Well it might not be as exciting to everyone as the movie "The French Connection" but it is indeed making this researcher anticipate great things to come for lovers of these classic trawlers. A segment of the Malahide yacht family has found our birthplace.
Through some internet sleuthing (the amazing search capabilities of Google and my willingness to read through every Norwegian website with the word Hemnesberget) allowed me to establish contact with Frode Fagerheim. Frode lives and works in Hemnesberget, Norway the birthplace of the Norwegian hulled Malahides (Ursa Major, Explorer, Kealjib and the Capt. A.E. Newlove). Frode has been lured by his love of boats and of Hemnesberget into becoming a researcher for the Classic Trawler Yacht Network. He has been willing to crawl into the attics of local houses to retrieve the archives of Rana Shipyard and Rana Batafabrikk to see what documentation of the history of the vessels remain. In so doing he will help answer some of our questions on construction and history of these magnificent boats for all of us. Stay tuned for details in future articles.
In addition, Frode called together many of local boatbuilders and interested historians and townspeople for a meeting last week in the presence of Geir Pederson, journalist for the regional newspaper Rana Blad. Their purpose was to piece together the story of the building of what they remember as "The Ireland Boats". The Rana Shipyard in Hemnesberget was commissioned to use their exceptional skills to construct wooden hulls in a classic style used in the region. The identity of the hull designer for these vessels is still being researched. The fine aluminum fabrication skills of Rana Batafabrikk under design control of the Malahide yard allowed customizaton for the new owners commissioning the vessels. The aluminum superstructure on the massively built hulls created a boat to last for centuries. The use of aluminum on wooden hulls was felt to be the marriage of two perfect substances in boatbuilding; a technique that was the pride of the region. This aluminum housing prevented the rot that plagues many wooden boats and increased the stability of these heavy full displacement yachts. Thus the vessel rode the turbulent North Sea with the ride of a rocking chair. These vessels were shipped to Ireland on their own bottoms for further outfitting as yachts at the Malahide yard and delivery to their commissioning owners.
On 4th May 2002 the story of the Ursa Major and efforts by the Classic Trawler Network, along with Frode Fagerheim and the drive to document this piece of nautical history hit the presses of the regional newspaper in the Nordland (northland of Norway). I have not had the opportunity to see it (nor will my Norwegian allow me to read it) but hope it will stimulate many of the shipbuilders to share their memories, photos, and justifiable pride in these vessels.
Frode has unfortunately disappeared from the radar screen and we are unsure if he is still located in Hemnesberget or the surrounding area. This was where I found him in my search for contact in the region. Linda Bennett of Tromso, an American working as a Norwegian-English translator high in the Arctic regions (and whose grandmother originated from Hemnesberget) also showed up on the radar screen of the internet search and has been helpful in linking me to information sources including Frode.
The Ursa Major will celebrate her proud Norwegian heritage by flying the courtesy flag of Norway while coming into Petersburg Alaska. She will exhibit her hefty construction in the at the marina during the Little Norway Festival on May 17 and 18. The Ursa is currently enroute to her summer chartering grounds in Alaska with guests aboard training to navigate the Inside Passage as part of our Nautical Training program (see captainmates.html). Joyce accompanied Ursa north from Ketchikan on a photographic and exploration expedition for three weeks with noted kayaker and photographer Gary Luhm.