- Saltwater People Historical Society
- San Juan Islands, Washington State, United States
- A society formed in 2009 for the purpose of collecting, preserving, celebrating, and disseminating the maritime history of the San Juan Islands and northern Puget Sound area. Check this log for tales from out-of-print publications as well as from members and friends. There are circa 500, often long entries, on a broad range of maritime topics; there are search aids at the bottom of the log. Please ask for permission to use any photo posted on this site. Thank you.
10 October 2011
❖ Bristol Bay Boat WHISKER ❖
Friday Harbor, San Juan Island, WA.
“John Dickinson’s 29-ft Bristol Bay sailboat started taking on water when he launched it in the spring of 1978, and that meant a big job to be done that summer.
The boat was then at least 50-years old, but it had never leaked before—and wouldn’t have then, he’s certain, except that he had stored it out of the water for three winters running. He won’t do that again, he vows.
The planks of a wooden boat will shrink when they dry out, and thus the seams will open; but if the owner is lucky the planks will swell and the seams will close when the boat is re-launched.
John wasn’t so lucky, and he had to re-caulk (pronounced “re-cork”) the seams—all 430 linear feet of them. He finally hired an expert, Tim Eslick, to help, and got the job done in about two months. First John pulled out the old caulking cotton (think cotton “yarn”) with a hooked tool called a reefer. Then Tim put fresh caulking cotton in with a caulking iron and caulking mallet. And then John put in black seam compound with a putty knife before painting her bottom and putting the boat back in the water.
Bristol Bays are sturdy, seaworthy boats built for fishing under sail in Alaska’s Bristol Bay, starting perhaps around 1880. In 1952 the state allowed power boats in the fishery, and although fish caught from sailboats brought one-cent a pound more than those fish from power boats; that was the beginning of the end for the sailing fleet.
There are still good, solid ‘Bristol Bays’ stored in rotting warehouses in Alaska, John says, and a lot of people would like to have one. But it’s such a problem getting them out, that most people eventually give up.
John and his wife, Edie, bought their boat from Camp Orkila on Orcas in 1963 and sailed it home to San Juan. Their daughter, Elizabeth, then 3-years old, named it WHISKER, because it 'whisks through the water.' (Camp Orkila had been given a number of Bristol Bays by Alaska Packers Assoc. in Blaine.)
There might be a dozen Bristol Bays in the county now , John guesses, some sailboats and some converted to power. They're popular because of their good sea qualities, their lovely lines, and their still reasonable price."
By John and Louise Dustrude
San Juan Almanac 1983
Friday Harbor, WA.
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