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Feb-08-2010 13:25printcomments

Could Wreckage Discovered Near Coos Bay be From Missing Boat C-Lady?

The Coast Guard is looking into the matter and no recovery of the vessel is planned.

Wreckage of sunken vessel recovered off Oregon
Photos of C-Lady and Kenneth Tison courtesy: Gina Dearth
Photos of wreckage courtesy: Lt. John Dixon USCH

(COOS BAY, Ore.) - The Coast Guard reports that wreckage from a white-hulled boat, including an anchor, windlass and bow stem, was found by the master of the fishing vessel Grumpy J while bringing his nets up from a depth of approximately 500 fathoms, on the first day of February.

Lt. John Dixon, a Coast Guard investigator stationed in North Bend, Oregon, says the wreckage was pulled up this past week by the fishing vessel Grumpy J.

"The wreckage was recovered approximately 27 miles west of Cape Arago in about 3000 ft of water," Dixon said.

"Although it is rumored that this debris could be a part of the fishing vessel C-Lady that disappeared out of Charleston, OR in 2003, the Coast Guard has no physical evidence at this time linking this debris with the C-Lady."

The matter is very important to those who knew Ken Tison, Captain of the C-Lady. His widow Brenda Tison has never given up on her hope of finding the answers about her husband Ken. His legacy on the Oregon coast is that of having been one of the best commercial fishermen to ever navigate the local waters here.

Background on C-Lady

According to the Social Security Administration, Kenneth F. Tison, a commercial fisherman, was last seen prior to a fishing trip on August 27, 2003, alone on his vessel, the C-Lady. That is the last time anyone saw this 61-year old fisherman.

The C-Lady, courtesy: Bandon Harbormaster's Office and Gina Dearth

Ken's wife Brenda stated that he usually called her in the morning and in the evening when he was fishing.

Another commercial fisherman reported that he often went fishing in a "partner boat" in the vicinity of Kenneth's vessel during the 3-7 week long season.

Friends and acquaintances described Ken as a sober person and the best fisherman in his class.

The other commercial fisherman said that when they were fishing, they were in constant contact.

That same fisherman, whose name was not released, did note that a storm was rising, according to the Social Security death investigation.

"He and Ken discussed returning to port the next day because of the storm. Mr. J~ (Don Jacobs) went to another area to fish and then returned to port as the storm hit. He could not contact Ken. The boats were only half full of fish when contact was lost."

The report continued...

It is reported that typically, neither fisherman would go to shore without a full boat. However, this storm forced Mr. J~ in, despite his 'competition' with Ken to fill his boat up first. Don Jacobs felt that Kenneth had a good marital relationship with Brenda and had no reason to leave his home life (he noted that Ken and Brenda had moved into a new dwelling and that Ken purchased a new truck). Don Jacobs speculates that the C-Lady caught fire, because the life ring that was found was burned.

Ken's friend and wife contacted the Coast Guard on September 3, 2003. From that day through September 10, 2003, the Coast Guard searched by air and sea, but found little.

They did locate a floating life ring on September 7th, near Crescent City, California, with no other evidence of wreckage. The life ring showed signs of having been burned.

Gina Dearth, Harbormaster in Bandon, Oregon, says the life ring is now at her office. She says there is evidence of fire, based on pieces of yellow rope that are fused to the lifesaving device.

By September 30, 2003, the Coast Guard issued a letter stating that Kenneth was "lost at sea and presumed dead."

Dearth said Ken, "was an excellent mariner and fisherman, with a reputation in his community for steadiness, sobriety, and industry."

"He frequently went out alone on two to three-week fishing trips, but maintained good communication with his wife as to his whereabouts."

Citing how Ken had a beautiful commercial boat and home, and took excellent care of his possessions, Dearth also did not believe that he would have failed to maintain good communication with his wife and does not believe he would have left without notification.

She also referenced the fantastic relationship he had with his wife Brenda.

Ken had made plans that August, to see his daughters and grandchildren, his ex-wife Bonnie told investigators. Bonnie and Kenneth had been married for nineteen years.

According to the same report, Bonnie had often fished with him and knew his practices.

She reported that, during bad weather, he would normally shut down the engine and drift. It was Bonnie's understanding that the Coast Guard found a burned life ring with a melted and charred rope. Thus, she speculated that the C-Lady burned while Kenneth was asleep, drifting in the bad weather.

"He was regarded as one of the top fishermen on the coast, had not had a drink in four years, and, while at sea, stayed in touch with Brenda and his oldest son."

Ken's son Brian did leave investigators with one piece of unsettling information; even though Ken maintained a solid reputation for steadiness, sobriety, and industry, he could not swim.

Wreckage Discovery

On December 10, 2003, the Oregon State Medical Examiner issued a death certificate stating that Ken had died, "Presumed drowned (body not recovered)."

The date of the presumed drowning as August 28, 2003, and the place of presumed drowning as "off coast of Coos Bay, Oregon."

Coast Guard Lt. John Dixon, says the pieces of the wreckage were brought to Charleston Harbor in Coos Bay where they were examined.

He said, "The pieces were determined to be from a wood-hulled vessel with white and blue paint, but the pieces had no readily identifiable features and the source of the wreck remains unconfirmed."

The Coast Guard is looking into the matter and no recovery of the vessel is planned.

Dixon stresses that the wreckage recovered approximately 27 miles west of Cape Arago in about 3000 ft of water, is rumored to possibly be part of the fishing vessel C-Lady that disappeared out of Charleston, Oregon in 2003, but the Coast Guard has no physical evidence at this time linking this debris with the C-Lady.

Whatever became of the C-Lady, nobody really knows.

Gina Dearth with the Harbormaster's Office in Bandon, says Mr. Tison's disappearance was very hard on their relatively small community.

All commercial fishermen put their lives at risk by the very virtue of what they do, but it seems that something may have happened in this case that missed the radar, so to speak.

The wreckage can not be positively identified at this time, and Dixon says he wishes it was possible to do so. That does not mean that this is over though. Brenda Tison talked with Dixon and he says it seemed like the wreckage was likely from the C-Lady, but it could not be confirmed.

If the wreckage is positively confirmed to be that of the C-Lady, then at least it brings closure to the people of this coastal and historic Oregon community.

Anyone with information about the C-Lady or any other missing vessels, should contact the U.S. Coast Guard.

Tim King is a former U.S. Marine with twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. In addition to his role as a war correspondent, this Los Angeles native serves as's Executive News Editor. Tim spent the winter of 2006/07 covering the war in Afghanistan, and he was in Iraq over the summer of 2008, reporting from the war while embedded with both the U.S. Army and the Marines. Tim holds numerous awards for reporting, photography, writing and editing, including the Oregon AP Award for Spot News Photographer of the Year (2004), first place Electronic Media Award in Spot News, Las Vegas, (1998), Oregon AP Cooperation Award (1991); and several others including the 2005 Red Cross Good Neighborhood Award for reporting. Serving the community in very real terms, is the nation's only truly independent high traffic news Website. You can send Tim an email at this address:

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Anonymous June 14, 2014 6:29 pm (Pacific time)

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