Pat and Michael,
We are writing to you concerning your article/blogs dated February 2018 in which you discuss the large boats located at Herman & Helen Marina. You are certainly welcome to your opinion. In some respects, your conclusions appear to be founded on errant assumptions. We purchased Fir about a year ago and would like to make you aware of facts absent from your articles.
You infer that the Fir is a derelict vessel. The fact is, all motors, winches and pumps on Fir are operational and fully supported by their original manufacturer. We have been running the main engines at least 2 hours each month for the past 6 months. The main generator has been rebuilt and is run regularly. Her bow windlass, A-frame crane, fire pumps, cargo pumps, potable water pumps, sanitation system, hydraulic steering system, air compressors and aft windless work and we use them regularly. Her superstructure and freeboard are remarkably free of corrosion. We had Fir inspected by Bay Ship. They were stunned at the condition of her internal hull and framing.
In response to your question, we are not intending to restore Fir where she sits. She will be hauled out at a shipyard so that work below the waterline can be addressed. This said, every shipyard requires that she is insured prior to entering the yard. Insurance begins with inspections and we have a plan should Bay Ships be awarded the contract. In addition, we are registering Fir with the Coast Guard which is complicated by the fact that (as a Coast Guard vessel) she was never admeasured. Lastly, we have been told that once Fir leaves her current mooring, she will be blocked from returning so there is a high premium on testing her systems (i.e. we do not have the option to return to H&H should a part fail an hour after leaving).
The work we have executed includes replacing injectors, hoses, fan belts, leaking gaskets, and some valves. We have installed new electronics including navigational computers, radar, VHF and Class A AIS. We have repaired, cleared and tested internal piping. We have cleaned a lot of bird’s nests out of electric motors. We have worked on her cargo water system which is important in this case because we need to empty all her tanks to get from H&H to the shipping channel then refill the tanks for ballast. We do not believe that any of this work is different from what steel boat owners in the delta perform every year.
We are aware that derelict vessels are a problem in the Delta. Accordingly, we have used down time and surplus labor to paint her exterior. The paint is an overt signal to the community that the boat is getting attention. Further, it is an effort to generate some much needed respect from those working on the boat. Your comments comparing our painting efforts to a shipyard’s procedures do not apply to Fir. We are using a polysiloxane based coating system from PPG. This system establishes a chemical bond with the existing Coast Guard paint. No mechanical preparation (e.g. sanding or striping) is required. Our paint system is approved for over water application in the state of California. We will be stripping and painting other portions of the hull in a shipyard.
We do not believe that comparing Fir to the USS Potomac is fair. The Potomac suffered decades of operational abuse before finally sinking in the Bay. Fir enjoyed a major overhaul in 1988 and given light duty until 1992. She was professionally decommissioned and spent most time since in a freshwater and arid environment. She was towed in the past because the Coast Guard decommissioning process includes welding her rudders in place. Many of the parts to the Potomac had to be remanufactured. Most of Fir’s systems continue to be supported by the original manufacturer.
One challenge that we have faced is the deteriorating condition of H&H Marina. We made timely rent payments until last month. About 12 months ago, the electricity to Fir was cut off. The community garbage cans were removed. More recently, the docks deteriorated to the point where it is difficult to move parts and supplies heavier than about 50 lbs. onto the boat. Not a dollar of our rent was spent to maintain basic services.
Presumably, this is an effort to force the large boats out. We are leaving under any circumstance. But, our effort to prepare the boat is made more challenging because we spend significant time taking our trash to the dump, using a barge to move heavier items to and from the boat, and depending on portable generators that produce less electricity than what is required to run the boat’s native systems.
I have included a few pictures including a current profile picture, a picture of her rebuilt generator, and a picture of one of her internal cargo water/ballast tanks.
We cannot speak for the other large boats. But, we will note that some of your assumptions regarding their situations are inconsistent with our understanding.
The Lighthouse Project
(The Lighthouse Project)
I sincerely hope that all you state in your letter is true, I could not be happier to be wrong. A vessel with the history of the FIR deserves to be refit and operated again.
As you are the latest group to own the ship, I hope that your efforts are more successful than the previous attempts. Records indicate that after decommissioning in October 1991, she sat in Seattle while efforts to turn her into a museum ship never materialized. In 1997, she was towed to San Francisco and moored at what we commonly refer to as the mothball fleet in Suisun Bay. After several years of dismantling at the MARD facility she was again transferred, this time to the Liberty Maritime Museum in Sacramento and towed to the Port of Sacramento. Then in 2003, she arrived in Rio Vista and wasted away there until she was put up for sale in 2007 and finally sold in 2010 and moved to San Francisco Pier 38. She sat there until evicted in 2014 and again put up for sale. Records indicate that a company called The Lighthouse Project LLC and then towed her to the current location at H&H. I would guess that would be you.
From your website www.fir212.com there appears to be quite a bit of progress in the last year since your purchase and it appears the Fir finally has a future. “The objective of our restoration is to update and repurpose Fir. Her future will include humanitarian relief, and we will be restoring the cargo systems to support this endeavor. Ultimately, we would like Fir to be a viable operating vessel once again, and for many years to come.”
Based on the sorted history of the Fir since her decommissioning in 1991 and her location at the H&H graveyard I had feared the worst. Guilt by association I suppose. Thank you for writing to me and shedding light on your project. I am pulling for you.
