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You’ll dig Gig Harbor

Building a Boat
A couple blocks north on Harborview Drive is the historic Eddon Boatyard, which the Gig Harbor BoatShop leases from the city. As a grassroots nonprofit, the BoatShop’s mission is to preserve the city’s working waterfront and provide programs for the community, said Guy Hoppen, president and founding director.

The Gig Harbor BoatShop offers classes on basic knot tying and advanced decorative knots, making wood cleats, and leathering oars and spars. The BoatShop also offers an ongoing Boatbuilder for a Day series that allows people to participate in as little or as much of the entire building process as they want. The series covers skills such as laying out the initial jig, the setup for building, planking and putting in frames.

Because volunteers primarily run the BoatShop, groups should call ahead to ask about class opportunities. If the BoatShop is unable to arrange a class for a large group, “we could get them into the building,” Hoppen said. The Eddon Boatyard was built in 1945, and a complete restoration of the boat building was completed in 2009. The boatyard also includes two marine railways, a small brick house and a dock that was rebuilt in 2010.

“It’s at the core of the remaining working waterfront,” Hoppen said. “The boatyard is the anchor to get a feel for the past and the significance of commercial fishing, boatbuilding and boat repair, as well as see the existing working waterfront.”

Story of the Northwest
Two more blocks up Harborview Drive is the Harbor History Museum, which opened in its new building in 2010.

Docents lead groups through the museum’s permanent exhibit, which tells the regional history of the Northwest using Gig Harbor as the storyline and includes the history of regional Native Americans and pioneers who settled the area and began fishing, farming and logging.

“The permanent exhibit is very hands-on, from pulling in a net that replicates the net pull of a purse seiner to sitting down in a boat to get a narrated history cruise of the harbor,” Loiland said.
Visitors particularly enjoy learning about the collapse of the original Tacoma Narrows Bridge, which opened July 1, 1940, and was lying on the sea floor five months later; pieces of it are on display at the museum.

No humans died in the collapse, but a newspaper editor lost his car with his daughter’s black cocker spaniel, Tubby, inside.

“It was one of those engineering disasters,” Loiland said. “Most of the time it was up, it undulated. People got used to that and thought it was just part of the territory until one day, it got really bad. We have some dramatic film footage of the bridge collapsing.”

One of the museum’s most interactive exhibits is the Shenandoah, a 65-foot purse seiner that is being restored onsite by shipwright Nate Slater with the help of community volunteers — and, sometimes, museum visitors.

Groups can watch and interact with the crew as they work on the Shenandoah, which the Skansie’s Shipbuilding Company built in 1925 and was a part of Gig Harbor’s commercial fishing fleet before Tony Janovich donated it to the museum in 2000.

The museum recently finished an observation deck that allows visitors to go into the Shenandoah’s pilothouse, although no one is yet allowed on or below deck, Loiland said.

The museum can also arrange for smaller groups — of about 12 people — to help with some actual restoration work, such as by taking a planking workshop to remove and replace planks on the ship, she said.

Groups can also participate in historic re-enactments at the Midway School, the museum’s 1893 restored schoolhouse. Volunteers playing school marms and masters from the early 1900s lead up to 30 people in period programs.

Rachel Carter

Rachel Carter worked as a newspaper reporter for eight years and spent two years as an online news editor before launching her freelance career. She now writes for national meetings magazines and travel trade publications.

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