R/V JOHN N. COBB Visit – August 2014

Charles R. (Bob) Hitz           Bob’s Post # 22              Sept. 18, 2014

The R/V John N. Cobb, photo by Castle

The R/V John N. Cobb, photo by Castle

I had the opportunity to visit the John N. Cobb again this year. Shannon Fitzgerald of the Northwest Seaport (NWS) made arrangements again this year with Seattle Maritime Academy to move the Cobb to the Historic Ship Wharf as a guest at Lake Union Park in August, 2014 and to remain there though the Classic Work Boat Show to be held on Oct. 4, 2014. The Cobb was commissioned at the University of Washington dock in the Portage Bay part of the ship canal in 1950, and it is still in the same waters 64 years later. Once she was secure at the wharf I made arrangements with Shannon to board her at the park in order to take engine room measurements I needed to complete the vessel drawing. He agreed, as long as I would open the vessel to the public and while I was aboard would act as a guide.

Terry Castle, Hitz Photo

Terry Castle, Hitz Photo

I arrived at 11 a.m. on Thursday, August 21 and put the Welcome Aboard sign out and by the time I had the vessel open I had the first guest coming aboard. He had a relative who worked for NOAA and had been an engineer on the Cobb when it was an active NOAA vessel. By the time I locked up the boat at 3 p.m., there had been about 18 individuals aboard. Two boys in one of the families were very interested as they were working on a school project. They had to find a vessel and report on it, so once they started on the tour they became fascinated and decided that the Cobb was it. The students had a handheld computer and began writing as they walked through, asking many many questions as we progressed. I would love to have read the final report.

The Pilot House, Castle photo

The Pilot House, Castle photo

By the time I left I had the measurements that I needed. I had wanted to take some pictures of the internal parts of the vessel, but found that my camera didn’t do the job. I needed a wide angle lens.

When I got home I talked to my neighbor, Terry Castle, whose hobby is photography, and he agreed to come down to the Cobb and take pictures. Some of these could be used for a talk that Shannon Fitzgerald was preparing for the National Maritime Historical Society’s 10th Maritime Heritage Conference.   On Thursday, Aug. 23 we opened the vessel to the public and Terry took fantastic photographs of the Cobb. The internal shots look better than it actually ever was, while the exterior views show the wear and tear of weather during her years at sea. The problem most apparent is the deterioration of the deck.

Bob Hitz in the Cobb's galley, Castle photo

Bob Hitz in the Cobb’s galley, Castle photo

By the time we left at 2:00 p.m. there had been at least 12 people through the boat. They were from Seattle as well as Texas, Canada and China. The two from China were on a business trip, and one said that whenever he saw fishing boats he wanted to visit them. His parents made their living as fishermen in China, and he was fascinated to hear how the 200 mile limit came into effect with the Russian fleet working 3 miles off the coasts of Washington and Oregon in 1966. When he left he shook my hand and left something square in it. I looked, found it was a $10 dollar bill and said, “I couldn’t accept it,” but when he insisted I thanked him and said that I would put it into the NWS fund for the Cobb. So – this is the first contribution that I am aware of.

The Cobb's deteriorating after deck, Castle photo

The Cobb’s deteriorating after deck, Castle photo

For anyone else interested in preserving the Cobb, I feel the best method at this time is to join the Northwest Seaport Maritime Heritage Center, a nonprofit organization, by becoming a member or by sending them a donation, specifying that it should be used to preserve the Cobb. They are the only group that is interested in welcoming the public aboard the Cobb when it is at the guest pier at Lake Union Park, and the public can board her safely. If you have a chance to visit Lake Union Park, look for the Cobb and if there is a Welcome Aboard sign out, I might be your guide.

Weathered door, Hitz photo

Weathered door, Hitz photo

Last year we had a number of people come through the vessel and I am sure that it was due to the Classic Workboat Show held on Saturday Oct 5, 2013. (Bob’s posting #18)   The weather that day was clear and beautiful. I am sure there will be a lot of people going through the Cobb during the Classic Workboat Show again this year, which is again held on Saturday, but what surprised me was the number of visitors who came aboard when I opened it up during the middle of the work week. I had expected to have few if any visitors during that time.

People I have met coming through the vessel do not realize the history of the Pacific coast fisheries, but they do know that the fish stocks are declining. The Cobb would be an ideal place to inform the public about why the U.S. got into exploratory fishing after world war II, why it was important for the U.S. to expand the fisheries to new resources found in our Pacific coastal waters, and why the 200 mile limit came into being after 1966, when the Russian distant water fleet all of a sudden appeared within three miles off our coast and began to harvest our fisheries resources to feed their people during the cold war. And how the fishing industry expanded after that time and became a dominant U.S. industry.

The demand for fish is so great now that there is danger of certain fisheries, as well as individual species, becoming extinct. NOAA research is being conducted in rebuilding and saving stocks from extinction, and there is need for biologists to carry on that research as well as to supply observers on commercial fishing boats to monitor the industry. There is also a need to recruit NOAA Corp officers to man the existing NOAA fleet.

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About finleyc

I'm a writer and a historian of science. I'm interested in the intersection of science and policy in the oceans, and especially around fishing.
This entry was posted in boat building, Cold War, fisheries science, History of Science, History of Technology, Maritime History, Pacific Fishing History Project, Soviet history' and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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