Note: This website is not affiliated with crash boat P-520.
The P-520 did not have an outstanding military career, although other 85-foot air-sea rescue boats did, mostly in Alaska and the western Pacific. What is remarkable about P-520 is that she is the last, longest surviving crash boat still in its military configuration.
Before I get into P-520’s history, let me share some basic information about the 85-foot boats in general. The boat was designed by Dair Long of Los Angeles, CA during World War II and were produced in 1944 and 1945. The 85 was generally considered to be the most successful crash boat. Mr. Long designed the 63 ft crash boat first and the 85 is his “bigger and better” second generation. 85s were built by eight yards and a total of 141 were built. These boats were very similar in appearance to the more famous PT boats. It has been said that only two types of people can tell the difference, PT crewmen and crash boaters.
The design specifications stated “The boat is intended for offshore, long-range operations. The hull is a twin screw ‘V’ bottom stepless hydroplane and shall be capable of being driven at high speed under severe weather conditions without excessive pounding, yet remaining dry.” The ribs were on 12” centers and the hull was double planked with cotton duck cloth glued between layers, similar to the 63 ft. boats. The deck and superstructure were made of plywood. All the 85s were powered by 2 Packard 4M-2500 gas engines of about 1500 hp. Fuel capacity was 3840 gallons, split over four tanks.
LOA 85’ 0”
LWL 78’ 10”
Beam 20’ 3”
Draft 4’ 8”
Full Load Weight 52 tons
The P-520 was built at the Wilmington Boatworks in Wilmington, CA, one of eight boats built between April and September of 1944 (P-518 to P-525). She started her service in Newport Beach, CA but shortly afterward was re-assigned to a station near the Golden Gate Bridge which covered the Bay area.
In April of 1947 the U.S. Maritime Commission sold P-520 to William H. Berg of Newport Beach. Like many yachtsmen, after a few fast rides on their new toy, they checked their fuel bill and replaced the Packard engines with more modest diesel engines. This owner replaced them with four model 671s, two per shaft. Mr. Berg also partitioned the crew quarters forward and made some other minor modifications. This information comes from the research of Bud Tretter, a later owner.
He kept the boat until December of 1950 before selling it to Cardinal Fishing Company. The company owned the boat until February of 1969 when P-520 was sold to Mary Sue Hubbard who only owned the boat until August of 1970. I have not researched this sale but it is possible that she was the widow of the owner of Cardinal Fishing since she owned the boat for such a short time.
P-520 was sold R. V. De Witt and was moved to Newmark’s Yacht Center, less than a mile from where she was built. P-520 stayed at Newmark’s, un-used, unattended, and deteriorating, like so many other crash boats. However, in 1983 the boat was hauled out and the bottom was painted.
R. V. De Witt died and later his widow, Sally De Witt removed and sold the four diesel engines. The boat was sold to another Newport Beach man, Richard E. Loderhose, in July of 1997 who changed her name to Music Man IV. The most important thing through this string of owners is that nobody significantly modified or converted the boat from its original configuration.
The new owner had P-520 towed to a shipyard in San Diego where he planned to spend about $500,000 to restore her to its original military configuration and condition. He had visions of renting the boat out to the movie industry. He may have come to realize the amount of work involved and had second thoughts.
In 1997 Mr. Loderhose became aware of the AAF/USAF Crash Rescue Boat Association (CRBA) and went to their annual reunion in October of that year. In January of 1998 he contacted the association president, Wayne Mellesmoen, offering to donate the boat to AAF/USAF CRBA.
The association had spent the previous ten years searching the world over for either a good, original, 63- or 85-foot crash boat to restore and donate to a real, financially stable, museum. At the time there were few, if any, 85 ft crash boats left that were unbutchered or unconverted to be found. Association member and owner of a boatyard not far from the location of the P-520, Bud Tretter and his wife drove to San Diego to meet with Loderhose. The owner expounded on what good condition this boat was in, how there was a minimum of rot, how it hardly leaked and on and on. For the CRBA this boat was a gift sent by God! P-520 was donated to the CRBA in July of 1998; he had owned the boat for one year. Later Bud Tretter learned that Loderhose had paid the widow De Witt $25,000 and was successful in writing off $160,00 for the donation.
The Tretter Era Begins
Bud Tretter offered to store P-520 pending the CRBA’s finding a suitable museum to display the boat. There were hopes that the Navy would haul her as deck cargo to any Gulf Coast port and the association could arrange delivery to one of several museums from there. Otherwise, they would need to find a west coast museum. Installing the Packard engines, they had previously salvaged from P-661 would make P-520 a museum quality boat, with some restoration and maintenance work done at Bud Trotter’s shipyard.
