My name is Chris, and I have a problem…

There’s a place where people with a serious addiction stand around drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes, and none of them encourage the rest to confront their problem – quite the opposite. It’s any commercial fishing dock on the west coast, and for that matter, probably around the world. But beyond my wooden boat issues, I have a longing to return to salmon trolling, making a living tricking the majestic king salmon into coming aboard your boat. This longing is not based on common sense, certainly not on economic principles or good judgement. But salmon trolling for a living is a lifestyle, it’s a place in the world that you either belong in or you don’t. To put it simply, of all the things I’ve done in my life, the one thing I daydream about, miss, and would wish to do again is troll salmon for a living on the open ocean.

So in the spring of 2018 as I was tearing out rotten wood and replacing it with new on the Pokalong, all of my friends across the bay were painting and stocking and coaxing their boats back into life for the salmon season. I would sneak across the bay and look at two boats in particular, the Norma Jean and the Lone Eagle. Both needed serious work, but I formulated the grain of an idea that I could restore a salmon troller by the time I retire and then go back to fishing full time until I couldn’t do anything anymore.

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The Norma Jean

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The Lone Eagle

Both boats are ‘Tacoma Boats, built by the famous shipyard in Tacoma. The Norma Jean was built in the late 30’s, the smaller Lone Eagle was built in 1928. Both needed serious work with years of deferred maintenance. Both were rigged for salmon trolling and appealed to my salmon sickness in the worst way. I would walk over, look at them from every angle, then go back to the Pokalong and think about it. Back to the warm teak glow of the Pokalong, with the diesel stove and all the comforts of home. At some point it dawned on me, what I needed was to build what Dan and I refer to as a “geezer troller”. A carefully set up troller that is so well outfitted and designed that it can be fished into a ripe old age. We have both known fishermen who have trolled into their 80’s and 90’s.

Since I had to rebuild the aft deck house anyway, what if I just decked it over and added a door to the rear deck. The existing lazarette could easily be converted into a troll pit, the small recessed cockpit in the back that the fisherman works in. What had been a queen sized bedroom would make a large fish hold, and to avoid fiberglassing and insulating the entire thing you could store fish in insulated totes. Back to the line drawing:

Pokalong troller

Now there would be a fine “geezer troller”. A walk-out door straight to the back deck. Remove a couple of windows from the back half of the boat to reduce the greenhouse effect. Add a real mast with trolling poles, and install commercial fishing gear on the back deck. This is all doable.

So I explained my plans to the bride of the king salmon ride. She is so used to my hair-brained schemes by now that she nodded her approval, with one condition: you can fish on your off time, but don’t quit your job! Luckily for me during the spring of this year I had been moved to a rotating shift, working 48 hours on followed by 4 days off. This actually could work! We were in South Beach marina, where the weather severely limits the time you can do exterior boat work. The thick fog and steady 20-25 knot NW winds scream down the beach and through the marina all summer long. During the winter, up to 90 inches of rain falls and storms march through sporting 70-100 knot winds. The next step would be to move the boat from Newport to somewhere with better weather where I could work on her.

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A rare calm evening. Under the bridge, the fog bank can been seen retreating to the 30-fathom curve.

To be continued…

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