Hand crafted, unique small ship cruises: the Inside Passage of SE Alaska, British Columbia, the Pacific Northwest, San Juan Islands and the Sea of Cortez, Baja Mexico.
Pacific Catalyst




  • Length Overall: 74’7″   Beam: 18’4″   Draft: 9’4″   Displacement: 110 tons
  • Cruising Speed: 8 knots   Main Engine: 6 cylinder 8×10 Washington Estep diesel, 120 h.p. at 450 r.p.m. (This is the original engine rebuilt and maintained)
  • Fuel: 3,000 gallons   Fresh Water: 800 gallons with R.O. water maker
  • Range: 4,000 nautical miles
  • Accommodations: for up to 12 passengers and 4 to 5 crew
  • Construction: Oak frames, Alaska yellow cedar planked. Douglas fir keel with a 2-inch heel of Australian iron bark
  • Built by: Lake Union Dry Docks, Seattle, Washington, 1932
  • Designed by: Roland & Strickland
  • Navigation:2x Radar, G.P.S. and depth finders   Communications: VHF, satellite and cellular telephones
  • Specialty Equipment: Underwater hydrophone, viewing aquarium, microscope, presentation projector, white board, two laptop computers, one for navigation, one for digital pictures, boat camera, stereo CD/Ipod player, twelve pairs of binoculars for guests.
  • Auxiliary Power: 12 kw generator and batteries   Ships Power: 110 volts AC and 12/24 volts DC
  • Auxiliary Watercraft: 12-foot aluminum and 17.5 -foot inflatable utility boats, 6 double sea kayaks, and 3 single sea kayaks.
  • Chest freezer and refrigerator on front deck. Refrigerator in galley.
  • Marine Sanitation System upgrade in 2009.
  • Six cabins for guests. Lower deck cabins share one washroom with shower. There is a second head on the upper deck next to the main salon. Cabins 1 and 6 have their own head and shower. Crew has own head and shower below deck in quarters.


Cabin 1
Location/Size: Main deck, private washroom with shower.Bunk: Double Bunk, 49″ X 80″, single pull down upper bunk 32″x 74″, door to deck, one opening porthole
Cabin 2
Location/Size: Lower deck, forward starboard side, 6’10” x 7’0″Bunks: Double Bunk, 50″ x78″Accommodations: 4 drawers under bed, hanging closet, storage closet, bookshelf, two non-opening portholes.
Cabin 3
Location/Size: Lower deck, forward port side, 6’10” x 6’6″Double Bunk: 50″ x 78″Accommodations: 2 drawers, storage locker, two non-opening portholes.
Cabin 4
Location/Size: Lower deck, aft starboard side, 6’0″ x 7’0″, less 4′ x 2’6″ companionwayBunks: Single bunk, 43″ x 84″Accommodations: Storage under gear hammock, one non-opening porthole.
Cabin 5
Location/Size: Lower deck, Aft cabin, 13’0″ x 13’0″Bunks: Two singles, One DoubleAccommodations: Two bench seats with storage underneath, six opening portholes, four non-opening portholes.

Cabin 6
Location/Size: Behind pilot house. Double bed with no bunk: 50″ x 78″Accommodations: Private entry from outside of pilot house,private head and shower, drawers and storage space, bookshelf, opening porthole and windows.
NOTE: Lower deck cabins share one washroom with shower. There is a second head on the upper deck next to the main salon. Crew has own head and shower deck below.  




M/V Catalyst was the University of Washington’s first oceanographic research vessel. In 1932 Thomas G. Thompson, then Professor of Chemistry, began a personal crusade to establish a school of oceanography at the University. With the help of a $60,000 grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, he started both the school and the construction of Catalyst.

The vessel was designed by Roland and Strickland, prominent Seattle naval architects. The design was largely based on the experiences of the University’s scientists who had suffered through many research expeditions aboard poorly equipped converted fishing boats. Every aspect of her construction, from the location of the engine to the size of the vessel, was centered around the needs of the laboratory scientists. As a result of her careful design, Catalyst rolled down the ways on her launching day as the most state-of-the-art research vessel of her time.

Catalyst was built by Lake Union Dry Dock Company in Seattle. She was completed in June of 1932 and took her maiden cruise through the Inside Passage and across the Gulf of Alaska. She spent the next eleven years collecting data, primarily in Puget Sound. The
information collected from the decks of Catalyst in the 1930’s formed the foundation for today’s understanding of the region’s water quality.

