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The Wreck of the Alaska Reefer

The The net tender USS PinonF/V Alaska Reefer is an easy wreck dive, located just south of Walan Point (Indian Island) on the East side of Port Townsend Bay.  The ship was working as a “freezer” or refrigeration ship for the Alaska Salmon fishery in 1961 when it caught fire.   The USCG Minnetonka towed the fire damaged vessel to Port Townsend on August 28th 1961.  The fire was thought to be extinguished, but flared up again and on August 29th, the Alaska Reefer was grounded and sank in her present location.
The 175’ long, wood hulled ship started her life as a net tender named the USS Pinon (AN 66).  She was built by the American Car and Foundry, Co. in 1944 and served during WWII tending submarine nets in England.   She was sold to the “Alaska Refer Fisheries” company in 1946 and refitted as a refrigeration ship.Swimming through the open holds of the Alaska Reefer
Today, she rests on her port side in shallow water near the munitions dock on Indian Island.  The stern rests in 50’ of water and the bow is in about 15’ of water.  Additionally, a large salvage barge lies at an angle to the keel of the Reefer, nearly touching the hull just below the stern tube and rudder post.  There is also an old tug located below the reefer, which sank in 1911.
The wooden hull of the refer is slowly rotting away, leaving the ribs of the ship exposed.  Several of the holds are open, offering divers sunlit swim throughs  to enjoy and explore.  Lots of the old refrigeration machinery and piping is still visible and bits of the diesel-electric power plant can still be seen in the engine room. 
The large salvage barge next to the reeferRibs of the Salvage Barge sank next to the Alaska Reefer has been reduced to large timbered ribs and anemones.  Swimming along the keel of the Reefer towards the stern, you will gradually notice the skeletal remains of the barge closing in on you as the sunlight dances eerily through the  dark forest of the barge's ribs.

 When visiting the Alaska Reefer by boat, be careful not to allow your boat to swing over the forward part of the wreck, as the hull is just below the surface of the water and could easily damage the prop on your dive boat.  The location of this wreck is well-marked on NOAA chart # 18464.  Look for the wreck icon just 300 yards south east of Walan point on Indian Island (east side of Port Townsend Bay).  Note the working  munitions dock is a restricted navigation area, so give Walan point a wide berth and approach the wreck from the southwest so as not to draw the ire of the Naval Patrol boat on station at the docks.

History of the USS Pinon:
Pinon (AN–66), a net tender, was laid down 9 March 1943 by the American Car and Foundry Co., of Wilmington, Del. as YN–87.  She was launched on 16 January 1944; designated Pinon on 20 January 1944 and commissioned 31 March 1944.   Single propeller, 2500 HP diesel-electric.
Red Dendronotus Nudibranchs laying eggs on the tail shaft of the Alaska ReeferAfter Atlantic coast shakedown and training, Pinon arrived in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on 10 July, 1944.  She provided submarine net-tending service in both Belfast and Plymouth, England through the fall.   The Pinon sailed to Hampton Roads, Va. 31 January and then cruised via Guantanamo Bay and the Panama Canal, to San Diego.  She called in at Pearl Harbor and then tended nets at Eniwetok starting 22 April 1945, at Guam (27 April through 20 June), at Tinian/Saipan through the first week of July, and at Okinawa until 15 October.

 The USS Pinon  was decommissioned at San Diego 5 March 1946, and was struck from the Navy List 20 March 1946. Sold and placed in merchant service as the Alaska Reefer, she was sunk on 29 August 1961.


Location:  South of the Ammunition Dock on Indian Island      GPS location
Depths:  15-50'      Hazards:  Not much.