Monday 7 December 2020

Former U.S. Army T-Boat PATHFINDER T-509

Photo by Janey Anderson -November 8, 2020

Photo by Janey Anderson -November 8, 2020
You'd be surprised what you can find when walking along a beach after a storm like what my sisters and I would do when visiting our grandparents farm which was located across the road from the Lake Erie shoreline in Wainfleet, west of Port Colborne. It was that kind of curiosity that returned when while standing on a dock below the main street of Clayton, New York in June 2015, when I saw this grand old tug, the BOWDITCH which the owner and skipper, Captain DeWitt Withington, would go on to say that when built in 1954, she was the U.S. Army "Small Tug", ST-1991. What an interesting story she's had and you can read about her whenever at ( 
Meanwhile it seems, my boat watching friend, Janey Anderson who lives in Toronto was equally intrigued when she came across a small black hulled boat at a Toronto harbour-front marina with the a crest and the words  "U.S. Army T-509" embossed on her bow.  Janey's photos and some of the descriptions she found online and posted on a Facebook group she moderates, The Prescott Anchor, appears in this post along with more information and pics that I found, but I'm hoping some of my friends who were in the marine services branch of  the U.S. Army, might be able to help me fill in the blanks and complete her story. Here's what we know:

The boat, now named PATHFINDER was privately bought in 2010 and is a modified 2001 series T-Boat built and placed in reserve in 1954 by Higgins Industries of New Orleans, Louisiana which built over 20,000 boats of all kinds during World War II and the post-war hull numbers appear to be another 7,000 until company closed in 1963.
The class of vessels known as T-Boats were originally built according to Higgins Industries as "Coastal Freighters" for the US Army during WWII. During the war, the Army built 170 wooden T-boats, known as design 259. Apparently there are very few of these boats still surviving today, however if you know of one, please send a pic or details my way and I'll add it to this story.

Photo by Janey Anderson -November 8, 2020
The post war steel boats were called design 2001 and were built in three shipyards from 1952-1954. At the time it was believed that there was going to be a second Korean War so they started building the boats and then were laid up most of their Army careers. The boat was specifically designed to cruise up the rivers of Korea with a load of troops, munitions or medical supplies. They were procured during a period when the Navy was handling the contracts for all the armed forces, and apparently it is possible that each of these boats also had a Navy number. They covered the numbering series T-424 through T-517, excepting the group T-466 through T-477. These numbers were assigned to existing vessels whose mission changed during this period.
Photo by Janey Anderson -November 8, 2020
Some of the 82 T-Boats built to this design did go to Korea for the Army, and at least one made an appearance in the Vietnam War. Almost as soon as they were built, some were made available to other government agencies, and starting in 1980, they began being sold to commercial ventures. T-509 never saw any action in Korea or Vietnam and seemed to start her career in the Army on reserve status in New Orleans as mentioned earlier however at sometime and I'd appreciate any input that you may have, the vessel was assigned to duty on the Great Lakes while stationed with the Army's Buffalo District.
In this photo that I found on the Bowling Green State University's - Historical Collections of the Great Lakes website, T-509 is tied off in Cleveland, Ohio at or about April 4, 1965.
From 1970 to 1984,  T-509 was assigned as a research vessel to Great Lakes Laboratory and named C.A. DAMBACH. I found this photo at Location, date and photographer is unknown.

Another photo of the PATHFINDER being converted into a pleasure craft in Easport, Maine. Photographer and date unknown.

Photo by Janey Anderson -November 8, 2020

In August 20, 1984, the C.A. DAMBACH T-509 was transferred to the Maine Maritime Academy in Castine, ME, and sometime there after her name was changed to PATHFINDER. That name stuck with Josh Brierton of Toronto, who purchased her and after modifications were completed, motored the PATHFINDER in May of 2010 from Eastport, Maine down the eastern seaboard, up the Hudson River, crossed upstate New York via the Old Erie Canal and finally across Lake Ontario to Toronto which is where she has remained as a "live afloat" pleasure craft. After living on board for over 7 years, the PATHFINDER was sold in 2017 but remains in Toronto which is where Janey Anderson found her sitting pretty but proud last month. 

It's amazing what you might find while walking along a shoreline, through a marina or the many internet pages of Wikipedia. But there's still information that I'd like add to her story like when was T-509 assigned to the U.S. Army's Buffalo district, and what were her crew's responsibilities when she worked as a research vessel on the Great Lakes and along the New England shoreline? I'm also wondering what was she up to when the T-Boat was known as NOCOMIS and CLEAR WATER?  If there's anything more you call tell,  please leave a comment and I'll add it the T-509's story.  

Stay Safe everyone and especially thinking of those who lost their lives when Pearl Harbor was attacked 79 years ago today. All Gone But Not Forgotten.


December 8, 2020:

To prepare for new coat of paint, PATHFINDER is being sandblasted in St. Catharines. Taken by Brayden Gavanac in 2014.

January 3, 2021:

Hey I came across another photo of T-Boat taken by Will Van Dorp who writes an interesting blog called tugster: a waterblog,  which as Will says, "helps landfolk see his home waters - the Port of New York. The photo of the KNOCK NA SHEE here was taken about five ago during one of his road trips along the eastern seaboard. There's also another neat article I found about retired T-Boats in the Chesapeake Bay area an online magazine called SOUNDINGS. Here's the links to it:  Happy New Year and Stay Safe!!

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