I have been watching your conversations with Kristine DeBock with keen interest. I am very happy to hear that Bokish Vineyards will be participating in this year’s Taste of the Delta. Having known Kristine most of her life I am very proud of her and her new career as Wine Club Manager for Bokish Vineyards. Kristine grew up on the Delta and has always been welcome on any of our boats since she was very young. She always handled herself safely on the water. You may be familiar with her grandparents, Lloyd and Pat DeBock? They were always the first to enter the Sally Ann in Marina West Yacht Club’s Delta Reflections Lighted Boat Parade.
Her father, Kevin DeBock, has been part of Stockton Waterski Club for as long as I can remember. Her uncle, Jeff DeBock, also grew up on the Delta, and since Kristine was very young, she was always part of his boating life. We all have many memories aboard the Sally Ann for events like the Lighted Boat Parade and 4th of July at Mandeville, and Kristine was always there with us. She joined us again this year at Mandeville, and I have included a photo of myself, Kristine and Jim Vassar, both of us are proud to be considered her Delta uncles. I have also included a photo of Kristine and her uncle Jeff DeBock. Kristine is a third generation River Rat and the future of our Delta!
That is great. One fascinating thing about the people of the Delta is we are all tied together in more ways than one. You hear folks talk about six degrees of separation but in the Delta, it is more like two degrees! I look forward to meeting Kristine and trying Bokish wines at the Taste of the Delta. I hear great things about them.
I enjoyed the Turner Cut history in your column. I have an interesting addition. This title of this boat story is: Honey, you’re not going to believe this.
Florence and Darrell Hannan were friends with my family on Hammer Island, the Middletons, before they purchased Turner Cut. As I grew up with weekends on the Island, I knew of the Hannans and recall their cabin, but I was too young to remember them on the island. What I do recall is a summer day in 1972 when I was out in my Uncle Bill’s wooden 1962 Tollycraft Sportabout and we ran into the Hannans on Old River as they were on their way to visit their old friends on Hammer Island. Quite a coincidence and there was some good-humored ribbing as the Hannans were in 2 beautiful maroon-hulled Centurys. They teased my uncle about his termite-infested wood pile and my uncle called the Hannans’ fiberglass boats floating Tupperware. After some catching-up on the latest news we went our separate ways. I remember this vividly as the Hannans’ new Century boats were so wonderful with their yacht ensigns and Century logo bow pennants, they made quite an impression on a 12-year-old.
Due to those boat experiences in my impressionable youth, I’m always on the lookout for some old boat project. I found a post on the Century Boat Club Facebook page about the estate of former Century Boat Club President, Al Fink, selling off his collection of boats (mostly projects not started or never finished). The last boat they had yet to sell was an early fiberglass Century from the 1970’s, a 19-foot 1971 Century Arabian v-drive with a Chrysler 440 to be more specific. This boat was an unfinished project that was worth saving and I was able to secure it from the Fink family. After getting the boat home, I was casually exploring the interior and pulled up a small plywood floor hatch. To my great surprise, attached was the original boat registration holder. Inside the 47-year-old plastic sleeve was the original registration. Can you believe, it was owned by Turner Cut Resort!
This was one of the 2 Centurys the Hannans were driving that day in 1972. Pretty cool coincidence! Should I name the boat Serendipity or Fluke?
Thanks for the note and sharing your story. I think when you have your boat ready you should take it to Turner Cut and show Kathy and Skip. Be sure to call me and I will come and take some photos. I think you should name her Serendipity or maybe Two Degrees (as in separation).
Good seeing you on the 4th and sorry you could not stay to see our event unfold into a very fun day.
The Marina West Yacht Club’s 1st Annual July 4th Celebration kicked off with a small, but enthusiastic, decorated boat parade. Beginning at the Ox Bow Marina guest docks, the small fleet headed up the Georgiana Slough strutting their stuff for all the waterfront homes to see. One patio boat had a half dozen Little Miss Liberty’s on-board waving to the crowd. Their costumes were created by MWYC member, Debbie Steffensen, who also was the event planner. Once they passed back down river and headed into the harbor, they all made their way up to the clubhouse where we had converted our parking lot to a small carnival like atmosphere. Games for the numerous young kids were available but the star attraction was the dunk tank.
MWYC invited the firefighters from River Delta Fire District Station 94 to be our guests at this event. As our local first responders for medical and fire and rescue services, we wanted to give thanks for the incredible job they do. The firefighters manned the dunk tank and helped us in many ways to make this a very fun family-oriented celebration.
River Delta Fire District is building up a Water Rescue program with a Boston Whaler that was donated to them recently. They need the gear required for the crew, so we had them put out some donation boots. I am happy to report that the community pitched in nearly $500 in just a couple of hours while some firefighters got a good soaking in that dunk tank.
We had a crowd of about 150 people join us for hamburgers and hot dogs at the clubhouse that day. The cooperation from Ox Bow Marina, River Delta Fire District and many volunteers from the yacht club turned this into one great day. We are already planning the 2019 event and hope to see the boat parade expand with larger craft.
Please see our Facebook page for the video of the parade and more pictures at: https://www.face book.com/mwyc.oxbow/
John L. Romero
ear Commodore 2018 &
Sounds like you folks had a fantastic time. I am glad you were able to raise money for the fire department. They are unsung heroes around here and can really use our support. I was hoping that Jerry Tremain was going to be the dunk tank target. I am sure the marina was a big supporter for this event. It looks like you have the makings of an annual celebration!