Upon close inspection it was found that she was not in “excellent condition” and that 40 to 50% of both inner and outer hull planking needed to be replaced and the transom completely rebuilt. Fiberglass needed to be stripped from the main deck and once it was removed, they found the decking was in such bad shape that it had to be completely replaced. The decking over the aft cockpit was removed. Hatches on the main deck, foredeck, and the removable hatches over the engine room, all needed repair or rebuilding. Barbettes (gun tubs) had to be built from scratch, port and starboard. Fuel tanks (50 yr. old rubber bladders) had to be inspected and either passed, repaired, or replaced. Bud needed to obtain and install 2 diesel engines and drivelines. Fortunately, two diesel engines, GM V-1271s, were donated by General Engine Power, Inc, the GM dealer in Long Beach. Much of the hardware, which had previously been stripped from P-520 was supplied from P-522, which Bud Tretter was converting to a yacht. All plumbing and wiring had to be replaced. I have not listed those items in the interior living spaces that needed paint, repair, or replacement, or any electronics. The work was done on no fixed schedule but done during slow periods when men would have been laid-off otherwise.
Originally Bud had agreed to do what restoration work needed to be done at no cost, but the work proved to be much more extensive, and much more expensive, than originally anticipated by either the CBRA or Bud. Over time that became a source of some considerable friction within the group. A fifty-year-old, 85ft. wooden boat can be a real money pit and, at least up to 2002, the work was done on Bud’s dime. In late 2002 the CRBA started contributing money to the project, beyond some donated boats that they had given Bud to sell from time to time, with instructions to use the cash for the project. By 2004 she was pretty much “done”. She was beautiful but, without taking sides, it is easy to see how restoration was bound to lead to hard feelings, especially as the years dragged on. It took seven years and some sources guess close to a million dollars to restore the P-520. On June 17, 2009 the CRBA signed P-520 over to Bud Tretter in order to end the friction due to restoration costs and dockage fees. However, the long-term plan was still to donate her to a museum. Bud formed the non-profit West Coast Crash Rescue Boat Association to accept P-520.
Apparently, the members of the CRBA had been unaware that in late 1996 or early 1997, HQ, USAF issued a directive to all regional museums, except their main museum in Dayton, Ohio that they immediately cease accepting any items of any kind for display. The cost of moving 85 ft. boat 75 miles over land to Dayton was prohibitive. That made the likelihood of ever finding a museum, owned by the federal government, to accept an original 63 ft. or 85 ft. rescue boat almost impossible. The boats are too expensive to maintain in the water for all but a handful of private museums. This threw the plan a serious curve ball. They attempted to donate the boat to several other museums without success. In the fall of 1999, the CRBA was still looking for a museum home for P-520 and as late as December, 2005 they thought she would be going to the Alabama Battleship Memorial Park. Later they were shocked to learn that the Battleship Memorial Park had no funds to exhibit the boat due to damage caused to the park by Hurricane Katrina. There was some talk of donating the boat to a museum in Seattle but that never came together. In 2013 there was an online post that the boat was to be donated to the Pacific Battleship Center in Los Angeles, but that never came to fruition either.
Since P-520 was restored and had no museum to call her home, Bud Tretter cruised her along the west coast as far north as Seattle, showing P-520 at various maritime festivals and at the same time looking for a museum to accept her as an exhibit. No doubt that some of these trips had a large personal pleasure component but he had, and was continuing to cover, the bulk of the costs of restoring and operating the boat.
Bud Tretter passed away in 2012 and his son Jerry took over effective ownership of the boat. He continued to cruise her, primarily on the California coast. Over the years there was less cruising of the P-520 as Jerry had purchased a motor home and he and his wife were taking extended trips in it.
In July of 2017 Dan Walker and I approached the Alabama Battleship Memorial Park again and they expressed an interest in obtaining the P-520 but by August, 2018 that plan came to a halt. The main challenge seemed to be the delivery cost, which if delivered under its own power would be approximately $85,000 and if delivered by a "float on float off" yacht delivery service would run in the neighborhood of $115,000. They were considering displaying P-520 in the water and annual maintenance costs were estimated to be approximately $15,000, which they would need to divert from the maintenance of the USS Alabama.
Jerry Tretter and I had multiple phone conversations during the discussions with the board of the USS Alabama and in one of them Jerry confided in me that both he and his father would rather give P-520 a “Viking funeral” rather than see her slowly deteriorate and rot away up some creek. Surprised at what he said, I asked him to explain. He said he would rather head P-520 out to sea and set her on fire than to see her rot away.
About the end of March 2019, Larry Newland, V.P. of Operations at the Morro Bay Maritime Museum contacted me at USCrashboats.org about the available rescue boats and stating that they were interested in finding a boat donor. P-520 made the most sense, especially since she was only about 175 miles away. By this time Jerry was very anxious to find a museum to accept the P-520. Larry was obviously looking for a boat that would draw attention and attendance for the museum. Larry was also willing to make some concessions to assure good care of the boat, which was very important to Jerry Tretter. When I spoke with Jerry, he was sick and as soon as he recovered had a trip he needed to make and would not be readily available until about May first.
