Meet the “Brother Buzz”…See it At Pillar Point Harbor

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 Photos:At left, the “Brother Buzz,” and at right, a motor launch believed to have been the “Buzz” before it was retrofitted. Both photos courtesy Fran Young.

 

June,
You may recall a decade or so ago we also found a Dog at sea, it made The Review Every Dog Has It’s Day…
I have included a picture of “BROTHER BUZZ” and a US NAVY photo of a 40′ motor launch that might be Buzz before “his” retrofitting, ( I know boats are usually referred to as “She” but my oldest Son Francis III once quizzed me, “Dad why do you call the boat her, when it’s name is “Brother Buzz?” I changed my behavior at least when referring to “The Buzz”
The boat has a substantial history,
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“Brother Buzz” Built-1941 Mare Island Naval Ship Yard (40′ Motor Launch)
Served until decommission in 1951, Sold at auction Mare Island;

Names in Chronological Order:

“WHIRL-A-WAY” 1951-64, Party Boat Sausalito
“KW” 1964-65, Party Boat Sausalito
“CORINNE II” 1965, Party Boat Fishermen’s Warf
“PATTIE L” 1966-71, Party Boat Fishermen’s Warf
“QUEEN OF HEARTS” 1971-86, Party Boat Fishermen’s Warf / Halfmoon Bay
“BROTHER BUZZ” 1987-present, Party Boat, Private Fishing Boat Halfmoon Bay

Did the Vessel “Brother Buzz” Stumble Across the San Juan?

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Photo: Explosion aboard the “San Juan” in 1929 took the lives of many. The “San Juan”was a “commuter” ship that offered passengers good value as it sailed between San Francisco and Los Angeles. Courtesy San Mateo County History Museum.

Summer of 1929: Tragedy at Sea Near Pigeon Point by June Morrall, Part II

As the San Juan continued south past Pigeon Point, the Standard Oil tanker S.C.T. Dodd was plowing northward up the coast toward San Francisco, nearing the end of her voyage from Baltimore.

The vessels were 12-miles out, off the San Mateo-Santa Cruz coastline when minutes before midnight the sound of a piercing whistle broke the stillness of the night.

Without any further warning, the sickening shriek of metal tearing metal roared through the San Juan’s staterooms. The Granstedts were thrown from their berths. Hearts pounding, pulses racing, the panicked couple threw on clothes and fled to the deck.

The oil tanker Dodd had rammed the San Juan and the old steamer was sinking. Once on deck, the Granstedts encountered an eerie scene of terrified passengers and crew dashing about madly—and the smell of fear was pervasive. Theodore Granstedt saw no order, only chaos.

Some passengers jumped overboard, others were swept away by the powerful waves. Through the foggy mist, Captain Asplund could be seen trying to help women into a lifeboat.

There was no time to reflect, hardly time for prayer: It all happened so fast.

One second the Granstedts were standing beside their good friends, John and Anna Olsen, and their daughter, Helen. The next moment the San Juan was plunging stern first into the sea, creating a whirlpool that sucked them all in the abyss.

Then there was a great and very loud explosion.

Of the original group, only Theodore Granstedt survived. The next thing he knew he had surfaced from beneath the cold water. Searchlights illuminated the sea littered with wreckage—but he did not recognize the faces of people struggling in the nearby surf, clinging to toolboxes, screaming for help.

Miraculously, before the seriously injured Mountain View man lost consciousness, he grasped the piece of floating debris that saved his life.

By now lifeboats had been launched from other vessels in the vicinity: the oil tanker Dodd, the lumber carrier Munami and the motor-ship Frank Lynch. Theodore Granstedt was one of the 38 surviving passengers and crewmembers.

Wife, Emma, whose anxieties were sadly proven valid was one of 72 presumed dead…as were the Olsens and Stanford student Paul Wagner.
Summer of 1929: Tragedy at Sea Near Pigeon Point, Part II
Although many of the San Juan’s survivors were crew, Captain Asplund went down with his ship as did the purser, Jack Cleveland.

…To be continued…

Did the Vessel “Brother Buzz” Stumble Across the San Juan?

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MORE FROM FRAN “BROTHER BUZZ’ YOUNG

Posted reply [from Robert to Fran Young]”I’ll look for a pic of vessel. Location corresponds with ‘San Juan’, iron passenger vessel lost 1929. I’d like to get your gps#’s at your slip in HMB and I can proof against out gps(there is small differences in unit to unit) and hope you don’t mind but past the info onto buddy with NOAA and he’ll be trying to interest officials in making a submersible dive on it. Hopefully it’s early enough to be coal or IF switched to oil firied it’s not a sleeping environmental disaster like the ‘Jacob Luckenbach’ (we provided logistical etc. support to the oil recovery on her as we dove it the last 14? Years) in the Western Channel.-Again thanks for providing the info to the world and furthering our knowledge of a cultural resource. I’ll pass any info I dig up onto you. Bob (we’ve been diving wrecks here in California since 1968 and worked with Bill Anderson on his sub search out of HMB).”

Attached is a drawing of what I remember the image on my depth sounder to look like, length is of question because of speed of my vessel, bear in mind this is what the compiled image would have been, the total readout would have been approximately 3 screens at 11.5 MPH. I am going to the boat this afternoon and will give you my in dock position. As to whether I mind if you share the information, Putting it on Coastside was exactly what I was doing “Sharing the information” I’m excited to see if It is indeed the San Juan having sunk 78 years ago. You know I am from PA and I was born in Chester County Hospital not far from where the Keel was laid for the San Juan. The story was quite a tragedy, I wonder if Mr. Pifer is still alive? The namesake of the S.C.T. Dodd was from Titusville PA, not far from where my Dad was born. I’m glad you are a Coast Side Member, less this would have no doubt remained a novelty I would show others aboard while making tuna runs.

