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AFSC Historical Corner:  Crane,  a Long History of Extensive Use

Early Pioneers
Research and Mgmt.
The Albatross, 1882
Early BOF Patrol Boats
FWS Vessels
Newer Research Ships
Pribilof Tenders
Launches/Small Craft
Charters/Other Boats
Vessel Links
The Crane.  Bureau of Fisheries photo, 1929.


Vessel Details
Year built: 1928
Location built: Port Blakely, WA
Builder: J. C. Johnson Bros.
Designer: Coolidge & H. C. Hanson
Other names/id: Brapo, Fishing 5, Belle,
Patricia  (1960s & 1970s)
Crane  (1978-present)
#284723  (USCG ID)
Length: 92'
Breadth: 20'
Draft: 11.7'
Tonnage (tons): 134 gross, 91 net
Original engine: 200 hp, 6-cyl. Washington
direct-reversing Estep diesel 
Average speed: 9.5 mph
Known skippers: John J. O'Donnell  (1928-31)
Ole H. Elveness  (1939)
James R. Crawford  (1939)
Lin Jorgensen  (1940)
Daniel Draining  (1944-45)
Henry C. Museth  (1957)
Fisheries service: 1928-59
Disposition: transferred to ADFG

In early 1928, the Crane was added to the Bureau of Fisheries' (BOF) Alaska fisheries enforcement fleet. The Bureau assigned R. L. Cole as inspector to manage the $60,000 construction project. Washington Iron Works of Seattle, Washington, provided the 200-horsepower Washington-Estep full diesel engine that would power the Crane.

The massive 131-ton vessel, was launched on 19 April 1928 from the J. C. Johnson Shipbuilding yard at Port Blakely on Bainbridge Island – located just across Puget Sound from Seattle.

The Crane was framed entirely in Port Orford (Oregon) cedar: 12" by 12" sawn-frames on 18" centers (6" between frames). Her deck beams were 8.5" by 9.5", a hefty 5" by 27" shelf timber and the triple keelson was 30" of solid wood. The Crane had 3" fir planking and a 4" skin (Hughes, 1982). Her sturdy hull was sheathed with ironbark. As a more recent owner put it, she was "built to push icebergs around".  An advertisement in a 1933 Pacific Fisherman magazine proclamed that the vessel was "equipped with a 110 volt, type B6H, 112.5 ampere-hour Edison Nickel-Iron-Alkaline Storage Battery".

H. C. Hanson Survivors
Surprisingly, three BOF boats, built from 1927-30 of similar H. C. Hanson design, were still in use as of 2010.  The sister boats Teal and Pelican were nearly identical, built for deep-water oceanographic work; while the Crane, about 10 feet longer, was designed as a fish packer vessel.
  Teal,  served 1927-59
  Crane,  served 1928-59
  Pelican,  served 1930-57

After being outfitted, the BOF vessels Crane and Teal both left Seattle in May 1928 on their initial voyages to Alaska. The Crane began her regular annual salmon fisheries patrol of the Alaska Peninsula region.

By the end of the 1920s, the Crane's service extended to her participation in the Northern Pacific halibut patrol of Alaskan waters and the Bering Sea. This was done in combination with certain U.S. Navy ships and most of the BOF's current territorial fleet. As part of this effort, search and seizure powers were granted to the skippers and officials aboard each vessel. Other conjunctive work entailed the Crane and several other BOF boats being assigned to conduct seasonal patrols for the protection of sea otters and migrating fur seal herds from Washington to Alaska.

The FWS vessel Crane entering Gastineau Channel, Alaska.
Auke Bay Laboratories photo.

Throughout her BOF service, the Crane also spent time in the fall seasons conducting inspections of the salmon-spawning waterways in southeastern Alaska. Following this, the vessel was usually brought back to Seatle for repairs and overhauling.

Significant renovations were made during winter 1933-34 to both the Crane and BOF boat Scoter through an allotment by the Public Works Administration. This occurred just prior to a Bureau-supervised Civil Works Administration project in which both vessel helped clear and improve salmon-spawning streams in Southeast Alaska. It was reported that as of 22 February 1934, log jams and other obstructions were cleared in 325 streams (totaling 802 miles) by the work done by approximately 200 temporary employees.

The 90-foot Crane was regularly used as a transport vessel. Seasonal employees and supplies were carried between Seattle and Naknek/Bristol Bay in Alaska. With her size she occassionally served as the Bureau's tender to the Pribilof Islands. This was the case in July and August of 1931, when she took over for the Penguin, which was reassigned to transport the Commissioner of Fisheries and other officials on an inspection tour of the fisheries in Alaska. It is known that the Crane acted as Pribilof tender as late as 1953, when she filled in for the Penguin II.

Other transport work was done when the Crane was in service to the U.S. Post Office Department during a Pacific Coast maritime strike (mid-November 1936 to 4 February 1937) to convey mail between Seattle and Juneau, Alaska. On one of her voyages north, she carried 750 sacks of mail from Seattle. In the spring of 1939, the vessel hauled cement and towed a barge of building materials to Southeast Alaska for the Division of Scientific Inquiry's Little Port Walter construction project. This was followed by a mishap on 21 May, when the Crane suffered damage to her keel from hitting a rock in Grenville Channel, B.C. The incident required her to be dry docked for a few days of repair work at the Ketchikan, Alaska, marine ways.

