long history of maritime tradition on both sides of my family,” continued Mack. “My grandfather was a machinist on a motion fishing vessel. My dad’s stepfather was a chief engineer in the Navy and on shipping lines. My uncle was also a chief engineer. But I’m the only one who chose to go into the deck department. I wanted to be a captain.

The Journey of the Craig Foss

The Craig Foss tug was built in 1944 by the Tampa Marine Corp. in Florida for use by the U.S. Army. In 1965, Foss Maritime purchased the tug, named it, and the Craig Foss spent the following 36 years in service.

Foss sold the Craig Foss to Vesta Shipping Lines of Scotch Plains, New Jersey in 2001; it was re-documented under the Bolivian Flag as the Craig Trans. In 2012, the tug was detained in Nova Scotia due to safety concerns. The following year, it was re-registered under the Canadian flag, and sold by the City of Halifax for scrap.

Family ties

“It never really occurred to me that Chris would follow in my footsteps at Foss, but I was always open,” said Chris Mack, Sr.

Years after that Christmas on the Craig Foss, when the younger Chris Mack was in high school, he worked a couple of jobs with his dad.

“One day – I think he was a junior in high school – he turned to me and said, ‘Dad, who makes more money, you or the Captain?’ I said, ‘the Captain, of course.’ Then he said, ‘Dad, I want to do what you do when I grow up, only I want to be a Captain, not down in the engine room.’ I told him, ‘Okay son, but just remember: you can teach a monkey to ride a bicycle, but you can’t teach it to fix one,” he laughed. “It’s a bit of a running joke in our family.”

Chris Mack, Sr. joined the Coast Guard out of high school. In 1974, after four years, he was discharged and then hired at Foss as an Oiler. He went back to school the following year, but was back and Foss after just one semester.

“I came back in asking for a job on a Tuesday, and I was out on the Ellen Foss on a Thursday,” he laughed. By 1979, he was licensed as an Assistant Engineer. He’s spent the past 42 years of his life on the water in a Foss tug, including a nine-year stint in Cook Inlet on the Alaska Husky.

“I’m really proud of both my kids,” he said. “Foss has been a great company over the years. They’ve been very supportive of me. I have no regrets.”

Michael Corcoran’s legacy

The Craig Foss at work, painted by Michael Corcoran.

Chris Mack, Jr. has been shoreside for seven years now. He’s a family man, married with a four-year-old daughter, a two-year-old son, and an infant daughter. His schedule, he said, is a lot more predictable than his dad’s was growing up.

“I’d like to keep advancing and end up in a leadership role with the company,” he said. “My strengths right now lie in operations, but I have a passion for developing business.”

As for the painting, it was donated to Foss by Leanne Corcoran, the daughter of Michael Corcoran. Michael submitted paintings that were selected for and featured in the Foss calendar for many years. He passed away two years ago.

Leanne was in the process of moving her mother out of their home and found all of her father’s original paintings in the basement. She delivered 10 original paintings to Foss – including the Craig Foss, which the company plans to gift to the Mack family.

“Foss was all I knew growing up,” Mack concluded. “My dad was very passionate about his work – he still is. We’re a family that’s always been on the water. The thought of being in another industry has never crossed my mind.”

Hilary Reeves

Hilary Reeves spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter and editor before joining the Saltchuk family of companies as a consultant. Since People of Saltchuk launched in 2014, Reeves has interviewed more than 200 Saltchuk employees from operating companies all over the world. Born in Tacoma, Washington, Reeves is a former president of both the collegiate and local professional chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists, a graduate of the Society’s Ted Scripps Leadership Institute, and a Toastmaster. When she’s not writing, she loves to read, ski, and practice the piano. She lives in West Seattle with her husband and two young daughters.