Live Auctions

2000 HP: 1927 Seattle Fire Boat

right spray

Listed on eBay is this 123 foot long fireboat Alki. It was built in 1927 in Oakland, California. It was said to be the worlds largest fireboat. The owner wants $56,000 for it. Bidding is at $15,500 with no reserve. The Alki has changed hands several times lately. Seattle spent $35,000 to get it ready to sell then sold it at auction for $25,000 to a couple of guy from La Conner, North of Seattle. Then in December they sold it to a guy in Florida for $140,000 who fell behind on his moorage payments. The Port of Skagit tried to auction off the Alkifor for unpaid fees, but there were no bidders so it was declared surplus and sold to the current owner for $10,000. The new owner had it towed up to Bellingham. He set up a web page for the boat,, but it looks like it’s not working. Perhaps there’s an unpaid bill.


It has four 500 HP diesel engines. They were installed in 1947, replacing gasoline powered engines. It can pump an impressive 16,200 GPM. It’s said to have 12 other engines for pumps.

at Ivans

Here it is, docked by Ivars, a well known chowder and seafood restaurant  on the Seattle waterfront. It was always a familiar sight while enjoying a bowl of chowder and enjoying the view. So, what could one do with a fireboat? There have been many suggestions, some more serious than others, like a marine museum, restaurant or a working fishing boat or refueling vessel. It can hold over 8,000 gallons of fuel and has a built in transfer system. There are suggestions like turn it into a yacht and have a cool lighted water display. If the owner can’t sell it, it will likely be scrapped. What ideas would you have for it?


  1. Howard A Member

    Well, thanks for the fireboat lesson, and I welcome just about anything here, even I have to say this crosses the line here.

    • David Frank David Member

      I had similar thoughts abouts this boat when I saw the tip, like the Aerotrain that Josh wrote up recently. But then I realized that the basic idea of barn finds is at least hoping new life will be found for interesting old vehicles that have fallen into disuse as well as celebrating old vehicles that somehow have escaped the ravages of time. This fireboat is kind of out there, I agree, but it’s a piece of the history of us and just like we wouldn’t like to see an old car scraped, we hope this fireboat might somehow be saved. In reality, the only hope for this boat is going to be either for a museum or possibly as an “oiler”, a fuel transfer boat. Sadly, it’s greatest value most likely lies in scrap. The engines and other systems are surely very outdated.

  2. Wayne Thomas

    Why can’t it be converted to a liveaboard? Could make for a really cool retirement “home” for the right person.

    • Wayne S.K.

      Exactly what I was thinking, Wayne…

  3. Van

    This is cool.
    Build a high end cabin on top.
    A private yacht this size could bring over 300 thousand to over one million if done well.
    I would like to be simapathetic to the fire service.
    Keep two cannons, paint it red.
    Imagine pulling into the yacht club a hosing down some ass that’s yelling at the dock workers.

  4. Dairymen

    Apparently there’s something structurally wrong with it. The guy that paid 140k didn’t have a clue what he got himself into. If it has been bringing $10-25k something ain’t right. It probably won’t clear an inspection to go to sea. In 1927 these boats were not welded but the pop-nailed them, good luck repairing that.

    • grant

      Is there a reason you think it has structural defects? I’m not saying it doesn’t just wondering why you think that. This is a very limited market for one of these. The cost of retrofitting it as a private yacht would be comparable to buying an existing boat, and just like a fire truck, we all want one but honestly what would you do with it? Probably a floating fire museum would be best, but as Seattle gave it up long ago that’s not likely to happen.

      • Dairymen

        I have relatives who own boats and when they buy another boat (no matter how new it is) they require the engine being tested and being inspected on the inside with a scope and the oil being send off to a lab to be examined for specific metal parts and how much of it (wear of rings, bearing etc). The boat will go to a shipyard to have the bottom inspected and they measure the thickness. The driveshaft to the propeller is being checked for the amount of play. And the list goes on. Don’t you think with so many people living on the coast someone who snatched it up and use it, but they know it’s floating scrap. Why do you think anyone local didn’t jump on it? It took a sucker 3500 miles (Florida ) up the road!

