Just what exactly that odd-looking gray ship docked east of the Samoa Bridge along Eureka’s barren Waterfront is is likely to have crossed the minds of more than a few residents over the years.

The curious will soon get a chance to tour the vessel in the spring following the official transfer of the 200-ton World War II-era troop transport and beach landing craft ship from area doctor Ralph Davis to the Humboldt Bay Naval Sea/Air Museum.

The 158-foot-long and 24-foot-wide LCI(L)-1091, which stands for Landing Craft Infantry Large, is the last of its kind in operation out of the nearly 1,000 that were built.

Although Davis announced the donation of the ship to the Humboldt Bay Naval Sea/Air Museum during a National LCI Association gathering in Eureka in June, the ship was transferred to the museum in a ceremony Friday on Woodley Island.

Purchased by Davis from an Alaskan fisherman in 1988, the ship had been used since the 1960s as a salmon processing and canning ship on the Yukon River.

With a few modifications, Davis turned the LCI(L)-1091 into perhaps the most formidable and certainly the most unusual albacore fishing vessel around.

Davis said it was fitting that the ship should end up as a museum piece since it served in two wars, made the transition to the fishing industry and had become the flagship of the National LCI Association.

The LCI(L)-1091 participated in one of the bloodiest battles and the largest amphibious invasions in the Pacific campaign on the island battle of Okinawa.

The battle to capture Okinawa saw more than 30 allied ships and craft sunk and more than 12,000 Americans killed.

Before it was decommissioned in 1955, LCI(L)-1091 was used as a medical ship in the Korean War and for transport purposes at the Bikini Atoll nuclear tests of the late 1940s and 1950s.

Although the shallow-draft vessel, which could deliver its cargo of 200 fully equipped soldiers onto the beach, wasn’t designed for high speeds, comfort or fishing, Davis said “she rides pretty well.”

“If you’re bucking into heavy winds, you have got to slow down because she’ll pound the daylights out of you,” Davis said.

Even though Davis has been captain of the LCI(L)-1091 for the past 20 years and has used the ship for his yearly August albacore fishing trips, he said he wasn’t sad to see it go because it will remain close by.

Leroy Marsh, project manager for the Humboldt Bay Naval Air/Sea Museum, said right now the organization is trying to gain publicity and raise awareness in the community that the ship will soon be ready for public viewing.

“We hope that it will be moved to a permanent, more accessible location in the spring,” Marsh said.

The ship’s current mooring location east of the Samoa Bridge doesn’t allow easy access except by another boat.

Although the ship will likely remain docked most of the time at its permanent home — wherever that ends up being — possibilities for the LCI(L)-1091 include sight-seeing and whale-watching excursions.

Other plans include staging a full-on beach landing on a Crescent City beach and navigating the vessel on the approximately 30-hour trip to the Bay Area to participate in San Francisco’s annual Fleet Week event, a U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard tradition of military demonstrations and air shows by active duty ships and aircraft.

“We have to put (the ship) back into original condition — as close as possible anyway,” said Don Hanner, the treasurer and a board of directors member for the museum group.

Hanner said plans are already in the works to purchase and restore five original equipment 20mm guns and “gun tubs,” which are currently in Texas.

Before the guns can be purchased and shipped, the sale has to be approved by the Association of Historic Naval Ships, which oversees the Humboldt Bay Naval Air/Sea Museum organization.

“One of our top priorities is to get it Coast Guard certified,” Hanner said.

As part of the certification process, the ship must be inspected by the Coast Guard to ensure that the ship is seaworthy and capable of handling visitors.

In addition, the LCI(L)-1091 will have to be moved to a boat repair yard to have the bottom scraped and inspected for “soft spots” before it can be repainted, Hanner said.

The ship will also be made wheelchair accessible.