BY H. NELSON SPENCER
Article featured in the Waterways Journal
In the winter of 2019, when Nichols Boat Company launched the mv. Patsy J into Lake Ferguson — an oxbow of the Lower Mississippi River at Greenville, Miss. — there was a pronounced splash; the river level was down and the boat entered at a steep angle. By comparison, this spring, when Nichols launched its sister vessel, the mv. Danny K, the water was high and the boat made a nary ripple.
“It was more of a splish than a splash," said the boat's namesake, Daniel L. Koestler, who is vice president of operations for the vessels' owner, Ergon Marine & Industrial Supply lnc., Vicksburg, Miss.
The Danny K is a new 65-foot, 1,368 hp. towboat that Ergon Marine uses for midstream fueling, the delivery of groceries and other marine goods and harbor services from its home base in Vicksburg. Nichols delivered the Danny K March 26, and the Rev. Sam Godfrey of Christ Episcopal Church in Vicksburg blessed it in a virtual ceremony. The unique blessing is an Ergon tradition wherein a beaker of engine oil is "made holy" by a priest and placed into the vessel's engine, symbolically asking God to protect the crew and the vessel.
Koestler, born and raised in Vicksburg, settled for a career on the river after he forewent the family bakery business and went to work instead for Tandy Corporation after high school. There he rose to be manager of the company's Radio Shack store in Jackson, Miss. In 1979, he left to join Channel Fueling Service, a Port Arthur, Texas-based mid-streamer with a depot in Vicksburg. He began as a grocery clerk. While he was with Channel Fueling, in 1981, Koestler earned the position of shift supervisor. Then, with his pilot's license in hand, he began delivering groceries and fuel.
He joined Ergon Marine & Industrial Supply in 1983 as a tankerman, and after a couple of years, he put his piloting skills back to good use, pushing a fuel flat for 11 years. He was named marine operations manager in 1996 and vice president of operations in 2003. As such, the veteran riverman oversees the operation of seven harbor boats, two fuel flats and two crew boats in the Vicksburg harbor; one harbor boat and two fuel flats in the Memphis harbor; and a total of 65 employees, about whom he always says: “I’m only as good as the people around me."
Koestler has a brother who is a captain on a line boat. He and his wife, Toni, have two sons, both of whom work at non-river-related jobs. Now 64 years of age, he has been with Ergon Marine & Industrial Supply for 37 of them. He is active in industry affairs.
"Since 1983," offered Kirk Latson, president of Ergon Marine & Industrial Supply, "Danny Koestler has been a tremendous example of commitment, hard work, fairness and mutual respect. Danny has always treated Ergon Marine like he owned it and has always been an example of dependability.
"The marine industry is changing," Latson continued. "Coronavirus, changing engine specifications and environmental regulations, just to name a few, are having an impact on our business. Danny has been able to remain positive and help chart a plan forward to lead us into the next decade."
A twin to the Patsy J, the Danny K measures 65 feet by 24 feet, with a molded depth of 8 feet and a draft of 6.5 feet. It has a pilothouse eye level of 27 feet 5 inches. The vessel's 1,368 hp. come from a pair of Mitsubishi S6R-YcMPTAW main engines from Laborde Products Inc. Those engines, which are fully mechanical, are paired to Twin Disc 5222 reduction gears, also from Laborde Products, with a 6.10:1 ratio. The vessel features 62- by 55-inch, four-blade Sound propellers from Missouri Dry Dock & Repair.
Engines Inc. supplied the Danny K's two John Deere 66 kw. generators. The vessel is equipped with 6-inch tail shafts and rudder shafts from Mosley Manufacturing & Machine Works. Rudder and shaft tubes are by Mississippi Marine. Dale's Welding supplied the Wartsila shaft seals. Marine Industrial Corporation supplied the vessel's Thordon plastic rudder bearings, while Paducah Rigging supplied the Johnson cutlass tailshaft bearings.
The new vessel is a lunch bucket boat, with no quarters but a small galley, lounge and bathroom. It has tankage for 7,600 gallons of fuel, 1,490 gallons of potable water and 925 gallons of both lube oil and slop oil. The Danny K also features grid coolers from Fernstrum alarms from M&I Electric and a steering system from Custom Hydraulics. The boat's wastewater treatment system is from H20 Inc. On deck, the Danny K is equipped with two 40-ton Wintech winches and two 40-ton Wintech self-aligning roller chocks. Its electronics package from Wheelhouse Electronics features Furuno radars.