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PCC-1601 in the left background
Edward John "Scully" Sculfort, GM2/c on board SCC-1349 manning one of the 20mm mounts
From the collection of Edward A. Clohossey, RM2/c, SCC-1349
|72k||Prior to conversion as a tug||Dave Wright|
Leaving dock at Astoria, OR with Riley (DE 579) "on the hip."
Photo courtesy of CAPT Donald Hughes, Columbia River Pilots Association.
|01||LT John Herman Crosbie, USNR||12 October 1942 - 26 July 1943|
|02||LT Gilbet Louis Leiendecker, USN||26 July 1943 - 3 May 1944|
|03||LT John Sidney Wolfe, Jr., USNR||3 May 1944|
|04||LTJG P. G. Sicard, USNR||1945|
Converted to an inshore minesweeper during construction, the ex-PC-1601 became the USS Fierce (AM-97). Reclassified as a PC in 1944. In 1948, she was sold to a private operator who converted her into the twin engine tug Seaborn II.
The PC-1601 was built by the Nashville Bridge Company of Nashville, TN. Her keel was laid down on 18 October 1941 and was launched as the USS Fierce (AM-97. Commissioned in New Orleans on 12 October 1942, the new inshore minesweeper headed for Portland, Maine on her shakedown cruise. They worked with the USS Force (AM-99) on off shore patrol duty and towing target sleds for the Naval Air Stations in the New England area.
The minesweeper returned to New London, Connecticut to sweep mines in Long Island Sound that had been layed as a test by submarines from the sub base at Groton, Connecticut.
On June 1, 1944, she was reclassified as the PC-1601 and ordered to the Norfolk Navy Base for conversion to the PCC-1601. Leaving Norfolk, they got underway for San Diego via New Orleans and the Panama Canal.
On 24 July 1944, they headed west from San Diego for Pearl Harbor arriving there on the first of August 1944. For the next 12 months she worked screening convoys and acted as an invasion control ship during the Leyte, Lingayen Gulf and Okinawa landings.
It was during the Leyte landings that they were credited with shooting down a Japanese dive bomber with their 3in .50 bow gun. While serving in the Pacific Theater she visited Pearl Harbor, Eniwetok, Saipan, Ulithi, Manus, Hollandia, Leyte Luzon and Okinawa picking up three stars on the Asiatic-Pacific medal and two stars on the Philippine Liberation medal.
The subchaser returned to CONUS (stateside) and was decommissioned at San Francisco in December of 1945 and was sold by the Maritime Commission on 15 June 1948 to John K. Seaborn of Alameda, California, a towboat operator, who converted her into the twin engine tug Seaborn II - Reg. No. 265342 ... She worked around the San Francisco Bay area for a few years until 1956 when she was leased to the Fred Devine Salvage Company of Portland, Oregon.
Tug Master Donald E. Hughes of Portland took over as her skipper. "As I recall she had a pair of 850 h.p. Alco engines and was equipped with Sperry steering and gyro systems. Those engines never gave us much trouble although we did have to replace two cylinder liners."
"When she came up from San Francisco to the Tongue Point Reserve Fleet basin at Astoria she was in pretty sad condition. Someone had filled some of the lower compartments with sea water for ballast. We went to work getting her ready to bid on the contract towing. In June of 1956, we painted the superstructure white and the hull black. We had to take some pitch out of her props and shorten the rudders. She didn't have the engine power to tow a heavy vessel so by reducing the pitch we could run those engines at a safe and efficient rpm and by reducing the rudder size, she would not bend her hull and
"When towing alongside "on the hip" great care had to be taken not to put too much strain on the stem lines or the hull would bend with the result that the propeller shafts would bind from the strain.
"Also when towing alongside in rough weather (in three or four foot swells), particularly with empty hulls, the fender would ride up and down as the Seaborn pitched and rolled and in doing so, the fenders would slide down the curvature of the hull causing her to list to the port side in the continuing swells."
"We operated with eight men. A first mate, three deck hands, two engineers, a cook and I was the Tug Master. The deck force didn't get much rest with rigging the tow, keeping it adjusted and all the other things a deck gang was expected to do. We worked together and survived because of all the care we gave the Seaborn and thanks to the Sperry steering and gyro systems being in good shape. They were a godsend in our type of work."
"The electric steering unit that hung high on the forward bulkhead of the auxiliary engine room gave us some trouble from time to time and a number of times we had to steer from that location. All orders between the Seaborn and the towed vessel were transmitted by sound powered phones from the pilot house of the towed vessel to the wheel house of the tug... and we would relay the orders to our man in the engine room."
"The pilots didn't seem to mind because we could always obey their orders. Most were more concerned with the chow, heat in the bridge of the towed vessel (which we supplied from the Seaborn) and their bunk on the tug. The pilots used the C.O.'s stateroom just over the gyro room. Our employer believed in using pilots from the Columbia River Pilots Association and usually two pilots were assigned to each contract tow."
"The Astoria Reserve fleet at the old Tongue Point Naval Air Station had over 500 vessels moored in it from 1947 until it was eliminated in 1962 or 63. During those years, possibly 350 or more cargo ships were drawn out of the fleet to be used for grain storage.
They were towed up the Columbia River to Longview or Vancouver, Washington and Portland, Oregon to have their cargo holds cleaned and fully loaded with grain, much of which was later given to India and Pakistan."
"The tow from Astoria to Vancouver was about 90 nautical miles. We would bid to make the tows by how many hours would be involved. On the return trip, with the Seaborn's speed, we could shave off 3 to 4 hours running time and were able to comer a good bit of the work thanks to a friendly operations officer and my service time in the Navy."
"We towed over 200 merchant ships and 50 naval vessels from the reserve fleet without any damage. The Seaborn had no radar and the vessels we towed were dead tows with no power other than what we provided. The Seaborn had a commercial air compressor installed on the main deck aft of the stack. We would run an air hose from the compressor to the anchor windlass of the towed vessel so that in an emergency, we were able to drop and recover the anchors of the vessel. In the winter, it was miserably cold on the river... snow, freezing rain and foggy weather was a challenge and we had a few close calls but the "old girl" never let us down."
"I can say with all honesty, without her and all her accomplishments, I doubt that I would have had the opportunity to become a river pilot trainee... I was elected into the Columbia River Pilots Association and commenced my training period in February of 1959."
"I left the Seaborn anchored in the mooring basin at Tongue Point and to my recollection she never turned another wheel on the Columbia River. We parted as the best of friends. I believe she was returned to Captain Seaborn in San Francisco and probably sold for razor blades."
Donald E. Hughes, after spending 30 years with the Columbia River Pilots Association, recently retired as the Senior Pilot on the Columbia and Willamette River pilotage grounds.
The Seaborn II (ex-PC-1601) was registered as a twin engine tug by the John K. Seaborn Company of Alameda, California until 1985.
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