Fran (Brother Buzz) Young
Drawing of Sounding: drawing-of-sounding.jpg

Did the Vessel “Brother Buzz” Stumble Across the San Juan?

June,
Here’s some of the correspondence to this point, I came across the wreck site on Thursday 8/2 while making my way to a spot we fishermen call “601” it is aptly named because it is the only spot on the NOAA chart for our area that is 601 fathoms, Tuna fishing enthusiast refer to the area when talking about a seamount that is approximately 40 miles SW of Pillar Point. While headed in that direction on 8/2, I had spent quite some time staring at a flat 300+ foot bottom on my fish finder, then all of sudden a large sounding and outline of something obviously man made, a sharp square cornered shape a sloping side on the end followed by a second somewhat rectangular shape also clearly Man made and very large, I brought it to the attention of my friend standing next to me on my 1941 Mare Island Naval Shipyard manufactured WWII US Naval Launch (Brother Buzz) which I have kept in Pillar Point for 19 years as a Private Sport Fishing Vessel. OK, can you tell I love my old “Warship”?
Back to the shipwreck, Being a member of the locally founded Coastside Fishing Club, I posted on our forum the numbers (Lat / Long) that I had jotted down while passing over the site. Turns out one of our club members is an avid diver and had knowledge of the San Juan and is doing some foot work with NOAA, below is some of our e-mails…. Fran (Brother Buzz) Young

Did the Vessel “Brother Buzz” Stumble Across the San Juan?

sanjuan21thumbnail.jpegPhoto: San Juan (1929)

[June,
An investigation is underway, seems as though I might have come across the wreck of the SanJuan on my way tuna fishing last Thursday 8/02/07, I’ll let you know more when I hear, NOAA may check the area out with a submersible!! I own The Vessel Brother Buzz @ Pillar Point… Fran (Brother Buzz) Young]

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A while back, I wrote a three-part series about the horrific events that led to the explosion aboard the ill-fated commuter ship, the “San Juan.” If Fran Young, who was tuna fishing aboard the “Brother Buzz,” did indeed encounter the long buried “San Juan,” he will be bringing to the surface one of the most dramatic ship disasters to have occurred along this coastline.

Summer of 1929, Tragedy At Sea Near Pigeon Point by June Morrall, Part I

Emma Granstedt felt a premonition of danger as she boarded the popular “commuter steamer” San Juan at San Francisco on Thursday, August 29, 1929.

The middle-aged Mountain View woman tried to explain the feelings she couldn’t shake to her husband, Theodore: She was worried about an accident at sea, she told him.

Theodore assured his uneasy wife that there was nothing to worry about. The venerable 47-year-old iron steamer made routine runs between the City and Los Angeles—and he reminded her about the attractively inexpensive fare, ranging from $8 to $10 per passenger.

He may have pointed to the San Juan’s advertisement in the local newspaper: “A delightful way to travel,” promised the ad. “One fare includes comfortable berth, excellent meals, open-air dancing, promenade decks, radio music—all the luxury of ocean travel. A trip to be remembered! The economic way that entails no sacrifice!”

Premonition or not, it was too late for the Granstedts to change their mind.

It would mean canceling the plans they had made with the Palo Alto friends they were traveling with, John and Anna Olsen and the couple’s 28-year-old daughter, Helen.

The Granstedts and Olsens were traveling to Southern California to attend a wedding anniversary celebration—and the trip also gave them good reason to visit the Granstedt’s daughter, Irene, who was pursuing an acting career in Hollywood.

Emma may have been consoled to learn that only a few days earlier the San Juan had been in dry dock at which time a new rudder and propeller were installed. The vessel was cleaned, painted and the sea valves overhauled. The steamer’s radio was in tiptop shape, and life-saving equipment included six lifeboats and 110 life preservers for adults and 17 children.

Steamboat officials, who inspected the San Juan, pronounced her safe and in fine condition.

Daylight faded and the sky darkened as the sailing hour neared on Thursday, August 29. It was customary for the purser, Jack Cleveland, to sell tickets to impulsive travelers who made a last-minute decision to sail from San Francisco to L.A. One such last-minute ticket-buyer may have been 24-year-old Stanford graduate student Paul Wagner, who was on his way to visit his family in Southern California.

On board the busy steamer there was no hint of anything out of the ordinary—but one significant change had been made: 65-year-old retired Captain Adolph F. Asplund replaced the regular commander who had taken time off for his summer vacation. The experienced Captain Asplund knew every inch of the San Juan, as he had been her captain many years before.

When the San Juan left port, there were 110 men, women and children on board, 65 passengers and 45 members of the crew. All were settling in and a few hours later the steamer approached the beautiful Pigeon Point lighthouse, south of the village of Pescadero.

By now many of the sleepy passengers, including the Granstedts and the Olsens, headed for their staterooms below deck to rest on their first night at sea.

…To be continued….

<em>Photo: Pigeon Point, courtesy San Mateo County History Museum, Redwood City.</em>

Did the Vessel “Brother Buzz” Stumble Across the San Juan?

June,
An investigation is underway, seems as though I might have come across the wreck of the SanJuan on my way tuna fishing last Thursday 8/02/07, I’ll let you know more when I hear, NOAA may check the area out with a submersible!! I own The Vessel Brother Buzz @ Pillar Point… Fran (Brother Buzz) Young

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