This is the museum for PT-658, a WWII-era restored Patrol Torpedo Boat. This is a MUST-DO in Portland. This is literally the only PT Boat in the entire US that you can climb aboard and explore stem-to-stern on a regular basis - and it is readily accessible, with a little planning in the form of a phone call at least a week in advance of your visit. The PT boat has her own boathouse right within the grounds of Vigor Shipyard, and the boathouse opens to the Swan Island basin - leading right to the EXCELLENT Amphibious Forces Memorial Museum (LCI-713, an infantry landing craft from WWII). So, this museum and that of the adjacent LCI really go hand-in-hand despite being two separate non-profits. Plan accordingly! You really should see both (and I will do a separate review for the LCI). Here's some tips for visiting:
1. CALL ahead! There is a contact email address on the Save the PT Boat, Inc., website. They are open to the public on Mondays and Thursdays from 9am to 3pm - and Saturdays by reservation. Because the PT is only 78' long, space aboard is limited - and the boat is functional. So, call ahead, let them know what day you're wanting to visit, and they'll take it from there.
2. The gate to visit the PT boat is right across from the Peterbuilt at 5555 N. Lagoon Ave - what I did was use the Peterbuilt address for my GPS, then called the number on the gate (photo included in this review) when I arrived and waited for Jerry to come unlock the gate. You can wait either in the Peterbuilt parking lot, or you can park temporarily in front of the PT boat's shipyard gate - once they open the gate for you, you drive into the shipyard, turn right, and park right outside the PT boat's maintenance shed. I've included a labeled Google Earth map at the end of the photos in this review, hopefully some folks find that helpful.
3. Bring a camera! Everything is SO well restored - you'll want to document these rare spaces for sure.
4. Bring closed-toed, well-fitting shoes - to access the PT boat's interior, you have to navigate several steep staircases with 3-4 steps each, and the engine room and aft crew quarters are down vertical ladders. Note there is not air conditioning.
5. Plan on spending 3+ hours. As I said earlier, this really goes hand-in-hand with the landing craft museum next to the boathouse. You can opt not to do both and they'll go unlock the gate for you to drive out - but I don't really see a good reason to skip either vessel. Both are unique experiences and very special, each very different in their own right.
6. Be respectful! The PT is exquisitely restored - lots of little items have gone into this, including desalination packs, signaling mirrors, compasses, pictures, and other knick-knacks. While they're happy to let you handle the artifacts, let the crew lead the way - if they hand something to you, it's safe to handle. Otherwise, a good rule of thumb is to look but not touch. These things are not playgrounds - they are machines of war - and the oils from human hands does deteriorate them over time. If you bring kids, they certainly encourage interactive activities in the museum, but as a personal recommendation, I'd keep kids under close watch aboard the PT. They'll have a BLAST - just saying to respect the artifact is all. Plus, the boat is floating, and when other vessels pass outside, the wake does make the boat rock just slightly.
7. DONATE. There is no price of admission. It is a FREE attraction. But keep in mind, these organizations run on donations and volunteers. They have no full-time staff. The guys showing you the museums are volunteers. The guys doing repairs are volunteers. Again, these are unique vessels - support them however you can, be it a review like this one, or telling your friends to go visit, or donating (or, better yet, all three!). There is a donation box inside the boathouse, and a separate one for the landing craft over inside that ship. They are separate organizations.
I visited with my wife, and our guide arranged for some folks from his neighborhood and a friend from work to join since we went on a Saturday. I had contacted them two weeks in advance to ensure that would work - Saturdays are appointment-only days, and volunteers will be on the adjacent landing craft doing maintenance (gives it that real war-time feeling of constant chores, too). Overall our group was seven in total, plus our guide Jerry. That was a good number, many more and some of the smaller spaces would have been overcrowded. I hung at the end of the group so I could take pictures of the compartments in detail. Total tour of the PT was right at 2.5 hours, and some of that may have been extra since I probably slowed the group down with my incessant photography. Some folks opted not to go into the engine room or the aft crew's quarters based on how confined those spaces were, so food for thought. In general, I found the interior spaces to be small, but not overwhelmingly small - pretty much on-par with how cramped ship compartments usually are. Space comes at a premium, and is a luxury.
All-in-all, this was a day we will never forget. I took over 400 photos of PT-658 alone, 385 of which made it past the cutting room floor and into my photo collection for posterity. Everything was so well done - packed with detail, clean, polished, quality, and fascinating. The crew even fed us pizza and gave us water (you'll want water) between seeing the PT and touring the landing craft - not sure how normal that is, but their hospitality was above and beyond and I cannot sing their praises enough. The knowledge Jerry brought to his tour was extensive and thorough - I learned quite a bit from the anecdotes he shared, and picked up a book on the way out to read more about PT shenanigans from one of the guys who volunteers there