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AFSC Historical Corner:  Kittiwake,  World War I Boat Over 100 Years Old

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The Kittiwake.  Bureau of Fisheries photo, 1924.

Following World War I, the U.S. Navy transferred several surplus vessels to the Bureau of Fisheries (BOF). One of the four boats received by the BOF in 1919 for Alaska fisheries enforcement was the 73-foot Raeo. The other three were the Cobra, Calypso and Edithena which the BOF renamed Petrel, Merganser and Widgeon, respectively.

The Raeo, (left) as a pre-war pleasure boat (American Motor Boat, 1908), and (right) as the USS Raeo (SP-588), ca. 1917-19.
U.S. Naval Historical Center photos.  Original prints in National Archives' Record Group 19-LCM.

The Raeo was designed by naval architects, Gielow & Orr and built in 1908 at City Island Shipbuilding Co. in New York. She was operated locally as a passenger day boat owned by Ralph S. Townsend, and later by W. Schall. The Navy then purchased the vessel for $10,500 to be used as a sout patrol boat during the war. The yacht was commissioned in May 1917 as the USS Raeo (SP-588) and, after modifications were made, patrolled off the East Coast stationed out of Newport, Rhode Island.

A 1919 Executive order addressed the disposition of Navy vessels no longer needed after the war, resulting in the Raeo's transfer to the Bureau of Fisheries on 17 October 1919. She was rechristened the Kittiwake and assigned to the Bureau's station at Gloucester, Massachusett, doing fish culture work.

Vessel Details
Year built: 1908
Location built: City Island, NY
Builder: Kyle & Purdy
Designer: Gielow & Orr
Other names/id: Raeo  (1908-18, 1948-56)
USS Raeo, SP-588  (Navy, WWI)
Harbor Queen  (1957-97)
Entiat Princess  (1998)
#204966  (USCG ID)
Length: 70'-73'
Breadth: 15'
Draft: 5'
Tonnage (tons): 46 gross, 17 net
Original engine: 60-65 hp Union diesel
Average speed: 10 knots
Known skipper: Roy L. Cole  (1923-26)
John J. O'Donnell  (1927)
James C. Crawford  (1928-31)
Leo J. Collins  (1940)
Known service: 1923-41, 1944-45  (fisheries)
Disposition: sold by 1948

After repairs and extensive overhauling, the Kittiwake motored south from Woods Hole, Massachusett, to Norfolk, Virginia, arriving on 3 November 1922. She eventually reached Seattle, Washington, in the following spring aboard a Navy transport vessel. Her recorded length at this time was about 70 feet.

Following the installation of a new 65-horsepower Union diesel engine, the Kittiwake began her lengthy Alaska service with the Bureau of Fisheries in the summer of 1922. At first, she performed fisheries enforcement and transported passengers in the Cook Inlet and Prince William Sound districts. An example of the Kittiwake's usefulness to the Bureau is the roughly 11,000 miles she logged for patrol work in 1926. Sometime around 1930, the vessel was assigned to patrol the Alaska waters of the Seward/Katalla district during summer seasons, moving afterward to the southeastern region in the fall.

The Kittiwake had additional patrol duties in Alaska. Beginning in 1923, she was used to enforce the fur seal and sea otter protection laws. Near the end of the 1920s, the Kittiwake, along with several other BOF vessels, was used to patrol the northern Pacific halibut fishery. As part of other work, she assisted in the herring and pink salmon tagging operations conducted in Alaska during the mid-1930s. The vessel also transported materials for a new 38-foot weir being built in 1927 at Chinik Creek in Kamishak Bay, Alaska.

The Kittiwake was one of several Bureau boats that received extensive overhauling in the winter of 1933-34 as part of a $20,000 allotment made by the Public Works Administration. Additional repairs were required in Ketchikan, Alaska, after the vessel struck an uncharted rock in Moria Sound on 30 July 1938.

By 1942, the Kittiwake had been transferred back to the U.S. Navy for use during World War II. She served as a utility and general dispatch boat around Puget Sound until her return to the (now) Fish and Wildlife Service in May 1944. Throughout the remainder of the year, she underwent renovations in preparations for resuming her Alaska fisheries service in 1945.

USFS Kittiwake
The U.S. Fisheries Service vessel Kittiwake at Prince William Sound in the 1920s.
Photo in Pacific Motor Boat, June 1929. Digital copy provided by Mark McCallum, Heritage Program Manager, Tongass National Forest.

By 1948, the vessel was owned by Duwamish Shipyard, Inc. in Seattle. With her name having been restored to the original Raeo, she was reclassified as a fishing boat. The Raeo was then renamed the Harbor Queen after her 1957 acquisition by Tacoma Boat Mart, a Washington State boat service company operating since 1938. For the next forty years or so, five different owners operated the old vessel in Puget Sound as a passenger, charter, and tour boat out of Tacoma, Seattle and La Conner.

The latest known sale took place at Seattle in 1998. The new owners removed her upper decks for transport to Wenatchee, Washington, where she was converted to a sternwheeler and renamed the Entiat Princess. As of 2009, the century-old vessel was being used for dinner cruises, tours and charters on the Columbia River nearby.

Additional reading:

Raeo -- A Notable Motor Yacht. MotorBoating, Vol. 11-12, p.17-20.  (GoogleBooks,  last accessed 10-16-14).

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