The real challenge for this small museum was financial; an 85 ft. wood boat is not cheap to maintain, nor is it cheap to insure or even dock. A mis-understanding in May about those costs almost “blew up” the deal before the museum and Jerry had a chance to have serious discussions on details. The three of us exchanged e-mails and phone calls and between us overcame them, at least for the summer. Jerry was committed to a long mid-west summer trip that started in early July. Having P-520 at Morro Bay was important to the museum for the town’s Patriot’s Pride Week celebration July first through the sixth, so Jerry agreed to loan them the boat until he got back in October. Just before delivering P-520 to Morro Bay, Jerry had P-520 hauled out and painted her bottom, decks and superstructure. The first thing you noticed coming aboard was the smell of fresh paint; she looked to be in mint condition, like she just left the factory.
The inspection by the Coast Guard was completed before the end of June and they issued a temporary certificate. For the summer the Morro Bay Tourism Board agreed to pick-up the dockage fees in the expectation that the boat would provide a boost to local businesses. The town had a second event in early October, Morro Bay Harbor Festival, and P-520 was still there for that week-end as well.
The trip came together very quickly and just the most basic details for the summer trip had been worked out. The museum did not realize the strain on volunteer hours, did not have the time to arrange for the best location to maximize visibility, nor time to develop a marketing plan to take full advantage of the P-520. While the Morro Bay Maritime Museum enjoyed her summer stay, in the end, Morro Bay did not become her permanent home.
Jerry died unexpectedly in January, 2020 of complications from what was thought to be a relatively minor operation. P-520 remained docked at the Marina Shipyard. Jerry’s family had no particular interest in P-520 along with a second 85-foot crash boat, which has been converted to a yacht. The two boats were occupying valuable dock space. Jerry’s widow, Kathi Tretter and Shipyard Marina business manager wanted to sell the yacht and donate P-520 to a responsible museum to free up the docks.
To see the photo album from the Tretter era Click Here
The Louisville Naval Museum Era
To see the photo Album from the LNM era Click Here
Contrast the neat appearance of the Tretter boat to the LNM boat
The Louisville Naval Museum (LNM) registered with the Kentucky Secretary of State on August 27, 2019. At the time their stated main mission, their reason for existence, was to salvage and restore the Balboa class submarine, USS Ling which they did not own, and barge or tow her to Louisville and their nonexistent museum. The museum was to be on the former Jeffboat property but it was known months before the trip to California that redevelopment of the property was years away and there was no agreement between LNM and any entity regarding the building of a museum for them on the property. LNM certainly did not have the finances to launch such a project. In the spring of 2020, the museum had no boats and no physical location. Quoted from a Facebook post by Louisville Naval Museum that has since been taken down, “Special thanks also goes to American Commercial Barge Line’s CEO, Mark Knoy in Jeffersonville, Indiana, who has pledged the use of their facility for the restoration of the Ling and a temporary place to maintain her until she is permanently moved to Louisville. Additionally, he has pledged approximately $400,000 in services to tow the Ling from the Gulf of Mexico to their facility.” Note that is was from LNM and not from Jeffboat; I could not find confirmation of this from Jeffboat on the internet. I did find the claim repeated in the Louisville Courier Journal but their source was Mark Gatton, a member of the LNM board.
The Founding Louisville Naval Museum Board of Directors:
From the Annual Report file 4/23/22 with State of Kentucky
President Lewis Palmer
Vice President & Treas. Mark Gatton
Director David Laney
Director Matthew Benedykcinski
The only addition to the original group has been:
Director Lawrence Mason
Not on report:
Director Robert Hay, who claimed to be a board member in early 2023, other days he said he did not know if he is a board member.
There is a Memorandum of Agreement and Cooperation, signed but undated, between the Louisville Naval Museum and the Maritime Pastoral Training Foundation (MPTF), which makes the following paragraphs make sense. From the contents of the document, it is obvious that it was executed before the LNM acquired the P-520 as there is no mention of her but several mentions of the USS Ling. This agreement explains the presence of LNM staff on the trip to the PTF-26.
In the August of 2020, unrelated to the P-520, a group of people from MPTF, which included three members of LNM made a trip to California to prepare to sail a Vietnam era PT boat, PTF-26 to Ensenada, Mexico for transport to Fort Lauderdale, FL (later changed to West Palm Beach) and from there to Paducah, KY. MPTF paid all expenses related to the trip. While taking her on a sea trial, there was some damage to the transmission and throttle linkage. There were some other issues with the boat as well, but Jim West of the Liberty Museum, the seller, had just completed the trip from Rio Vista, CA a distance of several hundred miles without incident. However, a consensus was developing that PTF-26 was not seaworthy to make the trip. The fact that the bridge had to use a telegraph system to control the transmission seemed to be a major issue. There has been speculation from more than one source that, based on the fact that none of the LNM members of the group were on deck, and were in the engine room when the mechanical issues developed, that they may have sabotaged the PTF mechanicals, but there is no way to prove or disprove that speculation. There seemed to be a consensus that PTF-26 was not in good shape.
