It is not often that we talk about boats for sale on the eBay stories blog, unless they are really special. Last year we wrote about the perfect summer sailboat, but this year we found something even more intriguing, a boat that has played a heroic role several times in the course of Seattle’s history.
Today’s remarkable find is this 1927 City of Seattle Historic Fireboat Alki 123′ 133 Ton 8 Monitors 16,200 GPM:
As we mentioned last year, eBay Motors sells more than new and used cars. It has auctions and deals for all types of vehicles, from motorcycles to boats, to RVs and more. But this fireboat is unique – from the listing:
“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 500 HP 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.”
Just how famous is this boat? Over at KOMO news, Elisa Jaffe reports that Alki, while rough around the edges, has earned her place in the history books. Jaffe interviewed assistant Seattle Fire Chief A.D. Vickery who shared, “You pick a pier fire or a ship fire that’s occurred in Seattle since that time, and this boat has been at it doing what it needs to do.”
This includes protecting a 1920s waterfront lined with wooden piers, a prime fire hazard. It was four decades later, in 1968, when the Alki spent Thanksgiving vacation dousing Todd Shipyard in water. She saw her last major fire in 2006, when a pier on South Lake Union was in flames. According to fireboat engineer Dick Chester, the Alki “…was the first boat to respond and pumped continuously at that fire and maneuvered for 19 hours.”
Another historical tidbit is that Alki’s engineer still uses an old telegraph to communicate with the wheelhouse. Also known as an “engine order telegraph,” this gadget is connected by chains and cables to record the movement of the transmitter’s handle.
You can view historic and current photographs of the fireboat at the KOMO news photo gallery.
With more than 44 bids, the price of this piece of history is currently at $56,500 – although another day remains until the auction ends, so there is still time for a famous local (perhaps Bill Gates?) to step in and place a winning bid. Browsers and buyers are noting that the Alki has some compelling features. For example, over at The SunBreak, a news and lifestyle site for everything Seattle, reporter Michael van Baker conducts an informal inventory of the Alki:
“Radar? Check. Depth sounder, check. VHF radio? All the very high frequencies, my friend. And kick that riveted steel hull if you want. This baby can take it. That’s made in America, buddy. Fog nozzle? I don’t even know that that is, but by god, it’s got it!”
You have to wonder what the buyer will do with a fireboat, as it seems to be a very specialized piece of equipment. In an article from the Seattle Times, a spokesman for the auction is quoted as saying, “(t)hat’s the hardest thing to guess. Do you turn it into a bed-and-breakfast? Do you turn it into a yacht? Do you keep it as a museum piece?” Of course, these questions prompted some speculation here at eBay as well, as I am sure they do for you. Here is what we came up with:
- Deck the fireboat out as a pirate ship, and bring it to kids’ partiess
- Use it at an outdoor rock festival to cool down the revelers.
- Remodel it as a houseboat and impress your guests with a lighted water fountain display.
- Fill the hold with fresh water, and keep it for any upcoming water shortages.
- Revive The Love Boat, albeit at a much smaller scale.
We could also see one of the many amusement park and water park operators, such as Wet ‘n Wild in Florida, using the ship as a new attraction at their park.
We’re sure there are numerous other ideas floating out there (pun intended), so feel free to let us know in the comments if something truly amazing occurs to you.