Friday, December 30, 2011

Thelma C update 12-30-2011

Undated photo of the Thelma C
We are gearing up to restore a 36 foot wooden salmon seine vessel, the Thelma C, which the museum acquired from Mark Thomas, its last fisherman owner, in 2006. KMM received a $298,000 grant earlier this year from the Alaska Legislature to restore the boat and build an exhibit around it.
The Thelma C was designed by famed marine architect Bill Garden and built in 1965 at Commercial Marine in Seattle for fisherman Ken Christoffersen. Ken lost his original boat in the tsunami in Valdez following the Great Alaskan Earthquake of March 27, 1964, but he took advantage of a Federal low interest disaster relief loan program to build the Thelma C, named after his wife, to get back on the water. As we understand it here at the museum, Ken fished the boat for decades, mostly out of Valdez, but also in Chignik and occasionally out of Kodiak. One of the aims of the project is to get a more detailed history of the boat, hopefully from Ken’s family and people who fished on the boat. Ken himself passed away in 2005.

Proposed location of Thelma C Interpretive Exhibit
The project involves restoring the boat to its 1965 rigging and wheelhouse configuration, and installing it as a permanent interpretive exhibit near Oscar’s Dock in Kodiak’s St. Paul Harbor. When the project is complete visitors will be able to view the deck from one side of the boat and into the hull through Plexiglasss panels on the other side. A series of all-weather interpretive panels will explain what it’s like to live and work aboard a salmon fishing boat, how the salmon fishery is vital to the people of Kodiak Island, and the effects of the 1964 earthquake on the Kodiak’s waterfront and fishing industry. A cell phone accessible multi-media exhibit will feature oral histories, images and text to augment those stories. A roof will keep rain and snow off the boat, but the exhibit will otherwise be an open air exhibit.
The boat was moved in November to Kodiak College, which has graciously granted workspace to accomplish the boat work. At the moment, the boat is sheathed in white shrink wrap plastic, but in the next few weeks we’ll be constructing a temporary work space over the boat. In February, shipwright Brian Johnson and master woodworker Don Corwin will begin leading a team of volunteers and students in reconstructing the boat. If all goes well, the boat should be completely refurbished by June of 2012 and ready to be moved to the exhibit site in the harbor sometime after that.
The Thelma C moving from storage, November, 2010

We’ll be looking for volunteers to help with the work shelter in early January, and the boat rebuilding in February, so please get in touch with us if you’d like to participate.


  1. Good Evening Everyone!
    I worked on the Thelma C, in 1973, I was 21 kid coming from a small town outside of New York by the name Pawling, who by the way was home to my grandfather's boss and friend Lowell Thomas whose son Lowell Jr. was LT. Governor of the Great State of Alaska in the seventies?
    Kenny, Delbert and I went fishing for halibut using a lead-line because the season didn't open or it was thin pickings I can't recall. I was the baitman using herring that I snapped on. We fished first for halibut east of Afognak Island and after we left and went through a strait probably the first Russian to set up a colony in 1812 name Shelikoff please correct me! I landed the job interview through my pal from New York Tommy Tucker who said to me 'Mark what are you going say to Kenny he's tough a former boxer I heard"
    "Well that depends?
    Tommy brought me on board and the first thing that came of my mouth! 'Throw me overboard!!! If I can't hack it' Delbert Ferry had a baseball bat in his hand and he said 'you betcha kid!!!'
    Besides the long hours and back breaking work It was a dream come true denied too many. I recall all so it rained and we had to pinch some gas by a cannery at Fort. Lyons. Kenny was savvy he checked to see if I was carrying a pistol. I told him I had a few clothes and a pocket American Bible.
    In the middle of the work week I was almost dragged into sea when the lead line almost caught the engine belt. We caught around three thousand pounds; after we dropped off the catch at the BB. I was let go and told we need some with similiar work, the last time I saw Kenny was in a bar. He bought me a drink and said repeatedly 'You got guts!!!
    I'll never forgot the experience with Del and Kenny; especially watching Del hitting a home run with an unruly Halibut!!!
    As for Mr. Lowell Thomas years later on August 29 of 1981 another of out-of-the-blue experience happen. I called my friend Mike Liffland who manage Lowell Thomas's estate on the day Mr. Thomas passed August 29, 1981
    The experience of working on the Thelma C became a catalyst of future events which will change my life forever, but that's another story!!!
    I now have lived in Nice, France for last 24 years by my 3 adult children.
    Like everything, life is a mystery. Why check on Google for the Thelma C on April Fools Day? For no reason, only to discover Thelma C is in a Kodiak a museum? And the only one left of her kind!! But to discover this on April Fools Days? I read intently all the articles and saw the NBC footage on YouTube I left the office walked over to the new park by Place Massena and there by the sprouting water fountain in Nice I see a hundred silver, flying-fish in the air like in a dream!!!
    I believe God is in the stay-on-line business and why not as my buddy in Monte Carlo said once, 'Mark if you really want to make God laugh make plans!!!!!

    All the best to everyone and all the great work of Brian Johnson, Mark Thomas, and the Kodiak College volenteers you made this very young 62 year man's dream a cherished reality.
    I hope to visit Kodiak soon.
    Sincerely Yours
    Mark Natuzzi

  2. What an awesome comment! It's wonderful to hear from someone who knew the boat back in the 70s. Feel free to contact us any time, and if you get back to Kodiak, of course let us know!