Nearly eight decades after she was finished and fitted for service, a U.S. Army tugboat has at long last returned to home waters on Lake Beresford — though she stopped short of the intended mooring site.
The ST 479, also affectionately known at the Tiger, is stuck to the muddy bottom of the lake, having run aground Sunday, July 9, on the last segment of her long voyage from northern Europe to her origin in West Volusia. At least the boat is secured, according to Dan Friend, president of the DeLand Historical Trust and the chief proponent of bringing the historic vessel home close to where she was built and launched in 1944.
“We’re just going to wait until the water comes up,” Friend told The Beacon. “It might be a week. It might be in September.”
“We have anchors. She’s perfectly upright,” he added.
Friend added the Tiger has a 7 ½-foot draft, referring to the depth of the vessel’s hull from the waterline downward. To free the vessel and enable its movement to a more favorable mooring site, the water should be deeper than 7 ½ feet.
The Tiger moved southward from Palatka on the St. Johns River to the west bank of the river near the State Road 44 bridge on the morning of July 9. Where the 200-ton historic craft will be displayed is still unknown.
“I don’t have a final site,” Friend said.
Possibilities include creating a static display at Ed Stone Park, west of DeLand; mooring the Tiger on Lake Beresford, at or close to the site of the American Machinery factory where she was built; and even Alexander Point, a 170-acre site recently purchased by the City of DeBary, where the St. Johns makes a sharp turn from west to north.
“Whatever we do is going to be a logistical nightmare,” Friend said, adding he hopes he does not have to rent cranes to physically lift the boat out of the channel and enable her to move northward to a location farther north on Lake Beresford.
Thus far, Friend estimates the effort to save and repatriate the Army tugboat, which saw action in Western Europe, has cost at least $270,000. Most of the cost has been covered by donations. Friend found the Tiger at a marina in Stockholm in 2021. He set to work to bring the aging tugboat back to DeLand as a reminder of the area’s involvement in the U.S. effort to win World War II.