Stockton Ship-building; USS Lucid, Colberg and Stephens Boat Builders, Stockton Historical Maritime Museuml


The USS Lucid, looking forward from the rear deck.

Volunteers Pyle on left, and Ladd, on right, take a break on the Lucid.
USS Lucid, at docks on Stockton’s Deepwater Channel, awaiting repairs.
USS Lucid, showing “before and after” refinishing work done recently.
USS Engage, built in Stockton and sister-ship to Lucid, underway in 1983.

Long-time residents of San Joaquin County will know some of Stockton’s lore as a major ship builder, of both river-going and ocean-going craft.  Newer residents may not know the history; a recently arrived Korean War-era minesweeper and the Stockton Historical Maritime Museum aim to change all that!

When heading west out Monte Diablo in Stockton, sharp eyes will see on the Stockton Deepwater Channel a gray, formerly-formidable United States Navy minesweeper, undergoing repair and refinishing. It’s located just southeast of Louis Park, and a project of the Maritime Museum.

The USS Lucid, MSO 458, built in New Orleans in 1953, is a match to three minesweepers built in the heyday of Stockton shipbuilding by Colberg Boat Works. Each ship was 172 feet in length, had a 36 foot beam, displaced 620 tons and drew only 10 feet of water (designed to operate in rivers, as well as deep ocean).

A friend and I received a riveting in-depth tour of the USS Lucid, narrated by John Van Huystee, instructor and sole employee of the Maritime Museum.

Van Huystee noted “a cadre of volunteers and students are at work on the Lucid, including students of the San Joaquin County Office of Education ‘Building Futures Academy’, also involved in Habitat for Humanity projects. Students can earn minimum wage for their work, while learning a skilled trade. We also use a large crew of regular and occasional volunteers to bring this historic fighting ship back to life.”.

Colberg Boat Works began operations in the late 1890s and survived into the early 1990s. The company was located just east of Stephens Brothers Boat Works, at 848 West Fremont St. In its day, Colberg built several score of ships for the US Army and Navy, including minesweepers, launches, rescue ships, tugs and sub chasers.

Neighboring Stephens Brothers prospered during the same times, building a variety of ships for the US military, and some of the finest sailboats, speedboats and private yachts in the US – many still in existence. One of Stephen’s finest, a 26 foot runabout, is on display at the Haggen Museum.

101 minesweepers were built like the Lucid, designed to contend with Russian magnetic mines used during the Korean and Vietnam war years. 70 were built for the United States, 30 for our allies. Of the 70 ships built for the US, the Lucid is the single remaining ship.

The Lucid’s “twins” built in Stockton were all built in the 1950s at Colberg Board Works; they were the USS Dynamic, MSO 432 (sold to Spain in 1974, struck in 1998), USS Embattle, MSO 434 (scrapped in 1993) and the USS Engage, MSO 433.(scrapped in 2002).

The new Russian magnetic mines could be programmed to go after the fifth ship in a convoy – often an aircraft carrier, fifth in place behind four destroyers. The Lucid had a quarter-mile long copper cable, which could be trailed behind the ship and used to trigger magnetic mines. The ships also contended against other mines such as pressure-activated and contact mines.

The Lucid was built entirely with oak and fir, for the hull and entire superstructure. For all components that would normally be steel, non-steel fittings were used. A stainless steel smoke stack graced the super-structure, and bronze and brass fittings held wood hull pieces in place – nothing of steel was used that could trigger mines.

The Lucid is a “mine sweeper ocean”-version (MSO), and an “aggressive class” ship, which carried a 40 mm cannon and 50 caliber machine guns. It was decommissioned in 1976, acquired by private parties which used it as a  houseboat, dental office and more.

It’s 5 inch thick oak hull (“still solid, no leaks”, added John) was powered by four V-12 Packard aluminum block engines, and could cruise at 15 knots when fully loaded, carrying a 75 man crew.

“Renovation, originally thought to be a five-year project, is already into its fifth year – with several more years to go”, Van Huystee noted, adding “we’re eager to accept new volunteers; one can start by touring the ship and ascertaining our needs and your interest!”.

During the ship’s time in the US Navy, eight captains served. The Lucid was equipped to search for magnetic, pressure and contact mines off the shores of Vietnam; Lucid would work with a cadre of four other ships to plot and blow-up the mines in place.

Each month, on the second and fourth Saturdays, the public is invited to participate in work parties, running from 8 AM to 3 PM. Check the Lucid’s Facebook page and the Maritime Museum’s website for updates.  Also, make a stop at the Haggin Museum, to see the pristine Stephens runabout, and to take in history of both Colberg and Stephens Boat Works!

How to get there: From Stockton, go west on Monte Diablo a mile west of I-5, and watch for the USS Lucid on the Deepwater Channel across from the Louis Park softball fields.

What’s nearby:  Just two miles east on Monte Diablo, you will find the Haggin Museum in the center of Victory Park.
What to take: Good walking shoes and your camera!

For more info on the Stockton Historical Maritime Museum, see:, to volunteer for a 2nd or 4th Saturday work day, or for a ship’s tour, contact John Van Huystee,, or phone 209.518.6667.

For additional travel destination inspiration, see my blog: travel; to contact me, 

Happy travels in the west!

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