Table of Contents

Development of BYC Docks and Floats
"Tanks for the Memories"

We have previously written about the development of the BYC Clubhouse (several) and the properties (several) following a rather circuitous route from places south of Bremerton to where it is now. Intrinsic to all of this movement are the floats. What you see now is of course a far cry from what it began.

In the beginning, all floats were wood. Wood logs (floating) supporting wood planks held in place by wood pilings. As we have seen, these "floats" or floating docks were moved around, added on to, reconfigured and rebuilt several times over the years.

But not all floats were floated with logs. In the days before sophisticated cement floats, our forerunners, being the always frugal, always industrious sort, were always looking for a way to save a nickel.

One day in 1945, the Commodore got wind of the availability of surplus B-29 fuel tanks in downtown Seattle. The price was right so a deal was struck and the rest is history. The following excerpt from our written history describes accurately and hysterically how these tanks were brought home and give one more glimpse into why we are a do-it-yourself Club!

"In October of 1945, Captain Lyle Chandler approached Commodore-Elect Hart and mentioned that he knew a fellow that had several war-surplus rubber gasoline tanks from the famous "B-29". These tanks were for sale and Captain Chandler wondered if possibly some of these tanks couldn't be used in the place of logs for float construction. Commodore Hart didn't know whether this would work or not, but he was willing to find out. So, the Commodore ordered one tank delivered to the yacht club from Seattle where the tanks were stored. This one tank came by Auto Freight at a cost of $7.72. The cost of shipment and the guess-work in regards to the possibilities of use just about wound up the deal right then and there. As a matter of fact, the deal was washed up. No one was in the least bit interested. The tank was uncrated --sealed up and launched: The net gain of Phinney Bay -- quite by accident.

Captain Chandler approached Commodore Hart in the closing week of December, 1945 and mentioned that the party that had these tanks for sale would definitely have to know whether the club was going to buy these tanks - or not - by the l0th of January. However, it appeared that the club was not in the market -just no interest.

At the request of the Commodore, Captain Marx Libby (the club draftsman) sketched up a drawing using these tanks in the place of logs. Captain Libby was of the opinion that berths could be put in for $79 instead of the $140 per berth that the logs would cost. With that good news, the fellows went to work. It took a lot of super salesmanship, but at the first meeting in January the Commodore laid the business on the floor and by unanimous ballot the membership decided to buy 246 tanks. This was about 100 more tanks than the overall plan of construction called for, but it was decided to buy the whole lot in order to sell the rest to prospective buyers at some sort of profit! These tanks cost $6 each.

At the Commodore's request, the seller of the tanks had them moved from the warehouse where they were stored, to a dock on the waterway of the Duwamish River in Seattle. This cost about $200, but it had to be done. In late January of 1946 the work parties went to work on a job that just about killed all work parties. About 50 members on about 15 boats went to Seattle to bring the tanks back. Some went on Saturday and others on Sunday. What a job!

When the fellows got there they saw that the tanks were piled about 10 high (all in crates) and it looked like they extended for acres and acres. To add to this, it was a very cold January day and it was very icy and slippery. But were the fellows deterred? Definitely not. However, after a day and a half of backbreaking work uncrating, plugging, and launching, the boys only had 76 tanks in the water. The main trouble was that a number of tanks had lost their plugs in the process of launching --so they promptly sank. Probably the most discouraging thing was taking the empty crates and piling them to one side. It took at least two men to handle one side of a crate and this was a job.

At last the tanks (except for a couple that sank in deep water) were assembled and parcelled out to the various boats ready for the long tow home. Away went the boats. But the worst is yet to come. It appears that some of the fellows had trouble. Anyway, by the time that Commodore Hart was underway (he waited until the rest were gone) he found tanks allover the bay. Captain Clifford on the "Marshall I" and Captain Adams on the "Daltonia" were in the waterway trying to rescue some of the critters and this editor is very sorry to say that they were thinking bad thoughts and were actually putting some to words. It seems that the tanks would get a little water in them and then wouldn't tow worth two cents. Approximately a dozen tanks were lost in the towing process, but 4 were recovered in the next week so that (by actual count) only 8 were lost (counting the ones that had sunk at the waterway).

The next Sunday, these tanks were hauled out on the beach by use of block and tackle and truck and back muscles. Everybody breathed easier except the Commodore. How was he to get the rest of the tanks from Seattle? More work parties were out of the question. However, this was solved by the simple process of hiring it to be done. A barge was rented from the Foss Company in Seattle. The waterway and a stevedore company loaded the tanks on the barge. Fine and dandy. But then the tug went away intending to pick the tanks up the next day. The barge settled on some very sharp rocks on the bottom when the tide went out --and stove in the planking on the barge. That was a fine pickle. But the Foss Company sent a crew manned with pumps, etc. to float the barge and the crew managed to get the barge on a grid where the damage was repaired. The tug then brought the barge to Bremerton and laid it against the dock at the yacht club and said "Get it unloaded boys, because I'll be back after the empty barge in the morning". So --about 75 members got to work that night. It was dark, cold and raining, but off came the tanks --SLAM BANG. There were tanks all over Phinney Bay. By mid-night the tanks were all on the beach (strung as far as the eye could see) and tied up with clothes line so that they couldn't possibly get away. All due credit must be given the boys for this nights work --the job had to be done and it was. One man in particular deserves a word of praise that is Past Commodore H. D. Thompson who supervised the work that night --also his straw boss Captain George Becker.

Commodore Hart was sick that night, (lucky stiff) so he didn't do much work, however, he got up at daylight and looked out on Phinney Bay --and LO and BEHOLD!! When the tanks were not being towed they floated beautifully! They didn't take on a drop of water. They were natural wanderlusts and just loved to head out to sea. There were tanks all over the bay and down the Narrows to Vashon Island and up the Narrows to Silverdale. Tanks everywhere. I'll bet that there were at least a hundred trips made out in the next few months to rescue tanks. Finally they were all corralled in the lagoon in back of the club and logs were strung across the lagoon so that the tanks would stay PUT. But not these tanks. They delighted in jumping the logs or swimming under water under the logs and going exploring again. At this time the editor of this history would like to officially extend his sympathies to the crew of the "B-29" for having to use them and I might add that I don't blame the government for disposing of them as soon as possible after the war.

The surplus tanks that the club purchased were soon sold. The Commodore would lay and wait for unsuspecting and unaware prospects and then he would pounce on them and sell them tanks at $22.50 each. In fact he sold enough tanks to pay for the entire original cost of the entire lot plus the stevedoring, barging and towing. Not too bad, was it?

These tanks were finally put in use on the new floats. They made beautiful floats and everything appears rosy at this writing." [ Source]

These work party pictures from 1959 show one of the recalcitrant tanks being repaired and float construction using them.

These tanks lived well into the 70's and 80's and were systematically replaced with concrete floats over the years. The last replacement was the "B String" refloat in 1988.

PC Bob Wheeler, BYC Historian