Shipwright Brian Johnson with the tools of his trade. Photo courtesy Kodiak Maritime Museum
Over 20 people showed up to Fishermen’s Hall last night to discuss what the Thelma C means to Kodiak and how to best preserve its historical significance. The gathering was hosted by the Kodiak Maritime Museum which is behind the efforts to immortalize the 36-foot salmon seine vessel that helped rebuild Kodiak’s fleet after the 1964 earthquake. The museum’s executive director, Toby Sullivan, says interest in the project has taken off.
— (Thelma 1 :16 "It’s about Kodiak, it’s about fishing and I think the more that people hear about it the more interested they are. There’s really nothing else in town that addresses the story of salmon fishing.")
Repairs and restoration have already begun on the boat, which is believed to be the last boat of its kind. Shipwright Brian Johnson signed up for the project on the condition that he also is able to teach shipwrighting skills to volunteers. He says not enough young people are learning his craft and he wants to change that.
— (Thelma 2 :27 "Everybody’s in their fifties that are doing it and there’s very few young people that are coming in to it. So it’s my hope that a lot of younger people, younger than their fifties, get involved so they can carry on with it. That’s what’s gonna keep a traditional fleet alive. You need the money or the businesses to support it, you need the facilities that can support it and you need the skills. It’s sort of like a triangle of survival that wooden boats need.")
Johnson’s classes are held twice a week and are open to the public.
Sarah Asper-Smith has been recruited by the museum as the interpretive designer for the exhibit that will accompany the restored boat. She’s worked on exhibitions for small museums across the state.
— Thelma 3 :22 "It’s obvious that the community is behind this project and so I see it coming together and happening very quickly. I was really impressed by the turnout tonight and the number of stories that people have about the boat, about fishing or the community. I’m looking forward to seeing it come to fruition pretty soon."
Reconstruction of the Thelma C is expected to be completed in mid-May.