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Items: The NOAA Ship John N. Cobb Leaves a Rich Legacy

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historical photo of john n cobb  
Launching of the John N. Cobb. Commencement Bay, Tacoma, Washington, 16 January  1950.
decomissioning ceremony  
The John N. Cobb's flag is officially retired at decommissioning ceremonies at NOAA's Sand Point campus in Seattle, Washington, 13 August 2008.


FOR OVER HALF A CENTURY, the NOAA ship John N. Cobb plied Alaska waters as a Federal fisheries research vessel. This year of operation was scheduled to be her last, but the beloved boat’s season sadly was cut short in June 2008 due to a catastrophic breakdown: a broken main crankshaft in her vintage Fairbanks-Morse 1931-design, 325 hp direct drive, locomotive engine. The cost and time to repower and ballast the vessel— estimated at $245,000 and 4–6 months—was deemed unfeasible; consequently, the remainder of the vessel’s scheduled research was curtailed.

THE OLDEST WOODEN BOAT IN THE NOAA FLEET, the John N. Cobb was built by the Western Boat Building Company in Tacoma, ashington, and delivered in February 1950. Her design is a West Coast purse-seiner with additional capabilities to allow trawling, long lining, gill netting, and oceanographic sampling. The Cobb’s normal complement of command and crew is eight, with additional accommodations for four scientists. She is 93 ft in length, 26 ft in beam, and a gross tonnage of 185 tons. (Interestingly another historic wooden-hull vessel, the Mayflower, had a similar estimated size: 90–110 ft length, 25 ft beam, and a gross tonnage of 180 tons. However, the Mayflower was a little more crowded in 1620 with 130 persons onboard!)

ONE OF THE MOST MEMORABLE times of the Cobb’s remarkable career as a research vessel was after the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound on 29 March 1989. Before the spill the Cobb was in an inactive status but was quickly mobilized to play a key role in this major research response.

DECOMMISSIONED AT SAND POINT IN SEATTLE on 13 August 2008, her final resting place is still to be determined. Preliminary plans are under way by a broad group of maritime heritage interests to have the Cobb saved as a historic representation of wooden hull research vessels of the U.S. Federal Fisheries programs for public viewing and use in educational and outreach programs. 

Read about the storied past of the John N. Cobb including historical photographs from her commissioning in February 1950 and decommissioning in August 2008. More> (pdf; 344KB)



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