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

Published 07/20/22 at 3:15 PM PST
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

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

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(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 bit of an unusual piece at that. This beautiful relic was on the National Historic Register – it had been since 1991. But it was a ship, not a house or structure, or some kind of smaller artifact. (Photo courtesy Lincoln County Historical Society)

The Tradewinds Kingfisher had been around since 1941, helped patrol the coastline during World War II, and had been a major part of tourism in Depoe Bay for decades after. Retired from service in 2000 after a colorful life, it was donated to the Society. Eleven years later the Newport historical organization could not find the funds to restore the damaged and decaying vessel. So the decision was made to demolish it.

Oregon Coast Beach Connection covered the tragic end back then.

Fairly quickly after its maiden voyage, it came to be headquartered out of Depoe Bay. A man named Stan Allyn (1913-1992) bought it up and became skipper, however the military took possession of it when the Great War started. The Kingfisher patrolled the Oregon coast from Coos Bay all the way to Astoria, watching for invaders. After that, it was returned to Allyn and entered the charter fishing world, but soon found its way into being a charter boat for tourists as well.

It's then that the Tradewinds Kingfisher became rather famous on the coastline, often for its bright paint job and slightly outrageous gimmicks for tourists, including a swing that was high above the deck. Even more showy was its wild marketing approaches. Allyn included girls in bikinis on the ship and other eye-grabbing concepts in his promo materials, but meanwhile by itself it became a favorite photo and home movie subject for visitors. In its own way, it went viral during the late 20th century.

Allyn was also a maritime correspondent for The Oregonian, and rumor has it he did most of his writing aboard the ship.

When Allyn passed he left a trail of disgruntled locals. He had been rather brutal in his business approach, sometimes outright knocking down competitors. When the ship was donated to the Newport group in 2001, fundraising efforts hit plenty of snags due to the distaste some in the area had for him. While there were initially plans to put the vessel back into service for visitors, it became clear its ancient engines were not cost-effective for whale watch runs or other charter tours.

By the early 2010's it also became clear the ship was deteriorating and ran the risk of sinking, posing a potential environmental hazard. Knowing the end was inevitable, the Society had a detailed 3D laser scan done, thus at least preserving the vessel digitally. Parts were salvaged out, engines were recycled, and some artifacts brought into the maritime history museum in Newport. Offers to donate it to The Smithsonian and other museums were met with “no's.”

Then, with great sadness, the vessel was demolished in Toledo, where they discovered the state of the vessel was even worse than they thought.

Museum director Steve Wyatt wrote at the time:

“I was aboard the Kingfisher when I experienced the thrill of the open ocean for the first time - I loved this boat,” Wyatt said. “As a museum professional my job is the preservation of objects, this was a difficult decision. While removing parts of the Kingfisher a couple of weeks ago I fell through the deck when it collapsed, reaffirming how bad its condition was.”

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

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