dewey torgeson, f/v republic

Dewey Torgeson, fisherman for 50 years, was born of Norwegian parents in Ketchikan, Alaska and learned the fishing trade from Norwegian-speaking fishermen down at the docks. He quietly spoke of his old-time fishing schooner, the Republic, over a cup of coffee in his comfortable galley. He and the 25+ years deckhand, Harold Olsen, told stories about this proud vessel. 

The Republic was built in the Strand shipyard in Seattle (the shipyard no longer exists but was located where the Locks are now) in 1914 out of the best wood around: high elevation fir, air-dried for 7 years.

Torgeson bought the ship in 1975 and is only the fourth owner. The Republic has always had a good reputation, for fishing prowess, quality fish and being a safe boat. She's hauled out every year, a necessity for any wooden vessel. Torgeson sells the best fish by fishing short trips and by being quick to ice the fish in the hold that has cooling coils in it.

The captain took another sip of coffee and shared a story he heard once that took place during World War II when the documented vessel was taken over by the government. Rumor has it that it had an encounter with a Japanese submarine near Coronation Island.

The 5-9 member crew these days has a different kind of excitement. They fish for halibut and black cod for 4 months, in Southeast Alaska, the Eastern Gulf of Alaska and all the way to the Aleutians. But this is easy compared to pre-IFQ (Individual Fisherman Quota) days. Back then they fished year-round.

Profile and photos by Mim McConnell