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Saving Chesapeake Traditions, One Boat at a Time by Dick Cooper

By the 1970s, the hard-calloused life of the Pacific Northwest salmon fishery, with its long tradition of rugged fishermen going to sea in stout wooden boats, was rapidly disappearing, and a young Mike Vlahovich didn’t like it one bit. Catching fish and building the boats to do it was his birthright. His father had followed a long line of Croatian fishermen who left their island homes in the Adriatic for the waters of Puget Sound, lured by the promises of the New World and a seemingly endless supply of big fish. Vlahovich had every intention of continuing in the family business of fishing and boatbuilding, but “progress” was running ahead of his ambitions. The familyowned businesses were being swallowed up by conglomerates, and the distinctive fleet of wooden trawlers was being replaced by steel-hulled company ships. It was about that time that Vlahov ich read a best-selling novel about a distant, romantic place with a poetic name that also had a rich history of watermen who fished from wooden boats. “I read Michener’s Chesapeake, and everything I read was extremely

Mike Vlahovich attractive,” he says, looking back on his long and distinguished career. “I saw that the watermen there were still building and using wood boats. I was very passionate about working on wood boats, and I preferred to work for working people.” He spotted a classified ad in National Fisherman magazine for a job working on a schooner in Deltaville, Virginia. It enticed him to make his first trip to the Bay to check it out. The job didn’t pan out, but it 27

April 2016 ttimes web magazine  

Tidewater Times April 2016

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