History of CROD
of Terry, later Mamook
Marine Const. Co.
The ERRIA Fire,
River Maritime Museum
Gallery 3 Old
Gallery 5 Merrimac
Cruise to Bonneville
Little Austin Seven
The Dyer Legacy
Joseph M. Dyer
(Ed. Note: This warm and anecdotal biography of
Joe Dyer was written by Joe's son Tom. It is excerpted with permission
from Tom's manuscript.)
Joseph M. Dyer creating
the Columbia River One Design, 1934
Joseph M. Dyer was born in 1898, in South Bend, Washington,
the son of a pioneer sawmill family. When
he was a small child his family moved to Astoria, Oregon, to a home overlooking
the Columbia River. Joe’s father
was the manager of the Clatsop Mill, a large facility on Scow Bay.
Scow Bay was a shallow bay dividing Astoria from its upriver appendage
known as Uppertown.
Joe fell in love with boats, and at a very young age built
his first boat out of a salmon packing crate.
He made friends with other boys who were so inclined, in particular Acme
(Ac) and Clair Mansker. The boys spent many hours around the various waterfront
activities, especially Tim Driscoll’s boat shop. Tim’s father had been an English seaman, his mother a local
Native American. Tim’s father had
taught him how to build boats, and he shared much of his knowledge with Joe and
the Mansker boys.
Joe was propelled into adulthood at fourteen when his
father died, leaving his mother, Annie, with three children. He began working on the beach seining grounds in the Columbia
River. When he was 18 he joined the Navy Reserve, just in time to be called up
for World War I duty. He spent the
war on the USS Goldsborough on the Washington coast, where he was trained, and
in turn trained other recruits.
After the war Joe enrolled at Oregon Agricultural College,
now Oregon State University, where he studied Mechanical Engineering on an
Oregon program that foretold WWII’s GI Bill.
He continued working on the seining grounds in the summers.
After college he returned to Astoria as an engineer, designing buildings
to replace those lost in the disastrous Astoria fire of 1922.
Meanwhile he and the Manskers dreamed of opening their own boat yard.
Joe and the Mansker
brothers tried their hand at the shipbuilding business with a venture they
called Astoria Shipbuilding. This first attempt resulted in the
acquisition of the first bit of property that was to grow to accommodate Joe's
second and more successful company, Astoria Marine Construction Company (AMCCO).
During these early years, Joe lived in a cottage at the
shipyard with Brian Ross, until his marriage
in 1929 to Genevieve (Geno) Thompson. After
their wedding, they lived with Joe's mother Annie for five years while Joe completed a larger
house across the road from AMCCO.
Life with Joe
Joe Dyer was first and
foremost an artist. His medium was
wooden boats, and a somewhat compulsive perfectionism drove him.
This perfectionism stemmed from both his artistic pride, and from his
knowledge that a well built boat could perform difficult tasks well.
He knew that a poorly built boat might fail its owner and certainly would
not last. Joe was well known for
demanding that any less than perfect job be redone, even when it was only a
matter of appearance such as the alignment of deck plugs.
Although everyone around
him understood his perfectionism, when once asked, “How did you inspire your
employees to do such high quality work?” Joe did not seem to understand the
question. After some thought he
said, “They were all such fine craftsmen, I only let them do what came
naturally. In fact I sometimes had
difficulty convincing them not to spend too much time making things just
right”. Apparently Joe and his
people were meant for each other.
Joe had a quick temper,
quick to rise and equally quick to subside. When really angry, he raised
profanity to an art form; but his cussing was always aimed at inanimate objects,
or the world in general, never at individuals.
It was his way of blowing off steam.
His chief naval architect in later years, Heine Dole, tells of the day he
and Joe got in a row. Joe said
“Dole you’re fired”; Heine said, “The hell I am, I quit”.
Joe stormed out of the
engineering office, slamming the door with such force as to break its window.
Heine heard him storm down the 14 steps from the office to the shop
below, and then heard him retrace the 14 steps back up. He put his head through
the broken window and said, “Don’t forget, Geno’s expecting you for dinner
tonight.” He was already over his anger and ready to get on with the
plans for the day.
While his employees learned
to duck when Joe was angry, which in fact was seldom, they had the utmost
respect for him. Most earnestly believed he could do their job better than they
could. This was a legend Joe was
happy to let stand. To be sure he
had worked on the tools in the early days, but more importantly he understood
what it took to do a job right. Joe
never thought of himself as being fundamentally any different than his
employees. He had the utmost
respect for their skills, and for their dignity and worth as human beings.
He approached each of them
as a friend, treated them very fairly, and in 40 years never had a strike.
Whenever a union agitator made himself known, the old timers made a
practice of explaining how well they were treated, and how very unkindly they
would feel toward anyone who disturbed that relationship.
Even when he was president of a company employing over 1000 men, he was
known simply as Joe. He did however
begin wearing a necktie, under is bib overalls.
He never had an office, just a corner desk in the engineering department.