From the Waterway Journal of September 21, 2020 “While inbound, the port throttle linkage was over extended, and we lost propulsion but were able to fix it on the fly,” Capt. Stephen J. Polk wrote in a report to the owners. Then, upon maneuvering back to the dock in Morro Bay, the starboard main engine throttle linkage broke and they narrowly missed a yacht. Additionally, the day before, a diver hired to clear out the wheels, rudders and sea strainers of growth and seaweed reported a 5-inch-by-7-inch section missing out of a propeller blade.
The group that made the trip out west consisted of:
Lewis Palmer, CEO of Louisville Naval Museum and the leader of the group, E1
Joe “Sully” Sullivan, LNM board member, active navy machinist mate, E5
Matt Benedykcinski, LNM board member, discharged from navy as an E1
Terry Armond, retired USCG senior chief and PT-305 volunteer
Capt. Joy Manthey, an experienced harbor pilot
Capt. Steve Polk, skippered the trip to Ensenada, Mexico
From shortly after she met the LNM members Joy Manthey had a bad feeling about the trio, that they were “up to no good” but she did not know what they were up to. She was not alone with a “bad feeling”, others expressed similar thoughts.
Larry Newland, a founder and former board president of the Morro Bay Maritime Museum, regrets that he made Lewis Palmer aware that the P-520 was in beautiful shape and available to a good home. Other sources confirm that Lewis Palmer was aware of the existence of the P-520 since at least the end of January, 2020. This matches the recollection of Cindi Allen, business manager of the Shipyard Marina which Jerry Tretter had owned and where the P-520 was docked. Allen recalled a phone conversation with someone from LNM about six months before they appeared at Shipyard Marina, ready to collect the boat. She was surprised because there had been no further contact after the one phone call and had considered LNM a closed possibility.
While in California to assist with the PTF-26, Palmer and some of the group went to Long Beach to see the P-520 and to check her out. Once they saw the P-520, they all fell in love with her and became much more adamant that the PTF-26 was unseaworthy. However, it appears that there was enough time to address the major issues on the PTF-26 before the planned trip.
It does seem likely, especially considering Manthey’s comments earlier, that at some point during this trip, probably right from the start, that LNM decided to replace the MPTF’s PTF-26 with the P-520 on the yacht transport. To credit luck for the series of circumstances and incidents that occurred seems like a big leap. In addition to P-520, LNM received $10,000 as a one-time donation to help with transportation costs.
Even in Long Beach, while seeking the donation of P-520, Palmer stated that LNM owned the USS Ling and that it was going to be barged to Louisville. The LNM has never owned the USS Ling and that has been confirmed. That story was repeated by Palmer and several board members to several people in the coming days and weeks, including to me. P-520 sailed out of its longtime home in Long Beach, CA on August 31st, 2020 to be loaded on the yacht transport St Georg. The St. Georg was built in 2010 and a little over 500 ft. long, displacing about 20,000 tons. P-520 was loaded in Ensenada, Mexico for a trip to West Palm Beach, FL.
The time between the donation of the P-520 and her departure was a "rushed" several days according to Marina Shipyard staff. The fact that the LNM crew slept on the boat for days while at the shipyard, rather than a local hotel, indicates that cash and credit were tight right from the start. That did not prevent at least one LNM member from entertaining a couple "ladies" overnight on the boat while in the shipyard and appearing "hung over" the next morning. This has been independently confirmed by two sources.
The main source of the conflict between LNM and MPTF is the cost of the passage for P-520 on the St. Georg due to P-520 not going to Louisville as previously agreed. The LNM claims that since MPTF had prepaid $90,000 for the nonrefundable passage of the PTF-26 and she could not make the trip, MPTF gave the passage to LNM with no strings attached. MPTF’s Winston Rice and Kempton Baldridge state that since PTF-26 could not make the trip, they offered the spot to their then trusted associates at LNM, providing they both could use P-520 around Louisville until MPTF could get the PTF-26 repaired and to Louisville.
It is not credible that MPTF would just give away $90,000. If MPFT did not trust LNM to honor their word, they would have insisted on at least 51% ownership of P-520 before allowing P-520 to use the spot. If LNM objected, MPTF could have told LNM that they were keeping their spot and that LNM could find another way to get P-520 home. Financially, LNM had no other option and in hindsight I’m sure MPFT wishes that they had told LNM to “take a hike”. At that point MPTF probably could have forced the transfer of P-520 to MPTF. The MPTF was trusting, even naïve, and got screwed. PTF-26 has not come east as, in addition to the repairs, another $90,000+ has to be raised for the yacht transport, plus funds to move her from Florida to Paducah, KY.
The 85-foot crash boat is a very special design that requires a cradle for lifting, two or four sling straps will not suffice. The 85' Operator Manual clearly states that the 85 ft. rescue boat is to be lifted using a cradle, not by slings. The complete manual is in the Manuals and Publications section but the relevant paragraph is "5 Hauling" below, particularly "C".
