PANDA OWNERS LEARN BOAT'S HISTORY

March 20, 2001 11:00 pm
Floyd Taylor and Jim and Kathy Lindley recently shared stories about The Panda. ().
Floyd Taylor and Jim and Kathy Lindley recently shared stories about The Panda. ().

The Panda rocks quietly at her moorings in the commercial boat basin. There?s a story or two inside the solid fir hull.

The black and white boat, built in 1939, has survived a colorful past to become a sturdy member of the Brookings-Harbor fishing fleet. The Panda belongs to Jim and Kathy Lindley.

In the late 80s, the Lindleys obtained the abstract of title for the boat, which noted all previous owners. Floyd Taylor was listed as the Aberdeen, Washington builder and original owner. The Lindleys hoped to meet him one day, but their attempts at contact were unsuccessful, complicated by the fact that Taylor had moved from Aberdeen to Bremerton.

?It was disappointing,? said Kathy Lindley about their inability to connect. ?It felt like we were reaching out and we couldn?t touch.?

Taylor was also curious about what had happened to the boat since he?d owned it. At Christmastime last year, his son Gaylen logged onto a Coast Guard website and found the Lindleys listed as the current owners.

?That made my Christmas,? said Taylor happily. ?I?ve always wondered if she was still afloat.?

Taylor called the Lindleys right away. ?It was a great feeling when he called,? said Kathy. ?We finally connected.?

On a rainy Saturday in February, members of the two families and friends swapped stories over hearty breakfasts at Sporthaven Restaurant.

Taylor said he and his father had both worked as millwrights at the E.C. Miller Cedar Lumber Company in Aberdeen. They built the Panda to fish for albacore during WWII.

?A friend of mine fished off one of the mill docks in Aberdeen,? said Taylor. ?He caught a fish about 10 pounds but he didn?t know what it was. The hardware store put up a sign, ?what is it??

?A fisheries guy from UW (University of Washington) said, ?Hey, where did you catch this? That?s an albacore.?

?The fishermen had thought they were sharks. The run was on after that.?

Taylor?s father, who framed windjammers during WWI, was an experienced boatbuilder. ?We made a 6-inch model first,? said Taylor. ?We put it in the bathtub and whipped up waves to test it.?

The two then built a 14-inch half model to 1/4 inch scale. The model showed the lengthwise half of the boat.

?We built the boat on the riverbank by the sawmill,? said Taylor. ?We sawed our own planking in the mill.?

?The keel was 40 feet long and not a knot in it,? he recalled. Planking for the boat came from a single fir log.

?We had 235 pounds of live steam off the mill boilers. We put the oak ribs in the steam box and bent 100 ribs in one day. They were like noodles when they came out.?

?It was a hard time boat,? Taylor continued. ?We worked seven days a week on it. Dad worked nights in the blacksmith shop (at the mill). He made the anchor, the rudder, the rig fittings, the deck cleats, the whole works.?

The Panda is 46.4 feet long and can carry 22 tons of fish. Gross weight is 33 tons.

The Taylors also added two masts, a jib and an oversized rudder for sailing just in case the motor ever failed. Taylor said they tested the sailing gear but were never forced to use it. Total cost of the boat was $3500.

During the war, Taylor and his father took several threemonth leaves of absence from the mill to go fishing. ?We didn?t know anything about fishing,? said Taylor. ?It took us a couple of years to figure out how to catch tuna.?

Taylor vividly remembered the marine life he saw. ?The first trip out I took magazines and books to read but there were so many things to see...?

?A whale came underneath us one time and rocked the boat. We thought another boat ran into us. It looked like a submarine.

?We?d see sunfish from the crossarm when we were trolling for tuna. They?ve got a big fin that sticks up in the air and they flop it like they?re fanning themselves.

?One day we ran into a feeding frenzy, about 100 miles out. It seemed like millions of tuna. The two of us pulled 9 1/2 tons in 2 1/2 hours,? he remembered. ?The railings were 18 inch and we had tuna piled up to the top and into the cabin.?

The Taylors fished for four years, selling the Panda before WWII ended.

?The new owner rigged up for drag seining,? Taylor said. ?He was pro-German. We learned he made his crew read German propaganda.? Taylor said the crew reported the owner to the Coast Guard, which tied up the boat and put the owner in jail. ?I heard he went crazy in jail. His wife had him committed and sold the boat to someone in southern California,? Taylor said.

?That was about 1945 or 1946,? he added. ?That was the last I heard of it ?til recently.?

In the small world category, Taylor struck up a conversation about the Panda with a casual acquaintance a few months ago. ?He said ? I knew the Panda. She was tied up at Moss Landing close to the Kaiser cement plant. She was covered with fine dust. She looked like a wreck.??

Jim and Kathy Lindley know the story from there.

Kathy Lindley?s father, Cecil Hall, was a lifelong fisherman. In 1967, after his friend Alvin ?Pugh? Heffron wrecked on the Chetco jetty, the two headed for Moss Landing to look at a boat Hall had heard about. It was the Panda. Heffron bought the boat.

?Then Pugh decided he didn?t want to go back on the ocean,? said Lindley. ?He was so badly shaken up. Dad bought the boat from him.?

Hall fished for crab, bottom fish, shrimp, albacore and salmon. ?The Panda was one of the bigger boats in the port when it came to Brookings,? Lindley said.

Jim Lindley came to work on the Panda in the early 70s after a tour of duty with the Coast Guard. By 1975, as Hall began cutting back on worktime, Jim took over running the boat. In 1979, Hall sold the boat to the Lindleys.

?I don?t know exactly why Dad sold the Panda to us,? said Kathy Lindley. ?I suppose he wanted us to have the opportunity to have our own business. He gave all kinds of people a good start.?

These days, the Panda is strictly a crabboat. ?We have permits for salmon in Oregon and shrimp in California, too,? said Lindley, ?but the boat is too small to actively participate in seasons other than crab.?

The years the boat spent in California remain a mystery. Kathy Lindley thinks it sat at Moss Landing a long time. She?s learned it was often drawn by artists there and owns a framed postcard drawing.

Lindley said people often ask where the Panda?s name came from. Taylor is unsure of the origin. ?Dad wanted to paint it black and white, so that fit in,? he said.

Lindley?s mother, Betty Hall, painted the first panda bear face on the bridge. ?She also was known to paint dollar signs on the hull,? Lindley added, laughing. ?To show where her money was going.?

The group seemed relieved the Panda has kept her name over the years. ?It?s an old wive?s tale,? said Kathy Lindley. ?You don?t change the name of a boat. It?s bad luck.?

?We never had a wave come over the top of it,? Taylor said.

Jim Lindley agreed. ?Spray over the top, but never a wave.?

?She?s a good dry boat,? Taylor affirmed. ?A good dry boat.?

To research documentation of other vessels, log onto the Coast Guard website at www.uscg.mil.