The banks where the C. A. THAYER operates are the best codfish banks on the Pacific Coast. The ship anchors about ten miles offshore, and dories fish as far as five miles from the ship. The method used is bottom fishing, the depth of the water at this distance from shore being approximately 150-feet.
At 9 o'clock in the forenoon, the dories start coming in for dinner, served at any time from 9 until 11 c'clock. This is the heaviest meal of the day, as the fishermen still have a full afternoon's work ahead of them. They return at the end of their second trip for supper at 5 pm, which concludes the day's work for the fishermen.
The dressing crew starts to work as soon as the first dory or two arrives with a reasonably good catch about 9 am. If the fish are biting well, they work from that time on, at top speed until the last of the day's catch is put into cure. If the fishing is exceptionally good, they must work well into the night, since the catch for each day must be processed completely is clear the work for the succeeding day's catch.
In the three month period the ship lies off the codfish banks, there usually will be only 3-weeks or so when both the weather and fishing are good. During only 60 to 70 days the weather will permit the dories to go out.
The Bering Sea codfish are true, or gray cod, only distantly related to most Puget Sound varieties of codfish.
By the time the schooner has returned with her cargo to Poulsbo the cured fish have lost 75% of their weight, so that one pound of dried fish equals four pounds of fresh. Additional weight is lost in later processing, by removal of the skin and bones, so that the one pound package of codfish is equivalent to six pounds of fresh codfish.
Ed Shields took his first trip to the Bering Sea as a crew member in 1934, and took other subsequent trips, meantime attending the University of WA, where he studied engineering. He graduated in 1939, then took a year of graduate engineering work at Harvard. He put his engineering training to use in the Bremerton Naval Shipyard during the war. Since obtaining his master's papers, he skippered the C. A. THAYER during her 1949 and 1950 voyages.
Shields would like to put an end to the constantly recurring rumors that the sailing vessel has made her last trip to the Bering. The company has operated successfully for the past 40 years with its present methods of fishing, he points out, and he sees no reason why it will not continue to do so. Work already is under way on the vessel, preparing her for next season's visit to the Far North fishing grounds."
Text from The Seattle Times, 21 January 1951.
The four new photographs below were kindly sent to our society by Jim Shields of Poulsbo, WA., August 2012.
The vintage dory is one saved from his family's cod fishing business. The dory recently underwent some refit after years in storage; the craft and contents are an important part of the historical display at the non-profit Poulsbo Historical Society. They have a research library and historical museum now located in the Poulsbo City Hall.
For hours and directions please check out their website here.