Official Number: 254923 Built: 1947 Length: 180' Beam: Draft: Propulsion: 800 HP Union diesel Speed: 12 knots
Auto Capacity: 40 cars
The M.R. Chessman seen near the Megler ferry landing. Author's collection.
The M.R. Chessman was named after Merle R. Chessman, member of the Highway Commission from April 8, 1943 to October 1, 1946. The Albina Engine and
Machine Works, Portland, Or., built the boat, for the state of Oregon, in 1947, and went into service April 1948.
The largest ferry on the route from Astoria to Megler, Washington, she ran from 1948 until August 1966, when the Columbia River Bridge opened. This ferry
was sold in 1966 and sent to Vietnam to serve as the HQ9602, stationed at Cat Lai, about 7 miles E. of Saigon. The American military handed over Cat Lai to
the South Vietnamese in 1971, selling off the HQ9602. It was then turned into a machine shop.
What became of the ferry after that is unknown. North Vietnam overran Saigon in 1975 and reunified the country, taking over the Cat Lai facility undamaged.
The Vietnamese navy had little use for the facility, basically using it as a storage area. Use of the facility continued to lessen, and finally the entire site was
bulldozed in the early 2000's to make way for a shipping container yard. Today, nothing of the Cat Lai seaplane bases exists, and it's very unlikely that there is
anything left of the old M.R. Chessman, either.
|At left, a postcard shot of the M.R. Chessman.
At right, the ferry as it looked in Vietnam.