September 10, 2009
On September 20, 2009 I will celebrate 50 years of being in business at the Fremont Boat Company and my wife of 25 years, Margie, will celebrate working here for 30 years. My dad “Doc” bought the business which was called Fremont Boat Market on September 20, 1928 from Capt. V. C. Webster, who founded Fremont Towing in 1915 and Fremont Boat Market in 1916. I was born in 1934 after my sister Merry who was born in 1930; a couple of Great Depression kids, I always thought that I was a depression mistake because times were so hard. I started running one of dad’s tugs the launch DOLPHIN II, a 36 footer when I was 11. Boy what a thrill that was. At age 13 I got my first tug an ex- Navy 21 foot motor dory the SEAL ROCK with a tremendous 8 horse power. I used her for log salvage and called the company Tatoosh Towing & Salvage, the name was bigger than the boat and dad charged me $600 for her. Seeing the demand for logs, we built the JERKMORE up when I was 16, her cost to me was $2500. She had been a surplus landing barge with 225 H.P. I ran her in the log salvage business and did general towing and log rafting, paying for her before I went in the Coast Guard in 1955. I served the Coast Guard for 8 years: 4 active and 4 inactive. After boot camp I went to the Grays Harbor Lifeboat Station at Westport and stood watches in the lookout tower before I got to run all the different motor lifeboats and utility boats. We had the 52 foot INVINCIBLE and a smaller 36 foot lifeboat the 36469 – a 26 ft Monomoy surfboat and three different 40 foot fast utility boats. I always laughed that when I joined the Coast Guard all I did was change uniforms and take a drop in pay and start towing for them. I received a Coast Guard Commendation medal for rescuing the crew off the Liberty ship SEA GATE aground on Sonora Reef near Pt. Grenville on the Washington Coast and a Letter of Commendation for the rescue of two boys in the surf at Grayland. In all, the Coast Guard said that I saved 37 lives and I attained the rank of 2nd class bos’n mate of course no
one knew it but I enjoyed that work so much that I would have done it without pay. Coming off active duty in 1959 I went to work for my dad and later in the year I got the chance to buy the business at Fremont Boat which dad had out on a lease. I sold boats on consignment, bought and sold boats, rented moorage, ran tugs for my dad and worked 7 days a week – a typical small business. My dad “Doc” died in 1963 after being sick for two years and I took over his position to help my mother “May” operate the family businesses. I didn’t really like selling boats so I resurrected the tugboat side of the business and formed Fremont Tugboat Company. I had a grand time with it. I did general towing and had a drill barge, the GOPHER, and a ramp scow and several flat scows as well as two salvage barges the GUZZLE and the GRAPPLER and over the years I operated the tugs STOKER, HMS, BARF, MANILA, CROSSCUT, PEAVEY, STANDFAST, A-1, SOVEREIGN, SPITFIRE, FREMONT 105, JEEP, BLUEBERRY and GRACE. My son, Erik, was born in 1970. Margie went to work for me when my mother wanted to kick back just a little in 1979. I suffered a brain tumor and had it removed in 1981 and every one pitched in to keep everything going. Margie and I were married in 1984…one of my better moves. In 1994 Margie and I bought the BLUEBERRY an ex-Coast Guard Buoy Tender. We would use her as a tug and took a 6 month cruise to Alaska in her in 1995 going with our good friend Lodo and family with their boat Decoy. I sold the tugboat company to my son Erik and his best friend Tom Bulson in 1995 and they still own and operate the company. Their main tugs are the DIXIE, STANDFAST, STINGER AND HALFTRACK and a flat scow FT 4519. In 1999 we rebuilt the “Doc Freeman’s” marine hardware building into the “O. H. ‘Doc’ Freeman office building and we lease out office space. My mother “May” died in 2002 at age 98. Today Margie and I operate 12 businesses from our office at Fremont Boat Company and our son Capt. Erik has been tug boating for 30 years starting- on the 15 ft tug BARF when he was 8 years old. No one told me about child labor laws I always thought they did it right on the farms and I have been accused of being a Lake Union farmer. I have my own Tugboat Museum in my office and a collection of over 100,000 tugboat photos. Chuck Fowler and I got together and published the book “Tugboats on Puget Sound” so now I am an author although I couldn’t spell it last week. I still run a small tug so that makes it 64 years that I have been running tugs. Margie and I commute to our houseboat on Westlake with the tug “JEEP” and we are still working 7 days a week. I always figured that a lot of hard work will solve most problems so I get up every day and get my ass in gear and I have about 100 irons in the fire and can’t wait to get at them. I have even started building model tugs again…more later.
My friend Jim Cole has been made a Fellow of The Society of Naval Architects and Engineers as reported in the Puget Sound Maritime Historical Society of which he was president during 1979-1981. Jim was the head of a team that designed a tuna seiner which held a speed record for 18 years. He also executed the design of the SDM tug for Eric Hvide. He also has been writing articles for the Fisherman’s News on the evolution of fish boats. Jim is famous for all his illustrations and pen and ink drawings of boats.
Kevin Campbell informed me that his dad, Bob Campbell, passed away last March. He was a long time tug boat Captain and an old friend. He worked for years doing ship handling for Brusco in Grays Harbor and they named their newest tug after him the CAPT. BOB CAMPBELL.
Jay Peterson sent on an obituary on Captain Ben Strickland who passed away on July 26, 2009 at age of 79. He spent a lifetime on the water starting with the U.S.Navy in 1947, he was a surveyor for US Salvage and also worked for Crowley Maritime. He was a senior salvage master and supervised the rigging and towing in 1989 of the EXON VALDEZ from Valdez to San Diego. He also founded National Marine Services his own consulting firm for marine operations and salvage. He retired for good in 1997.
Keith Sternberg of Lopez Island reports that he got to go on the steam tug MASTER on a big cruise around Vancouver Harbour. Keith remarked how nice and quiet the steamers were. Keith in his spare time, when he is not adjusting compasses, rebuilds steam engines; sounds to me like he has a 24 hour job.
RENTAL PROPERTIES & SERVICES WE OFFER.
· Quiet, protected open boat moorage to 70 feet at FREMONT BOAT COMPANY at 206-632-0152.
· Great office space at the O.H. Doc Freeman office building. Water views over our marina on Lake Union. From 110 s.f individual offices to 3,600 square feet! Kitchen, sun deck and conference room included. Call Margie at 206-632-0152.
· Tugboat service & barge rentals call Erik or Tom at 206-632-0151 and
· Dog walking, Petsitting and Lodging – call Heidi Freeman at Happy Camper Pet Service, 206-784-5291.
· Single family homes for lease in the North Seattle area call Margie at 206-632-0152 or Erik at 206-632-0151.
· Covered & open boat moorage plus brokerage situation available at DOC’S DOCK on Lake Union. Call Dayle at 206-697-4552.
· New book for sale “TUGBOATS ON PUGET SOUND”. Call 206-632-0152 to buy your signed copy; or pick one up from Fremont Boat Co. at 1059 N Northlake Way, Seattle, WA 98103.