Jerry Brown, captain and owner of Challenger, certainly qualifies as a bona fide Seattle "character". Challenger was moored at the end of the dock at Fairview Marina at the south end of Lake Union, a couple of slips from Eolian's berth.
The Challenger, a 1944 96' wooden tugboat, was the center of Jerry's business - he ran a "Bunk and Breakfast" out of Challenger's refurbished cabins; Jerry also had a smaller tug, the Gillspray and a couple of more or less modern 40' power boats tied up in the suite of slips on which he had managed to get a 20-year lease (how, I cannot imagine).
Jerry lived on Challenger with his bouvier Scupper, bunking in a small compartment up under the bow. Jerry was the host, the cook, the cabin boy, and the crew of the Challenger. And Jerry was a businessman. Because of his long tenancy at the dock, he was the defacto dock captain as well. I remember one cold winter day when the exposed water feed pipe for the dock froze, and he and I cut and spliced the pipe, in the cold, with water spraying over us - well, I guess Jerry got a lot wetter than I did. But then he had paying customers aboard Challenger who were going to wake up and want to take a shower.
Jerry was outspoken. There were those who could not tolerate that. But he was also very personable (how else could he have made a very successful go of the bunk and breakfast business?). Jerry was a dreamer - he always had Plans For The Future, and they were not small plans. The fall before we left Fairview, he revealed that he had done a ton of research and was more than considering buying a surplus Navy ship and scaling up the business as well as moving it to Florida.
Getting ready to leave, he had found a buyer for Gillspray (a father and son team that planned romantically to renovate her). And then he found a buyer for Challenger and the business. This about when we moved from Fairview to Shilshole, and we lost day-to-day touch with Jerry.
But from occasional contacts, we learned that when the City of Seattle got wind of the change of ownership, they came down on things like a ton of bricks. The sale was rescinded, and Jerry gave a lot of money to lawyers. In the end, 3 years later I think, he prevailed. He was awarded his legal costs, but the sale of Challenger was long gone.
Jerry has since passed away, and Challenger, last we saw her, was tied up looking forlorn on the south side of the Ship Canal.
Jerry never made it to Florida.
|RIP m/v Challenger|