Special Exhibition Gallery
Salmon, Seiners, and Life on the Sea
May 27 – September 16, 2018
Created by Gig Harbor BoatShop and Harbor History Museum in partnership with Skansie Netshed Foundation and Harbor WildWatch, “Salmon, Seiners, and Life on the Sea” will not only feature the story of the Avalon as typical of many early purse seiners in the area, it will explore the past and present of Puget Sound’s salmon fisheries and generations of fishing families and fishing towns along Northwest shores. “Salmon, Seiners, and Life on the Sea” will be on view May 27, 2018 – September 16, 2018 at Harbor History Museum.
In 1929, the Skansie Boat Building Co. in Gig Harbor launched the Avalon, a 66-foot wooden purse seiner. It was one in a long line of the family’s boat building tradition, and was fished first by Andrew Skansie then later by his sons Antone and Vince Skansie. The Skansies fished the boat for more than six decades, traveling from Gig Harbor to the salmon fisheries along the Northwest Coast. Moored at the Skansie’s net shed, located in the center of town, the boat was a Gig Harbor icon along with other well-known seiners such as the Genius, Victory, Veteran, and Shenandoah.
In 2015, after sinking in Hood Canal, the Avalon was declared derelict and scheduled for demolition. The BoatShop partnered with the Department of Natural Resources to save Avalon from the wrecking ball and instead thoughtfully deconstructed the historic vessel. This process allowed the BoatShop to recover artifacts that will be featured in the exhibit, including Avalon’s iconic wheelhouse which was salvaged and restored at the BoatShop and will serve as the centerpiece of this compelling exhibit. Dismantling Avalon piece by piece also allowed the BoatShop to develop accurate construction plans detailed enough to build a Skansie purse seiner, significant because there are no known construction drawings for this vessel.
Along with the Avalon wheelhouse, the exhibit will feature a brief history of the Skansie Boat Building Company as well as a Story Skiff, a scaled-down version of a seine skiff that would have been used to set the net. The Story Skiff was built by BoatShop Volunteer Bill Isaacs from historic plans from Whatcom Museum’s H.C. Hanson Collection. Visitors will also be able to view wall-sized plans of the Avalon and artifacts keyed to their original location on the boat.
Salmon fishing is a viable and important industry, feeding millions of people around the world. But what does it take to be a fisherman, and how has that life changed over the past five generations? From boats to nets to fishing communities around Puget Sound, visitors will discover the who behind the fish on their table. The Fishing Life and Sustainable Fisheries portion of the exhibit will feature key innovations that impacted the fishing industry. Stretched from Wheelhouse to Story Skiff is a representation of a seine net that shows the different types of salmon caught in Northwest waters. Also featured in the exhibit is a map of various fisheries and tips for what we can do to help save the salmon.
This exhibit was made possible in part by support from Pierce County Landmarks & Historic Preservation Commission, RPM Foundation, Gig Harbor Commercial Fishermen’s Civic Club, Seattle Marine & Fishing Supply Co., Foss Waterway Seaport, as well as private donors.
Also, courtesy of the RPM Foundation, this project has received the help of three interns, Nathan Patrick, Josiah Pollock, and Caeden Erdmann. Together they have been learning to interpret, conserve, and restore various artifacts while also helping with the fabrication of the upcoming “Salmon, Seiners, and Life on the Sea” exhibit. The RPM Foundation supports restoration and preservation training programs for the next generation of automotive, motorcycle and marine craftsmen. The services, resources and grants provided by RPM safeguard the future of the collector vehicle industry by sustaining hands-on training for young adults.
“Salmon, Seiners, and Life on the Sea” brings together past and present in a unique way. The exhibit draws upon the expertise of commercial fishermen, boat builders and restorers, wildlife scientists, and fishing families. It digs deep into our fishing heritage archives and invites new generations into the salmon story.