Koggiung #5 back home in the Bay

May 2, 2017

Fully restored 1932 double-ender sailboat on long term loan from Anchorage Museum to Bristol Bay Historical Society museum in Naknek.

This 26' 1932 Bristol Bay double-ender was on display in Anchorage but arrived at the Naknek dock on March 21. The Bristol Bay Historical Society hopes to have it on displays with other relics from the fishery's history in the near future.
Credit Sharon Thompson

KDLG: Another relic from the old days of the world’s largest salmon fishery has returned home to the Bay. A fully-restored double-ender sailboat christened Koggiung #5 in 1932 arrived in Naknek on March 21.

It is back in familiar country thanks in large part to the efforts of Fred Anderson, the president of the Bristol Bay Historical Society. Some two years ago, he was at the Anchorage Museum on unrelated business when staff there asked if he might have an interest in this sailboat.  

“When they heard that I was from Bristol Bay they mentioned that they had a completely restored Bristol Bay sailboat in their collection that they were going to put in permanent storage, forever, because they don’t have any room,” he said. “I told them it’s a crime to do this.”

That conversation touched off nearly two years of negotiations and planning. Koggiung #5 was eventually wrapped tight and prepared for shipping, and came free of charge on an Alaska Marine Lines barge. The Bristol Bay Borough moved it across the dock for free, and Carl Williams from the Anchor Inn Boat Storage agreed to move it to temporary storage, also for free.

“It’s a feel good story all around,” said Anderson.

The double-enders still in existence range in quality from those on display in several maritime museums, canneries, and at Lake Clark National Park, to those that have washed up and are rotting away on area beaches. Anderson had high praise for the work done by the Anchorage Museum to return #5 to her former glory.

“It’s completely restored, with sails and all the riggings, anchor, even a net from that era, so it’s quite beautiful,” he said.

The 1932 vessel is large, measured at 26 feet long and 9 feet abeam, and has a bright orange streak to identify it to its cannery. Koggiung #5 will join an older sailboat in what is a growing collection of Bristol Bay’s iconic fleet from yesteryear. The Historical Society aims to build a new facility to house the 14 old wooden boats that have been collected, often saved from an unseemly end at the landfill.

“What I want to have in the boat house is the evolution of the wooden fishing boat,” Anderson said, listing off a few of the vessels he’s eager to put on better public display. “We now have two sailboats, and then we have what’s called a conversion, which is the first sailboat with an engine. Then we have the first conversions with cabins, and on up to the last wooden boats made.”

In 2015, the Bristol Bay Historical Society proudly opened its doors in the new museum in downtown Naknek. That came after an older museum had been closed for about a decade, risking its collection of untended, unheated artifacts. That first opening at the new museum, which is located in the old Post Office / Liquor Store / Jail, took years of planning and fundraising to achieve. Building a new facility to house the collection of vessels will also take time and funding. But for Anderson, preserving artifacts and relics of the region’s rich history, especially from the commercial fishery that continues today, always proves worth the effort and expense.

“When we get young people come to the museum, you can just see in their face they’re so excited. I’ve had young kids, five and six years old, and say ‘Here Fred, here’s five dollars for your museum’. Those kind of things really get me emotional,” he said.

If not sooner, the Bristol Bay Historical Society plans for Koggiung #5 to make a splash at this year’s Fishtival celebration in Naknek in July.  

Reach the author at dave@kdlg.org or 907.842.5281.