IT’S A VERY SPECIAL DAY TODAY: IT’S MARK’S BIRTHDAY!!
THE NEXT STORY IS FROM MY STILL-IN-PROGRESS BOOK “LIFEBOAT STATION SAILOR”
VICTORIA capsizes on bar 1958 and NICK C burns:
The Marine Digest reports in its January 18, 1958 issue that two Grays Harbor fish boats had been lost. The shrimp boat SOCKEYE had burned 22 miles west of the Grays Harbor entrance. The shrimper NICK C had come upon the burning hulk with no one on board but he later found the crew unharmed floating in a small boat. Steve Trutich was skipper of the NICK C and he brought the crew into the Kaakinen Cannery in Westhaven.
The other boat lost was the crab boat VICTORIA that’s the one that I got involved with. It had been a nasty winter. The crab fleet finally got out to get their pots set after the bar had been closed essentially for a month very few boats got in or out during that month of high winds and heavy seas and a bar that was always breaking. Everyone was starving without a crab harvest which provided a lot of jobs on the boats and at the canneries. The next day after they all got out and set their pots the bar closed; the swell was immense. When you put your crab pots down, they have to be pulled shortly; #1 to get your catch of crabs and #2 so the pots don’t sand in to where you can’t pull them loose of the bottom. Finally it clears off and the bar is temporarily passable and out goes the crab fleet to pull and rebait their pots. Our lookout tower keeps track as best he can of the boats going and coming. It’s getting dark and only part of the fleet has returned and in the afternoon the big swell returns and the lookout tower reports to the office that the heavy swell has started breaking between buoys #6 and #8 which is right on the bar and the only possible way in and out of the harbor. You have to be broadside to the breakers to get in across the bar. You can’t turn in straight because the deepest channel follows the buoy string and it starts breaking outside the buoy string when it starts to shallow up (GH the sea buoy, #2 buoy, #4 buoy, #6 buoy and # 8 buoy which is where you turn into the channel which leads up into the harbor alongside the sunken south jetty). Toward #3 buoy and of course inside #6 toward shore it breaks all the time and the middle ground is all white. You sit at #4 where it doesn’t break (the water is deep enough) and watch and time the breaks between #6 and #8 if it is daylight and you can see. It gets dark early in the winter, 1530 some days, and our lookout tower is watching the running lights come across the bar all of which has to be observed thru the telescope because the bar is two and one half miles from the tower and you really have to pay attention to be able to tell what’s going on from that distance. The tower reports to the office that one boat lost it’s running lights between #6 and #8 buoys and the reason he lost his lights may be because he capsized. Now that’s pretty good spy glass work because you have to squint and watch each boat come across the bar. I am the duty boatswain mate and I grab an engineer and a couple of seaman and down the long dock we run: lives are at stake. The engineer fires off the INVINCIBLE and warms up the 6-110 for a couple of minutes and I say let’s go and I run her up to full speed as we clear the entrance. The INVINCIBLE CG – 52300 was built at the Coast Guard Ship Yard at Curtis Bay, Maryland in 1936. Two were built the INVINCIBLE and her sister the TRIUMPH. They were never intended to be a non-capsizeable hull, like the 36 footer, but they were built with extreme stability. I think that there was a lot of weight on the keel because they had about a one second roll in a nasty beam sea and they tried to throw everyone onboard over the side and if you tended to be seasick you should never ride on her. In Gary J Hudson’s book They Had To Go Out he said that after an inclining test in 1956 on the 52300 it was determined that a roll of over 137 degrees that she would capsize so try and not be broadside to breakers – hard to do with what we had to do with the boat like go in harm’s way. It was approaching maximum ebb – that means we would be getting 2 – 5 knots of current running out and colliding with those big breakers making them a lot worse. I had every one don foul weather gear and lifejackets and snap on safety lines that we had made up for her. I had my usual yellow oil skins on – regulation yellow for high visibility at sea.
