Over the Christmas holiday we received a great present from Captain Richard Sturgill over at Drayton Harbor Maritime, in Blaine. He sent us three of pictures, two of the cannery where the David B worked and one of he David B on the beach. In his email he said, “I first saw the David B when the former Monkey boat was on the beach at the Columbia Wards Fisheries cannery at Ekuk on Nushagak bay Bristol Bay Alaska in 1979.”
The term monkey boat was used for boats like ours that towed 32′ long sailboats out to the fishing grounds. Back in the 1930s and 40s there had been a rule in Bristol Bay that you could only fish under sail. The canneries noticed that it didn’t say anything about how the sailboats got to the fishing grounds and used this loophole to allow them to build powerboats to tow the sailboats out to the fishing grounds. The rule was changed in the early 1950s so that everyone could fish under power and after that the David B, and boat likes it were no longer needed.
Here’s a video from the Alaska Digital Archives I found from the 1950s of a fishing in Bristol Bay. There is a short segment for a monkey boat towing a string of fishing boats. The video is only about 60 seconds long.
If you are ever in Blaine, Washington and you are interested in the connection between Washington State and Alaska fishing stop by the Semiahmoo Park Maritime Museum. The museum has some wonderful pictures of fishing in Alaska and Washington state and a restored 32′ sailboat from the Bristol Bay fishery. In the summer months you can find Capt. Richard Sturgill aboard the M/V Plover, a passenger ferry that runs from Blaine Harbor and Semiahmoo Resort.