Jeff Foster was apprehensive Tuesday morning, as volunteers and employees prepared the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Sundew for its first voyage in years.
"I want everything to go well," said Foster, who bought the 180-foot-long vessel last year. "It will be pretty exciting to see it move again."
The Sundew, launched in 1944, was donated to the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center for use as a floating museum in 2004. The ship failed to attract a sufficient number of visitors to cover the costs of docking, maintaining and staffing it during the tourist season, and the DECC put it up for sale last year. Foster offered just more than the minimum bid of $100,000 for the ship. His was the only qualifying bid.
Other than saying that he has plenty of ideas for how to use the ship, Foster, owner of Jeff Foster Trucking Inc., remains closed-mouthed about his long-range plans for the vessel.
"The first step is to see what we have," going through the ship's various systems to determine what needs to be repaired or replaced, he said.
Getting the ship ready to sail again took uncounted hours of labor by volunteers and Jeff Foster Trucking employees. The last time the ship's engines had run was in 2004. After last-minute preparations were completed, the ship's diesel was fired up this morning. At about 11:45 a.m., the prop was turned over and the ship began straining against its mooring lines.
Within 20 minutes, the lines were all in and the ship had maneuvered away from the side of Minnesota Slip and entered the harbor.
Commanding the ship was Joe Walters, a Coast Guard veteran who served on the Sundew from 1994-1997. He now captains the U.S.G.S. research vessel Kiyi.
"It's almost surreal -- it brings back a lot of good memories," he said of being aboard the Sundew as it prepared to sail again. "I'm happy and honored to help move it."
The sight of the Sundew coming to life again attracted the attention of tourists and ship watchers.
"I grew up around these boats," said Washburn resident Chuck Carrier, whose father was in the Coast Guard. The younger Carrier followed his father into the Coast Guard and served 29 years aboard icebreakers and cutters.
"It's great to see the old ships -- the traditional work boat -- out again," he said. "I'm here to see it fly again."
Foster owns a dock in Superior, but today's voyage will take the Sundew to the LaFarge property near Bayfront Festival Park. Foster hopes to keep the Sundew there until after July's Tall Ships Festival. It also will be the site of an August benefit dinner for Woodland Hills Treatment Center.