Lost at sea - and found
Posted on November 03, 2014 by Chuck Mahnken, Images by John Anderson
An amazing journey from fishing excursions to the National WWII Museum.
Cruising the waters of Sausalito, California in 2000, John Anderson spotted a boat anchored in the harbor that seemed eerily familiar. In bad condition and home to dozens of pigeons, the 36-foot boat was easily overlooked. But something made John launch his dingy and get a closer look.
Inspecting the old boat closely, John leaned over the gunwale and spotted a familiar Detroit Diesel 2-Cycle Series 71 engine. His hunch was right. This was the very same boat his father had owned decades ago. John hadn’t seen this boat since his father sold it. The boat was a converted surplus 1944 Higgins U.S. Navy 36-foot personnel landing craft, affectionately known in the Anderson family as the “Crocodile.”
Originally built by Higgins in New Orleans for amphibious landings, surplus LCPs (Landing Craft-Personnel) were converted to commercial and pleasure use. John’s father purchased the “Crocodile” in the 1970s, and took it on many memorable father-son fishing trips. The boat’s engine was nearly original, never needing an overhaul.
During these excursions aboard the “Crocodile,” John became a fan of the power and sound of Detroit Diesel 2-Cycle engines. “I've loved these engines since I was a kid,” says John. “Nothing sounds as great as a Detroit Diesel 2-Cycle. It’s the Harley-Davidson of marine engines.”
Naturally, John was aboard a 2-Cycle-powered vessel when he spotted the “Crocodile.” He owned the Magic, a 50-foot wooden yacht equipped with a Series 71. Read the Magic 2-Cycle Story. Aboard the Magic, John and his family enjoyed many vacations on the waterways near San Francisco. Seeing his father’s old boat triggered happy memories, and motivated John to take action.
The “Crocodile” deserved a better home. So John notified The National WWII Museum in New Orleans about his discovery. Together, they made plans to relocate it. After the museum acquired the boat, it was shipped to New Orleans, near the Higgins shipyard where she had been built more than five decades ago.
“She arrived to a large police escort and made the front page of the news,” John says. “The boat was meticulously restored and the old original Series 71 was totally rebuilt.” The Higgins Boat Society Inc. spent more than two years bringing the boat back to its military condition. In 2004, she was launched for one more illustrious run in the New Orleans Industrial Canal, crewed by military personnel and dignitaries. She was put on permanent display in the war museum in New Orleans, where she proudly remains to this day.