Of course the depression
made it possible for those who had money to have yachts built at very reasonable
prices. Joe took enthusiastic
advantage of this fact. Although
many people did not know it, he was a fundamentally shy man.
He hated pushing himself on to others, but knew he had to do it to
survive. He and Geno (who was very
outgoing, and thus his perfect helpmate) began visiting all the yacht clubs
anywhere near Astoria. This, plus advertising in magazines like Pacific Motor Boat,
paid off, first in repair work, and then in design and construction contracts.
In 1934, Joe was approached by a group of Portland sailors
known as the Columbia River Yachting Association. They wanted him to design a boat especially suited for the
Lower Columbia River. She was to be
a one-design class boat to encourage racing, but was also to be a family
cruiser. She was to have low
freeboard to facilitate swimming and fishing; with shoal draft and a centerboard
to accommodate the river’s many sandbars; a galley, head, and room to sleep 4
to 6 people; and she was to be simple enough to build in a back yard.
She had to be stable and safe to handle the lower river’s strong summer
nor'westers, and she had to be able to jump a gillnet.
This was a challenge Joe relished. It called on all his experience, not just as a naval
architect, but also as a kid from Scow and Youngs Bays.
The result was the 28’ Columbia River One Design, affectionately know
as a CROD.
All the requirements were met, even if sleeping four (never
mind six) required a great deal of cooperation and friendship, and even if the
cook had to stand with his or her head and shoulders out the large trunk cabin
hatch. The boats were meant to be
an “everyman’s” boat, and they were.
They were an immediate success.
Joe was now an established yacht designer and builder.
During the ‘30s, his yard was commissioned to build several boats.
(See Astoria Marine Construction Company
page of this website)
In February 1941 Joe Dyer flew to Washington, DC for a
builder’s conference with the Navy, Gibbs and Cox (the designers), and
shipyards interested in building wooden minesweepers, YMS’s. AMCCO had only
enough money for a one-way airfare, figuring if they got the contract Joe would
fly home, if they did not, he would return by train or bus.
At the relatively young age of 42, and representing a small
town in Oregon virtually unknown in Washington, Joe ventured forth.
But while he was shy regarding most subjects, he was passionate regarding
wooden shipbuilding. In New York he
was in the company of the famous east coast yards such as Luders and Nevins. But just as he treated his employees as equals, he treated
the Navy and the great names as equals as well.
He quoted a conversation with a Capt. Phillip Lemler
Capt. Lemler: “What do you know about
Joe: “I know plenty about
Lemler: "What the hell do you
have to work with?"
Joe: “I’ve got men who can
build boats in their sleep."
The contract was awarded to AMCCO. (See Astoria
Marine Construction Company page of this website)
One of the duties of a shipyard owner during these years
fell heaviest on Geno. There were
always crews arriving to take the new ships off to war.
It was expected, and in fact just common courtesy, to entertain the
officers, and their families if they were in Astoria.
Fortunately Geno was a very social person, and although it was often very
hard work, she relished it. She
purchased several sets of Franciscan “apple” pattern china, more glasses,
and what ever else she needed and could afford, and began to entertain as much
as she was able to do.
In 1940 she and Joe and Tommy were still in the house
across the street from the shipyard. Although
larger than the cottage Joe had shared with Brian Ross, it was small: a large
“keeping room” that served as kitchen, dining room, and living room; a
bedroom and bath, and a small addition for Tommy.
Things really got cramped when Dave Thompson arrived to
work on the CVE’s. Dave was
Geno’s brother, and given the wartime housing shortage, the only thing to do
was for Dave, and his wife and two young children, to move with the Dyers.
A hurriedly built garage and shop were added to the house (in fact to
store the Thompson family furniture and belongings) and the attic was converted
into the Thompson bedroom. A search
was then initiated for other more spacious quarters.
Finally a large house in Astoria, suitable for conversion
to a duplex came on the market, and the Dyers and Thompsons moved in to Astoria.
The move was desirable for other reasons as well.
For years AMCCO worker had walked across the street to ask Joe a question
if he was not available in the yard. Now
the plant was operating three shifts, and even the graveyard workers
occasionally came with a question. It
was time to move.
Joe inspecting the Trask,
a 70' fishing boat designed by Heine Dole, 1945
(See Astoria Marine
Construction Company page of this website for more detail on the TMS
construction program of AMCCO during WWII, and the subsequent minesweeper
program during the Korean conflict.)
In the spring of 1947 Joe decided he had earned a rest and
he, Geno, and their son Tommy, moved in with Joe’s sister in Honolulu for a
three-month vacation. A
three-month absence made Joe realize that he could now do other things besides
He had been active in some community activities, in the
past, particularly the Astoria Regatta. The
regatta was more than a boat race, it was Astoria’s trademark civic
celebration, featuring a queen a parade, parties, as well as fish boat races,
towboat tugs-of -war, outboard hydroplane races, and of course sailing races
with a heavy representation of CRODs.
