Thursday, September 9, 2010
What a day, the panels were put up by Mike Adams, Dave at the Sign Co and Ryan, level, plumb, square, drilled and bolted down. All glitches were solved and the results, well.....a lot of horn honking, thumbs upping, and picture taking.
Notes from the Marvel: I set my alarm early, so early I felt nauseous, in summer, ten minutes to four. I pulled on my sweats, checked the engine oil, started the jimmy-diesel, and jumped aboard the Donna Mae for coffee while our engines warmed up. The foc’sole of the Donna Mae was Norwegian in style, spare and efficient. The coffee pot bubbled on the diesel stove. There was a small fold down table and hard wooden benches with storage under the seats. It felt big compared to the cramped foc’sole of the Marvel. Nobody said much at that hour as we huddled around the stove with our thick ceramic boat mugs, wondering what the day would bring.....
I used to fish for a living, once it gets in your blood, you never forget it.
This project started as an innocent conversation with Lynn Dannaher, who asked everyone for ideas, back when her building was a football field of battleship gray. Standing out on the sidewalk with her on January 2nd of this year, I pointed to the building and pointed back , and said one word,” mural”. That was it, we started to brainstorm about Friday Harbor's past, and it was immediately clear we both were only interested in one thing: commercial salmon fishing. It was in our blood, we both salmon fished, Lynn with all the net fisheries, and me with hook and line, trolling and long-lining. We started to gather ideas, old salmon labels, a chart of the Salmon Banks, historic photos. The first person I called was Pete Dardinelli, who said,
“call Mike Galligan”
I hit the jackpot with Mike's scrapbook of his father's photos from the 1950's seining off South beach and photos from the back deck of Margaret J. 2 of the panels are from Mike. Pete in the skiff and Waiting to set, taken by Mike when he was 14 years old.
There was nothing more Friday Harbor than the salmon packer, the Nereid, built at Jensen's Shipyard by Nordine's father, Albert Jensen.
Jeri, Nordine's daughter, had the original hand colored photo of the boat, in front of the FH salmon cannery, it was the photo that hung on Nordine's living room wall. She had other San Juan maritime treasures, original photos from the Salmon Trap off of the salmon banks, original photos of men tarring their nets by the old cannery. She discovered this when a photographer developed glass plate negatives that were stored in her attic. 2 panels from Jeri, the Nereid and the King Salmon on the Trap
I called Dale and Carole Marble, Shelle and Ellis Cropper, Kitty Roberts, Skeeter, Jim Capron,Dave Nash, Diane Erickson, and others. I called Sarah Hart who documented fishing through her photography in the San Juans in the 1970's. Nobody knew that at the time, she was documenting the end of an era. While I was gathering images, Lynn was convincing her building partner Dave Moorhouse, that this was a good idea. She was busy convincing the town that we needed this, and got the Port of Friday Harbor on board as well. I was busy with museum conservators, Guerra paint company in New York City, and in general figuring out how to work with light fast acrylic pigments in squeeze bottles. I did this by painting through a ream of large sheets of paper, working up ideas and color palettes for each panel.
The day the town council approved Lynn's permit, I ordered aluminum panels. Ace Hardware had them on the supply truck within 24 hours of ordering, it was a rare case of bing bang boom. I started painting the mural on Memorial Day weekend, right as the BR oil spill was in full swing. I painted listening to that environmental holocaust, I painted listening to baseball games and music, I kept painting.....working , painting, no trips to Turn island, painting.... I kept on painting all summer......and then Something Extraordinary happened. WE heard seiners going out, boats were anchored up at Fish Creek, Fishermen were cruising the Lopez shore. If you recognized it, you could smell the scent of sockeye in the salt air. Let me tell you, there is nothing more galvanizing to a fisherman than hearing about someone else's big set. The waters were full of sockeye.
I went down to the big rock at South Beach early morning in mid-August, crews were standing on deck, the seiners were cued up waiting their turn, As soon as one set started to close the next boat was in position, Like a horse anxious to run. Skiffs were manned and running with wet exhausts, I watched a seine boat take a 360 degree spin announcing he's was about to set. They started their set, the skiff took off towards the beach. The seine net unwound off the drum with the slap of the purse rings as they hit the steel deck and slid into the water. This was a beautiful sight, 40 boats fishing off of South Beach, setting and brailing, just like the old days.
In Shelle Cropper's words,” the mural, it's painting and installation is a magnificent synchronicity, coinciding with the greatest sockeye salmon return in almost one hundred years." Each panel tells a part of our collective fishing story, gill netting, reef netting, seining, packing, right here in Friday Harbor, on San Juan Island, on our island.
We would like to dedicate this mural, 100 years of Commercial fishing in the San Juan Islands to anyone who has cooked a salmon over an open fire,
to those who have put on clammy wet rain gear covered with fish scales,
to those who have endured jellyfish in their eyes, or web in their wheel,
to anyone who has worked on a back deck covered with fish.
To the Fleet of Friday Harbor,
The Rise and Shine, the Anna J
De Haro, The Bull Dozer,
Kansas, The Defiance, the Primo,
the Night Watch
The Venture, the Intruder,
Elva S, Streaker
Dixie 3. the Margaret J, Pisces
Lillian F, the Blue Horizon
Apollo 11, High Finance
Cindy, The Adventuress
Welcome, the Cork, Spirit The Easy, The Satisfaction
To all those men and women who have lived this great adventure, who have fishing in their blood, we dedicate this mural.