VALLEJO -- The USS Albacore never came to Mare Island, but its effect could be keenly felt in Vallejo as the former naval shipyard entered new waters in building and maintaining nuclear submarines.
So, Mare Island Museum volunteers were more than thrilled with the donation of a model of the USS Albacore created by renowned modeler Jerry Blair, of Aptos. Details of the 1950s-era submarine model are so fine they include the weathering effects of seawater.
Blair and Stephen Cuff, who worked on the USS Albacore while a ship's superintendent in Portsmouth, N.H., were on hand with nearly a dozen museum volunteers to take possession of the model.
Occupying a prominent spot, the model of the USS Albacore is among several displays the museum has built about subs, including the USS Drum.
"The Albacore was so important to atomic submarines built here on Mare Island. They were a precursor of the submarines we have now," Blair said.
In fact, Bruce Christiansen, Mare Island Historic Park Foundation board member, said the Albacore directly influenced Mare Island's building of the USS Permit and USS Plunger submarines in the late 1950s.
"I think this is a tremendous addition to our collection on submarines," Christiansen said. "It definitely fills out our collection nicely."
For years, the model has sat in Cuff's Concord office. He is chairman of Calex Manufacturing, Inc. He said he planned to keep it indefinitely, but a friend, Bob Mangoon, a Mare Island Museum volunteer, saw it and thought it would be a great addition to the collection.
Blair said he's actually built several models of the Albacore, including one on display at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard Museum. Hardly anything remains of the sub, so he said he had to rely on drawings and photos.
While Cuff said he will miss the one that sat in his office for years, he said he's glad he's close enough to come visit it at the Mare Island Museum whenever he wants.
Mare Island workers began building the Sargo, their first nuclear submarine, in 1955, and the shipyard became one of the few that built and overhauled nuclear subs. Building of these vessels ceased in 1972, but they did return to Vallejo for repair.