One day Joe was complaining to friends about the condition
of Oregon state politics. Someone
suggested he run for the state legislature, which he did successfully.
He served two terms in Salem (1948-1952), and became well known for his
staunch support of the fishing industry, in particular demanding that all dams
on the Columbia River be equipped with fish ladders.
Geno knew how fearful he was of public speaking, and quietly cried with
pride when he gave his maiden speech on the floor of the Oregon House of
Service in the legislature, and learning public speaking,
had placed him in a position of civic leadership he never again left:
United Way Chairman, recipient of Astoria’s First Citizen Award, first
chairman of the Oregon State Marine Board (charged with overseeing state
regulations governing pleasure boat activity), founding member of the Columbia
River Maritime Museum, to name a few of his civic accomplishments.
In the late 50’s Joe began to think of slowing down a bit
himself. In 1957 he again took an
extended vacation, this time spending a summer cruising Puget Sound and Lower
British Columbia aboard the Merrimac.
One aspect to Joe’s career that gave him real pleasure
were the good friends he made across the country as a result of the various
boats he built. Whenever he
traveled he would stop and pay them a visit.
They included some of the best known naval architects in the country,
among them were: Phil Rhodes, Bill Luders, Walter McGinnis, H.C. Hanson, George
Nickum, and Gordon Snyder.
The glory days of wooden shipbuilding sadly was destined to
end. The forests no longer could
supply enough beautiful clear, tight vertical grain, wood necessary.
The men who had learned their trade in World War I were all retiring.
Steel and fiberglass were proving themselves to be excellent materials
for the construction of workboats and yachts.
The building of wooden ships was over, survived only by a small custom
yacht construction business in a few centers such as Port Townsend, WA. or down
east in Maine. Joe knew it was time
He had no interest in learning steel or fiberglass boat
building. Tom was pursuing a career
in naval architecture, and was too young to take over the company.
But Joe felt a firm loyalty to his employees, and to his repair customers
along the Lower Columbia. He knew
the thing to do was to sell the operation to a group of his key employees, at a
price they could afford.
A new chapter
After nearly 40 years at the helm, Joe turned over the
reins of AMCCO to a group of his employees. He remained available as a
consultant, and kept some choice lumber stock and a small engineering office in
the upstairs office that had once been the cottage he shared with Brian Ross.
He and Geno began to enjoy retirement.
Joe did build one more yacht. Ed Ross, an advertising executive, who had retired to his
hometown of Astoria wanted Joe to build the Mary Carol, a motor yacht.
He contracted with Joe and AMCCO to do the job.
They set up an area in the former AM glue shop, and AMCCO workers under
the direction of shipwright Ron Larsen, built the boat.
Joe did the lofting, and was on the job most days lending advice, Ed Ross
came most days too, and the coffee pot was always on.
Joe’s health began to fail in 1969.
His activities were increasingly curtailed.
He did get to Seattle occasionally, where he visited Ac Mansker, H.C.
Hanson, and Tom, who was building steel boats at Marco Shipyard in Seattle. Tom and his family made frequent trips to Astoria as well.
Joe died in 1974. Geno continued living in Astoria until her death in 1983.
Thomas R. Dyer
Below is bio information on Thomas R. Dyer, Joseph's son, who
lives and works in Seattle. Tom contributed an article in the History of
CROD section of this website, and, through years of hands-on experience, is an
authority on the construction, maintenance and sailing of CRODs.)
Biographical Sketch of Thomas
Tom Dyer has remained close to his family's vocation throughout
his career. For many years, he owned, maintained and piloted
CROD #10 that his father named for him, the Tom Tom.
Today, he heads a marine consultancy firm, Headway
Marine, LLC, in Seattle. He provides consultancy support
to large marine projects and serves as an expert witness in
marine-related legal disputes.
up in his father's shipyard, Astoria Marine Construction Company,
in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford
as a naval reserve officer
in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering from MIT.
Scholarship to study in Holland
naval service, Tom worked his way through the shipbuilding ranks
as a naval architect, estimator, superintendent, project manager,
new construction program manager, shipyard general manager, and
finally as president and owner of a small yard. He has also served
briefly as a principal in a leading naval architecture firm, and
was engineering vice president for a heavy lift contractor. He
holds a Professional Engineer's license in Naval Architecture and
has overseen the construction of 28 steel and aluminum vessels,
and supervised numerous vessel repairs and major conversions.
He has managed heavy industrial construction projects and the
lifting, transport, and sea-fastening of oversized marine cargos.
His projects have involved all aspects of shipyard operations and
business, as well as the engineering, construction, conversion and
maintenance of fishing vessels, tugs, barges, ferries, pilot
boats, sailing and powered pleasure craft, and of aluminum, wood,
and steel hulls. With 50 years of experience in operating and
maintaining wooden pleasure boats, both sail and power, Tom has
made voyages in sailboats, fishing vessels, tugs, pilot boats, and
naval and merchant ships.