Drayton Harbor Maritime calls for assistance in effort to restore historic sailboat

Representatives from the US Coast Guard (USCG) inspect a 111-year-old sailboat formerly used at the Alaska Packers Association Diamond NN Cannery in Nanek, Alaska. Members of Drayton Harbor Maritime are hoping to restore the vessel to allow for the transport of small groups into the bay on educational tours. Pictured from l., Lt. JG Aaron Lee, Lt. Francis O’Brien, Lt. CWO-4 Steve Carlson and shipwright Steve Alaniz. Photo by Stefanie Donahue.

By Stefanie Donahue

Under the watchful eye of the US Coast Guard (USCG), members of Drayton Harbor Maritime (DHM) are continuing a years-long effort to restore a historic sailboat formerly used at the Alaska Packers Association Diamond NN Cannery in Nanek, Alaska.

The Trident Seafood Corporation donated the now 111-year-old Columbia River salmon boat to DHM in 2015. Since then, a handful of dedicated shipwrights and craftsmen have begun restoring the historic vessel to use for educational tours in the bay.

On January 13, three members of the USCG paid a visit to the restoration site to conduct one of several inspections scheduled to ensure the vessel adheres to strict safety standards prior to it entering the water once again.

The salmon boats set sail in Bristol Bay, Alaska as early as 1884 – an estimated 8,000 of the boats were built between 1884 and 1951 and now only a handful remain.

A 1900s-era Bristol Bay salmon boat. Photo courtesy of Richard Sturgill.

As work continues, DHM founding director Richard Sturgill said the team is currently accepting donations and volunteer assistance.

Shipwrights Steve Alaniz and Steve Ince have taken the lead on carpentry work on the historic vessel and still have work to do on what remains of the rot damage. Alaniz estimates they’ll need an additional $10,000 to complete the project, Sturgill said.

“The sailboat’s repair is much like an old house. The old boat we discovered, under more scrutiny, was more damaged from age and rot than what we first thought,” he said in a statement. “These necessary repairs had taken up more resources and time than our original budget had planned for.”

Costs aside, Sturgill remains grateful for the help he and his team have received thus far, whether it be in the form of an in-kind or monetary donation.

Norm Walsh of Walsh Marine has donated a space for them to work and thousands of dollars from community organizations have flooded in, including some from the Blaine-Birch Bay Parks and Recreation District 2 and the Semiahmoo Yacht Club, he said.

When the historic sailboat is back in the water, DHM members hope to lead educational tours that highlight traditional sailing techniques and expand on the area’s maritime heritage. If the team receives the proper approval from the USCG to operate the vessel commercially, they expect to be able to transport about 12 passengers per trip for a small fee.

DHM is a nonprofit organization. To donate or inquire about volunteering, contact Richard Sturgill at 360/332-5742.

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