BOBBY II, Belmar, NJ – 1949
In 1944, a 63-foot US Coast Guard Air Sea Rescue boat, the "CG-63050" was built at Bristol, RI. Five years later, in 1949, Captain Dave Shinn purchased the boat and converted it for party boat fishing. He named it the "BOBBY II". This photo shows the "BOBBY II" when she first arrived at Belmar, NJ in 1949. She still had her US Coast Guard name "CG-63050" painted on her hull. In the right background is the "Gertrude H".
On Saturday morning, April 23, 1955, the "BOBBY II" left her slip at the Belmar Marine Basin and headed out for a day of cod fishing. Captain David Shinn was at the helm, son Alvin Shinn was the mate, and 57 passengers (including 51 men and 6 women) got their fishing gear ready. Later that same day, the 439-foot, 7,652-ton freighter "PRESIDENT BUCHANAN" departed New York Harbor and was bound for Japan via the Panama Canal.
After a day of cod fishing at the Cholera Banks, Captain Shinn blew three whistles, started the engines and began the journey home in a dense fog. At Approximately 3:30 PM, Captain Shinn heard a ship's whistle in the distance, and began to sound the whistle of the "BOBBY II". A little while later, he noticed the bow of a large vessel looming out of the fog and heading directly for his boat. He quickly put both engines full speed astern, but despite his efforts, the freighter "PRESIDENT BUCHANAN" collided with the "BOBBY II". The collision sheared off thirteen feet of the bow of the "BOBBY II" and tossed three passengers into the forty-eight degree seawater.
Thanks to her military construction, which included double forward crash bulkheads below deck, she fortunately did not sink. The passengers aboard the "BOBBY II" were quickly transferred to the "PRESIDENT BUCHANAN" and only Captain David Shinn and son Alvin remained aboard the severely damaged "BOBBY II". The US Coast Guard was quickly dispatched to the scene and the party fishing boats "LENNY", "RANGER", and "OPTIMIST" quickly made their way to the crippled "BOBBY II". These three vessels would later escort her as she made the twelve-mile journey from the collision site back to Belmar, under her own power, with the steady hand of Captain David Shinn at the helm. On that fateful day, Captain Hank Leonard skippered the "LENNY", Captain John Kocsik was at the helm of the "RANGER" and Captain Charlie Dodd was the operating the "OPTIMIST".
Captain Shinn was later credited with taking quick evasive action to avoid being struck directly amidships, which would have resulted in a more devastating collision and many more casualties. Miraculously, this accident resulted in the death of only one passenger, identified as by the Coast Guard as 53-year old Henry Jacobs of East Greenville, PA.
Hundreds of people flocked to the Belmar Marine Basin to get a firsthand look at this amazing vessel with a missing bow. The "BOBBY II" was soon repaired at Stowman Shipyards, Dorchester, NJ and returned to party boat service as the "SEA JET" under the command of Captain Alvin Shinn. In 1965, Captain Joe Galluccio purchased the "SEA JET" and he renamed it the "SEA RANGER" and also sailed from Belmar, NJ. She was sold several times during the next fifteen years and sailed as the "BLUEFIN III", the "TEACHERS PET", the "STRIKER", the "BROOKLYN IV", and the "FRIENDSHIP I". She finally wound up in Florida in 1981 where she quietly ended her most eventful career rotting away high and dry at a shipyard.
Compared to today, a far greater amount of commercial maritime traffic plied the waters of the New York Bight, far more party boats fished the busy waters, and both had limited navigational equipment. Considering the much greater risk of collisions at the time, it is truly amazing that these incidents were few and far between. The boatmen of the era must be credited with a job well done, and even when their vessels were in harms way, their quick thinking was remarkable.