In my opinion, as the owner of the boat, it was the responsibility of Louisville Naval Museum to provide this custom cradle and no one else. In their rush to take advantage of an effectively stolen passage they chose to ignore the manual and take their chances, which proved to be a big mistake. Adults are responsible for the consequences of their actions; a concept LNM has a hard time grasping.
The crew from Long Beach to Ensenada consisted of Steve Polk, Joy Manthey, and Joe Sullivan as the rest of the group did not have passports, needed for the trip to Mexico. From comments of the crew, this was not a happy crew and they had to be towed for a short portion of the way into Ensenada, due to fuel starvation. Matt Benedykcinski drove home from Long Beach with the two .50 caliber machine gun replicas and the rest of the group flew home.
She went through the Miraflores locks in the Panama Canal on the night of September 24th or 25th. Up to this time the LNM story was that the owner of the former Jeffboat site, across the river from Louisville, was going to either lease them land or was going to actually build a museum on the property. An online search indicates that this claim was totally bogus. Jeffboat closed in May of 2018 and even then, it was known that there were possible environmental issues with the property that might take years to resolve. The owner of Jeffboat, American Commercial Barge Lines, filed for reorganization under chapter 11 bankruptcy in Feb of 2020, months before Lewis Palmer went to California. Further, it is an 80 acre site that is still developing a master plan in early 2023. The likelihood that anyone with any authority made any commitment to a “paper only” museum is incredible. Only after the P-520 was aboard the St. Georg and underway did LNM gradually release information that the landowner had filed for bankruptcy and their deal had collapsed. Conveniently, this happened after they had the boat beyond the reach of both Mrs. Tretter and the MPTF. They never directly informed Mrs. Tretter or offered to return P-520, since the circumstances under which it was donated were never true. However, they still were still going to Louisville to honor their agreement to the Maritime Pastoral Foundation. Subsequent statements became a little vaguer, alerting folks following the thread that something was wrong. Up to this point MPTF was very complimentary of LNM and still thought they were doing a cooperative venture in Louisville.
I had a phone conversation with another board member about that time, I think it was Mark Gatton, and was told that, in addition to the USS Ling, they owned an LCVP Higgins boat that they were going to display at the museum, a total fabrication since they never had a museum or even the land. In reality, in February, 2020 in a conversation with Larry Newland, founder of the Morro Bay Maritime Museum, who was looking for an LCVP, Lewis Palmer stated that he knew where one was, in either a junk or salvage yard but Newland did not recall the location. That is typical of the LNM, a fantasy repeated a few times becomes “reality”.
The day before P-520 was due to arrive in West Palm Beach I was in contact with a delivery captain, I think he may have been Stephen Polk, who said he had received three phone calls from different folks, all claiming to be owners of the boat. He said he had been hired to take P-520 to Louisville and he made a reservation at one of the local marinas for the boat for one night. Marinas generally will only hold slips a few hours without a deposit. His plan was to become familiar with the boat, provision her and fuel, then depart the next morning. He was unable to get a return phone call from any of the supposed owners with a credit card number. On the third call he was told that his services were no longer needed.
P-520 suffered hull damage on the starboard side during unloading at the Port of Palm Beach. The third strap from the bow had wooden blocks attached to the strap and one of them opened a seam between two of the planks on P-520. At the time, the opening was described as being about 1/4 inch by about 16 inches. To repair the damage fast drying epoxy was forced into the seam and a thin piece of plywood screwed to the hull to keep the epoxy in place while it dried. This should have been good until she was hauled out for bottom painting and permanent repairs. Unfortunately, that has not happened as of October, 2023. Later inspection revealed that, in addition to the open seam, a rib and bulkhead suffered damage and that improper lifting may have, combined with neglect, contributed to her current rot issues.
Since I live a short distance from the Port of Palm Beach, it was convenient to meet the P-520 when she arrived on September 29th, 2020. I wanted to get some photos for my website and a newsletter I produce. I arranged to meet Palmer and Matt Bendykcinski at the Riviera Beach Marina, next to the port. I was surprised that they drove down from New Jersey in the cheapest rental car available, a real “econo-box”, something comparable to a Toyota Tercel, rather than flying. I was further surprised that they drove straight through, not spending the night in a motel.
Due to ship movement issues in the port, we spent several hours in a very small boat and in the course of conversation, Palmer said that LNM had $3,000,000.00 in the bank. That did not jibe with the “cheapo” rental car and not spending money on a motel. I traveled extensively for several years on business and this is not how the employees of even a small business travel, let alone one with that much cash on hand.