The Crane in 2005.  Photo provided by Chris Beaudin.

Very little is known of the Crane between 1940 and 1959 when she was with the Fish and Wildlife Service (formed from the BOF in 1940). During the late 1950s, the vessel was used for management purposes out of Seattle when she was transferred to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADFG) on 11 April 1960, as a result of Alaska's statehood.

That same year, the ADFG sold the Crane in November to O. H. "Doc" Freeman of Seattle for $12,000. In April 1961 the boat was again sold, this time to the Pohley and Bratton families of California who sailed her southward from Seattle, leaving on 16 April. While enroute, the they experienced trouble and were towed by the U.S. Coast Guard into Coos Bay, Oregon. As a result, the families decided to have a paid crew deliver the Crane to her eventual destination.

Over the next several years the Crane had several reported owners and name changes, which included Brapo, Fishing 5, and Belle. A University of Washington professor, W. Burns, acquired the vessel for $25,000 in 1971 and, over the next couple years, spent nearly $300,000 restoring her from essentially just the hull. At first he rigged her to troll for tuna, then later used her for six years packing for a Friday Harbor, Washington, cannery.

While named the Patricia, the vessel was acquired in 1978 by "Snapper" Carson, of Ketchikan, for $190,000. Mr. Carson restored her original name and used the Crane, he called "the best boat on the West Coast", for 25 years to fish and pack for salmon and herring. In November 2003, the Crane was purchased for $159,000 by Chris Beaudin (Crane Adventures, After receiving a major restoration, the vessel was used during summers as a gillnet tender in Southeast Alaska. In addition, the Crane has been chartered for tours and customized outings.

Crane photos in the AFSC Multimedia Gallery.

Crane  Accounts
Regarding the removal of a BOF field crew from Bristol Bay in 1939 (Eicher, 1967):  "Most of the men walked over the ten-mile portage to Iliamna Bay where the U.S.F.S.* Crane met the group. A heated controversy took place when the Crane made its appearance on departure day, inasmuch as the skipper Ole Elveness, refused to come inside the bay, claiming it was too shallow. Eventually, all of the men were ferried by speedboat in rough water to the open ocean anchorage, and put aboard the Crane. All were seasick in a stormy night trip to Seward. Two or three men were put ashore there to take Alaska Steamship passage to Seattle, inasmuch as the Crane was overloaded. Captain Crawford took command of the Crane from Juneau to Seattle."  * Note: the BOF was also known as the U.S.F.S. – "U.S. Fisheries Service".

Mark Freeman (son of 1960-61 Crane owner "Doc" Freeman) shares his memory of the vessel in a 2009 email:  "We then took her to Fremont Boat Company [Seattle] which I owned and I put her up for sale for Dad. For power, she had the original Washington Estep direct Reversible 200 hp diesel. When I would bring her into Fremont Boat I would shut her off over by Bergs Fuel dock and she would coast for 1/4 mile up thru the hole and into the yacht dock. I would ring for slow astern and the engineer, Ed Anderson, would hit the air start lever. Woff, woff, woff - she would start slow astern and bring the Crane to a halt and we would tie her up. It looked easy but she was so heavy if I missed she would have ended up in the middle of North Northlake Way. She almost sunk once - we had been somewhere and came back to the yard about 2200 [10:00 pm] and looked at the Crane and she was down by the bow with no waterline in sight. We started a couple of scow pumps and got the water down far enough to find the problem - had turned one valve off - and we had saved the day again.”

And, a couple "Snapper" Carson stories (Hughes, 1982):  "the Crane was running north through Canada for the Alaskan salmon season when, in the middle of a dark night, a pair of seiners cut directly in front of her. The Crane struck the second aluminum seiner (which was under tow, as it turned out) broadside, slicing her practically in half. Damage to the Crane? 'Well, we replaced a chunk of the bowstem,' says Snapper. The rest of the story is that there was a bottle of shampoo sitting on a shelf in the fo'c's'le, less than a foot from the bow. 'When we hit, the shampoo moved about an inch. It didn't even tip over,' he says, incredulous himself"

"Another story has it that last spring after the herring season, Snapper wanted to haul the Crane out for the yearly bottom paint and zincs ritual. The Sea Ward Shipyard in Ketchikan had hauled out a 100' steel boat just the week before, but when they tried to lift the 87' Crane, they couldn’t. Snapper's only choice then was to put her on the grid. He did, and that night as he stood on deck looking across the water, he saw what he thought was a huge oil slick spreading out from his boat. His mind raced; bilge, fuel tanks, stove tanks, oil drums, but no, everything was in order. Then he realized what he was seeing was not oil, but creosote. The sheer weight of the Crane was squeezing the creosote right out of the supporting grid timbers."

    -  Eicher, G. J. 1967. History of the Bristol Bay Investigation, 1938-1956. 13 p.
    -  Hughes, H. 1982. The Crane: Sturdy as the Stories About Her. Alaska Fisherman's Journal, May 1982. p.60-61.


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