Nathaniel Howe is the Executive Director of Northwest Seaport, an organization dedicated to preserving the rich maritime heritage of the Pacific Northwest. Their floating fleet at Lake Union Park just received a new addition:
I am very proud to announce that we are expanding our historic fleet, which presently includes the tugboat Arthur Foss of 1889 and Lightship No. 83 Swiftsure of 1904. We have now raised the funds to acquire a “new” 105 year-old vessel, the 75-ft. halibut schooner Tordenskjold (pronounced tore-den-sk-yool-d). After more than 100 years of commercial fishing, this true Northwest icon is about to become Seattle’s newest museum ship.
Built in Ballard by John Strand in 1911, Tordenskjold is now one of the oldest halibut schooners left. In its century of fishing it has worked up and down the West Coast catching not only halibut, but also crab, shrimp, tuna, and even sharks—a catch highly valued by the US armed forces during WWII. Fishing with dories, long-lines, pelagic trawl nets, and bottom trawls, Tordenskjold worked in more fisheries than any other halibut schooner and is believed to have the rare distinction of being the only boat in the fleet to have never lost a man at sea.
After the 2012 fishing season, Tordenskjold’s owner, Marvin Gjerde, decided it was time to retire from fishing. The boat still had a lot of years left in her, but with bigger, more powerful longliners on the market, finding a buyer who wanted to invest the time, cash, and energy needed to keep a vessel like Tordenskjold in prime fishing condition was hard to find. Gjerde felt that Northwest Seaport would give Tordenskjold the care and devotion it needs and deserves—just as he has for the past 38 years.
As an operational museum ship, Tordenskjold will become a living education platform, carrying school children and tour groups on short excursions along our city’s one-of-a-kind working waterfront, visiting Fishermen’s Terminal, the locks, and teaching about the innovation and sustainable practices that enable these amazing 100 year-old vessels—designed and built here in Puget Sound—to keep on fishing for over a century. When I was seven years old, I had that very same privilege aboard the halibut schooner Masonic. To this day, I have never forgotten that excursion aboard a true Northwest fishing vessel and I am very excited that we will soon be offering the chance to hundreds of others each year.
The first in-depth survey of Tordenskjold, funded by 4Culture and conducted by Ocean Bay Marine last month, found this boat to be in astoundingly good shape. Gjerde took excellent care of the boat during his tenure.
In the coming weeks, the boat will be drydocked for a detailed survey of the hull and for taking measurements to generate a set of plans (none exist). Volunteer work parties have already begun to clean the boat and prepare her for painting. Anyone who wants to come get to know this amazing vessel and the interesting mix of shipwrights, fishermen, and volunteers working on her now are welcome to come on down!