The bombs that fell on Pearl Harbor during WWII soon had affect on the M/V Catalyst. In 1942, Dr. Thompson offered Catalyst to the Navy to help in the war effort. The Navy conscripted the vessel, mounted a machine gun on top of her pilot house and racks of depth charges on her stern. She spent the war years patrolling the Aleutian Islands for Japanese submarines.

After the war, the Navy sold Catalyst as surplus. She was purchased by an Alaskan mining company and was handsomely refit. The main house was moved forward and the wheelhouse was placed atop it. Hatches, fore and aft, were created to access new holds for carrying tungsten ore. Catalyst hauled ore south to Seattle, but also carried supplies and, perhaps more importantly, guests north through the Inside Passage. After all that work, the company had the boat for only two years, but every owner since has benefited from the beautiful work they did.

Over the next forty years, Catalyst was owned by a few lucky mariners who used her for everything from a mail packet to a floating dentist’s office. The waters of Alaska, Baja California, and Hawaii have all passed beneath her keel. Now she has been restored to her original purpose, learning about the oceanic world. Only this time it is adventurous travelers like you, not research scientists, who benefit from her mission.


  • 1931   Catalyst was constructed. Grant from Rockefeller Foundation ($60,000) Built in Lake Union Shipyard.
  • 1932, June  Dedication. Left for Alaska.
  • 1936  Thomas G. Thompson article
  • 1940  Crew: Captain Christian T. Larson, Cook: Louis Mortenson, (Students): Engineer: Herb Chatterton, Deckhand: North Burn, Scientific Deckhands: Bob Wilson, Ralf Jentoft, John Illman.
  • 1942, May; laid up due to WWII, sold to Coast Guard?
  • 1944  Requistioned by the Coast Guard, duty as CG72002, armed with 50 caliber machine gun and two depth charge racks. In District 13. Possible service in Alaska patrolling Aleutians. Still registered till 1949 with the University of Washington, though registered in 1948 in Ketchikan.
  • 1947 -1949 Possibly leased to J.H. Scott Co who operated the Riverside Tungsten and Lead Mine, as she was used by her during this time.
  • 1947, Feb.5 – Bob Ellis book, Peg’s scrapbook, pg. 77: Catalyst at Wrangell Narrows on way to Hyder.  Herb Anderson fell overboard and was revived. Skipper: Fred McKay, Cook: Bill Eastham  > Most likely Herb was on his way to the  Riverside Tungsten and Lead Mine that operated near Hyder, Alaska. Boat leased by J.H. Scott Co which operated the mine. Boat registered to University of Washington but located in Ketchikan.
  • 1949 Conversion completed.  (article: Pacific Motor Boat, Nov. 1949) Rededesigned by Frank E. Strickland, Seattle Naval architect, one of the original architects of the Catalyst.  J.H. Scott Co. of San Francisco operated the Riverside tungsten and lead mine near Hyder, Alaska. Catalyst registered in Ketchikan. Modified to take mining personnel and supplies north and to bring sacked tungsten ore from mine in Alaska to Puget Sound. Work done by Puget Sound Marina of Seattle. Aft and forward staterooms converted to cargo holds. Deckhouse cut off aft and extended forward to house an enlarged galley. Pilot house placed on top of new cabin extension. Stack raised. Berths for 11 passengers, captain and 2 crew members. Haul 60 tons of ore. Documented as a freight vessel of 94 gross and 64 net tons.  Registered in Ketchikan by the J.H. Scott Co.
  • 1949-1958 owned by J.H. Scott Co, which operated the Riverside Tungsten and Lead Mine.
  • 1951 Purchased by O.H. Freeman of Seattle.
  • 1959 Purchased by V. Ray Bennett
  • 1960-1961 Owned by Sea Samaritans, Inc.
  • 1962 Purchased by Jack. C. Ward, with a home port of Los Angeles.
  • 1962 Purchased by Jack W. Langley, home port of Coos Bay, OR. With family of six lived aboard and  travelled up and down coast to Mexico.
