Ten years ago, I sat on the floor of my bedroom on a dark and wintry December evening, poring over several back issues of National Fisherman magazine that focused on boat building. I was preparing for the latest assignment I’d taken as a freelance writer for National Fisherman. It was an assignment for which I did not feel qualified; the building of the 2.5 million dollar fishing vessel, Shemya, at Fred Wahl Marine Construction.
I’d written a few short articles and one large feature for National Fisherman in the seven months since I’d started writing for the magazine, but I knew next to nothing about building boats. For my first feature, I’d convinced a longtime fishing family friend, Ryan, to take me out to sea on his vessel for a story on the sardine fishery out of Astoria, Oregon.
While very familiar with fishing, having grown up in a fishing family and fishing myself in Southeast Alaska for several summers, I was not schooled in the art of boat building. And this time, I’d be interviewing strangers, not friends. I decided I’d better refresh myself on basic terms before I could even hope to conduct a coherent interview.
I called Dad.
Dad had commissioned the building of his own boat a decade earlier, and I figured he could give me a crash course on the subject.
“Hull plating?” I asked.
“The steel on the outside of the boat,” Dad answered.
“The vertical piece of steel at the bottom of the boat, the center of the boat. The backbone of the boat.”
“The bow of the boat at center line.”
I had no idea what that last one meant, but I kept going.
“The partition between two different areas of the boat. A wall. It separates the boat into compartments.”
“The engine, reduction gear, shaft. And the prop.”
“Prop…?” I asked.
“Propeller,” Dad answered.
I’m not sure, but I think I began to detect the faintest note of weariness in Dad’s voice. I knew Dad was proud of my work for National Fisherman; after all, it was he who’d first suggested I try my hand at writing for the magazine and encouraged me to contact the editor, Jerry Fraser.
I worried, though, if I’d be able to pull this one off. Had Michael Crowley, the Boats and Gear editor, made a mistake? What would Fred Wahl think of a young lady coming down to Reedsport to interview him on the state-of-the art Shemya? Would I end up inadvertently insulting everyone and making a fool out of myself?
Of course, we all know how the story ended.
I wound up marrying the partner/captain that I interviewed that afternoon at the boatyard, and the rest is history. And ten years since we met (and added two kids, two dogs, one fishing vessel, one blog and a truck or two), I love that all the original players are still in the game.
The following are pictures of all the fellows (taken at this year’s Pacific Marine Expo) who had confidence that I could pull off a story out of my comfort zone, had patience with me as I did my work, and who mean so much to us a decade later.
At least, they mean a lot to me.
As George went around Fish Expo shaking hands with these guys–all of whom played a part in our meeting and eventual marriage–his greeting was accompanied by these words:
“I don’t know whether to shake your hand or give you a right hook.”