Mountain Barge Services is family owned and operated on Lake Chelan, WA. Our service began with recognizing a need for a reliable barge service for the community in Stehekin, WA. Today, we continue with a consistent, reliable, and supportive service for that same community and to anyone in need of our service in the Lake Chelan area.
Our company started and continues with barge hauling on Lake Chelan, and now has expanded to other marine services. Our services include but aren’t limited to marina and dock work, shoreline work and restoration, surface debris clean up, salvaging, pile driving, and drilling. We are willing to work with folks with more specific project needs that our skills can provide.
History from Tom Courtney:
Before Mountain Barge Services, the Lake Chelan Boat company ran the only barge on Lake Chelan (The Allen Stone). My Dad Ray Courtney had purchased a plow or a disc (not sure which) and needed it to plow the field in the spring of 1975. In those days the LCBC would put freight on the barge, and when it was full, bring it to Stehekin as well as freight drops along the way. The problem was that the farm implements did not get to Stehekin until well after the fields needed plowed. There was no barge service date set to plan around.
This became a concern since we felt that the service was not adequate and that other priorities should be considered other than just the barge being full. In the winter of 75/76 my Dad, my brother Jim and I went to Seattle looking for a LCM landing craft that we thought would work well to supply our freight needs. This was a 50-foot vessel. We did look at about three different ones, but all were very rusty and needed a lot of work. We also looked at an aluminum LCVP (stands for landing craft vehicles and personnel) built in 1967. The LCVP was only 35 feet long, but the hull was in good shape. We thought it was smaller than we wanted so we went home with nothing.
Dad had owned an LCVP for about 10 years sometime in the mid-1960s. It was WW2 vintage made out of mahogany plywood and had an armor plate on it when he bought it from Maurice Kerr, original owner of Silver Bay. Dad did repairs, painted the hull, built a ramp with the help of Bob Simmerman, removed the armor plate, and installed a Lincoln C Zephyr V12 gas motor in it that was set up for marine propulsion which Kerr supplied as part of the deal. You might say that all of us gained some interesting skills from this challenging and interesting period of our lives.
We did haul a fair number of items including vehicles, hay, and horses for the family business. We also learned a lot about bad weather on the lake and the very necessary hours needed to run the hand bilge pumps to keep the boat afloat while underway which was pretty much all the time. In short, the boat leaked a lot after being exposed to the torture of bad weather and it would go on for days afterward until the wood seemed to swell and the leaking slowed.
After a few years it fell into disrepair and was mostly used to build arm muscles on the lads who regularly had to pump the water out to keep it above 1100 feet elevation.There are many stories here but after about 10 years it moved on so to speak.
Anyway, after thinking things over Jim and I decided to purchase the Aluminum Landing Craft Hull and bring it to Stehekin early that same spring. Money and trucking were the next challenge and after borrowing money from a friend, and another brother, we made the deal.
The original three of us drove to Brewster and worked out a deal with the Muma's (Muma Trucking) who would drive to Seattle and bring the hull to Chelan. Our concern was that the hull was 4 inches too wide to be moved without flag cars and we were on a tight budget. The truck driver Ray Wilson was asked what he thought about hauling it as is on a flatbed trailer, and he said the best thing to do is shrink it 4 inches and get it done. We followed him from Seattle in our car and he never hardly looked back as far as we could tell.
He backed it out on the Boat Company dock, and they set it in the water with the dock crane. It was a bit much, but we got away with it. We also found out that there was a front compartment that was still full of water after it was launched. Next, I welded up a temporary outboard bracket to bolt on the back so we could propel it up lake with an outboard motor of which I borrowed from my Uncle Virgil.
The next day was windy as Jim and I set off up the lake with a bare hull, very sketchy steering and PVC caps over the two propeller shaft tubes to keep the water out. It was early spring, and we saw some big waves while going through the narrows. Fortunately, after that the wind diminished and we progressed slowly through the straits and around the corner. We started hearing noises from the motor that were not common or normal but there was little we could do except continue. Beside the 100 horse Mercury motor that I borrowed from my uncle, we had brought along a 7.5 Evinrude. Not long after the noise started, the lower gears stripped out of the Mercury. This left us with very little propulsion and getting to shore was a slow process. We found a place to stretch our ropes out between the canyon at Little Goat Creek and tied up.
As luck would have it, along came the Speedway and enquired about our situation. Having no options of our own for what to do next we jumped aboard for the ride to Stehekin. While the Passenger Boat laid over at Stehekin for an hour we scratched out a plan with Dad and Bob Byrd to haul two more 7.5 motors of Bob's back down lake to hopefully gain enough propulsion to make Stehekin. We also grabbed lunch! When we arrived back at Little Goat we were dropped off by the Passenger Boat and noticed that the wind was nearly diminished which was key.
After installing two 7.5 hp motors we creeped onward to Stehekin and arrived around midnight.
As you can tell we still had a long way to go to make this boat do anything but swallow dollars. Jim and I were already partners in a business called Stehekin Maintenance and Machinery. We had purchased a lot with Uncle Curt's original shop freshly moved there on logs in 1972. This property was far from restored but the shop was working and I had started repairing cars for folks as a business.
We built a trailer out of an old truck frame and were able to pull the boat out of the water and up the two miles of road to the shop area with an old homemade FWD cable loader that was abandoned on the property. We also were able to negotiate a bank loan to buy two 453 Detroit diesel motors with gear from the dealer in Seattle. I worked most of the summer installing these new motors with parts that I purchased and fabricated from scratch.
By fall it was ready to splash back in the water and test out. After finding out I had the wrong gear reduction and switching those out it was somewhat ready to go by our standards.
To be continued...