  • 1965 Purchased by J. R. Henderson of San Diego.
  • 1968 Purchased by  James E. Moffet of San Francisco who moored her at Jack London Square, Oakland. Here she was see by John and Marjorie (Kincaid) Illman on their 25th Wedding Anniversary. Name changed to NORTH SEA
  • 1968- Jan. 1987 CATALYST was renamed the NORTH SEA
  • 1969 Purchased by William P. Austin. Major refit.  Installed refrigeration equipment, rigged for long distance albacore fishing. Family lived aboard, cruising from Mexico to Northern Vancouver Island.
  • 1983 Registered to Scott McDonald and moored in Sacramento.
  • 1984, May – 1987 Purchased by Jack Buffum and Karen Shufelberger.  Refurbished her. Restored her name to CATALYST in January 1987. Lived aboard and cruised. Did extensive work to restore galley, a salon, and the stateroom.  Restored cabins and head and installed a shower.  Moored in Poulsbo, WA. “Offered to take paying passengers anywhere in the world.”
  • 1994, April 15th, purchased by Pete and Tracy Dellavalle and eleven backers after a presentation by Holly Wheeler to the Threshold Foundation to use boat for environmental charters. Tom George put in charge of restoration after a shakedown cruise in the San Juan Islands.
  • 1994 May 1st, $150,000 repairs and renovation in Port Hudson (Port Townsend), WA. Watertanks, bulkheads replaced (though upon examination the bulkheads were repaired but not restored). Staterooms and crews quarters redone. New bilge and fire pumps.  Tom Doran, in the engine room, stripped and rebuilt engine and supporting machinery. Electrical
  • Purchased along with business by Hugh Reilly who leased the Westward to Pacific Catalyst Expeditions, LLC.
  • 2005 March  Purchased along with business, Pacific Catalyst Expeditions, LLC,   from Hugh Reilly by Bill and Shannon Bailey, who in June continued the charter business, as Pacific Catalyst II, Inc. Purchased only the Catalyst. The Westward remained in the ownership of Hugh Reilly, who remodeled the Westward galley and rebuilt her hull and took her on a round the Pacific cruise for several years. Meanwhile the Catalyst had  Cabin 3 remodeled making the two single bunks into a double bunk. Redecorated. New dishes, etc., pictures. Salon and galley tables refinished.
  • Fall 2005 through Spring 2006, major remodel of pilot house and top deck. Exposed and expanded skylights. Extended pilot house to build new Cabin 6 with own head and shower. Cabin not finished that season but used by Captain. Tarped all winter while working on the boat. Top deck was completely redone. Took out door in salon and replaced with window, using door for Cabin 6. Added new freezer and refrigerator on forward deck over old cargo hold. New refrigerator in galley. Repainted galley and areas of salon. New metal railings built around pilot house and for stairs.
  • Fall 2006 through Spring 2007, new galley cushions, build buffet bar, rebuilt cabin 1 with own head and shower, finished head and shower in Cabin 6, and build head and shower in crew’s quarters. Adding trash compactor. Redid electrical and plumbing. New watermaker.
  •  Fall 2007 through Spring 2008. Redid more electrical and plumbing.  Rebuild pilot house bunk and steering station, installing new electronics and captain’s chair. Adding coffee/tea bar and sink in galley, hood for stove and new counter to hide trash compactor extending the counter in the galley next to the stove. Old water tank taken out from under the bunk in Cabin 4. Closet closed in properly in Cabin 2, with the clothes cupboards in Cabin 2 and 3 closed in. New lighting overhead to cover wires and pipes in below deck hall. Cabin 3 finished off and repainted. New stairs for front deck. Crew head and shower finished and crew quarters painted. Refinished salon walls and tables in salon and galley.