I asked them about where they were taking the boat and their story at that point was still that they were taking the boat to Louisville but that they were going up the Atlantic coast to North Carolina first. I pointed out that North Carolina was very far off course for a trip to Louisville and there was no canal over the Appalachian Mountains but didn’t a satisfactory explanation. Later Palmer said they were taking to Beaufort, NC because a friend had a very nice dock that was built for a “tall ships” visit that never happened and P-520 might even winter there. He also stated that there was a maritime museum that they might partner with, and there was an expert wooden boat yard there to repair the damage. I later did some checking and what I found was a tiny maritime museum that in no way could support an 85 ft. crash boat and the boat yard was probably (Jim) Moore’s Marine, which is nationally known and specializes in restoring high end wooden yachts. They certainly were not going to be donating a repair job to an unknown customer that just washed in with the tide.
While we were waiting for P-520 to be unloaded the subject of dockage came up as it was mid-afternoon and they still need to get groceries, fuel, etc. West Palm Beach is a high-end tourist area and I told them that there was no free or cheap dockage, especially for a boat of that size. However, there were several nice marinas that could accommodate them, at about $3.25 per foot, plus $25 for 50-amp service for overnight, about $300.00, plus tax. They wanted to stay at a public dock that does not allow overnight dockage; it’s intended for folks to tie-up for a few hours while visiting the area restaurants, bars, etc. We parted company at that point because I knew all I needed to know about the character of Lewis Palmer and the finances of Louisville Naval Museum. All hat and no cattle.
P-520 departed West Palm Beach September 30th and when she did not make the turn at Stuart, FL about 25 to 30 miles north of West Palm Beach, the MPTF filed a Claim to Lien with the Coast Guard which encumbered the title so P-520 could not be sold. P-520 was northbound on the Intracoastal Waterway October 3rd, near Daytona Beach. By that time possible destinations included SC, NC, or NJ. She went as far as Fernandina Beach, FL before apparently running out of funds, fuel and friends. That is about 285 miles north of Stuart, FL. From that point forward, the Claim to Lien chased them out of multiple marinas. While she was at Fernandina Beach, they established a GoFundMe page and unsuccessfully appealed to ExxonMobil for a fuel donation. Lawrence Mason, LNM Liaison for Public and Naval Affairs, stated in a letter to me dated October 23, 2020 that they were staying in the marina due to weather but that was totally bogus, the weather was not an issue, the Intracoastal Waterway is almost always fine for an 85 ft boat; they were out of fuel. He also stated they were financially stable. I guess that was true if you consider broke a stable condition; they weren’t going any “broker” and they remain broke two years later. They remained there until they located a benefactor, Ted Yadlowsky, who supplied the money for fuel and much of their very basic needs for roughly the next year and a half. Eventually, after donating tens of thousands of dollars, he became very dissatisfied with their operational methods and management. In July of 2022 he withdrew all support. In February of 2023 LNM posted that Yadlowsky “forced” them to go to Maryland. They were free to decline his offer of financial support if they did not want to go. Adults are responsible for the consequences of their actions.
Her run north from West Palm Beach, FL included both the Intracoastal Waterway and stretches in the Atlantic. Near Norfolk, VA she left the Intracoastal for the Atlantic and stopped on Ocean City, MD. Since she did not go up the Chesapeake Bay, it seemed likely that she was headed to their other project, the USS Ling, the submarine they did not own in New Jersey. In fact, Lawrence, in his letter said that they were in discussions with a backer in Hoboken and that Hoboken made more sense than Louisville. That was the first mention to me of a permanent home in Hoboken. It is my understanding that there was a conflict within LNM as to whether to go to New Jersey or Maryland. However, she entered Delaware Bay, then The Delaware - Chesapeake Canal and shortly before Christmas was berthed in Annapolis, MD.
Reporter Donna Cole of the Annapolis Creative
happened upon the P-520 on New Year’s Day, 2021 and found an oil slick surrounding the boat. She immediately contacted authorities and an alphabet soup of agencies responded. At the time P-520 was enjoying free dockage from the Annapolis Waterfront and Sailing Center and their executive director stated that the boat had overstayed their welcome. LNM spokesmen said that an active-duty navy sailor volunteering on the boat was responsible for the leak and that they still hoped to establish a museum in Annapolis, with both the P-520 and the USS Ling. To read Donna Cole’s article in the Annapolis Creative
, Click Here
The issue of insurance came up at this time, although it is not required in Maryland. A certificate of insurance was produced naming “Lewis Palmer/Fayette Auto & Diesel Repair/LNM” as the insured. The signature certifying the form was of Brett McPeak, Palmer’s wife, instead of an employee of the insurance agency or company. The two insurance companies would not confirm coverage to Donna Cole and the certificate may have been altered, but that could not be confirmed with the companies. Coverage for LNM was from 12/10/2020 to 1/31/2021, just 6 weeks.
It appears that starting about January of 2020, Palmer collected all the onboard P-520 donations from the collection boxes without supervision or a paper trail
as to how much money was collected and how it was spent. From speaking with various volunteers, it was generally thought that the typical donations during any single week-end amounted to a few hundred dollars and that Palmer used the money to cover any appurtenances for the boat and his personal expenses from Indiana to the Chesapeake Bay.
