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Restoring a 65-foot Wooden Vessel in Gig Harbor

October 30, 2012

Here’s a guest blog post from The Harbor History Museum in Gig Harbor:

The second phase of restoration for historic wooden vessel Shenandoah began in Gig Harbor last month. The 65-foot purse seiner was owned by Tony Janovich, who donated it to the Harbor History Museum in 2000, shortly after his retirement.

The Shenandoah was built in 1925 at the Skansie Ship Building Company in Gig Harbor for Pasco Dorotich, a pioneer Gig Harbor fishing boat owner and skipper. She was operated almost exclusively at the Salmon Banks in the San Juan Islands. She also made several trips to Alaska. Pasco’s son, John, took over operations in the 1930’s.

Tony Janovich purchased the Shenandoah from the Dorotich estate in 1967 and operated the vessel for the next 32 years. He made many improvements and additions during his ownership. Longtime local shipwright Hugh Denny did much of the the work on the project. New bulwarks were added by Henry Moller at the Skansie Shipyard a few years later.

In 2003, the Shenandoah was pulled from the water. During 2007 and 2008, stabilization of the interior and hull was completed through a Washington State Capital Projects Heritage Grant.

The Harbor History Museum received an additional heritage grant in 2009 to begin restoration. Phase one started October, 2011 and included fitting out the workshop; installing a staircase, boardwalk, safety rails, and scaffolding; training a volunteer crew in wooden boat building skills; removal of decking; replacing deck beams to the fish hold; addressing sistered framing; and creating deck access points.

The current phase began in October, 2012. Shipwright Nate Slater and a crew of volunteers and apprentices started to repair the aft deck and sections of the hull. The crew will repair the vessel with the same types of wood it was originally built with: Douglas fir, ironbark, white oak, and Alaskan cedar. They will also use traditional wooden boat building techniques under the leadership of Slater. The crew is currently working on the horseshoe (stern). Slater welcomes volunteers of all skill levels and experience to participate in this community project.

“This project is unique because normally on a restoration like this, the volunteers would be cleaning up, not doing work directly on the boat,” Slater said.

Along with the restoration, the museum is developing a variety of interactive activities in the Maritime Gallery that relate to the commercial fishing industry and wooden boat building. There are currently four hands-on activities in the gallery that tie together the Shenandoah, the history of the harbor, and the restoration. The interactive programming is funded by grants from the Institute of Museum and Library Services and Pierce County.

The Maritime Gallery is open to the public, and restoration work of the Shenandoah can be viewed Saturdays from 10am-1pm. The museum is located at 4121 Harborview Drive, Gig Harbor, Washington, 98332. For more information and updates on the restoration, volunteer opportunities, tours, and workshops, visit, or on Facebook at

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