image001The Oceanographic Laboratories of the University of Washington, which since the 1920’s, has maintained a summer laboratory at Friday Harbor on San Juan Island, chartered Medea, a fishing vessel I the 1920’s and 1930’s. The first powered vessel used to collect maritime specimens was the launch Ha-Ha owned by Professor Trevor Kincaid, a co-founder of the laboratories. In the early 1930’s, the Oceanographic Laboratories obtained funds from the Rockefeller Foundation for the building and first five years of operation of a new research vessel. Rowland and Strickland, marine architects of Seattle, designed the vessel, which was named Catalyst. The Marine Digest of May 13, 1932, carried a short article titled “CATALYST to be launched today. Christened by little Miss Florence Guberlet, 11-year old daughter of Prof. John E. Guberlet of the University of Washington, the new $60,000 floating laboratory CATALYST will be sent down the ways from the plant of the Lake Union Dry Dock and Machine Works today. The CATALYST will be used by the Oceanographic Department of the University. She will be ready for her first cruise in June and will be commanded by Capt. C. T. Larsen. Professor Guberlet is in charge of zoological research in Oceanography at the University.”

According to the University, Catalyst was 75 feet long overall, 72 feet at the waterline, 18-foot beam, with a nine-foot draft. Her official number was 231686. Coast Guard records show her length as 68.2 feet, breadth 18.3 feet, and depth 10.5 feet, 91 gross, and 61 net tons. A Washington Estep diesel of 120 horsepower at 450 rpms gave a speed of a bit over eight knots. Fuel tanks totaling 2500 gallons gave a cruising range of 3500 miles. She had oak frames, with double planking of Alaska yellow cedar, with teak finish. The keel was of Douglas fir with a two-inch heel of Australian ironbark, which was also used to sheath two feet at the waterline. Engine controls were in the pilot house as well as in the engine room. She was fitted with a photo-electric type of automatic pilot, fathometer and radio direction finder, and had no radio. Her booms were heavy, with winches driven by a five-horsepower electric motor. On her port side, 2000 meters of 5/16 inch stainless steel cable was used for water sampling, using Nansen bottles, and also for plankton tows. The starboard winch had 600 meters of half-inch cable used for bottom dredging and core sampling.

Catalyst was based on Lake Union at the lower end of the University campus, and in the summer at the Oceanographic Laboratories at Friday Harbor. In addition to working Puget Sound and San Juan Island waters, she made several summer cruises to Alaska, one to San Francisco, and others off the Washington coast.

The laboratory in the main deckhouse offered facilities for the chemists and zoologists who were her main clients. Physicists, bacteriologists, botanists and meteorologists also used Catalyst’s facilities on occasion. She had accommodations for 16, six in the forecastle, one in the pilot house, and nine in four staterooms. The galley could accommodate eight at a sitting.

In 1940, her crew consisted of Capt. Christian T. Larsen, cook Louis Mortenson (both semi-retired seadogs who held their positions for several years) engineer Herb Chatterton, deckhand North Burn, and “scientific deckhands” Bob Wilson, Ralph Jentoft and the author (chemical deckhand), the latter five all college students.

Catalyst was laid up in May, 1942, due to World War II, and was requisitioned by the Coast Guard in 1944. She saw duty as CG 72002, armed with a 50-caliber machine gun and two depth charge racks. Coast Guard records show her as assigned to District 13, but she may also have seen service in Alaska.

After the war, Catalyst passed into private ownership, since the University had access to larger government vessels. PACIFIC MOTOR BOAT of November, 1949, had an article with an outboard profile and a below deck arrangement as prepared by Frank E. Strickland, Seattle Naval Architect, one of her original architects. At this time the vessel was owned by J.H. Scott Co. of San Francisco, who operated the Riverside tungsten and lead mine near Hyder, Alaska. Catalyst was registered in Ketchikan. She was considerably modified to haul sacked tungsten ore from mine to Puget Sound, and to haul mining personnel and supplies north. The work was done by Puget Sound Marina of Seattle. Her aft and forward staterooms were converted into cargo holds, her deckhouse was cut off aft and extended forward to house an enlarged galley. The pilot house was placed on top of the new cabin extension, and the stack was raised. In her new configuration she had berths for 11 passengers, captain and two crew members, and could haul 60 tons of ore. She was documented as a freight vessel of 94 gross and 64 net tons. By 1951 she was redocumented as a yacht.

Her next owner, in 1958, was O.H. Freeman of Seattle, followed by V. Ray Bennett in 1959, Sea Samaritans, Inc. in 1960 and 1961, and Jack C. Ward in 1962, all with a home port of Los Angeles. In 1962 her owner became Jack W. Langley, home Port Coos Bay. He and his family cruised extensively, especially to Mexico, then sold Catalyst to J.R. Henderson of San Diego in 1965.

By 1968, her name had been changed to Northsea, owned by James E. Moffat of San Francisco. (The author and his wife, the former Marjorie Kincaid, who had met aboard Catalyst, celebrated their 25th anniversary at a restaurant overlooking her moorage at Jack London Square, Oakland). In January, 1969, William P. Austin bought the vessel, and undertook a major refit, installing refrigeration equipment, and rigged her for long distance albacore fishing. His family lived aboard fishing and cruising from Mexico to northern Vancouver Island until early 1983, when they sold her to Scott McDonald, who moored her in Sacramento.

Her present owners (1989), Jack Buffum and Karen Shufelberger, bought her in May, 1984, refurbished her, and restored her name as Catalyst in January 1987. They now live aboard and cruise full time.

The summer of 1988 saw the 56-year-old vessel return on a cruise to her old home waters in Puget Sound, still powered by her original engine, and with her original name. She apparently has many more good years ahead of her.*

*Catalyst was purchased in 1994 by Tom George and a group of investors, who repaired and renovated her for the charter business, Pacific Catalyst Expeditions LLC, with an educational and environmental focus. In March of 2005 Catalyst and the business were purchased by Bill Bailey, who now have her home port as Friday Harbor, Washington, and are continuing the charter boat business started by Tom George and the others. Catalyst has come full circle, once again a boat of oceanographic exploration in the Pacific Northwest.