Boat building resurfaces in Blaine

Published on Thu, Nov 13, 2003 by Rebecca Schwarz Kopf

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Boat building resurfaces in Blaine

By Rebecca Schwarz Kopf

In what is hoped to be a harbinger of the future, a large commercial ship has slipped off the ways. Westman Marine, tucked away near the end of Marine Drive, put Georgia Lee in the water last Saturday, after she spent nearly a year and a half coming to life.

Built by Bob Gudmundson � and a few good men � the Georgia Lee stands at 70 feet long, 23 feet wide, and weighing more than 200 tons. She�ll be used as a charter boat in Alaskan waters, and running on a Cummins QSK 19 motor, complete with 660 horsepower.

�I had a lot of fun building the boat, we had the right people, and it makes my job really easy,� Gudmundson said.

Those people, he said, include Norm Walsh �who probably grew up on the shipyard. He�s very dependable and very knowledgeable,� Gudmundson said.

�Coming from a big shipyard � there were over 200 people there � and coming to a small shipyard like this, where we have about 10 people, and being able to hire, good, qualified people that I can depend on, that was great,� he said.

The big shipyard Gudmundson referred to is the now defunct Dakota Creek Shipyards, of which he used to be an employee. And the place where he built the biggest boat of his career � a 280-foot vessel named Starbound.

Gudmundson started in the boat building profession during his mid-20s, after four years in the Air Force. �If I had a job with an income, that was good,� Gudmundson said.

He has built an array of boats, including, crab, skiff and tug boats. �When you have a larger shipyard, you have more people,� he said. adding he�s also learned a lot from people. �Carl Berg. He was a fine boatbuilder. He could walk by and tell you something was crooked. even if it was an eighth off. I learned a lot from him.�

In September of 1999, after Dakota Creek Shipyards went under, Gudmundson said he �retired.� Soon after though, his retirement was up, as Westman Marine co-owner Jack Dawson was interested in having a boat built.

�He wanted to build this boat,� Gudmundson said, �and he wanted quality. So somehow we worked it out and built it.�

Although the boat won�t be leaving for Alaska until April sometime, it�s now in the water and Gudmundson will take the boat out on a sea trial sometime soon, for about four to eight hours. �We need to make sure everything works right, and it�s all functioning properly,� he said.

�Very pleased,� Dawson said, when asked about the outcome of his new boat. �Very pleased.�

So where did the name Georgia Lee come from? Apparently from a financially-sound Alaskan prostitute who did well enough that she owned several businesses.

As for doing well in business, could boat building be on the rise in Blaine? �For pleasure boats, yes,� Gudmundson said. �As for commercial, no.�

Westman Marine now has several inquiries about boat building, most of them for pleasure boats. �Now that the boat has been built, people can come along and see that a boat was built,� Gudmundson said.

One of the next projects Westman Marine will tackle is the boat Tern, a smaller vessel docked right outside. �It will be widened three feet on each side,� Gudmundson said. �It�s a pretty good job.�

In addition to boat building, Gudmundson is also responsible for the hydrabull, a mechanical bull that helps train horses. After creating four prototypes, he�s sold seven bulls so far, at a cost of $17,000 each. There is currently an infomercial in the works that will air on an equine-related channel on the dish. For more information, check out www.hydrabull.com.

When asked if he is building anything else, he smiled and said no. But he was thinking...

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