Wreck of the Louie



    1923 was a year that was to a degree eventful in the arena of world affairs. The US was recovering from the First World War, Warren G. Harding, the 29th President of the United States died in his office and was succeeded by Calvin Coolidge. Vladimir Lenin suffered his third stroke signaling the beginning of the end of his position as Chairman of the Soviet Union, and in a small boat yard in Astoria, Oregon a small tugboat was being completed. John Erickson of Keary, Oregon excitedly had her built primarily for general towing on the Columbia River between Portland and Astoria. Erickson named the newly christened tug the “Louie.” Measuring in at 63 feet long, she pulled her weight with a 90 Horsepower Atlas-Imperial diesel engine.

    Astoria, Oregon just southeast of Long Beach, Washington has long been the port of entry for the lower Columbia basin. Incorporated by the Oregon Legislative Assembly on October 20, 1876, Astoria, with its deep water ports, became the central trading hub for that region, centering on fishing, fish processing, and lumber for its main form of commerce. Although the history of the small vessel is hidden in personal records and accords, the Louie undoubtedly was a part of this rich maritime merchantry.

    Eventually moving east to Westport, the Louie found a new home and her port of call in the small lumber and fishing town. Tugs along the Columbia were well known for hauling barges of commodities as well as guiding the large vessels into their ports.

    Eventually a man named Jim Huckins from Lake Stevens purchased the Louie and refitted her with a Lorimer heavy duty diesel engine.

Photo courtesy Mark Freeman

Jim used the tug for a live-aboard and was readily seen habituating at Fremont Boat, and Pacific Boat in Washington State. Although still with “Westport” on her rounded stern, she seemed to make a home here in the Pacific Northwest.

    Prior to 1973 Jim Huckins sold the Louie and a man named Floyd Hagaman of Bellevue came to be the owner.

    On Tuesday morning, October 23, 1973 Wes Hausman, on his 42 foot sloop reported to the Seattle Times;

    “I was on my boat and I noticed the Louie had about three feet of freeboard left…By the time I walked to the end of the dock it was down to the bulwarks. Ten minutes later it went down. There was nothing we could do.”

    The Louie sank at approximately 10:30 am, just off of the Yarrow Bay Marina, and continued to spew diesel fuel for days to the sum of 400 gallons. The Marine Oil Pickup Service (MOPS) was in charge of the cleanup and promptly boomed off the area to save the shores of Juanita Beach and Yarrow Bay.

Courtesy Seattle Times

    Reportedly, the Louie could hold 1,200 gallons of fuel but it was unknown how much fuel was on the dying vessel. The manager of the Yarrow Bay Marina said that Hagaman had been running the boat off 5 gallon cans of fuel because the fuel in the main tanks was contaminated.

    Not knowing if anyone was aboard the Louie when it sank, divers were sent down to see if there were any bodies aboard. Fortunately no one was aboard when she foundered. The cause of the sinking was unknown, but the owner stood to face charges if negligence was the cause.

    The Louie sits in 32 feet of water off Yarrow Bay, its pilot house is off to the side, as if it was cut off-probably because it was a hazard to navigation. The name Louie is still visible on her bow.


Photo courtesy Mark Freeman

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