KoKa Media Update - Acquisition of Vessels and Information
Bonham was an 'Active Class' patrol boat placed into commission in January 1927. The 'buck and a quarter' was built to combat the Rum Runners of the depression era and could run 13 knots at flank speed. Her normal compliment when decommissioned in April of 1959 was 17 enlisted men and 3 officers. This class of vessels was one of the most useful and long- lasting in Coast Guard service with 16 cutters still in use in the 1960s. The last to be decommissioned from active service was the Morris in 1970; the last in actual service was the Cuyahoga, which sank after an accidental collision in 1978. They were designed for trailing the "mother ships" along the outer line of patrol during Prohibition. They were constructed at a cost of $63,173 each. They gained a reputation for durability that was only enhanced by their re-engining in the late 1930’s; their original 6-cylinder diesels were replaced by significantly more powerful 8-cylinder units that used the original engine beds and gave the vessels 3 additional knots. All served in World War II, but two, the Jackson and Bedloe, were lost in a storm in 1944. Ten were refitted as buoy tenders during the war and reverted to patrol work afterward.
A series of interesting and exciting events have unfolded this past month. I started this nonprofit organization to start producing educational media content for television and the web. Around the same time, I happened to see a listing for an old 125 foot former US Coast Guard cutter. Her owner was selling it for $10,000 and noted that the engines needed to be rebuilt. Seeing the ship flooded my mind with memories of an idea I had for a documentary series fifteen years ago. It involved a 65 foot trawler, a seasoned captain of the South Pacific, a diverse international group of professional caliber but unknown surfers, perfect waves, anthropology and humanitarian aid. I had co-created and produced a TV documentary that aired on Fox Fuel TV for three years and I had hoped that its success would leapfrog me into a deal based on the idea alone. No such luck. As hard as I tried, I wasn't even able to fund a ten-day trip to make a teaser, let alone a year long voyage. In the decade that passed, the idea evolved into something that could appeal to a bigger audience (even if it was stuffed away in a mind-box intended for retirement years). I responded to the posting and as I eagerly waited for a response, the idea started taking more shape, more meaning. After a few days I emailed again, and again and again. I figured there's no way anyway and it was probably sold the first day. Then I found another interesting post. A 1926 82' Luders Express Cruiser that a family had acquired in 1996 and wanted to donate her to a nonprofit. I emailed and explained that I just registered a nonprofit and was about to submit the application for exemption to the IRS and I described the mission of the organization and explained that we're looking for a vessel to use for our headquarters and outreach center. The next day I received a call from Denny Pastega, owner of Denali - the 82' wooden cruiser. We spoke for almost an hour about the history of Denali and his life and the organization. He liked the idea of how Denali would be used and he told me that she had a different name when she was built, Amida, and she was commissioned by the US Navy in 1942. Through my own research I learned that many people have claimed that Denali had been owned by one point by Al Capone. I also learned that the Pastega family has quite a rich history in Oregon. Denny owns Blue Heron Cheese in TIllamook and his father Mario, who passed away in 2012, was a philanthropist and entrepreneur owned several Pepsi bottling plants and other businesses all over Oregon.
I made plans to keep in touch with Denny to schedule a time to view the Denali and continued to work out details of the nonprofit. Then I received a call from the owner of the Coast Guard cutter. I was stoked. He said that he like the idea and wanted me to see it first and told me that it was called Polar Star and had been named differently when it was built, but I'd have to look it up because he didn't remember off hand.
He did say that it has a sister ship named Alert. I found out that Alert was WSC-127, built in 1927 and is now in Portland, Oregon! And I learned that the one for sale was originally WSC-129 Bonham, an Active Class Patrol Ship with twin diesel rotary screw engines. It was one of 30 ships that had been ordered to combat smugglers during prohibition. What a coincidence it would be if Al Capone really did own the Denali! Or maybe that story evolved out of another story and the real story is that Denali belonged to a smuggler or cartel and was being used to smuggle alcohol into the USA but was seized by the Coast Guard. I'm told that the Express Cruisers of that day were designed to be the fastest vessels in their class...the ideal ship to try to outrun the USCG. If it was seized by the Coast Guard, it would have been by one of those 30 Active Class Patrol Ships.
So I set out to find out if its even possible to acquire one or two vessels, park them somewhere, and restore them to be full of renewable energy and green technologies. Through a series of emails to various agencies and organizations, information, advice and guidance has been trickling in. I received a call from the US Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit in Portland and met with two inspectors and a Lieutenant at the base. These are the gatekeepers of the nations waterways. They keep mariners safe and the environment clean by preventing dangerous vessels from causing casualties and environmental disasters. They wanted to know about these plans they heard about with the two vessels and a nonprofit education organization. We visited for an hour and they let me explain the what, why's and how's. They told me about federal codes and inspections and they made sure I understood the responsibilities that come with owning a ship like Denali and Polar Star. I left with a more clear perspective and deeper understanding and appreciation of what is ahead if we can acquire these vessels.
I've also been in touch with a representative from the Oregon Department of State Land who gave me some great guidance and contacts that I'm pursuing. I was also contacted by another representative from the Port of Portland Marine Marketing department who is interested in the project.
In the days and weeks to come I will update this blog as things progress. Stay tuned!
Recent Photos of USCG Cutter Polar Star
Historical Photos of WSC-129 Bonham, Polar Star (Below)
Denali When She Was Operable (Below)
Photos of Denali - July 22, 2017 (Below)