Restoration of donated Bristol Bay boat underway

Published on Wed, Dec 4, 2013 by Brandy Kiger Shreve

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With its 29-foot hull now housed safely inside a steel-framed tent at Walsh Marine, Drayton Harbor Maritime Museum (DHM) volunteers can begin the first phase of the lengthy restoration process intended for the Diamond NN No. 59, a recently donated double-ended Bristol Bay sailboat.

“We have enough money to have the boat looking really good for the Fourth of July parade,” said Richard Sturgill, founding 
director of the DHM. “We’ve started sanding the paint off, but didn’t want to do any more work until it was covered – we wanted a really good environment to work on it out of the weather.”

The boat, originally built in Astoria, Oregon, is made of Port Orford cedar, a unique species of tree that grows in a small area of Oregon and California.

Sturgill said these boats were originally built in the 1860s for use in California fisheries, but eventually became so popular with the canneries on the Columbia River that they became known as 

Columbia River salmon boats.

For decades, these small open sailboats trawled the waters along the western U.S. coast with gillnets in search of salmon. The sturdy, double-ended boats were characteristic of the booming salmon-packing industry that monopolized waters during a time when federal regulations kept motorized vessels out of the fishing grounds. 

Also known as Bristol Bay sailboats, they were used by canneries all along the coast, and were leased out to fishermen every season.

Trident Seafoods donated this particular boat to the DHM in October. 

When finished, it will quite possibly be the last of its kind to be fully outfitted and seaworthy, Sturgill said. 

Restoration will be a two-phase process, with the first phase making the boat presentable and intact for the parade. “We’ll have the mast up and the sails on it, and it will look just like it did in 1906. But from the waterline down, the planks and frames will still need to be replaced,” Sturgill said, referring to phase two of the project which will make the boat seaworthy again. “It’s a whole lot of work and has to be done all at once.” 

Sturgill said the DHM plans to include the boat as part of the museum’s programming. “Once we have it restored and 
seaworthy, the Diamond NN No. 59 will be available for charters as part of DHM’s maritime heritage fishing vessel interpretation program and other sailing programs sponsored by the DHM’s sailing school,” Sturgill said. “We hope to have it in the water five months out of the summer.”

To pay for the restoration, the DHM has initiated a capital fundraising campaign that will allow interested donors to purchase a plank to help with the costs of the restoration and allow for corporate sponsorships once the boat is seaworthy. 

“We’re offering corporations and individuals an opportunity to help,” he said, noting that it will cost $500 for the purchase, fit and installation of each plank by a shipwright. Sponsors will have their names engraved on a bronze plaque. 

Donations from corporate sponsors will help pay for moorage and those who contribute will have their corporate logo printed on the sails of the boat. 

“We’re making progress,” Sturgill said.

A dedicated account for the Diamond NN No. 59 has been established at Washington Federal Bank on H Street in Blaine for those who wish to donate. 

For more information on how to become a sponsor, contact Sturgill at 360/332-3062.