Officials, family discuss historic boat restoration

Published on Thu, Dec 18, 2003 by Rebecca Schwarz Kopf

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Officials, family discuss historic boat restoration

By Rebecca Schwarz Kopf

A local fishing family and city of Blaine officials are working to establish a restoration project that would turn one of Blaine�s oldest fishing vessels into a local floating museum and they are seeking the community�s help in making it happen.

Community development director Terry Galvin and long-time resident Jan Hrutfiord are discussing the possibility of turning the Dakota vessel � a 100-ton, 72-foot long commercial fishing boat built in Blaine in 1944 � into a floating museum detailing the fishing and nautical history of the Blaine community and its people.

�Jan and I sort of brainstormed the concept and we wanted to get the city involved, but it would be citizen-based,� Galvin said, noting it has been pondered about for a couple of years. �We want to use the facilities primarily as a nautical museum. I think we all agree Blaine has some deep roots in fishing.�

Hrutfiord�s father, Eyther Westman, asked Andrew Berg of Berg Shipyards to build him a boat in 1944 � upon completion, this vessel would make history in Blaine.

�It was a completely new radical design,� Hrutfiord said, noting it�s whaleback style, complete with a high bow and extra deck. �The old fishermen would say �Eyther, that thing�s gonna tip over.� But it never went over,� she said.

Hrutfiord�s son, Brad, recalls the story of it being built. �Berg had the dimensions on a sheet of paper, and Grandpa asked him to double it,� he said, laughing. �It was an incredibly heavy boat and for its time, there was nothing like it.�

The Dakota has stayed in the Hrutfiord family, and until now, was always fishing somewhere. It spent much of its time bottomfishing in Alaska, but also sailed off the coast of California tuna fishing, and even unsuccessfully attempted crabbing one year. Just recently, the boat�s fishing license was sold, and now the boat cannot perform any fishing activities, including sport fishing.

�So now we have to find a home for it, or we have to destroy it,� Hrutfiord said. �She cannot ever fish again.�

This means, Galvin said, the Dakota faces a death sentence if it�s not resurrected via the planned project. �In many ways, the Dakota is an icon for fishing in Blaine,� he said. �This is a call to save the Dakota.�

In addition to plans for constructing the vessel into a floating museum, the family and city officials are hoping the still-standing Dakota Fisheries facilities could also be used in the project.

�Essentially we�ve got a boat, a dock and a building,� Galvin said. �There is real value for this facility - really it�s the only building on Marine Drive with a dock. It would be perfect.�

It is hoped that a non-profit organization can be established in the near future to convert the vessel, dock and building into a nautical museum project; however the community is key to building that effort, Galvin said.

�We invite anyone who is interested in the creation of this nautical museum to call me,� he said. �If we have enough interest, we�ll then get together for a meeting of the minds. I believe with enough community support, we can do this.�

In addition, the nautical museum can tie into the city of Blaine�s boardwalk plans to connect downtown to the fishing pier via Marine Park and other trails.

As far as the potential costs for the restoration project, there are no estimates as of yet. �The cosmetics need to be taken care of,� Hrutfiord said, adding the boat itself is in good shape.

Anyone interested in learning more about the project, should contact Terry Galvin at the city of Blaine�s community development office at 332-8311 or email TGalvin@cityofblaine.com.

�In Blaine, a bazillion people worked on that boat,� Bjorn Hrutfiord said. �I�ve talked with all kinds of people who have a connection to that boat.�

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