We found out on the VHF radio that the crab boat was the VICTORIA and that she had turned over on the bar and three men were missing. They were Skipper Arvid Berge of Hoquiam, and crewmen Irwin Hovis and Melvin Pringle of Grayland. Bernie Cutting was the owner and he had been on the beach watching her come across the bar her running lights on one minute and the next minute she was gone. Worst case scenario – breaking bar, huge swells, wind increasing, nighttime is blacker than Hades, boat is down and three men are missing.
I ran down to the bar cutting my speed down as I leave #9 buoy. I don’t want a big surprise at speed. I reach the bar and get myself across without sustaining a break. I get all hands on deck and we start looking for people in the water as well as the boat -I don’t want to run over a heavy sunken hulk and put a hole in the bottom of the INVINCIBLE. Sometimes they capsize and float bottom up and if you hit the hull it is just like running on to a rock. I can hear what I think is heavy surf, it is probably breaking just outside of me but I can’t see it. We are all on deck with lifelines secured using our two search lights looking. A Coast Guard plane shows up from Port Angeles. I start talking to him about dropping flares. I use every one of his flares, I even back into sinks where it is deeper and on each side of me it is breaking and hopefully I don’t get in too far to where I start taking breaks.
The Coast Guard Cutter McLANE a 125 footer comes down river from Aberdeen and sustains some nasty breaks getting out. I later found out that they had water on the pilot house floor when they were coming across the bar. She should have come out a couple of hours earlier when it was really nasty!
Anyway, I shot all the flares that the plane had and said thank you and he went back to PA. We never saw a trace of anything. I stayed out all night not wanting to take the extra risk of not being able to see the bar breaking twice in a row, no reason to push your luck that far at least that’s what the little guy on my shoulder said. Wreckage from the VICTORIA was found on the beach from our south jetty all the way to the Willipa. It was a very sad night for a lot people.
ON MARCH 23, 1959 I WENT OFF ACTIVE DUTY AND WENT INTO THE RESERVES FOR ANOTHER FOUR YEARS. I WOULD BECOME A CIVILIAN AGAIN BUT UNCLE SAM COULD CALL YOU BACK ANY TIME HE NEEDED YOU. IN FACT, I HAD ACTIVE DUTY ORDERS DURING THE CUBAN CRISIS AND HAD ORDERS TO PROCEED TO —– IN CASE OF NOTIFICATION. I WENT BACK TO WORK FOR MY DAD; LUCKY ME, A REAL JOB. SO I CHANGED UNIFORMS PUT ON MY OLD SUN TANS JUST LIKE I HAD NOT BEEN AWAY FOR FOUR YEARS AND GOT A RAISE IN PAY, THE CIRCLE WAS COMPLETE. WHAT A WONDERFUL EXPERIENCE IT HAD BEEN, I LEARNED A LOT, MADE NEW FRIENDS, GOT SOME VERY SERIOUS BOAT RUNNING TIME, LOTS OF TUGBOATING LEARNED HOW TO RUN A BREAKING BAR, BUT BEST OF ALL I SAVED 37 LIVES AND THAT’S WHY I JOINED THE COAST GUARD.
I DID EVERYTHING FOR DAD NO FIELDS WERE UNTOUCHED. I FLEW TO PORT ANGELES AND BROUGHT BACK A 26 FOOT CHRIS CRAFT CRUISER. I WENT TO OREGON AND SOLD THREE 56 FOOT LCM LANDING BARGES TO JACK WHITE. I DID ALL KINDS OF TOWING JOBS FOR HIM FROM TOWING THE OLD 170′ ATKINS OVER TO POULSBO TO HOUSE BARGE JOBS OUT IN THE SOUND. I ALSO WOUND UP TOWING ALL HIS SURPLUS BOATS AND SHIPS, GOING TO BREMERTON AND MANCHESTER TO PICK UP SURPLUS LANDING BARGES AND MOTOR LAUNCHES. I FOUND MYSELF REBUILDING FLOATING DOCKS, TUNING UP THE TUGS ARGOS AND KUMALONG, SCRAPPING SHIPS AND TYING UP ALL THE SHIPS WE HAD MOORED AT NORTHLAKE BOAT.
