A Final Landing For This Wartime Craft
It might come as a surprise to some that the National World War II Museum is located in a sprawling state-of-the-art campus on the outskirts of downtown New Orleans. Its location is directly attributed to a statement by General Dwight D. Eisenhower, who said the Higgins Boats, those ubiquitous troop-landing
crafts used during the Normandy D-Day Invasion, “won the war for us.”
The boats were designed and constructed by Andrew Higgins in New Orleans.
It was historian Stephen Ambrose, through
his tireless work, including the well-known
“Band of Brothers” TV series, who brought
Eisenhower’s statement to light. Since the
museum opened in 2000, the public has been
able to witness firsthand the techniques used
during the restoration of actual vehicles,
weapons, planes, and boats that saw service
throughout the war. Having restored multiple
historic vehicles, the museum is now working
on a multiyear restoration of the 78-foot
PT-305 with the help of 70 individuals, including the museum’s preservationists,
volunteer naval architects, local boatbuilders, and veterans, some as old as 91.
Built by Higgins Industries, this fast, close-shore patrol boat, armed with torpedoes,
saw heavy action in the Med and was known as the Sudden Jerk, the Bar Fly,
and the Half Hitch over the course of the war. PT-305 was originally discovered
as a repurposed oyster vessel in the Chesapeake Bay before being donated to
There are only a handful of PT boats left in the United States, and only one,
PT-658, in Portland, Oregon, is functional. It was restored by a group of PT-boat
veterans in the 1990s and is on the National Register of Historic Places. After
completion, PT-305 will be fully operational. The boat even has a designated volunteer
licensed captain, who will recommission and launch it for a single run on the waters
of Lake Pontchartrain before settling into her new home inside the museum for
permanent display. — TROY GILBERT
(from previous page)
It’s A Boat, It’s A Plane, It’s …
The Cosmic Muffin This bizarre vessel has been a Florida landmark
for years. It began its life as a Boeing 307 owned by Howard Hughes, who
acquired the plane in 1939 as part of his purchase of TWA. In 1969, the 307 was
rescued from becoming scrap metal by Fort Lauderdale realtor and pilot, Kenneth
London. The plane was far from being airworthy again, so London decided to
make it seaworthy instead. He spent four years converting the fuselage into a yacht,
called it Londonaire, and launched it in Fort Lauderdale in 1974. It featured two
V- 8 inboards and cruised at more than 20 mph.
In 1981, it was purchased by current owner Dave Drimmer, who
named it Desdemona. That allegedly inspired a part in Jimmy Buffet’s
novel Where Is Joe Merchant?, whose character Desdemona is an
amateur astrologist, conspiracy theorist, and baker, who lives aboard a
boat of the same name. Jimmy Buffett apparently spotted the boat
while cruising through Fort Lauderdale and wrote it into his book,
originally published in 1992. Drimmer must not have been too
impressed, because after reading the book, he renamed the boat
Cosmic Muffin. — MELANIE NEALE
U.S. Leads Sustainable
Given how much recreational anglers, conservationists, and commercial fishermen fuss and
fight over our nation’s fish stocks,
you might be surprised, that the U.S.
outspends most of the world when it
comes to sustainable fishing practices.
With more than $3 billion spent
annually on fisheries management and
regulations to protect our stocks, these
efforts have paid off. In 1999, 98 U.S.
fish stocks were listed as overfished.
Now, not even two decades later,
only 37 stocks share that overfished
In contrast, the European Union
spends more than $3 billion subsidizing
commercial fishing, largely through
fuel discounts, which artificially lower
the costs of these activities. In other
words, European spending increases
fishing efforts, which pressures their
fish populations, whereas our dollars
support efforts to ensure healthy
stocks for future generations.
Overall, the world spends $35
billion on fishing subsidies, which can
be grouped into three categories:
sustainability boosting, fishing-industry
supports such as fuel discounts, and
subsidies with unclear effects. Of that
$35 billion, $20 billion goes to industry
supports, with just $11 billion put toward
sustainability (including our $3 billion
here at home); this makes ending
overfishing that much more difficult.
And with 30 percent of the world’s
fishing stocks overexploited, making
fishing artificially cheap, as they do in
Europe, may not be the wisest choice.
But in the U.S., the ratio of dollars
spent on sustainability to supports is
reversed. Here at home, more than
75 percent of these subsidies help
maintain healthy fish stocks, rather
than make them easier to exploit.
This is thanks to the influence of the
Magnuson-Stevens Act, which has
been revised and strengthened several
times. Find more on the effects of
Magnuson-Stevens on our fisheries.
— MICHAEL VATALARO