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Thread: Columbia River gillnetter: author's questions

  1. #1
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    Default Columbia River gillnetter: author's questions

    Hello all,

    I'm a Canadian author working on a novel set in the early 20th century in Rivers Inlet on the north coast of British Columbia. I know they used Columbia River double-enders for the Fraser River salmon fishery at the time, and photographs lead me to believe this was the case in Rivers Inlet as well. I have a few questions about these boats:

    - I believe the sail was very simple with a detachable mast? When would the mast be taken down? Where would the mast be stowed (aboard) when not in use?

    - I know they generally had a crew of two. Would there be two thwarts for seating? If so, are they referred to as forward and aft thwarts?

    - With a crew of two, where would the rower or "boatpuller" sit? Would he/she face the stern, as in a single-ended skiff? Basically, I want to know if the crew could/would face one another (one on each thwart) while rowing went on.

    - With a double-ender, is there a transom? If not, how would one refer to the equivalent area?

    - I believe these boats were "stern-pickers"? I have read reference to the roller over which the net is let out/brought in. I understand that these were manual as opposed to motorized; did they have a handle/crank of any kind, or did they simply facilitate net movement passively?

    - Did these boats have a rudder worked with a tiller?

    Many thanks for any and all help with these questions.

    - Alissa

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Columbia River gillnetter: author's questions

    I'm from Astoria, at the mouth of the Columbia. Had friends dads who fished commercial, but with a later generation of boat. Crewed on one myself a bit. I could answer your questions from memory, but you'll get more authoritative info by giving the folks at Columbia River Maritime Museum a call. The asst. director, Jeff would be the one to talk to. And their library staff is quite helpful also. They have one of the boats you describe on display. And another tucked away in storage, iirc.
    David G
    Harbor Woodworks
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    "It was a Sunday morning and Goddard gave thanks that there were still places where one could worship in temples not made by human hands." -- L. F. Herreshoff (The Compleat Cruiser)

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Columbia River gillnetter: author's questions

    Here are a couple of photos taken at canneries in Rivers Inlet. The upper one was 1930's, as powerboats were starting to take over though some open sailing/rowing skiffs were still in use. The second photo is earlier, possibly in the '20's, and skiffs were the majority of the fleet. Though some Columbia type boats were used by some canneries in Rivers at times, I believe the majority of open sailing/rowing gillnetters used in Rivers Inlet were these flat-bottomed double-ended dory types.


    cdm.fisherman.1-0013411.S_0_0_6001_3661_6001_3661_0_0_default.jpg

    cdm.fisherman.1-0013700.S_0_0_5999_3373_5999_3373_0_0_default.jpg
    ___________________________________
    Tad
    cogge ketch Blackfish
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  4. #4
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    Default Re: Columbia River gillnetter: author's questions

    Excellent -- many thanks, David.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Columbia River gillnetter: author's questions

    These are great -- thank you, Tad.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Columbia River gillnetter: author's questions

    Nice pics, Tad. Alisa, X2 on the CRMM https://www.crmm.org/ as David suggested. They have a great archive. Sounds like you're setting your story right in the transition between sail and power so you might reference some more northern museums like Bella Coola https://www.bellacoolamuseum.ca/ for timing on the transition in more northern fishing fleets.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Columbia River gillnetter: author's questions

    Will do -- many thanks, Hugh.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Columbia River gillnetter: author's questions

    Interesting post, wonder if it's where Dick Pulsifer got the design for his dodgers on his Hamptons


  9. #9
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    Default Re: Columbia River gillnetter: author's questions

    I dunno...there are a lot of versions of that around. Simple and effective.
    IMG_1601.jpg

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Columbia River gillnetter: author's questions

    Another view of Rivers Inlet skiffs delivering fish to a scow. It looks to me that they are set up so the rower stands in the forward well facing aft. Between them is the centerboard case with fish bins port & starboard, and the net is worked from the aft well. No outboard rudder is visible but there would be one for sailing, possibly they would just use one oar over the stern. I believe the roller was portable and could be hooked over either rail, both men would be aft to pull the net. Another source mentions that River's was unique in that skiffs were often fished by just one man alone, this picture seems to be split, one man in some boats, some with two aboard.

    RiversInletCannery.jpg
    ___________________________________
    Tad
    cogge ketch Blackfish
    cat ketch Ratty
    http://www.tadroberts.ca
    http://blog.tadroberts.ca/
    http://www.passagemakerlite.com

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Columbia River gillnetter: author's questions

    What a great photo. This is very helpful -- many thanks, Tad.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Columbia River gillnetter: author's questions

    :-)

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Columbia River gillnetter: author's questions

    There are some great photographs and anecdotes in Sailing for Salmon, a monograph on the sailing gillnetters of Bristol Bay. These were the subsequent and final iteration of the Columbia River gillnetters. I believe the main differences are that the Bristol Bay boats were a bit larger and stayed out fishing longer, although I don't know how the Bristol Bay cannery ownership system compared to the Fraser River.

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Columbia River gillnetter: author's questions

    Excellent -- thanks for this, Marty.

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