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Buddies bring Poulsbo Boat back to life

The Poulso Boat was a model crafted by Ronald Young in a downtown Poulsbo basement from the
The Poulso Boat was a model crafted by Ronald Young in a downtown Poulsbo basement from the '30s through the 60s. Today, few remain floating. Locals Jim Shields, David Shields and Jerry Reitan hope to restore one such boat to its former glory.
— image credit: Courtesty of David Shields

POULSBO — When two brothers put the final touches on a historical cod fishing dory, now restored to its former glory, they stepped back and said to each other, “We’re gonna need another boat.”

At least, it went a little something like that when the Shields brothers of Poulsbo finished restoring a historic cod-fishing dory that is currently on display at city hall.

The cod boat held special significance for the two. Their grandfather helmed the Pacific Coast Codfish Company in the early 20th century. Its processing facility was located in Poulsbo near where Liberty Bay Marina now stands. The historic dory originated from the family’s former business.

It didn’t take long for the brothers to set their sights on another project that reached into the heart of community’s past of mariners, fishermen and boaters. And now, the brothers, along with friend Jerry Reitan, are floating another project around Poulsbo.

“The Poulsbo Boat just cried out to us,” David said.

The Poulsbo Historical Society, of which Jim is the president, is partnering with the city to restore another boat; one that carries the city’s own name.

What has now become widely known as the “Poulsbo Boat,” and sometimes referred to as a “Young Boat,” is a model produced by Ronald Young, who designed and built the vessels from around 1930 through the ’60s in a downtown basement shop.

Cruising at up to 7 knots, with a single-cylinder engine, the wooden boats proved to be very popular in the area.

“They had a good structure and design that made them very versatile,” David said.

“They were small, and they were affordable and you could trailer them,” Jim added.

Young flooded the region with his model. People purchased them for personal use to get around Puget Sound waterways, for fishing, and more. They were commonly purchased by resorts in the area to rent out to guests.

“You could certainly speculate that there was a wide variety of uses, both private use that people could use for fishing or to ferry from place-to-place,” Jim said. “Using them as a resort fishing boat was a big use. A resort might have had 20 or so of those boats. There were lots of resorts around at the time, of course there were lots of salmon around at that time too, or so I’ve been told.”

“The water was the lifeblood of the area, not just Poulsbo, but Hood Canal and other places,” David added.

And the Poulsbo boat was perfectly apt for such waters.

Young only made roughly 1,000 of the boats. Approximately 750 were 16-feet models like the boat the Shields are restoring. Very few have survived to the modern age.

One such boat floated around the area and made its way to the Shield brothers, who are determined not to let it sink into the past.

But the task of restoring such a historic boat is no easy feat. It’s not cheap either. The Shields estimate the restoration will run about $10,000.

The historical society is reaching out to the community for support. Not only for financial assistance, but volunteer help with working on the boat itself.

It is currently receiving some TLC at the Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding in Port Hadlock where it had ribs and hull boards replaced.

The boat will also require a trailer once it is finished.

David said that they intend for the boat to be entirely seaworthy, and not just for show. The boat, however, will ultimately be put on display.

When it’s finished, the brothers are working with the city to house the boat at the waterfront park near the public bathrooms. That structure may cost up to $12,000; yet another reason to reach out for community support.

Donations to the historical society are tax deductible, David noted.

Those interested in donating to the project, or in volunteering, can contact Jim at 360-340-6939, or David at david.shields1@comcast.net.

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