      • grant

        Well, as I said; very limited market and insane costs of refit are the major hurdles here. I don’t see anything wrong with the boat structurally. And I’ve personally owned boats for years. They arent like cars, you rarely get out of it what you put into it. The buyer from Florida likely didn’t examine the logistics of moving it to his location (an expensive nightmare in its own right, aside from the costs of drydock/refit.) The boat appears solid. Just obsolete.

  5. Slim Chance

    A real “hole in the water”. If you’ve never had the “pleasure” of owning a boat, step right up and learn all about 24/7-365 maintenance & repair.

  6. Mark S

    Scrap it…….it’s time is up

  7. Van

    Guys, it has 4 engines, just run two props and you have enough spare parts for ever.
    I can’t wait for pirate day arrr.
    Shiver me timbers and pass the spinach. Afore me sends Ye to Davy Jones locker arrr.

  8. Bruce

    Break Out Another Thousand = BOAT

    • Ed P

      good description

    • grant

      Accidentally hit report trying to scroll, sorry….

  9. jim s

    it is at $ 19300 with less the 4 days to go and no reserve so it will sell. i think this is a parts boat. remove and sell all the motors plus anything else of value. then list the remains for sale or scrap.

  10. RickG

    live aboard? Are you kidding? I am nostalgic for all things old, but that thing is probably coated with a couple thousand pounds of lead paint, both inside and outside. It likely has asbestos too. And what about the diesel fuel and oil smells. This thing probably reeks below deck. It’s a floating environmental hazard just waiting for the new owner to get stuck with it.

    • Healeydays

      Using as a live aboard isn’t really out of the question. Tugboats have been converted for years. I remember reading a story with pictures of a couple that had a converted tug and were living in Boston Harbor. When they pulled the engines and tanks out, the living space was massive and the boat wasn’t even close to as large as this one is. You could probably fund most of the project using sale of the engines and some of the brass alone.

      Here’s a story of a guy who did just that.

      • Dave Wright

        Hi have lived aboard tugs for a good percentage of my life. There are some wonderful converted boats. Paul Allen has a 100 footer that is incredible but the cost of mooring of this size boat along with the realitive small crew accommodations make it not the best live aboard. A 70 foot purpose built yacht will have twice the accommodations and cost half as much to moor and insure.

  11. Gary

    Make a deal with cruise lines to welcome ships coming into port with a water show. Might make enough to keep it in good repair and then use it as a museum while docked.

  12. Ed P

    I cannot imagine the cost of the maintenance and docking fees on this one. How many barrels of oil does it take for an oil change?

    • Dairymen

      A 1200 horse marine caterpillar takes about 160 gallon and you change it every 500 (full loaded) hours.

      • Dave Wright

        Having owned many boats this size and larger, I think Dairymen needs to stay with old cars. I could write a book here and on this boat in particular. I watched it sell from the City of Seattle and every following sale. As to oil, we buy lube oil by the ton, it has it’s own separate tankage. It lasts a very long time because we have so many filtering systems it can e kept clean. Oil does not wear out and the centrifuges, water separators and particulate filters do an excellent job of keeping it maintained. There are a lot of silly yacht people around that go to rediculious extremes that we do not in the industry. I have many stories about fat overpaid lawyers that buy boats that they have no busisness owning unless they hire a professional crew. They are always happy to see us show up to rescue them after a major screw up. I am sure Matt Tritt has some similar stories after being a yacht broker.
        This old girl is byond her technological ability to be used. She would require a crew of 5 or 6 full time experienced technicians to operate again. You would need 2 guys at least in the engine room alone. She does not have bridge controls, those are telegraphs that tell the engine room what to do then they are operated directly on the engine. Her Rivited hull is probably not a problem. There are advantages to that type hull construction that in my experiance balance out the disadvantages. A copy of the last survey while she was in the dock would answer those questions.
        The highest and best use for this old girl would be for some group of old firemen to start a non profit and maintain her as a showpiece, they could offer tours on the weekends and host the hydroplane and tug boat races in the sound. My last large tug, a 278 footer is now owned by a group that is attempting to do a similar thing but it does not have the home port history or celebrity of this boat. The reticent dry dock is a good thing. It might be enough to get insurance without a complete dry dock. She will need to raise maby 10,000 a month to survive but with the right management group that is not a huge number.

