Seventy-Five Years Old and Still Steaming

The derrick recently lifted a 61-ton catamaran ferry onto the tarmac at Foss Seattle Shipyard.

Here’s wishing a happy 75th birthday to the venerable derrick barge Foss 300.

Built in Stockton, California, in 1943 for the U.S. Army, the 75-ton crane is one of the last steam-powered derricks on the West Coast. Foss purchased the derrick following World War II and has used it ever since on Puget Sound and in Alaska.

Thanks to careful maintenance by its crews over the years the Foss 300 is in first-rate condition.

The derrick keeps busy with a variety of work. It includes helping decommission ships at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, launching boats for yards along the Lake Washington Ship Canal, and loading cargo ships. The derrick also sets buoys and anchors and does salvage work.

In its earlier days with Foss, the 300 has had interesting assignments both inside and outside of Puget Sound.

The Foss 300 helped salvage a sunken airliner in Puget Sound near Tacoma in 1956

The derrick helped salvage canned salmon from the freighter Diamond Knot that collided with another freighter in the Strait of Juan de Fuca in 1947. The salvors used siphon pipes, like giant, underwater vacuum cleaners, to suck salmon cans from the sunken ship.

In 1956, the derrick helped salvage a sunken airliner that ditched in Puget Sound near Tacoma. And in the early 1960s, the derrick was in Alaska’s Cook Inlet to lift modules onto the jackets of offshore oil production platforms.

As an Army vessel, the derrick was designated the BD 800. Its current name comes from a barge numbering system Foss used from the 1940s to the 1960s. All derricks were numbered in the 300s, and at one time Foss operated three of them.