NEEDLESS TO SAY I WAS FULLY OCUPPIED. I EVEN BOUGHT A HOUSE BOAT TO LIVE ON THAT WAS MOORED IN WATERWAY 19.
HERE ARE A FEW PHOTOS AND TIME SHEETS OUT OF MY 1959 SCRAP BOOK.
MAY TIME SHEETS FOR MARK.
ACTING AS BROKER FOR MY DAD I SOLD THREE 56 FOOT LCMS TO JACK WHITE ON THE COLUMBIA RIVER.
NOT TOO MANY OPPORTUNITIES COME YOUR WAY IN A LIFETIME BUT WHEN ONE COMES YOU BETTER JUMP ON IT AND I DID. DAD HAD FREMONT BOAT COMPANY LEASED OUT TO TOM WHEELER AND HE AND TOM DIDN’T GET ALONG. TOM HAD SEVEN YEARS LEFT ON THE LEASE. DAD ASKED ME IF I WANTED TO BUY THE FREMONT BOAT BUSINESS. I HAD ONLY ONE ANSWER AND THAT WAS ‘YES’, BUT HOW COULD I AFFORD IT? I ONLY HAD THE $2,500.00 FROM THE SALE OF THE JERKMORE THAT DAD HAD BEEN INVESTING FOR ME. HE SAID HE WOULD CO-SIGN A NOTE TO THE BANK AND THAT I WOULD BORROW THE MONEY FROM THE BANK IF HE AND TOM WHEELER COULD COME TO SOME AGREEMENT ON WHAT IT WOULD COST IF I BOUGHT THE FREMONT BOAT CO. FROM HIM. I WASN’T IN ON THE NEGOTIATIONS BUT ONE DAY DAD SAYS I THINK WE HAVE A DEAL AND YOU AND I HAVE TO GO TO THE BANK AND SET THIS UP. I WOULD TAKE OVER SEPTEMBER 20, 1959. DAD HAD USED THE SAME DATE IN 1928 WHEN HE TOOK OVER FROM CAPT. V. C. WEBSTER. I WENT TO WORK AND ON THAT VERY SAME DAY THE OLD TIME BOAT SALESMAN, LINK MILLER, SAID THAT HE HADN’T HAD A DAY OFF IN 6 MONTHS AND HE WAS TAKING TODAY AND GOODBYE I WILL SEE YOU TOMORROW. UNBELIEVABLE, BUT TRUE. I THINK THAT LINK WANTED FREMONT BOAT FOR HIMSELF. NOW YOU HAVE TO UNDERSTAND FREMONT BOAT HAD 50 OR 60 USED BOATS FOR SALE THAT WERE MOORED HERE AND I HAD TO ANSWER ALL THE QUESTIONS WITHOUT ANY KNOWLEDGE ON MY FIRST DAY AND, BOY, IT WAS A LONG ONE. BUT HERE I AM 55 YEARS LATER AND STILL AT IT.
ONE OF MY FIRST BUSINESS LETTERS, I AM LEARNING HOW.
THE WALLACE FOSS, PAINTING BY KARLA FOWLER.
NOW FOR SOME LOCAL CURRENT PHOTOS.
OUR TUGS DIXIE AND GRACE TOWED THE OCEAN ROVER FROM STABBERT YACHT & SHIP TO NORTHLAKE SHIPYARD AND PUT HER IN DRYDOCK. KRIS MULLAN GOT SEVERAL GREAT PICTURES OF US AT STABBERT’S. THANKS KRIS!