      • grant

        Except these are GM Cleveland 8-268A, making about 350 horses each.

      • Ed P

        Dave, you have a good point. The railroads take samples of engine oil for testing and only change when testing indicates. The EMD 16-567’s used at least 200 gallons of oil. Not small change.

        There is a group in Baltimore that has saved the Liberty ship, John W Brown. It does not move often, but it does sail.

  13. Mark S

    Money pit…… I pity the poor fool, I pity the poor fool.

  14. rob pearcey

    I would estimate the wrap value at around $20,000 . You just need to hang on until steel prices go up and it will be worth more.This would be a money pit to own and an expesive convertion. They never work for fire boats . The loa makes it expensive to dock anywhere. Tou will pay more in annual mooring than the asking price.

    • Dave Wright

      The costs of salvage for this size vessel far outweighs any value of scrap it will generate. US labor and environmental costs are just too high.

  15. MGSteve

    maybe convert it into a mobile car wash? Just think how cool that would be: park your car along the dock, and have it washed from this boat! C’mon . . . get creative!

    • Chebby

      I would fill it with 8,000 gallons of gravy and have a gravy boat. Who wouldn’t like that? That cannon could reach every restaurant in the area.

  16. Mark S

    It’s a very old, very big fire truck without wheels which makes it more useless than the old ones with wheels. This thing may have been refitted with the diesels engines, but they’re not exactly new either and are only worth there scrap weight value as they’re to big to fit into just about anything else that uses a motor, Except maybe a sawmill. Part out and sell what you can and cut up the rest in the salvage yard. I would bet that wheel house wheel would fetch a few bucks, call Mike and Frank I’ll bet they’ll buy it.

  17. Jay

    THANKS Barn Finds. I spent many hours on this old girl. One big pier fire in Seattle ( Pier 91 ), the bay was rough and the diesel in the tanks was getting stirred up. She was scheduled for dry dock where they also clean the tanks. So the fire pumps are driven by Gimmy 671’s in tandom. Side by side into a gear box running a pump. I was not assigned to the “Boats” but I was a Arson detective at the time. The fire was raging under this large old military pier that could handle Air Craft Carriers easily. Creosote timber. The Enginer came up on deck, saw me, knew I could turn a wrench and yelled at me to help. I jumped aboard ( that’s another story. They were moving up and down the pier with fire monitors going ). Hung up my gun and handcuffs and started changing diesel fuel filters on the 671’s to keep them running. We went through several cases. Wrecked my slacks and dress shirt Ha. I was never as I said assigned to the boats but spent a lot of shifts on them. When I made Officer I spent even more time. Lots of memories. I won’t mention the nights floating off of a major waterfront hotel where the Beattles stayed, no curtains ever closed and lots of horizontal action. Ha.

    • Dave Wright

      Those are the stories and reasons she deserves to be preserved and enjoyed by the public. Would be a great project for the fireman’s Union or someone like that. Why wasn’t the fuel pre filtered or centrifuged before sending it through the auxillery engines? The day tank fuel is always cleaned before it is used. I suppose that under prolonged heavy use the fuel burn could exceed the ability to clean it.

  18. Van

    How about a restaurant pull the engines and mechanicals set it just on shore. You could surround it with water and create fountains.
    Talk about fire ship subs, run by fireman.

