The following is an article from the inaugural edition of the Sointula Ripple, our new community online newsletter that published its first edition on Dec. 12, 2011. The editor, Shane Field, has graciously allowed the Museum to use it on our website. NOTE: The photographs associated with this page are currently missing, as they were linked from the Sointula Ripple website, which has recently closed down. We hope to restore the full page shortly.
Above on the left is a photo of the interior of the Aro Boatshop where the hull of the Sturgeon 1 was built. Reino Aro, Vern Aro’s father, is shown beside one of the many rowboats his father, Toivo Aro, also constructed in the shop.
Museum Acquires Historical Boat
by Anne Linder ~
The Sturgeon I is being resurrected! Tied up behind Sointula’s breakwater for many years, the boat will go back in service – this time to the Sointula Museum, which has recently acquired the 34-foot double-ended gillnetter. Originally built for Albert Tarkanen in 1948, the Sturgeon I has had a number of owners over the years. The museum intends to restore the boat to close to its original state and display it as part of Sointula’s rich marine history.
“Sointula was well known and respected up and down the coast for the quality of our locally built boats and the skill of our fishermen,” comments Sue Ness, a museum committee member and part of a team working to move the project forward.
“The Sointula Museum is committed to the restoration of the Sturgeon I because it represents so well the two industries that defined our community: fishing and boat building,” says Ness.
Toivo Aro built the hull of the gillnetter for Albert Tarkanen in his boat shed located on 1st Street. Albert recalls enthusiastically helping Toivo construct the hull when he was 17 years old. “The interior of the hull was coated with pine tar. I applied so much I could see it coming through the timbers and caulking on the outside of the hull,” says Albert.
After the cabin was built in Tarkanen’s boat shed and the boat was launched, Albert fished it until 1954 and then sold the boat to Albert Erickson, father of Sointula residents Sheila Anderson and Shirley Calvert. Albert Erickson fished and maintained the Sturgeon I for many years. Mark Blid was the next owner, buying the boat in 1978 and fishing it until 1989.
Mark recalls a number of good memories during his years on Sturgeon I. Back then gillnetting was almost a “vacation” from the logging he did the rest of the year, he says.
The Sturgeon I had many virtues. It was fuel efficient and due to the double-ended construction was “smooth with no pounding” on the sea. It was certainly more comfortable than most modern day boats.
Mark fished the waters around Vancouver Island, Nootka Island and Prince Rupert with the Sturgeon I. He remembers happy days of having to “quit” way sooner than he anticipated to get to the packer because he already had “as many fish as I dared have on that boat”. One time Mark caught 11,000 lbs of sockeye and pinks with the Sturgeon I in two days of fishing. “It was a good feeling to have that many fish”, Mark said.
Later owners of the boat included Mike Williams and Rodney Lanqvist. However, the day came when the Sturgeon I had not been fished for several years and had no license. Her fate was unclear, but for all intents and purposes she seemed destined to become only a foggy memory.
However, history buff and former fisherman Shane Field, who collects heritage driftwood originating from wrecked and abandoned boats, thought it would be a good idea for the community to save a Sointula-built gillnetter before they were all gone. During Shane’s research into possible boats, Randy Williams reminded him that the Sturgeon I was an excellent example. It just so happened that the owner Nancy Lanqvist was willing to sell the boat for the value of the outstanding moorage fees. Using a generous personal donation from Sue Ness, Shane bought the boat from Nancy and then sold it to the museum for $1.00. So it was a real team effort to get the project started. But for the Sointula Museum records, Nancy Lanqvist will always be identified as the official donor.
Now the big challenge will be to restore the boat and find the perfect spot to display it. The museum will soon begin fundraising to assist with restoration and placement costs.
“As would be expected, a thorough assessment of Sturgeon I will have to be made”, says Sue Ness. “But positive things are already on the go”, adds Sue. The first is that Andy Anderson took the boat to Albert Tarkanen’s shop and Albert donated his equipment and labour and cleaned the hull. From there, Vern Aro, with the Coriander rafted up to the Sturgeon I, took her back to the breakwater and to Anderson Ways.
And here’s the really good news: Andy Anderson supports the museum project and has generously volunteered his shop, equipment and labour for the restoration project. Andy has volunteered to serve as Project Supervisor and will coordinate the volunteer labour. The Sturgeon I is now lying comfortably and drying out on a cradle in the boathouse at Anderson Ways.