MORE BEAUTIFUL BLACK & WHITE PHOTOGRAPHS FROM OUR MAN ON WHIDBEY ISLAND, STAN WHILLHIGHT !
MORE PICTURES OF OLYMPIA TUGBOAT RACING SOMETIME IN THE 1980’s BY CAPT. SCOTT SCHOCH OF DUNLAP TOWING. WHAT A GREAT SPORT TUGBOAT RACING IS. YOU RUN AS FAST AS YOU CAN, DON’T CRUNCH YOUR NEIGHBOR UNLESS YOU THINK THAT HE GOING TO GET AHEAD OF YOU. DON’T HAVE ART ZIMMERMAN WITH A BIG WRENCH ON THE GOVERNOR UNLESS YOU CAN SIGNAL HIM AND GET AHEAD OF PHIL AT ALL COSTS.
NOW FOR SOME MORE LOCAL SHOTS. WE TOWED THE OCEAN ROVER BACK TO STABBERT’S AFTER THEY WERE THRU WORKING ON HER AT NORTHLAKE SHIPYARD AND THE SUN HAS BEEN OUT. I KEEP SENDING WEATHER REPORTS TO MY GOOD FRIEND, BILL PAGE, WHO LIVES IN CUSHING, MAINE BECAUSE THEY ARE SUFFERING UNDER SEVERAL FEET OF SNOW. AT LEAST BILL HAS HIS BILL GARDEN YACHT HID OUT UNDER COVER AND NO SNOW SHOVELING FOR BILL AS HE JUST HAD HIS KNEE REPLACED.
I REALLY TRY NOT TO INSERT ANY POLITICS INTO THIS BLOG, BUT I THINK THAT WE MAY HAVE ALL FORGOTTEN WHERE THE CITY OF SEATTLE STARTED: IT WAS ON THE WATER! THIS NONSENSE ABOUT THE PORT NOT BEING ABLE TO RENT TERMINAL 5 TO FOSS FOR SHORT TERM MOORAGE OF SHELL OIL VESSELS IS JUST PLAIN IGNORANT. GET THE MONEY, WE ALL NEED IT. THE DEAL IS FOR MOORAGE OF SHELL VESSELS AND, YES, THEY DO WORK ON VESSELS – THAT’S ONE OF THE USES THAT WE DO ON THE WATER. THIS IS NOT GREEN LAKE SO GET ON WITH THE LEASING. VIGOR SHIPYARD IS JUST ACROSS THE WATERWAY FROM TERMINAL 5. IT’S THE SAME WATER AND IT’S OK TO WORK ON BOATS AT THAT FACILITY. THIS IS A WATER DEPENDENT USE AND WE NEED THE JOBS SINCE WE STILL HAVE A VERY HIGH UNEMPLOYMENT RATE IN THIS STATE.
Thanks to all of you who send in pictures and facts so that I can share the information one photo at a time, anything that you send me, I can scan and send back to you as good as new.
1.Crowley decals and cloth patches for jackets & caps. The one I really like says “Red Stack Tugs”.
2.Old Cary-Davis & Puget Sound Tug & Barge Photos & Advertisements.
- Old Cannery Tender & Log towing photos.
- We buy old tug and waterfront photos or collections and snapshots, as well as (pre-1946) Marine Digest magazines. We also buy old marine stuff: models, lights, etc.
- Wanted: photo of tug LEWIS II; builders plate from USCG CUTTER BONHAM and photo of Pacific Towboats SEA MULE.
Please donate to the Northwest Seaport to help repair the ARTHUR FOSS we don’t want to lose her to old age. So far we have lost the CHICKAMAUGA and the IVANHOE.
ALL THE BEST FROM:
Mark & Margie Freeman, Captains Erik & Tom, Miss Blue, Richie, The Mark Freeman Maritime Museum, Tatoosh Towing & Salvage, Fremont Boat Co. Fremont Tugboat Co. and the three cats. Braveheart (Indy), Razz & Batman.