Missionary family continues construction of barge on Tillamook Bay

The Ebels' barge moves from Old Mill Marina across Tillamook Bay toward Crab Harbor. (Photo by Kevin Greenwood)
The Ebels’ barge moves from Old Mill Marina across Tillamook Bay toward Crab Harbor. (Photo by Kevin Greenwood)

GARIBALDI, Ore. – A family of 12 living aboard a 40-foot-by-80-foot barge in Tillamook Bay’s Crab Harbor is preparing to embark on a Christian mission to Alaska. However, before they point their vessel toward the Pacific, they must finish building it.

Eddie and Denise Ebel and their 10 children launched their barge from the docks at Old Mill Marina, where it had been moored, and headed west into Tillamook Bay in late November, said Kevin Greenwood, manager of the Port of Garibaldi.

When the Ebels sought a place to moor their under-construction barge last spring, they initially approached the port, said Greenwood. However, “there were several reasons why we couldn’t assist them, the most important being that we simply didn’t have the space for a 1,600-square-foot barge.”

Several public officials who are concerned about the family’s safety, are keeping a close eye on the situation. “I am communicating with the state and attempting to determine what can be done regarding safety or reviewing what they must have regarding permits,” said Tillamook County Sheriff Andy Long. The United States Coast Guard recently told Long “they are unable to take action. We are monitoring the situation very closely.”

In their latest blog posts, published on Dec 5 and 6, the Ebels wrote:

“We certainly will be celebrating Christmas 2013 on the barge! It’s taken much longer than Eddie had wanted, but to God be the glory! We are here for such a time as this and God’s plans are always better than what we can ever come up with! We’ve enjoyed getting to know this community and be a part of a lot of special events. (Crab Races, Denise working at the Retirement home, Garibaldi Days, and so much more!) God has sent so many missionaries to God’s Lighthouse in Garibaldi – that has been such a blessing! We’ve been able to meet all sorts of missionaries from all over the world! We are here for such a time as this.

“It is a cold Saturday morning. The sun is up and the temperature outside is in the 20s. Thank the Lord, we have heaters and a fireplace and our living space is a warm cozy 60+ degrees. It is such a temperature change coming from inside and going outside. Albuquerque, where we came from was down to like 5 degrees yesterday. I am glad we have it much warmer up here on the Oregon Coast. The weather yesterday was supposed to snow and all we saw were a little snow flakes that were too cold to stick to anything and just blew away, or got stuck in little corners of stuff outside.

“CJ and I put up 2 windows and they are holding really well. We made a round port hole and a rectangle one so we could practice doing 2 different styles of windows, cuts and we even mounted them 2 different ways. I love this missions barge and that the entire thing is one giant school project to teach them all really useful and important life skills. We are planning on making a sun roof soon.”

According to their website, the Ebels moved to Garibaldi in the fall of 2012. They began assembling materials and building their barge at the Old Mill site shortly thereafter. Their goal is to use the barge to travel up and down the West Coast, spreading the Gospel and offering assistance in the form of construction labor for homes and churches along the way.

“I have had a calling in my heart that I have shared with my family for the past 20 years that I wanted to someday be in a situation to do God’s work, be mobile, and train the next generation of Christians,” wrote Eddie Ebel. “Once the barge is built and we have learned the ropes, here in Tillamook Bay, we will start our long journey North and go where the Lord leads us. We hope to have the barge filled with God’s servants and we will show up to make a huge impact on every community we come across.”

A former Washington State Emergency Operation Center employee, Eddie Ebel emphasizes that he is not an ordained minister. However, he hopes to see church services offered on the barge regularly once it is fully constructed.

The Ebels moved on to their barge in early September. “After 10 months of living in two trailers, we are all finally under one roof again!” wrote Denise Ebel in a Sept. 2 blog post. … “At this time, we do not have running water onboard, but are in the process of making that happen. We will collect rainwater in our four 55 gallon barrels and we have 3 water heaters, a water filtration system, and just purchased 2 utility sinks and supplies to build a homemade shower!!!”

Denise Ebel added, “Currently, we are living in a 12×60 ft. enclosed section. That section is divided into 4 main parts: 1) Tool/Construction Area, 2) Common Living Area, 3) Gigantic Bunk Bed for Ten, and 4) Parent’s Room. We have two marine grade port-o-potties and each has its own stall. We use inverters hooked up to marine batteries for electricity. We have a wood burning stove that we will soon be adding to the Common Living Area to provide heat throughout the winter. The galley has its own area, with a couple of propane stoves, plenty of storage, and its own port-o-potty.”

Christopher Castelli, senior policy analyst with the Oregon Division of State Lands said, “there are laws pertaining to transient living aboard a vessel on state-owned waterways, such as Tillamook Bay.”

Castelli cited Oregon Administrative Rule 141-082, which allows a vessel to occupy a state-owned waterway without official approval as long as it “is considered a transient use,” said Castelli. Since the Ebels’ barge is not a commercial vessel, “it may occupy Tillamook Bay for 30 days during a 12-month period, within a distance of five miles.”

Watch video of Eddie Ebel and his sons giving a tour of the barge-in-progress here.