Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Former CGC FIR is third Queen of the Fleet threatened

Top: CGC FIR as she appeared in her last years of service. Above: Broker photo showing FIR in the Sacramento River Delta near Stockton, CA, as she appears for sale.

The other Queen of the Fleet still out there and currently without a secure home is the former CGC FIR (WLM-212). FIR was QOTF from 1988 until her decommissioning on Oct. 1, 1991, when she turned the title over to STORIS. Decommissioned after exactly 51 years of service, FIR was kept in the Seattle area until 1997 when she was sent into storage at the Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet at Benicia, CA. She was rafted alongside IRIS, PLANETREE and BASSWOOD. (BASSWOOD was scrapped in 2012, STORIS came in to the SBRF in 2007 and was dragged off for scrap in late 2013 and IRIS and PLANETREE are still languishing at the SBRF…)

FIR was transferred in 2002 to a museum in Rio Vista, CA. Then in 2008, she was sold to her current owner, Curt Lind, of Richmond, CA. For a time, FIR was kept at Pier 38 in San Francisco, but the city condemned the pier and forced FIR off the moorings.

FIR was moved under her own power to a marina near Stockton, where she is located today. FIR is currently supposed to be located the Little Potato Slough. Coordinates are 38.058145, -121.500601.  

Mr. Lind has had the ship up for sale since at least 2013. Asking price was as high as $360,000 but is now $199,500 with offers considered. Norpac Yacht and Ship Brokers in Richmond, CA is the listing broker at www.norcalyachts.com.

The MDEs and SSDGs ran three years ago as she was moved from San Francisco. 

FIR is supposed to be in physically good shape and mechanically sound. Cosmetically, she is in desperate need of paint and will have to be hauled out for bottom cleaning, painting, seal, bearing and propeller maintenance and new zincs. There are some internal modifications that were made to her that would have to be corrected to put her back into CG spec. Many removed parts were saved.

I know of at least one museum group interested in FIR as a potential acquisition for preservation and I have had several exchanges with the broker to ask questions about the ship. It’s my understanding that the broker receives inquiries about FIR “constantly” as described by the salesman, but that no offers have been received yet. Hopefully the group interested in her can get their funding together in time to secure the ship before something bad happens to her.

There are only the three total Lighthouse Tenders of different classes across the country with FIR on the West Coast, MAPLE here on the Great Lakes in Milwaukee and LILAC in New York. MAPLE is torn apart and in primer, the victim of a stalled “restoration project.” LILAC meanwhile, is still steam and would require a major infusion of capital to restore to operation. Meanwhile, she is a static museum at Pier 25 in Tribeca. www.lilacpreservationproject.org   

Preserving FIR would be a pretty important thing to do. She is designated as a National Historic Landmark, the highest historic designation level in the U.S. 

More about FIR and her history here in the Historic American Engineering Record for the ship: https://www.uscg.mil/history/webcutters/NPS_Fir_HAER_Report.pdf 

I suspect that the Coast Guard’s problems in finding a secure home for FIR over several years combined with the sale of the ship by the museum after the five-year maintenance clause in the donation agreement was a contributing factor in our difficulty in securing a donation for STORIS. With all of the other CG cutter museums floundering all over the country (BRAMBLE- Port Huron, MI; SUNDEW- Duluth, MN; ACACIA- Chicago and Manistee, MI; MACKINAW in Mackinaw City, MI; TAMAROA in Virginia, etc.), the CG and GSA were reluctant to donate STORIS and this may have contributed to scrapping STO instead. It’s speculation, but pretty well-educated speculation with all the documentation we have reviewed.

So now, hopefully the interest in FIR can be carried through to see her preserved. When I know anything, I’ll pass it along.

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