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"You'd go back to the Ice Age, O.J., by the sound of your engine!"
Top Hat to O.J.

Quarantine is the eighth episode of TUGS.


It is the year of the big heat wave. Many incoming boats have sickness aboard, and must fly a yellow flag to show they need to have a medical examination to determine whether or not their sickness is contagious. If their disease is infectious, they must anchor away from port and fly the checkered flag to show they are under quarantine for the compulsory forty days, and warning everyone not to go near, for fear of being infected.

Burke and Blair, a pair of evil minded scrap-dealing tugs who sport bowler hats, have their eyes on O.J. whose engine has been acting up lately. They have already made Captain Star an offer for him, but he has refused.

Ten Cents and Sunshine arrive at the Star Dock, late for the briefing. Captain Star threatens to scrap them - though probably not seriously - and informs them that Ten Cents was supposed to collect a fire barge from the station across the harbour, and that O.J. is already taking care of it. Ten Cents is sent to help him while Sunshine has to bring in a tramper called Nantucket (a.k.a. Old Dirt Bucket). If O.J. is alright, Ten Cents and Sunshine are then to join the others, ready to take away vessels cleared from quarantine.

Meanwhile, O.J., on his way to the ferry pier with the barge, is watched by Burke and Blair. The two scrap dealers delight at the sound of his choking engine. At the same time, the Fultan Ferry follows an intersecting path, on a regular delivery. O.J. suddenly spots a motorboat rapidly approaching him from the distant harbour entrance. Before he knows it, it is right on top of him. O.J. reverses out of the way just in time, but his faulty engine spins him, swinging his barge into the Fultan Ferry. The ferry now has a large hole in her hull, causing her to sink.

Ten Cents, on his way out to meet O.J., sees the situation and tries to save the Fultan Ferry with a towline. But he is forced to cut the rope, and the ferry sinks to the bottom. Sunshine arrives, not too far behind Ten Cents, and is sent to get the emergency services.

At the Star Pier, Burke and Blair make a second attempt to purchase O.J., but the captain refuses.

Back at the scene of the Fultan Ferry, the Fire Chief arrives to take care of the situation and cranes are put into position to raise the sunken ferry. Zorran and Zug arrive to blame O.J. for the accident and gloatingly express their delight that there will be fewer Star Tugs available for quarantine work.

When Ten Cents and O.J. arrive at the mouth of the harbour, they find Top Hat and the two Z-Stacks still waiting. The Coast Guard informs the tugs that the schooners are quarantined, as they may carry Microbonic Plague. Ten Cents is surprised when Zorran sends Zug packing and says that he himself will go further out. Ten Cents, knowing Zorran, suspects foul play.

Sunshine is out of port, looking for Nantucket, when he spots the tramper (flying a yellow flag); he makes sure not to go too close. The tramper lowers its flag. As Sunshine moves closer, Nantucket asks Sunshine to give him a tow. With no customs boat in sight, Sunshine wisely hurries away, not wanting to risk being infected.

Zorran sees Sunshine on his way out and asks what he is doing. Sunshine refuses to tell him, but Zorran won't let him off the hook as if he just wanted some information for the fun of it. Ten Cents and O.J. quickly come to Sunshine's aid. Sunshine explains that the tramper's yellow flag was pulled down. Zorran thinks the tramper has been cleared, and tries to seize upon this "golden opportunity" by simply rushing out to the tramper immediately. Ten Cents gives chase, determined to beat Zorran to it. O.J. follows Ten Cents (doing considerable damage to his engine in the process), and stops him. He is certain the tramper is either waiting for examination or to be quarantined. Burke and Blair briefly pass, but no one pays them any attention. O.J. brushes off the two switchers' concern for his burnt-out engine, telling them that they both could have been quarantined.

Zorran triumphantly reaches Nantucket and pulls along side, while Ten Cents and Sunshine tow O.J. back to the Star Pier. The switchers try to explain to Captain Star what happened when Burke and Blair show up yet again and make their final offer for O.J. Initially it looks as if Captain Star might finally give in, but then he hears that O.J. saved Ten Cents from quarantine, and instead angrily sends the scrap dealers packing, and tells Ten Cents to take him to Lucky’s Yard for a new engine. He also sends Sunshine on garbage duty to make money for O.J.’s new engine.

Back at the Quarantine zone, the Coast Guard arrives and after catching Nantucket without his quarantine flags, places an arrest warrant on him. Despite Zorran convincing he was unaware of Nantucket still being quarantined, the Coast Guard orders both him and the villainous tramper to put up quarantine flags. Burke and Blair pass Zorran and snigger at his dilemma. Zorran ends up quarantined alongside Nantucket for forty days.



  • This is the only episode in which the Fultan Ferry has a main role. It just makes cameos in other episodes.
  • This episode marks the first and only speaking roles of Burke, Blair and Nantucket.
  • Big Mac, Hercules, Zebedee and Zak do not appear in this episode.
  • This episode marks the final appearance of the Coast Guard's Messenger.
  • This episode was later written into a story for the Tugs 1990 Annual.
  • This is the only time Big Mac does not appear in an episode.
  • This is the third episode not to feature Hercules.
  • Stock footage from the episode "Jinxed" is used.
  • This is the second episode to feature underwater footage. The first episode was "Pirate" (although it was too dark to see).
  • Top Hat mentions Sir Francis Drake, an English sea captain who defeated the Spanish Armada in 1588.
    • Curiously enough, due to the Upper Class accents, Top Hat sounds remarkably like Francis the bulldog from the 1988 Disney movie, Oliver and Company, which was released about 400 years after Drake defeated the Spanish Armada.
  • Although this episode doesn't have a photo book version, several shots were included on the front and back covers of British and Japanese VHS releases, and one was included on a magazine cover.
  • The Japanese title of this episode is called "O.J.'s Clunking Engine".
  • Going by production order, this was the fifth episode produced.


  • When Grampus is looking at the ferry underwater, the lifeboats appear to be still attached to the ferry.
  • Sunshine bears a dangling fender during the scene where Zorran and Zug comment on O.J.'s accident.
  • When Grampus resurfaces, O.J. has disappeared and reappears in the next shot.
  • The rear cover of the single Japanese VHS release features a photograph from "Trapped," but that episode is not included.
  • When Blair explains that O.J. is at the top of their scrap list, Sunshine is seen pulling a crane in the background but in the next scene, the crane behind Sunshine is gone and the Fire Tug is beside him.
  • When the motorboat races towards O.J., it is at open sea but when it almost crashed into O.J., it is in the harbour. However, when the motor boat races away from O.J., it is back at open sea again.
  • When O.J. thanks Captain Star for letting him go to Lucky's Yard, Blair is still beside him.
  • The Coast Guard's Messenger seems to be smiling when he almost crashes into O.J.
  • O.J first refers to the Fultan ferry as "boyo", a Welsh term for boy or man; however, after the accident he and all the other characters specifically refer to the Fultan ferry as "She".