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Wallace Foss: A Unique and Historic Tacoma Tugboat

The tugboat Wallace Foss once led a charmed, if hard-working life in the Pacific Northwest. And the fate of this wooden boat changed even before she was launched: her owners modified the original passenger vessel design to that of a tugboat in the middle of the construction process. Originally christened as Oscar B. in 1897 at Tacoma, WA, today the tug carries the name Wallace Foss and is berthed in Rhode Island.

A photo of Wallace Foss, a classic Pacific Northwest tug.
Wallace Foss is a classic wooden tug from the Pacific Northwest that’s been thoughtfully outfitted for live-aboard cruising.

By 1913, Oscar B. was already a tired ship and had been beached along the Snohomish River in Everett, WA. Good fortune brought her to the attention of Seattle’s Rouse Towing Company, which bought and restored her, replacing her original steam engine in the process. Then in 1920 the Rouse Towing Company was purchased by Foss Maritime, which changed the name to Wallace Foss. (The company named its boats after family members; Wallace was a grandnephew.)

For the next 52 years, Wallace Foss towed barges and logs around Puget Sound, Hood Canal, and the San Juan Islands. And she was well maintained along the way–a new pilothouse was added in 1949 and a new diesel engine was installed in 1960. She worked hard as a tug until 1972, when she was retired. After retirement, she was restored and upgraded by her many successive owners, somehow always dodging the scrap yard.

Wallace Foss was built with Douglas fir planks and cedar decks. She is 65 feet in length, overall, and measures 16 feet, six inches on the beam. Her recent upgrades include new stainless-steel rigging, a bulwark replacement, resealing of the wheelhouse windows, fresh paint, and a new galley stove and watermaker. Her Caterpillar diesel has 1900 hours, and she also carries a Yanmar genset in her large, stand-up engine room. Although her machinery and modern electronics have been continually updated, she has retained her classic lines and historic aura, which have won numerous best-in-show awards at classic boat gatherings.

Today, the tugboat’s interior is more about comfort than hard work. A nicely appointed settee is the centerpiece of the deckhouse salon, while a fully equipped galley and a diesel stove provide everything needed to turn out hearty meals. A belowdecks bunk room accommodates five, and her recognizable pilothouse offers 360-degree views.

A recent owner, who converted her to be a comfortable liveaboard, relocated her from the Pacific Northwest to Newport, RI. She is ready for the next phase of her charmed life as a posh cruiser, exploring the waters of a new coastline.

For more information on this classic Pacific Northwest tug, view the full listing.

Written by Zuzana Prochazka

Written by: Zuzana Prochazka

Zuzana Prochazka is a writer and photographer who freelances for a dozen boating magazines and websites. A USCG 100 Ton Master, Zuzana has cruised, chartered and skippered flotillas in many parts of the world and serves as a presenter on charter destinations and topics. She is the Chair of the New Product Awards committee, judging innovative boats and gear at NMMA and NMEA shows, and currently serves as immediate past president of Boating Writers International. She contributes to Boats.com and YachtWorld.com, and also blogs regularly on her boat review site, TalkoftheDock.com.

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