It’s been three years since I posted anything on Carmel Finley’s historical blog. The last posting was made on 12/28/2017, “COBB 2017- A Good Year” which was my 42nd posting. She is still in her new home port of Winchester Bay, Oregon, where she is getting the loving care she deserves, by her new owner Ron Sloan who is restoring her.
I kept track of John N. Cobb her after she was decommissioned in 2008, when she was transferred to the Seattle Maritime Academy, a part of Seattle Central College. She sat under the Ballard Bridge for 7 years and during that time I visited with the port captain of the Academy a number of times. On one visit he asked me to take 4 boxes of files that the Government had supplied to the ship for safe-keeping. I stored them in the NOAA building at Sand Point which contained the records of the Fish and Wildlife Service Exploratory Fishing and Gear Research Base that existed between 1950 and 1970. The Cobb was the exploratory vessel built for this group in 1950 and then in 1970 she became part of the NOAA fleet.
Twice I had the opportunity to act as a guide for the Cobb, once in 2013 and the other in 2014 when the Northwest Seaport held an open house at the Historic Ship Wharf on Lake Union. Shannon Fitzgerald, an officer of the Northwest Seaport had made arrangements to tow the vessel there.
I had no idea that the Cobb was sold in July 2015, but learned about it on July 21, 2015 when I received a surprise E-mail from co-worker Mike Webb who spotted her alongside a shipyard in Ballard, a part of Seattle near the Chittenden Locks. He’d asked a man walking by him if he knew how long the Cobb had been there? Who answered “about 10 days?” Mike said “I thought it was at the Seattle Maritime Academy, who owned the vessel,” which perked his interest and he asked how Mike knew the Cobb, Mike said, “I’d worked directly with the ship since 1980”. He told Mike that he was the new owner and asked if there were any drawings, and that is how I got in contact with the new owner.
On October 15, 2015 I delivered 4 boxes of records containing the blueprints of the Cobb and met the new owner, Jeff Webb, who is not related to Mike. He told me that he was moving the vessel in December to install a Caterpillar diesel engine. I hadn’t heard anything about the Cobb for about 9 months and was getting curious about her location, so checked Wikipedia and found that she was located at Port Townsend, WA. I called the Port and talked to one of the officers, and he invited me to visit the vessel on July 15, 2016 which I did.
I was told that she had been towed to the Port Townsend Marina and abandoned. The afterdeck (Fig 1) was stripped of all the fishing equipment – the net reel, the stations and the trawl winch next to the house and the hatch coaming were removed (Fig 2). The most damaged item, the hydraulic steering was removed and the only way the vessel could be steered was by an emergency hand tiller (Fig 3).
The port took the responsibility so that the Cobb would not become another derelict, like what had happened to the Deep Sea, which ironically was charted by the U.S. government in 1949 to conduct exploratory trip #2 while the John N. Cobb was being built. The King Crab fishery that reached its peak in 1980 was started by Deep Sea which in her last days became known as an abandoned derelict that caught fire and sank in 60 feet of water while anchored in Penn Cove, Washington on May 12, 2012. Whidbey Island’s Penn Cove is famous for a successful thriving commercial mussel industry, which had been threaten by oil pollution from the sunken vessel. She was finally refloated and taken to the scrapyard to be dismantled.
The port also took responsibility so the Cobb would not cost taxpayers for the expenses occurred while she was at Port Townsend Marina. The Port Townsend Leader the local newspaper published an article – “Port Battles State over Derelict Boat.” In the article the Port District Executive Directory stated; “We would like to convey the vessel to a purchaser who has both the technical and financial capacities to make the vessel seaworthy and return it to service.” They had two active bidders with others who requested bid packets, but were discouraged by the potential repair coast.
On December 7, 2016 I received an E-mail from Ron Sloan who understood that I had an interest in the Cobb and hoped he would get her. On April 27, 2017 he E-mailed me that he was selected as the new owner of the Cobb and the deal was finalized the day before.
The John N. Cobb was towed from Port Townsend, Washington, arriving at her new homeport of Winchester Bay, Oregon on August 18, 2017.