Fig 1 (1)

Cobb near the Ballard Bridge 2008                        Hitz Photo

By: Charles R. (Bob) Hitz       Blog # 42 Final                  Dec. 28, 2017

By December 2017 the John N. Cobb was finally getting the loving care that she deserved after she was decommissioned in 2008.  Since that date she has gone downhill.  She sat for about seven years under the Ballard Bridge, then was sold in 2015 to a new owner who began to modify her at Stabbart Maritime in Ballard on the ship canal, just inside the locks.  Wondering what happened to her, I looked her up in Wikipedia encyclopedia under the “R/V John N. Cobb” where the last sentence read; “She is located at Port Townsend, Washington pending seizure by the city and eventually will be scrapped.”  I called the Port and talked to Eric Toews, who invited me over to see her.  I made the trip there on Friday, July 15, 2016.

Fig 2

Cobb in 2015 in the Ship Canal                             Mike Webb Photo

Eric told me that the Wikipedia statement was incorrect, that they were going through the correct procedures for placing her for sale.  Once that was done they sold her to Ron Sloan of Reedsport, Oregon on April 26, 2017.  Ron was kind enough to E-mail me – “I just wanted to let you know I got the Cobb.  Deal was finalized yesterday.”  He is an albacore fishermen working out of Oregon, where the fisheries last from June to September each year.  He was then preparing to go fishing for the 2017 season, which is the time the weather is best to tow a vessel down the coast.

Fig 3

Cobb in Port Townsend 2016                                Hitz Photo

He had planned to tow her himself, but instead contracted another fisherman who towed her to her new home port of Winchester Bay, Oregon, arriving there on August 18, 2017, crossing the bar on a high slack tide.  In my opinion, towing a vessel down the coasts of Washington and Oregon is no laughing matter, so the vessel Sunnford and her skipper did a wonderful job.  Everything went well.

Fig 4

Start of the Temporary Cover 2017                        Sloan Photo

Before she left Washington I went over to Port Townsend hoping to meet Ron, but he wasn’t there.  However I met a retired engineer, Joe Johannes, who described what he had to do to get the Cobb ready to tow.  One of the problems was how to get the forward anchor winch operating after years of neglect.  That was important, because they had to disconnect the anchor from the chain, attach the tow rope to the chain and let it out to about 150 feet.  It would work as a shock absorber between the Cobb and the towing vessel so that the tow rope wouldn’t come out of the water due to ocean swells, violently jerking the vessels.  Then they had to retrieve the chain before they went across the bar into port.  The winch was frozen, and when he couldn’t get it to work, he took a sledgehammer to it which brought it to life once again.  The engine room was really dark because of the shore power and he needed to get light there so they could get one of the generators to operate, in order to have the correct navigation lights working during the tow.  Another major problem was to locate the steering gear which had been removed before Ron got the vessel, and reinstalling it before she could be towed.

Fig 5

Deck repairs inside the Cover 2017                       Sloan Photo

As soon as the fishing season was over allowing Ron to work on the Cobb, he built a temporary cover over the afterdeck to keep rain water out.  Once it was covered he sent me an E-mail; “The Cobb is finally stabilized! NO fresh water is entering the hull now.”  He also got the furnace working so that the interior was warm and dry and got the fresh water system fully operational, which gave them plenty of hot water to clean with.  He found the bilge full of oil that had to be removed and said it wasn’t fun, but had to be done.  He began to dismantle the main engine and replacing parts of the after deck which had started to rot.  He said that it is fortunate that he got her when he did – the rot hadn’t gotten to the deck beams.

Fig 6

Cobb and Nova 2017                                            Sloan Photo

Ron send a recent picture of the Cobb with NOVA alongside, she was one of his restorations and he uses her to fish for albacore.  It has a beautiful stern, completely different from the COBB’s cruiser stern.  Year 2017 has been a good one for COBB – she is loved once again and it shows.

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, Environmental History, Exploratory Fishing Base, fisheries science, Fishing, History of Science, History of Technology, Ocean fishing, Pacific Fishing History Project, R/V John N. Cobb. Bookmark the permalink.

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