Teams of students and volunteers continued their work on the Thelma C restoration project this week at Kodiak College.

The Thelma C is a 36-foot wooden salmon seine vessel donated to Kodiak Maritime Museum by its last owner for restoration and use as an interpretive exhibit. Kodiak College recently partnered with the museum to provide a work site and shop space.

KMM contracted shipwright Brian Johnson to manage the restoration crew; Don Corwin, an expert in historical renovations, is assisting. The Alaska Association for Historic Preservation recognized Corwin in 2009 for his window restoration work on Kodiak’s Baranov Museum building. Johnson is the owner of Seattle-based Ocean Bay Marine and a former owner of the Thelma C.

I wrote about the project in my last column. Since then, a tremendous amount of work has been completed and more volunteers have become involved, bringing a new level of excitement to the project.

Community Boat

On the plywood door to the temporary boathouse sheltering the Thelma C, Johnson has scrawled the motto: “A community builds a boat. A boat builds community.”

This is certainly true of the restoration project, which is tapping into the talents of all sorts of people — not just shipwrights.

People without any carpentry skills have completed many important jobs. Middle school teacher Denise Anderson climbed on a scaffold this week and traced the boat’s name on clear plastic sheeting. The templates Anderson made will be used to duplicate the original lettering when the Thelma C gets new planks on her bow.

Inside the Kodiak College technology building, where much of the project has been staged, ironwood, teak and oak pieces await a volunteer who will give them a light sanding. These are beautiful pieces of wood used for doors, grates and cap rails, things Johnson would like to preserve, restore and reuse. “You just can’t find wood like this anymore,” he said, of the ironwood. “It’s almost like we should say grace before we even handle it.”

In the boathouse, there are always jobs for people willing to sweep or haul bags of trash to the dump.

For those with woodworking skills — or those who would like to acquire them —there are additional opportunities.

Last Saturday, a group of us worked together to steam new oak ribs for the boat, prepare the boat to receive the ribs and pound the new ribs in place alongside the old. Marty Owen, Sasha Hartman, Alicia Roberts, Cash Steele, Matt Dawson, Eric Munk and my husband Bo helped with that project. Alf Pryor and I participated too, documenting the process on camera. (KMM contracted Pryor, of Dead Humpy Studios, to document the project with video, which will be posted online and become part of the museum’s archives.)

On Saturday, the steamer will be fired up again. More ribs will be steamed and set. It makes for tropical conditions in the boathouse, so it’s a nice experience for anyone wanting a little less arctic in their Kodiak weekend.

Upcoming Opportunities

If you’d like to participate in short-session non-credit boat building sessions, simply show up at the boathouse on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. Upcoming sessions include: Scarfing, Caulking, Laying up Cambers, Cutting Rabbets and Spar Building. For more information about these, call KMM or visit the website for either the museum or Kodiak College.

Saturday sessions for volunteers will cover many of the same topics. These sessions are held from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. weekly, but Johnson encourages volunteers to come to the site any day, any time.

As the project progresses, Johnson will need help with repairing the boat’s rigging and restoring the diesel engine.

KMM Executive Director Toby Sullivan is thrilled with the progress on the project. “After years of planning and looking for funding, it’s immensely gratifying for the Board and I to see the project finally under way,” he said. Sullivan encourages everyone in the community to stop by the boathouse for a look—or for the day.

I like to go to the site in the afternoons when I am done with my writing and other chores. No matter what day I’m there, Brian or Don are ready to direct me in a task. I’m amazed at how quickly the time goes. Before I know it, it’s time to get home and fix supper.

Many of my friends have confessed to me that they are deliberately keeping their husbands from going to the boathouse. “If I let him go once, he’ll be gone the rest of the spring,” is the sort of comment I hear with frequency.

In our house, the bigger danger seems to be the boat obsession of the wife. It’s true. I think about the boat all the time. But my husband has no worries. He knows I won’t stay too long or wander too far from my supper plate!

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