  19. Jeff

    Keep posting stuff like this I love to learn about different things,,, great job

  20. Jay

    Dave, unless it was changed in it last few years the Alki was not telegraph controls. Air operated direct from pilot house. The Fire Boat Duwamish was telegraph. And it was diesel electric. FYI. Your correct on most your points.
    Be cool to static display it like the Corps of Engineers stern wheeler W.T. Preston. It is on the hard in Anacortes.

  21. Dave Wright

    There are photos of the telegraph on the bridge but I have seen them left in place after bridge controls were installed. The old engineers never trusted bridge controls and never fully relied on them. I can not remember what gears she has. Probably Faulk, they were commonly air operated. I have owned and operated 6 Cleveland diesels in various boats. Always liked them although not as user friendly as the later EMD’s. 720RPM maximum, you could disable a cylinder for repair while still running with the 278a’s that I know the best. One of my ex-navy 100 foot tugs had 268’s when I bought it but we gutted the engine room and replaced the diesel electric system with a EMD 8-645 with a transmission. The early diesel electrics took a full time electrician to keep them operating reliably. Another of my tugs was an ex-Army 110 footer that had a Cooper Bessemer 2000 HP dirrect reversing engine. It weighed 65,000 lbs and was maby 12 feet tall. Made the boat pretty rollie at anchor. No gears, the prop shaft ran directly off the crankshaft. In a tug it was a pain to maneuver. Stopping the engine, switching the cams and restarting it every time you wanted to reverse. In an ocean going boat it wouldn’t have been too bad. Those boats were designed to be self deployed….meaning to travel most anywhere on there own bottom… had good crew quarters. We used them as platforms for my salvage crews to live and operate from.

    • Jay Brand

      Dave, I was thinking about the telegraph controls and somewhere on the back of my brain I think they may have been for the 671 in tandem fire pumps on gpm flow.

      • Dave Wright

        They could also have been redundant……….the old guys never totally trusted bridge controls.

      • Ken Gundersen

        Telegraphs were for pump engines only. The bridge had full control of mains and thrusters. The mains were 500hp. Current owner is from California wishing he never bought it.

    • Tony

      Hello, I have a Salvage Arts yard here in Skagit, and had a guy sell me a propeller from the Alki today.
      It’s almost 30” with a nice patina.
      I’m guessing someone in Seattle would want it for sentimental or display purposes. Thanks for any help getting it where it needs to go.

      • Ken Gundersen

        Tony, No you didn’t the only spare prop for the Alki is in storage in Bow Wash. It is a four blade and approx. 48″

      • Ken Gundersen

        The prop you have is not from the Alki

  22. Dave Wright

    Back on eBay with a buy it now of 1500.00

  23. Jay

    Your right Dave Wright on the Fire Boat Alki, the Fire Boat Duwamish was totally different. The Alki fire pumps were powered by several groups of 671 Diesels two side by side into a gearbox powering the pump. Don’t the remember the number of theses tandem pump sets. There were at least 6 or more. Then two large diesels each, powering the props, controlled by air valves for both RPM and gearbox if my memory serves.
    The Duwamish was totally different. It was set up like a lomotive diesel/electric. Two very large locomotive size engines running both the prop and the fire pumps. This was all telegraph down. I trained on them. The Pilot would telegraph (ring) down you would answer by replying to the ring repeating the ring down and then stepping over to the electrical panel and adjust the giant reostat to the RPM required. Call for reverse or astern was a process in its own. You had to reverse the electric drive engines. Full stop then reverse. When going to fire mode one engine / generator ran the screws ( props ) and one was dedicated to the fire pumps.

    Had to destroy a few cobwebs remembering this! I remember traiming running the Duwamish. Docking was an issue. So much delay in ringing down what you needed and then if reverse you had to anticipate because it took so long. I would go full stop stop. Call for the fire pump then open the underwater nozzles and push the boat sideways to the pier. I only trained on the boats. It always pissed off the engineer when I would dock this way because you then would have to back flush the pump system with fresh water to get rid of the salt water. Haha. I would do it for them!

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