June 28, 2012 | Volume 42, No.26

Good Partner goes up in a blaze of memories

A crowd turned out Friday to witness the end of Good Partner II, the final remnant of a fleet of derelict wooden boats once hove up on the beach at Portage Cove.

This painting of the Good Partner II by Sherrie Takala was auctioned off at the burning of the boat June 22. Sue Nelson, who once deckhanded on a wooden gillnetter here, made the winning bid of $315.

Resident Ned Rozbicki torched the vessel that became a tourist attraction, bunk for summer workers, and a playhouse for youths after the late Jim Hatch brought it ashore for repairs in late 1976.

The boat came with waterfront property Rozbicki bought on Beach Road 20 years ago. As many as a half-dozen visitors would stop and take photos of the Good Partner on summer days, he said.

“It was falling down. The whole front deck collapsed this winter. If I left it another year, it would just be a pile of boards. I figured it was an opportunity for everybody to come celebrate and say goodbye,” Rozbicki said.

“It’s like a funeral,” said Joey Jacobson, a wooden boat builder who removed hardwood gunnels and the metal “hayrack” from the stern just before Rozbicki set the hull aflame.

Jacobson said he salvaged different parts from the boat over the years, and partied there when kayak guide Monty Worthington fashioned a bunk in the wheelhouse. “It was a party spot. I remember jumping off the deck into the water.”

But the boat also represented an era of nautical and town history, and he was sorry to see it go, Jacobson said.

Before construction of a protective breakwater, fishermen hauled out vessels above the high tide line at Portage Cove for winter storage. Ones that didn’t return to sea became part of a wooden boat graveyard south of Port Chilkoot Dock.

The City of Haines demolished the boats in 1997, deeming them a safety hazard. Along with the others, the city offered to take the Good Partner, Rozbicki said. “I told them ‘no way.’ I wanted to preserve it as long as I could.”

At Friday’s picnic, residents shared memories of the boat. Mechanic and equipment operator Mark Sebens, who arrived in town in 1977 and befriended Hatch, thought he might be able to get the vessel going.

Tina Smith, who graduated from Haines High School in 1997, remembered scouring the boat with classmate Olen Nash during a senior-year scavenger hunt. And some members of this year’s senior high school class scrawled poetry on the wheelhouse walls above the bunk that Worthington fashioned in the late-1990s.

The vessel was one of four “Good Partners” built and owned by Ward’s Cove, a canning company with extensive Alaska holdings, said resident Linda Geise. Geise’s father, Peter Amundson, a company machinist for 48 years, helped maintain the vessels. The boat was built as a seiner, probably in the 1940s, and later rigged for longlining, she said.

In the late 1960s, Ward’s Cove sold off the boats and a Ketchikan fisherman named Sherman Vincent bought it. Hatch fished the Good Partner II for about six years, Geise said. Rozbicki said when the boat came ashore, some rot in its stern may have been all that was wrong with it. But in the mid-1990s, Hatch cut a whole in its side to retrieve some parts, he said.

Geise said a kind of reunion occurred when her father saw the boat on the beach here during a visit in the mid-1980s. “He was so excited to see it. He said he’d always wondered what happened to it after Sherman sold it. It brought back so many memories for him.”

She and her dad talked about searching the vessel for pennies sometimes stuck in the corners of wheelhouses to ward off bad luck, Geise said.

Geise said she appreciated the party Rozbicki held as the boat’s send-off. “It was bittersweet to see it go, but I could just see my dad up there in the wheelhouse.”

Rozbicki said he was glad to see boat builder Jacobson get some useful parts from the vessel. “I’d love to see some of that boat recycled. That would be cool.”

Sue Nelson, who commercial fished on a wooden gillnetter in Haines, bid $315 to win an auction Friday night for an original painting of the Good Partner II by Sherrie Takala. Takala operated an art gallery on “Noah’s Art,” a mothballed landing craft that, similar to the Good Partner II, languished for years on a Lutak Inlet beach.

The auction benefitted Haines Assisted Living.