DAVID G. SELLARS ON THE WATERFRONT: Ex-forestry boat has a storied past
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David G. Sellars/for Peninsula Daily News
Douglas Fir II, the 34-foot former British Columbia Forest Service boat owned by Frank Balch, is moored in the Port Angeles Boat Haven.
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David G. Sellars/For Peninsula Daily News
Pacific Sojourn moored at the Port Angeles Boat Haven prior to being hauled out to Platypus Marine.
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Capt. Charlie Crane
The 55-foot Coast Guard ANB 55107 is seen in the slings of Platypus Marine’s 33-ton TraveLift as it is taken to the Commander Building.

I SPENT TIME last week with Frank Balch aboard his boat, Douglas Fir II, that is moored near the head of C Float in the Port Angeles Boat Haven.

Frank purchased the vessel earlier in the week with an eye to living aboard her during the summer months while cruising southern Vancouver Island and the San Juan Islands.

Douglas Fir II was built in 1948 by the Marine Division of the British Columbia Forest Service and was officially known as an assistant ranger launch.

The 34-foot boat is one of a fleet of 11 such craft that were more commonly known as B.C. Forest Service boats.

They were used to provide access to the province's forest lands on the numerous islands and miles of coastland that otherwise were inaccessible by motor vehicles.

The boats were built throughout the 1940s and into the early '50s, and were the second generation of forestry boats, replacing those put into service during the early 1920s.

During the '20s, the boats were referred to as The Blimps, a moniker that neither generation of craft was able to shake and which remains in use to this day among aficionados of these boats.

Bloated look

The nickname came about because apparently the original series had somewhat of a bloated look, which prompted a ranger at the time to say, “She looks like a bloody great blimp” — alluding no doubt to the airships in use during World War I.

By the late 1960s, airplanes and helicopters became the dominant means of patrolling and managing British Columbia's vast forest lands, and the B.C. Forest Service boats became obsolete.

In the early 1970s, the provincial government sold the fleet, and since that time, the vessels have been in private hands.

According to the book Forest Ranger, Ahoy!, by Michael Coney, the Douglas Fir II spent most of her time on the inside waters of the southern coast of B.C.

In 1949, while being piloted by Louie Lorentsen, she was involved in one of the more unusual mishaps in the history of the Forest Service.

The boat was in Johnstone Strait on her way to Chatham Channel, when she abruptly heeled over, throwing Lorentsen to the deck.

The vessel did not right itself, which prompted him to think it was time to get out and start swimming.

As Lorentsen made his way to the stern, he was aware of the odd and unusual way in which the vessel continued to make headway.

When he reached the stern, he saw that his little boat was caught under the bow of the S.S. Joel Chandler Harris, a 441-foot Liberty ship.

Eventually, the ship slowed down, allowing Douglas Fir II to disengage from the freighter, and although the boat was heavily damaged, Lorenstsen was able to drive the boat home.

Douglas Fir II has been through many hands in the past 40-plus years.

Frank, who was a Volvo mechanic for more than 30 years, said he plans to work on the boat, one project at a time, and at the conclusion of each project, he will take her out to play before beginning a new one.

Frank will be in Port Angeles for another week or so before returning to his home in Whittier, Calif.

He said when he returns to Port Angeles in about six weeks, he will be toting a crate full of pieces and parts along with a crate full of tools.

Instead of wrenching on a car, he will be wrenching on his boat. Some things never change.

Alaskan fishing vessel

Pacific Sojourn, a 79-foot Hansen, was recently stowed in the Commander Building at Platypus Marine, the full-service shipyard, yacht-repair facility and steel-boat manufacturer on Marine Drive in Port Angeles.

According to Capt. Charlie Crane, director of sales and marketing, the commercial fishing vessel, which hails from Cordova, Alaska, will have her props tuned up.

Additionally, personnel will replace the zincs after giving the hull and bottom a new coat of paint.

Coast Guard ANB

Platypus Marine also has ANB 55107 in the Commander Building. She is a Coast Guard aids-to- navigation boat (ANB) that is 55 feet long.

The vessel is attached to Coast Guard Sector Seattle and is operated by an ANB team, which is typically composed of boatswain's mates, machinery technicians and non-rated personnel whose responsibility it is to service small buoys, jetty lights and lighthouses.

The boat has live-aboard facilities for four crew members and a small machine shop for making repairs while under way.

Capt. Charlie said the boat will be at their facility for 45 days while personnel inspects all onboard systems, including the engine and running gear, and makes repairs as necessary.

Much of the vessel will be sandblasted, with new rub rails installed, and the boat will also get a fresh coat of primer and paint.

Logs bound for China

Cape Moreton, a 590-foot cargo ship, moored to the Port of Port Angeles' T-Pier shortly after the bewitching hour Tuesday.

The vessel, which is flagged in Hong Kong, is in port until the first of the week for a load of debarked logs bound for China. She is the second log ship to make port this year.

The first, Black Forest, arrived in Port Angeles on Feb. 15 and departed Feb. 22 for Tianjin, China, with 5,152,980 board feet of logs, give or take.

Tuesday, Tesoro provided bunkers to British Holly, a 787 crude-oil tanker that is flagged in the United Kingdom.

Wednesday, Tesoro bunkered the articulated tug and barge Commitment.

________

David G. Sellars is a Port Angeles resident and former Navy boatswain's mate who enjoys boats and strolling the waterfront.

Items involving boating, port activities and the North Olympic Peninsula waterfronts are always welcome.

Email dgsellars@hotmail.com or phone him at 360-808-3202.

His column, On the Waterfront, appears Sundays.

Last modified: March 03. 2013 12:00AM
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