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When a Historic Oregon Coast Ship Had to Be Destroyed

Sad Tale of Tradewinds Kingfisher: When a Historic Oregon Coast Ship Had to Be Destroyed

Posted 7/20/22 3:15 PM PST
By the staff of the Oregon Coast Beach Connection

(Newport, Oregon) – 2013 was not a good year for some Oregon Coast history buffs. It was the year the Lincoln County Historical Society in Newport had to demolish a beloved part of the area’s past, and a somewhat unusual piece at that. This beautiful relic had been on the National Historic Register – since 1991. But it was a ship, not a house or a structure, or some kind of smaller artifact. (Photo courtesy of Lincoln County Historical Society)

The Tradewinds Kingfisher has been around since 1941, helped patrol the coastline during World War II, and played a major role in tourism in Depoe Bay for decades. Retired from service in 2000 after a turbulent life, he was donated to the Society. Eleven years later, the Newport Historical Organization has been unable to find the funds to restore the damaged and decaying ship. The decision was therefore made to demolish it.

Oregon Coast Beach Connection covered the tragic end at the time.

Fairly soon after her maiden voyage, she established her headquarters in Depoe Bay. A man named Stan Allyn (1913-1992) bought it and became skipper, but the military took possession of it at the start of the Great War. The Kingfisher patrolled the Oregon coast from Coos Bay to Astoria, looking for invaders. After that it was sent back to Allyn and entered the world of charter fishing, but soon found its footing as a charter boat for tourists as well.

It was then that the Tradewinds Kingfisher became quite famous on the coast, often for its shiny paintwork and slightly outrageous gimmicks for tourists, including a swing that was above the deck. Even more showy were his wild marketing approaches. Allyn included girls in bikinis on the ship and other eye-catching concepts in his promotional materials, but in the meantime he single-handedly became a favorite photo and home movie subject for visitors. In its own way, it went viral at the end of the 20th century.

Allyn was also a maritime correspondent for The Oregonian, and is rumored to have written most of his writing aboard ship.

When Allyn passed, he left a trail of disgruntled locals. He had been rather brutal in his business approach, sometimes outright knocking down his competitors. When the ship was donated to the Newport Group in 2001, fundraising efforts ran into a lot of trouble due to the disgust some locals had for her. While it was originally planned to return the ship to service for visitors, it became clear that her old engines were unprofitable for whale watching races or other charter tours.

In the early 2010s, it also became apparent that the ship was deteriorating and at risk of sinking, posing a potential risk to the environment. Knowing that the end was inevitable, the Society had a detailed 3D laser scan performed, thus at least preserving the ship digitally. Parts were salvaged, engines were recycled and some artifacts were taken to the Newport Maritime History Museum. Offers to donate it to the Smithsonian and other museums were rejected.

Then, with great sadness, the ship was broken up in Toledo, where they discovered that the condition of the ship was even worse than they thought.

Museum director Steve Wyatt wrote at the time:

“I was on the Kingfisher when I first felt the thrill of the open ocean – I loved that boat,” Wyatt said. “As a museum professional, my job is the preservation of objects, it was a difficult decision. While removing parts from the Kingfisher a few weeks ago, I fell through the deck when it collapsed, reaffirming how bad its condition was.

Pacific Maritime Heritage Center: SE Bay Boulevard, Newport. (541) 265-7509

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Below: Newport Maritime Museum

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