For the balance of the winter, until early April, Mid-States Oil, a business contact of Yadlowsky, donated free dockage. In the spring, Chesapeake Bay Magazine reported that P-520 went to Cambridge for repairs, but according to Ted Yadlowsky, she was hauled out at Yacht Maintenance for an inspection of the damage by the yacht transport’s insurance company but no repairs were made.
The article presented the P-520 in a favorable light and included a link for donations and their GoFundMe page. Checking out the page, reporter Donna Cole found that it states “Lewis Palmer is organizing this fundraiser on behalf of Lewis Palmer”. Note that it does not say Louisville Naval Museum. After the haul-out Yadlowsky was able to arrange for free dockage at the city owned dock. This led to discussions with the city about opening their museum in Cambridge, which generated more positive coverage in local media. It is my understanding that, in spite of all that has happened since, the city is still open to moving forward with those discussions if P-520 is under new ownership. The boat remained in the in the Chesapeake Bay during the 2021 cruising season, putting in week-end appearances at various small towns around the bay, telling the crash boat story, and soliciting donations.
During these stops much of the crew would point out that they themselves were veterans. Lewis Palmer would mention that he served during Desert Storm. He served during Desert Storm, but not in Desert Storm but the implication was that he was a combat veteran. He served defending Oklahoma in the Army National Guard from January to October of 1990 and was in the reserves in Indiana from October 1990 through September, 1991. There was no mention of Palmer being overseas in the documents from the National Archives. Palmer joined the Army to "be all that you can be". Apparently all he could be was an E1 (two grades below private first class), his rank at discharge. Another board member, who served as crew, was court marshalled and convicted of stealing and was discharged from the navy. He probably did not mention that.
Behind the scenes there were more issues. Volunteer Del Kailianu, told Donna Cole that they did not have a competent engineer, that oil was still leaking into the bilge and nothing was being done about it. He also had problems recovering a pump he loaned the boat when he quit volunteering. In the end, he left feeling used and insulted. The condition and appearance of the boat was deteriorating due to lack of maintenance, but there seemed to be plenty of time for drinking and partying. Looking at their Facebook page confirmed that.
She remained in Cambridge, MD for the 2021 - 2022 winter and continued to call Cambridge her homeport until June, 2022. Her supporters continued to move toward establishing a museum and a permanent home there.
About April 26, 2022 the boat and crew held a Tuskeegee / General McGee event that seems to have exposed a lot of jealousy between the crew and their financier, Ted Yadlowsky. Some members thought that the speakers gave Yadlowsky too much credit and praise during the event, in spite of them stating that it was a fabulous week-end. One member in particular thought the connections made with visitors was the best they had done. After the event there was a face-to-face meeting among the volunteers to discuss various issues but history shows nothing was resolved. The week-end cruises, mixed with a few work sessions, continued through the spring and summer
There was a cruise to St. Michaels on June 17th, the basic “show and tell” presentation. That night the crew met with Yadlowsky and the meeting became quite heated, with one member becoming violent. Up to that time, Yadlowsky was trying to guide the group to encourage them to operate more professionally. That meeting ended his involvement with LNM, both as an unpaid consultant and as a financial supporter. Following that meeting the P-520 returned to Cambridge for a short time.
In late June or July of 2022, she abandoned Cambridge for Crisfield, MD. About that time LNM changed their name to Veterans Heritage Foundation but they did not change their ways. Nor were they able to change the ownership of P-520; she remained the property of LNM. As they left Cambridge, they gave the city a parting shot on Facebook, alleging rampant crime and a lack of security as the cause. The posting was deleted shortly after it was posted. The City Manager responded to Donna Cole, “The city of Cambridge does not believe that security was an issue in the least. We had welcomed The P-520 to our community with open arms, providing them with a slip for free and placing them prominently ….. the reason for leaving is not credible.” Shortly thereafter Cambridge Commissioner Chad Malkus was quoted “They’re not the best of guys, this is a pattern for them – skipping town”.
Very shortly after landing in Crisfield, at State-owned Somers Cove Marina, Palmer posted that they had been warmly accepted, how the security was much better and that there was a pool available. This was yet another opportunity for a fresh start but they continued their old ways. From the post the impression was given that the main attraction was access to the amenities. Once again, because of the historic nature of the boat, they were granted free dockage, “given the boat’s historic value and public interest” stated Gregg Bortz of the Dept. of Natural Resources. LNM announced that they had signed a one-year contract with the park for free dockage. Crisfield lasted as a home port for only a few months before her inability to pay her electric bill of over $500.00 led her to sail to Baltimore for Fleet Week, never to return. Another chapter closed, with P-520 sailing away from yet another “misunderstanding.”
Their past had started catching up with them while they were at Crisfield. Non-profits must register with the Maryland Secretary of State’s office before soliciting donations in or from the state. The office had no record of LNM or the new Veterans Heritage Foundation. When Donna Cole interviewed Robert Gurley, an investigator for the office he stated, “Neither organization is registered with our office to solicit in or from the state of Maryland.” That seems pretty clear.
