Arts & Entertainment Community Letters to the Editor

Letter to the Editor | Linda Pitcher’s ‘The Fleet’ created a lasting impact on Gig Harbor Fishermen

Posted on May 2nd, 2024 By: Ken Malich

When Linda Pitcher arrived in Gig Harbor a few years ago, she brought with her a PhD in anthropology from Berkley. She stumbled upon our small community and its rich history of fishing, eventually becoming a volunteer at the History Museum.

Linda spent several years meticulously piecing together information on all the commercial fishing boats that operated out of Gig Harbor. It was a daunting task, and she enlisted the help of Lita Dawn Stanton (Ancich). With hundreds of boats to document, they decided to focus on those active for at least a three-year period in the harbor, narrowing the list down to 498 vessels. Linda made sure to include a variety of fishing boats, from purse seiners to gillnetters, trollers, and draggers. Alongside detailed accounts of each vessel, the book featured short histories as well as insights from interviews with locals like my neighbor Tony Cloud. Lynn Stevenson contributed to the book design while Lita Dawn drew stunning graphics to complement the text. The publication of the book in 2023 was made possible by a generous donation from Nick and Nancy Jerkovich.

Among the treasures unearthed by Linda was the forgotten history of my grandfather’s first two boats. Through her efforts, our family’s maritime legacy was brought back to life, intertwining with the stories we shared with her.

I first met her at the museum, sharing anecdotes about my family’s deep-rooted connection to commercial fishing. My grandfathers were among the early crew members at the turn of the 20th century. Then my Dad’s father made his mark, purchased his first boat, the San Marco, and later partnered in the Mermaid II. Eventually, he acquired the Glory of the Sea from the renowned Skansie shipyard. My father and uncle continued our family legacy with vessels like Memories and Glory, and many more followed. My brother and I carried on the tradition, though he eventually stepped away to start a family and pursue a more conventional job. I bought my first boat, the Dolphin, in 1970, later my nephew John Malich kept the flame alive with gillnetting and seining until about a decade ago.

I vividly recall recounting the tale of my first boat, the Dolphin, to Linda. I chuckled as she mentioned in the book how it was sunk when I acquired it. Indeed, it was submerged in Lake Union, where water seeped into the bilges almost covering the engine. With only $1000 in savings, I embarked on the daunting task of restoring the old vessel to seaworthy condition. Thankfully, my Dad, Uncle, and a few loyal friends rallied to my aid. But the challenges didn’t end there. The cost of repairing and outfitting the Dolphin far exceeded my initial estimate. I found myself grappling with mounting debts and the relentless demands of the sea. Yet, through sheer determination and hard work, I managed to pay off my creditors within three years. It was a testament to the resilience ingrained in our fishing community—a resilience that has sustained us through generations of trials and triumphs.

The Fleet by Linda Pitcher

Now, Linda came along and documented all the boats fisherman owned from 1867 to the present. To purchase this treasure contact [email protected] or click here.  The cost is $40.