How about buying a 123-foot, 133 ton, steel-hulled vessel just for fun? Sound like a deal at $22,500?
Two guys in the tiny waterfront town of LaConner, Washington, thought so. The boat is a retired City of Seattle fireboat named Alki and Ken Gunderson and Ron Rennebohm, along with an auto agency, submitted the winning bid in a recent auction.
Built in 1927 as a fireboat and operated by Seattle’s Fire Department until its recent retirement, the Alki has a pair of 500hp Cleveland diesel engines for propulsion and six huge pumps – each powered by a pair of Detroit 6-71 diesels – that can spray 16,000 gallons of water a minute.
The new owners showed that all the gear works by firing up the 12 Detroits and pumping water into the air through six monitors (also known as water cannons) as the Alki cruised along the Swinomish Channel on LaConner’s waterfront. A volunteer crew of Seattle firemen helped deliver the boat from her moorings in Seattle.
The two businessmen said they would make the fireboat available for festivals and parades and to offer it as “a showpiece for public and private events.”
They added that their goal is “to keep this great Seattle legend in the Pacific Northwest for future generations to enjoy.”
After declaring Alki surplus, the city retained an industrial auction house to find a buyer. The first apparent winning bid of $71,000 was withdrawn. The city then spent about $35,000 on a survey and some improvements before a second auction ad caught the attention of the LaConner businessmen.
She was even listed on eBay:
“This boat has a long history with the City of Seattle. Built in 1927 in Oakland, CA, the Alki was Seattle’s third fireboat, and was originally gasoline powered. At that time, it was dubbed “The world’s largest fireboat” and “The most powerful firefighting vessel of its kind”. In 1947 it was repowered with two GM 500hp supercharged diesel engines that remain today. When it was repowered, the original pump capacity was increased from 12,000 GPM to 16,200 GPM.
It currently acts in a reserve firefighting role for the City. Due to its large pumping capacity, the Alki can also provide fresh water to the City in the event of major disaster, as well as act as a floating fuel point to resupply land-based emergency apparatus – it carries more than 8,000 gallons of diesel fuel.”
What’s not known is what Ken and Ron’s wives said when they came home with an 86-year-old treasure too large for the driveway. Nor do we know when buyers’ remorse will bloom.
(To read about another historic fireboat, now restored, pick up the October 2013 PassageMaker and read Fire in the Belly about the Sarah Elizabeth Banks.)