Comanche cruises into Port Orchard

Joe Peterson, the director of operations with the Comanche 202 foundation, shows interested passengers around the boat.  - Brett Cihon
Joe Peterson, the director of operations with the Comanche 202 foundation, shows interested passengers around the boat.
— image credit: Brett Cihon

The Comanche 202 supported the invasion of Okiniwa during World War II. She watched Russian fishing boats in the 1960s, chased Caribbean pirates in the 1970s and even helped tug a barge used in the movie “Pearl Harbor” in 2000.

Now, it’s safe to say the decommissioned ATA-170-class tugboat, which served in the Navy, the Coast Guard and in the private sector, is enjoying her quiet retirement in the Puget Sound.

“It has a stellar history,” said Joe Peterson, the director of operations with the Comanche 202 Foundation, a nonprofit organization meant to restore the vessel as a working museum.

The 143-foot tugboat is moored at the Port Orchard Marina in downtown Port Orchard through Sunday, open for tours. Then, at noon on Sunday, those interested in taking a ride on the classic tug can go aboard as she takes the five-hour journey back to her home on the Foss Waterway in Tacoma.

The ride is open to the public for a suggested donation of $45.

The ride is a great way to get a sense of what working and riding on a WWII-era tug would have been like, said Peterson.

“She’s not the smoothest ship the Navy ever made,” Peterson said, referring to the ships tendency to jostle around in rough waters. “It’s great in the Sound, though.”

The auxiliary tug was commissioned by the U.S. Navy in anticipation for an invasion of Japan, Peterson said. During the end of WWII, the tug saw plenty of combat in the Pacific and received a Battle Star for the role the tug and her crew played at Okinawa.

“It towed damaged ships and helped rescue sailors out at sea,” Peterson said. “The Navy called it ‘indispensable.’ ”

In 1959, ATA Comanche 202 was transferred to the control of the U.S. Coast Guard and became known as the Cutter Comanche. For the Coast Guard, it served in the Caribbean and was also the first vessel to give a notice of violation to a foreign fishing ship in the Pacific. Then, it was sold to a commercial towing company based out of Tacoma in the early 1990s. It sat unused for many years after it’s towing duties were finished, Peterson said, until 2007, when the largely unchanged ship became property of the nonprofit group as a way of preserving one of the last WWII ships still in working order.

“Our job now is to preserve it,” Peterson said. “We’re making sure it can go on into the future.”

Those interested in joining the all-volunteer crew for the Comanche’s journey should contact the nonprofit at Walk-ons will be welcome as space allows, Peterson said.


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