Foss 54

Courtesy PSMHS

Courtesy PSMHS

Courtesy PSHMS

FOSS 54 (YC 191)

   The Foss 54 (Official No. 170055) is a large wooden barge built originally in 1908 for the United States Navy in Bremerton, Washington. The length of the 54 (named the No. Y.C. 191 when it was Navy owned) is 110 feet, 30.2 feet wide, and has a depth of 7.8 feet. Its gross tonnage measured at 233.

    The barge’s history is shady at best. With it being in service before WWI, it most likely was  used to transport coal and other commodities in the outlining areas.

    The gigantic barge was subsequently sold off and registered to FOSS Launch and Tug Co. on April 2nd, 1929. It’s home port would be Tacoma, Washington, and it’s new name would be FOSS 54.



   Foss Maritime Co. was founded in 1889 by Thea and her husband Andrew Foss. The company started when Thea Foss bought a used rowboat for $5 hoping to fix it up and rent it out, to help pay for the family’s finances. After she cleaned, repaired, and painted it the now famous Foss green and white, she subsequently sold it for a profit. When Thea Realized she and Andrew could keep on doing this, all the while renting the boats out, the Foss Company was born.

   The couple bought several more boats and rented them out to fishermen, duck hunters, customers that wanted ferry passage, and to move supplies in the Tacoma waterways.

Thea would purchase more rowboats and launches while her husband, who was a skilled carpenter, began building them. Soon thereafter, the fleets were up to 200 boats. The business eventually expanded into transporting logs with their towboats, under the name “Foss Launch and Tug Company”. By 1904, Foss Company was 10 launches, a shipyard, a 60-passenger, oil powered boat, and a small rescue craft.

   During World War I, the Fosses were able to buy into a Seattle tugboat firm, and the Foss Launch and Tug Company became a Seattle company.

    On October 23rd, 1947, the FOSS Barge 54 was moved once again to Seattle, Washington and there it stayed until it was removed from documentation in 1969.

    Mike Skalley, a historian for FOSS, suspects the 54 was sold again to another party in 1969 when FOSS was sold to Dillingham Corp. therefore combating the claims that it was still under FOSS’s ownership when it sank. Records to whom it was sold to were kept at the FOSS Tacoma office, which in the mid seventies, was destroyed, along with the records.

    Last reports have it listed as a “float” in Seattle. The FOSS 54 was last used on Lake Union, and still is there today 20 feet offshore from Gasworks park in 10-25 feet of water.

Foss barge just like the 54 / Courtesy Penninsula Historical Society

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