WWII tugboat’s DeLand homecoming faces another delay

DeLand Historic Trust Inc. says boat is stuck in mud

VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. – A historic World War II tugboat’s journey home to DeLand, where it was built, now faces another delay.

Dan Friend, with the DeLand Historic Trust Inc., said the ST479 Tiger has settled down into the mud in the St. Johns River in Astor.

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On Tuesday, the city commission started discussions about where the boat could go once it’s finally back in DeLand, floating some ideas about putting it in a park along the river. Nothing has been decided yet, though, as the boat sits outside of Jacksonville waiting to come home.

Friend, who has made it his mission to move the 140-ton boat back to DeLand, said attempts to move the boat this weekend were unsuccessful.

“I just spoke with our Captain Bob Costa who informed that after a day of effort on top of previous attempts, that ST479 Tiger has settled down into the mud on a ledge where she is in Astor, and it will probably take either fairly expensive help, like another tugboat, or the river rising naturally in the fall to move her,” Friend wrote.

News 6 has spoken to Friend before about his efforts to bring the boat back to where it was built in a factory in Lake Beresford in 1944.

ST 479 “Tiger” is moored at the end of Pier 1 at Green Cove Springs in Clay County, just south of Jacksonville. Dan Friend, standing on its deck, drill in hand, has plenty of work to do before it will move again.

“More than likely, it was built in time to serve in Normandy to help the invasion effort, to build the Mulberry docks off the coast of Normandy beach that were so vital, so crucial, to our victory at the Normandy invasion,” Friend said.

Friend said the tugboat spent years in Sweden, where it was moored. In 2022, it finally returned stateside thanks to a $200,000 anonymous donation that paid for its transport to Jacksonville. Friend hoped he could bring the boat home on her own power.

He said the river just dropped a bit too much over the past few weeks, which is why she’s now stuck in Astor.

It took years of work for a group of history buffs in Volusia County, but finally, a World War II-era tugboat that was built in DeLand is now back in the U.S.

Friend said the plan for now is to move the boat when the rains hit later on this year. In the meantime, the boat is safe and out of the way on the St. Johns River.

The boat’s homecoming, which was initially scheduled for last November, was initially postponed due to Hurricanes Ian and Nicole.

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About the Author:

Catherine, born and raised in Central Florida, joined News 6 in April 2022.