Just Another Nature Enthusiast

JANE’s Images & Thoughts 🌲 Inspired by the Pacific NW & places I wander

“Relic” Weekly Photo Challenge

“Relic” Weekly Photo Challenge

Classic Wooden Boat Charm

M.V. Pacific Catalyst II is an historic wooden vessel… relic of a time when crafstmanship was the rule, not the exception. She has decades-old varnished wood paneling, heavy beamed ceilings and glowing mahogany trim and furniture. The slow pulse of her original 1932 Washington Diesel engine, the only one like it in the world, makes Catalyst a living creature, with a strong iron heart.

She was the University of Washington’s first oceanographic research vessel. In 1932 Thomas G. Thompson began a personal crusade to establish a school of oceanography at the university. With the help of a $60,000 grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, he started both the school and the construction of Catalyst. The Catalyst launched as the most state-of-the-art research vessel of her time. She was completed in June of 1932 and took her maiden cruise through the Inside Passage and across the Gulf of Alaska.

During WWII the Navy conscripted the vessel, mounted a machine gun on top of her pilot house and racks of depth charges on her stern. She spent the war years patrolling the Aleutian Islands for Japanese submarines.


The Pacific Catalyst was built to last, constructed of white oak, Alaskan yellow cedar, Douglas fir, teak and Australian ironwood. After the war, the Catalyst was handsomely refit. Over the next forty years, she was used for everything from delivering mail to mining supplies, to being used as a floating dentist’s office. As a floating marine laboratory, she won national acclaim: more importantly, she touched the lives of all who knew her and continues to do so today.

My husband and I are in the group of folks whose lives have been touched by the Catalyst. Passage aboard was booked in celebration of our 40th wedding anniversary. We thoroughly enjoyed our exploration of the San Juan Islands aboard this magnificent old beauty of a boat… an expedition never to be forgotten.


Pacific Catalyst_1


This week’s photo challenge is: “Relic”

Resource for Catalyst background; history text cut from: http://www.pacificcatalyst.com/index.htm


15 comments on ““Relic” Weekly Photo Challenge”

  1. Hey, these are such classy photos of a bygone era. So charming to see her. Thinking of her grandeur at her peak.

    Do visit my ‘relic’ as well. Thanks. 🙂

  2. Wonderful tour of a grand vessel, thanks! Knowing a bit about ships and having spent a lot of time in throbbing engine rooms, I especially appreciate the photos of a beautiful piece of immaculate machinery. To think that such an engine was custom built one cylinder at a time and plumbed together is not easily imagined in this day and age. Pretty cool vessel to serve as mother goose for a flock of kayaks, must have been a real delight!

  3. So happy you enjoyed the little tour, Eric. It was an impressive mini-field trip aboard the vessel to retreat below decks to tour the engine room. You are correct- the machinery was all shiny and well-maintained. I loved, Aleah, the engineer, a lovely young woman who was so proud of her training and expertise in keeping the ship humming. Without diesel, I believe the Catalyst could have been powered by her enthusiasm alone!

    Your analogy of the ship serving as mother goose for a flock of kayaks makes me smile 🙂 This really could be said… and there was a very specific routine for “hatching” the kayaks onto the water’s surface. Once on the water, Shannon, the ship’s naturalist led us round and about waterways and provided interpretive stories about the peoples, flora, and fauna of the San Juan Islands. Very informative and interesting. I give credit to her for planting the seed in my mind that eventually led to my completion of the Oregon State Master Naturalist Program.

  4. Thank you, Suyash. That is an accurate description, to be sure! There is something classy about brass gauges, valves, pipes and pistons! Digital can not touch that look of feel.

    I will stop by your site to visit your interpretation for “relic.”

  5. The persons who give inspiration even in brief encounters are treasures!
    My days as an engineer were on steel hulled boats on the Great Lakes, I can only imagine the feel of a finely tuned engine in a wooden hull…

  6. Yes your camera could capture most of the essence of that class but, feel only you have as you were there;) feels so jealous of you..hahaha

    Thanks Jane.

Please, do tell... what caught your attention?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Have we wondered about some of the same things?

%d bloggers like this: