I recently had the opportunity of going aboard the old U.S. Lighthouse Service tender Fir (WLM 212) to perform a “status survey” to determine her present condition and suitability for transfer to any other viable maritime museum.
The Fir’s history has ties to the Seattle, Washington, area. De-commissioned in 1991, she became a valued service to local Sea Scouts. However the Scout’s support Foundation was unable to raise the necessary money to maintain this size of a vessel.
The Fir then went to the U.S. Navy and towed to the “Mothball” fleet at Suison Bay in Benitia, California. Several years later the “Liberty Maritime” group from Rio Vista, California acquired her. But, being a Sea Scout training group, they can no longer afford to preserve her either and she now needs to find a new berth.
The Fir is a valuable piece of America’s maritime history having been in service from 1939 to 1991, spending the majority of that time on the west coast of the United States performing yeoman service as a “Buoy Tender.” Built in Oakland, California, at the Moore Dry Dock Company, in 1939 she is 175 feet by 34 feet by 12 feet of riveted steel with beautiful period woodwork interior that would be the envy of any yachtsman today. In a 1950’s refitting of the vessel a heavier buoy-lifting rig with operators house was added on the foredeck, which gives for a slightly ugly appearance.
Personally, I believe the vessel needs to be returned to Seattle and be part of the
U.S. Coast Guard Station in downtown Seattle
to enhance the on building former barracks facility and bring maritime veterans and
the public to view this vital part of our maritime history.
What immediate attention the vessel needs is superficial (flaking rust on the upper decks due to clogged drains). In three to five years she would need a haul out and painting to bring her back to debutant status while interior cosmetics are performed.
However, the vessel is not able to move under her own power, so towing considerations would be needed. Most likely a military veterans volunteer group would be the only way to save her as well as the needed funding. Does Paul Allen or Bill Gates have any spare change?
The Fir is not endangered yet, but if a new caregiver is not found, the vessel could meet the fate of so many of other similar vessels.
This story appeared in the
October 2006 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.
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