2017: Old Astoria Pilot Boat Arrow 2 Returns

The pilot boat Arrow 2 disappeared from the Astoria waterfront in 2012 and has been greatly missed by the seamen who admired its unique traditional hull shape and general low-tech appearance. There was much speculation about its final disposition: would it become a reserve boat for Foss, be converted into a pleasure boat, or rust away as a derelict on some backwater of the lower Columbia, the river where it spent its entire life?

Many former crews dreamed about restoring the old boat, but it was Mark Schacher, a former Foss employee, who finally took on the responsibility—and liability—of owning a boat that has been painted and photographed almost as many times as the wreck of the Peter Iredale. After a year’s hard work in the hangar at Tongue Point–cutting out rusted plate, sand blasting, welding and painting–Mark finally has the boat in first-class shape and looking as good as new. and plans to offer waterfront tours for up to six passengers this summer..

The Arrow 2 was built in 1960 at a time when the bar pilots still relied on a rowboat to cross from the pilot boat to the ships several miles away from land. So the new steel launch was a step up from its predecessor—a wooden boat of the same name built in the early 1900’s. The new Arrow 2 was also built for the long run and spent spent over 50 years ferrying Columbia Bar and Columbia river pilots out to ships passing the Astoria waterfront.

With an average of 2,000 ship visits per year—in both directions–that works out to about 200,000 quick trips from the 12th Street dock and back, under four owners and several generations of crews. Around 2000, the bar pilots began riding a helicopter out to sea to meet incoming ships, but the 52′ X 14′ steel harbor launch with its wooden wheel, hard bench seats, and single large propeller remained a sentimental favorite until it was retired in 2012. (It was replaced by a modern CAMARC design built in the Foss Rainier Yard upstream from Astoria.

The Arrow 2 was relaunched on April 24 using the WW II Catalina seaplane ramp at Tongue Point and I was the first visitor to board the boat in its new role. Mark told me he had researched the boat’s early history and learned that the hull was designed by the owner of Arrow Launch Co. Jim Stacy who wanted it to look like a stylish wooden boat. With the help of his two long-term employees Bill Maki, carpenter and Ed Prebish, welder, he drew a long lean shape with a distinctive radiused transom. The bare hull was delivered by the Nichols yard in Hood River and the three men did all the engine installation and built the deckhouse with the traditional curved front. That’s why the design has stood the test of time, Mark explained.


The Arrow 2 goes back into the Columbia River, where it worked for over 50 years as the Astoria pilot boat from 1960 to 2012.



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