Submitted by Ralph Bladt
Board Member, Lopez Island Historical Society
This past year, the iconic commercial fishing vessel the Sally J, located in front of the Lopez Island Historical Museum, had her gillnet gear reinstalled. The restoration of the Sally J has been a Lopez community effort from the time she came to the museum until now, and the historical society would like to acknowledge all of the people who have contributed this year and in the past, and give you an update on the progress made this year.
After LIHS board members Bob Hughes and Ralph Bladt searched all of the likely Lopez Island spots and couldn’t find the original gear, they found a similar gillnet reel and drive mechanism owned by Dan Post. Post kindly donated it for the Sally J. Bob, his granddaughter Alexis Aydelotte and her husband Morgan Miller donated their time to refurbish the reel and drive. Spud Grimes and Steve Unruh lifted the gear into place on the refurbished Sally J work deck, using Grimes’ back loader. Museum director Amy Hildebrand hired local shipwright Loren Schaumberg, a graduate of the Northwest School of Wooden Boat Building, to complete this stage of work. Schaumberg reinforced the deck, installed the reel, and created a new net roller assembly, work light and “dead man’s stepper board,” a local invention created to help prevent men from going over in their own nets. John Bostick donated his time and the materials to weld and install the brackets necessary to hold the drive mechanism for the reel in place. A nylon gillnet supplied by Bladt will be loaded onto the reel so museum visitors can see how the gillnets worked. New interpretive signage will follow next spring.
All of this effort is to showcase what was the main economy of Lopez for many decades after the fish traps were outlawed in 1934. Having participated in the fishing industry of Lopez, preserving this history was especially important to Bladt and Hughes. As you can see, this was truly a community effort and our thanks to everyone who contributed their time, talent, or money to make this project possible.