As they were making preparations for their Baltimore Fleet Week appearance, a new volunteer posted on their Facebook page, “we have a pretty substantial leak and a few major rot issues that need to be addressed ASAP.” At the same time, they were soliciting donations and corporate sponsors discussed taking people for rides to Fleet Week. During Fleet Week they solicited donations, as always, and took some folks out for rides. Their Facebook page stated that the ride was for winners of a raffle. It is my guess that all entrants were “winners”.
After Fleet Week, P-520 stayed in the Baltimore area at several locations, eventually settling at Port Covington, a large development under construction in the area. She was expected to winter there since their cruise season was over, although they were still soliciting donations to pay the Crisfield electric bill on their Facebook page.
After he separated from LNM, Yadlowsky kept in touch with people interested in the boat, including MPTF, Kathi Tretter who had donated the boat, and a few others. They were concerned over the deteriorating condition of the boat and the false statements and actions of LNM. By the end of 2022, Kathi Tretter was very concerned and wrote LNM a letter requesting that they turn the boat over to a more responsible group. To read her letter, Click Here.
Yadlowsky assisted the MPTF in locating the P-520. Then he assisted the U.S. Marshalls and the court with the seizure of P-520 by arranging for a competent captain to pilot the boat to a safe location and arranging to dock the boat at the secure location in Stoney Creek. At the time of the seizure, Port Covington reportedly contacted LNM, which in turn reported the boat as stolen. Maryland Natural Resources Police responded to the Stoney Creek location of the boat, responding to the theft complaint. Once they were aware that the U.S. Marshal’s Office had seized the P-520, they referred any further inquiries to them.
Since that day court papers have been served on LNM, their invalid response was rejected and P-520 is being advertised in preparation for auction. The MPTF hopes that once they acquire P-520 they can donate the boat to a real museum. They do not have the resources to get the boat from Baltimore to the Ohio River. While the transfer of ownership will not necessarily ensure the future of the P-520, leaving her in the hands of Lewis Palmer and his organizations would only continue her deterioration. At least in the hands of the MPTF the boat has a prayer. The MPTF does not want to own P-520 long term, they want to find a museum with the resources to properly repair and care for her.
A few weeks ago, after posting in the “P-520 LNM Era” album a picture
of memorial graffiti on the boat (after viewing the photo, click on the left arrow at the top left of your screen to return here)
, I had a phone conversation with Bob Hay, an LNM board member. Shortly thereafter there were several posts on the LNM Facebook page about how I was insulting those killed in action. The photo in question had nothing to do with those K.I.A. It was all about allowing graffiti of any kind on the P-520.
Lewis Palmer is the person who posts on the LNM Facebook page and he makes it a practice to block comments, except from his very few remaining acolytes. However, a window of opportunity presented itself and I posted a link on the LNM page to the specific photo and my comments in order to clarify the situation. It appears that very shortly thereafter the link was taken down and their page was closed to comments, as it did not match his version of my conversation with Bob Hay, to which he was not a participant.
Not happy to content himself with removing my post, which was civil and factual, Palmer, CEO of the LNM and the VHF posted the following vitriolic, hateful, semi-literate response, which I received from a third party. If any of the LNM board members or other associates, and since he included my wife in his slurs, I will include his wife Brett in my links, continue this type of attack, I will post links to internet sites revealing financial, criminal and military records, including court marshals.
To see page 1 of his rant, Click Here.
For page 2 Click Here.
For the record, I do not beg for funds, unlike LNM, and do not divert any monies donated to my personal use. Money is spent on software, website hosting and in some cases purchasing photos, drawings and other resources and artifacts.
As their ability to raise funds declined, which at least in part they blamed on the information posted here, they lashed out at anyone who did not support them. They are near the end at this time and are screaming to an audience that has mostly left them. Recently they posted on their Facebook page that they are "going dark". Whether that means that the page will permanently close down, as did the LNM page to collect money for "saving" the USS Ling submarine, remains to be seen.
10/16/23 The P-520 was sold at Auction. The arrest of the P-520 for collection of an unpaid debt to The Maritime Pastoral Training Foundation came to a conclusion when the boat was sold for $57,000.00. The winning bid was made by an un-named group consisting of people who were concerned that a group of former Louisville Naval Museum / Veterans Heritage Foundation volunteers might re-acquire the boat and continue with their previous activities. The LNM group's final bid was $55,000. A spokesman for the winning group said that their immediate short term goal is to sail P-520 to a boat yard to get the long neglected hull repairs completed. Once the repair work has been arranged, the next goal will be to find a museum to properly maintain and display P-520 for the long term. Since P-520 is an 85' rescue boat and it is being repaired on the former site of Cambridge Shipbuilders, who built 85' rescue boats, Cambridge is probably the preferred location. Expect more information as it becomes public.