Courtesy MOHAI


Built in 1913, the 50 foot long 11 foot wide Kahlenberg was at first used in the US Navy (believed to be during WWI) as a tender in Oriental waters, the gun mount a prominent feature on the bow. It was most likely used to transport troops, equipment, ammunition, mail, food and supplies between fleets.

The small wooden ship was eventually struck from the naval register and sold to private parties. Kahlenberg Industries Inc., well known to this day for their fishing and towboat engines, proudly used the small ex-naval tender vessel as their demonstration boat for their powerful new engines following the war.

Impressed no doubt by her history, and power in a small package was a man named Captain France (Franz) Nelson. Purchased in Alaska by Nelson, the former tugboat Captain had plans to bring her to the Puget Sound and try his hand at the shrimping trade.

Commercial shrimping was getting very popular in the Puget Sound, especially in Elliot Bay where deep shipwrecks made safe havens for the premium priced prawns. The local fisherman hovered over at least  6 well known wreck sites to catch their bountiful horde. The Kahlenberg was one of the numerous shrimp boats swarming around the busy waterfront.

The drag net on the Kahlenberg’s wooden stern was 15 feet wide, 25 feet long and attached to 600 feet of cable, all controlled by a winch powered by a 25 hp steam engine and Scotch boiler. The Kahlenberg’s average haul would be 30 minutes and she’d cover a quarter of a mile, depending on the wind and tide. The net would reach depths from 180 to 300 feet deep.

Franz operated the Kahlenberg for years making quite a name for himself and his small little boat. With only his wife Elsie and sometimes his son Bill acting as crew, they received quite a bit of notoriety.


The Seattle Times did a piece on his sturdy little vessel, and even Ivar Haglund (Ivars Seafood) came on board to examine the catch; no doubt wanting the best for himself. During one such encounter, the Kahlenberg pulled up more than just shrimp; a 60 lb. octopus, and Haglund stepped into action. Making a quick decision, the Captain steamed the Kahlenberg over to the Seattle Aquarium on Pier 3, and Haglund carefully brought in the invertebrate.

Other times Biologists from the Washington State Department of Fisheries would come on board and oversee the Nelsons’ work. The DOF supervised all shrimp fishing in Washington waters.

It’s unknown when the Nelsons parted ways with the last surviving vessel of the once bustling Elliot Bay shrimp fishing fleet. The Kahlenberg has recently been identified by the Maritime Documentation Society and DCS Films on the bottom of Lake Union. Her mid ship is completely destroyed and the only thing remaining is the bow and stern. If only the owners knew what little bit of fascinating Pacific Northwest history they could of had, would they had let her go in such a worthless way?

First two photos courtesy MOHAI, the others courtesy Seattle Times





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