Maritime historian: The Fir is a historic treasure


The Fir, right, moored at Herman and Helen's Marina at the west end of Eight Mile Road, along with The Aurora, left, and Chaleur, tied alongside.

Jon A. Ottman, a Detroit maritime historian/historic preservation professional, writes:

“I read with interest your recent op-ed piece on the large vessels moored at the former Herman and Helen’s Marina. It’s been shared frequently across various maritime-related social media pages.

“I am wondering about the former CGC FIR, as she was only mentioned briefly in the cut line and story.

“She is a very important ship as the last US Lighthouse Service Tender to serve the US, having been retired in 1991. FIR is a National Historic Landmark, the highest designation for a historic property in the US.

“After having been for sale since at least 2013 by former owner Curt Lind, FIR’s sale was finalized earlier this year to an unknown buyer for an unknown future use/purpose.

“I’ve heard she was being considered for a static bed and breakfast in LA or use as a yacht by a wealthy European. I have also heard a new rumor recently that she may have been purchased by a Virginia man who intends to use her to run to two lighthouses he owns on Chesapeake Bay.  I am trying to confirm that.

“Recent work on the vessel is apparent, such as new paint visible in the photo that accompanied your column. The broker handling the sale didn’t return inquiries asking about the future plans for the ship. It would seem likely that the new owner, having gone through the trouble to acquire the vessel and start work on her, would not abandon the ship so quickly after acquisition.

“I am wondering if you may know of what the future holds for FIR. Unlike the CHALEUR or AURORA, FIR  is capable of moving under her own power and she would likely draw less water than the cruise ship or the minesweeper. Hoping she can be extracted from the mess there at the marina…”

I did not research The Fir as part of the column, the subject being complex enough with a dozen defendants, most of whom are not eager to talk. I have met Lind, who tried to dock The Fir at Stockton’s marina but was refused a berth, or so he said.

Though the situation is far from clear, I’d call the status of the three vessels like this: The Aurora is undergoing a slow but steady remodel and may have future, though the owner says that future will be elsewhere; The Chaleur is in the hands of owners in over their head; The Fir looks to be removed by its new owner.

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    Michael Fitzgerald

    Mike Fitzgerald is The Record’s award-winning metro columnist. His column runs in the paper three times a week. Born in San Francisco, he was raised in Stockton. His column covers diverse beats including, sometimes, the offbeat. Read Full
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