On the back lot of Kodiak College, there's an unexpected reunion between a former fisherman and the vessel he once used to make his living.
“You know it's kind of funny, I’m back finishing what I started over 20 years ago,” said Brian Johnson, as he carefully examined the bow of an aging fishing boat housed inside a white plastic temporary building.
Johnson thought he was done with the Thelma C, the salmon seiner he bought in 1991 and later sold, because like a lot of vessels her age she was just too much work.
Johnson is now a full-time shipwright and is one of the few people who knows how to repair wooden boats.
He can tell you the saying is true: “There's a bow and a stern and no end. Everybody says ‘when's it done…’ well a boat's never done!” he said.
The Thelma C could've easily met a common fate for vintage vessels like her -- the burn pile.
But the Kodiak Maritime Museum had other plans. They acquired the boat, secured a few hundred thousand dollars from the state legislature, and got to work restoring her to near-original condition.
“We dreamed of doing this for years,” said Toby Sullivan, museum director.
The Thelma C is what maritime historians call a "tidal wave boat." It was built quickly with help from the federal government right after the 1964 Good Friday earthquake, which devastated coastal communities in Alaska and wrecked hundreds of boats.
“I'm pretty sure this is the last one, of this model,” Johnson said of the Thelma C.
Johnson works 50-60 hours a week on the boat, but he’s getting a lot of assistance.
Volunteers gather a few nights a week after-hours to learn about shipbuilding and help put the vessel back together
“For years I’ve been burning old wood boats,” said Marty Owen, the Kodiak harbormaster while working on the Thelma C’s mast, “I didn't want to see them all destroyed.”
The group is part of a free college workshop which teaches age-old woodworking skills.
It's a way to keep the craft alive and helps the museum toward its goal of putting the Thelma C on display down at the harbor sometime early next year.
“The boat is actually the point of connection between the stories of people in the past and people in the present,” said Sullivan.
And for Brain, he thinks this time he'll finally be done with her.
“It's going to be around for everybody to enjoy for a long time, so yep that's good,” he said.
This story will be featured during 'Assignment Alaska' on the Channel 2 Newshour, May 24.
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