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Story last updated at 9:58 PM on Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Boat of the week: Bristol Bay double-ender

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff Writer


A Bristol Bay double-ender, is featured during the 18th annual Kachemak Bay Wooden Boat Festival,

How better to wrap up this year's "Boat of the Week" feature than with a page out of Alaska's history? The 29-foot Bristol Bay double-ender currently being refinished for the Pratt Museum by Dave Seaman, president of the Kachemak Bay Wooden Boat Society, fits the bill.

Double-enders get their name from what appears to be two bows. They were built by professional boat builders in Washington and California between 1880 and 1930. The vessels had sails, were owned by canneries and were used to fish for Bristol Bay salmon until 1951.

This vessel also is the featured boat during Kachemak Bay Wooden Boat Society's 18th annual festival, Sept. 9-12. Fishing in sailboats such as this one is the subject of "Windfall Fishing in Bristol Bay" and "Great Age of Salmon," two of several films to be shown during "High Seas" movie night at the Homer Theatre Sept. 10. It also is the focus of fishermen's comments at the Pratt Museum Sept. 11.

"There's a lot could be learned from these old boats," said Seaman, who has spent the summer researching the boat's past, stripping paint from the boat's wooden hull and making repairs.

The double-enders were owned by canneries. Lacking engines, they were towed to the fishing grounds by what was called a "monkey boat."

"The canneries used that as a way to control the number of fish for processing," said Seaman, adding that at any given time during fishing season, as many as 1,500 of the double-enders were hard at work on the bay.

The vessel at the Pratt Museum was probably built in the 1930s, according to Seaman's research. A barely visible "A&P" on the starboard, or right, side of the boat's bow identifies it as part of the fleet operated by A&P. The grocery chain had four canneries in Alaska, three in Southeast Alaska, one in Bristol Bay, according to Seaman.

"They canned their own fish," said Seaman, who has attempted to contact the A&P historical society for additional information on this specific boat, but has been unable to locate additional details.


Clint Lillibridge and Dave Seaman model T-shirts for the 18th annual Kachemak Bay Wooden Boat Festival. A Bristol Bay double-ender as the focal point of the design.

The vessel was constructed from three different types of wood: cedar, oak and fir. Toward the bow is a fitting where the mast was secured, but left free enough so it and the sail could be rotated as the wind dictated. Masts on Bristol Bay double-enders measured 23-24 feet. The four-sided sails were 18 feet tall and 25 feet wide. It appears two sets of oarlocks also were in place to aid with navigation.

Room in the bow allowed for a small covering of canvas to be erected for shelter. Here, the boat's two-person crew could find shelter from the weather, could nap and could prepare a simple meal of rice and fish fresh on a small stove. The rest of the boat was filled with as much salmon as possible.

Boat type:

Bristol Bay double-ender

Owner: Pratt Museum

Built: Sometime in the 1930s


Port Orford cedar, white oak, Douglas fir

Length: 29'

Beam: 10'

Being refinished by:

Dave Seaman, president, Kachemak Bay Wooden Boat Society

The Pratt Museum's boat came to Homer by way of Kodiak.

"It was originally given to St. Innocent's Academy," said Reed Oswalt of Kodiak, who has fished in the Kodiak area. "They've done quit a bit of restoration work on churches. … But they decided they couldn't do anything with it and gave it to me."

From Kodiak, the boat found its way to Homer earlier this year with the help of Dan Veerhusen of Homer and transportation provided by the Alaska Marine Highway System, said Seaman. Tim Troll of the Nature Conservancy raised $10,000 for the restoration project and Seaman has been hard at work, hoping to bring the boat back to the shape it was in when operated by A&P.

"The thing that really makes me pleased is the fact that it is now in the hands of some people that are really showing some interest in it," Oswalt told the Homer News. He continues to comb the Kodiak area in hopes of finding additional pieces that belong with the vessel. "I've found a couple of oarlocks that I'm going to send over and am trying to find other bits and pieces of it that are left in Kodiak."

Twenty small models of double-enders, made by Clint Lillibridge, with sails advertising the Wooden Boat Festival have been placed at local businesses.

For more information on the Kachemak Bay Wooden Boat Society and the 18th annual Wooden Boat Festival, see the Web at www.kbwbs.org.

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@homernews.com.

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