Shenandoah, Our Fishing History on Display
by Lee Makovich, maritime historian and author, was a lifelong resident of Gig Harbor, Washington.
Lee wrote the following article in May, 2000 for The Fishermen’s News following the gift of the Shenandoah to the Harbor History Museum by Tony and Doris Janovich. Perhaps you have been following the Shenandoah’s restoration lead by Nate Slater at the Harbor History Museum. Perhaps you have even participated as a restoration volunteer.
The Skansie Shipyard (now Gig Harbor Marina & Boatyard) built the 65 ft.Shenandoah in 1925 for Pasco Dorotich, and the last license shows 1997 which indicates use on the water for 72 years, but it also indicates that it was and is in pretty rough shape.
|GHPHS WA HAER WA-178|
“The Shenandoah has been a Gig Harbor based purse seiner since she slid gracefully down the ways of the Skansie Shipyard in the winter of 1925. She was built for Pasco Dorotich, a pioneer Gig Harbor fishing boat owner and skipper. She was originally powered by a 65 h.p. Atlas Imperial diesel, a somewhat advanced conception of marine power for fishing vessels in 1925. The Shenandoah was operated almost exclusively at the Salmon Banks in the San Juan Islands but she also made several trips to Alaska in her early days.
“Pasco’s son, John Dorotich, took over the operation of the vessel in the 1930s and like his father before him, John was an extremely successful skipper. An interesting observation here is the fact that from the first fish she ever caught, the Shenandoah was continually operated by a top producing, hi-line skipper. Throughout the fishing community, there is no question whatsoever that Tony Janovich is certainly considered to be among that select group of top skippers.
“In 1947, the Shenandoah was reprowered by a bigger and more powerful engine. John Dorotich was apparently pleased with the performance provided by the original engine manufacturer his father had chosen and he selected another Atlas Imperial diesel for his boat. The 110 h.p. model Dorotich installed was reported to be one of the last, and quite possibly the very last, Atlas Imperial ever sold.
“When Dorotich passed away in 1966, the Shenandoah was part of the estate left to his sister, Lena Bez. Janovich purchased the vessel from Mrs. Bez the following year and operated her successfully for the next 32 years, until his recent retirement. When Janovich first acquired the Shenandoah, the entire family worked hard to bring her into tip top condition. Many improvements and additions were made and a new color scheme contributed greatly to her becoming one of the best looking fishing boats in the entire fleet.
“When the dependable, but out-dated Atlas Imperial diesel’s time of efficiency came to a close, Janovich replaced the machine with a much more modern and easier to maintain D13000 Caterpillar diesel. Continually seeking to improve his fishing operations, Janovich eventually repowered the boat with a V/12 Jimmy diesel which remains in the vessel today.
“A new, larger pilot house was fitted to the deck at the Art Glein’s Gig Harbor Shipyard (now GH BoatShop/Eddon Park) in 1948. Long time, local shipwright Hugh Denny did much of the work on that improvement project. New bulwarks were added by Henry Moller at the Skansie Shipyard a couple of years later and the Shenandoah had a complete new appearance.
“Janovich converted the vessel to a drum seiner some years ago in keeping abreast of modern innovations. The drum and its accompanying attachments will be removed and the Shenandoah will regain the configuration of a power block seiner of the 1950s. Janovich also donated the complete purse seiner net to the Historical Society.
And now, back to the first part of Lee’s article regarding the Janovich remembrances of ownership. I changed the position of the article because I wanted you first to focus on the beginning of the Shenandoah’s life rather the ending where she came to belong to Harbor History Museum. All ownership regardless of when is of equal importance.
|Tony, Spiro and George Janovich|
|Tony and Spiro Janovich|
“But I think that Toni (Bucky) Haydon, the Janovich’s daughter expressed the family’s position on the matter best. “I fished aboard the Shenandoah as a cook for 11 years and dad was her skipper for a heck of a lot longer,” she said. “All of us in the family felt that the opportunity for people to see the boat on display for years to come, outweighed any monetary considerations in disposing of her. I’m thrilled to think that someday my children will be able to tour the museum, point to the Shenandoah and say, ‘That was my grandpa’s fishing boat.’ We are very grateful that the Shenandoah will be preserved.”
“Tony Janovich has known the Shenandoah for almost as long as he knew his mother and father. Since his earliest remembrances, the Shenandoah, while moored in the harbor, was a part of the view from the family home on Rosedale Street. “In the early days,: said Tony, “the Shenandoah was tied up in the harbor right along side of our family boat (the Monitor) during the off season. I fished in the same area as the Shenandoah for practically my entire career and her owner in those days, Johnnie Dorotich, was my cousin.”
“The Shenandoah became available in 1967, at exactly the same time Tony had decided to purchase another Puget Sound seiner. He had recently sold his Alaska limit purse seiner Barbara S. in a decision to concentrate his fishing activities at the Salmon Banks in the San Juan Islands, an area much closer to home.
“I needed a boat and the Shenandoah was for sale,” Tony said. …..
“The timing was perfect and I was very proud to be the owner of a boat that I had known so well since I was just a kid. The Shenandoah and I were both born in the same year in the same town. She was born in Gig Harbor and it’s appropriate for her to end up in Gig Harbor. I am pleased to be able to donate the Shenandoah to the historical society and see her restored and preserved. When the occasion arose, I felt that it was a great opportunity to give something back to the community that I lived in for my entire life.”
“The Janovich family has been an active participant in the commercial fishing industry for over 85 years. Tony’s father, Spiro Janovich, eased his brand new purse seiner Monitor around the jutting sand-spit, through the narrow channel and into the bay at Gig Harbor in the early spring of 1915. It was another time and another era of the fishing industry but it was also the beginning of a legend and a legacy for Spiro and his family.
“In later years, the Shenandoah became a true family fishing operation. Tony’s wife Doris (known to the family and friends as Lou) was the cook on the boat for a number of years. Daughter Bunky took over as cook 11 years ago and Tony’s brother George was also a member of the Shenandoah crew. Lou spoke of how deeply the entire family’s ties to the Shenandoah had become over the years.
“Our granddaughter Amanda, who is 11 years old now, has also been going out on the boat and fishing with us since she was only six months old.” Lou said. “A few weeks ago, we were all sitting around the kitchen table and Tony remarked that after 58 years in the business he was retired now and wouldn’t go out fishing anymore. Amanda responded ‘Yeah Poppa, and I’ve got 10 years invested in the fishing business too…and I can’t go fishing anymore either.’ We’ve had many great times on the Shenandoah” Lou added, “and now it’s time for others to get enjoyment from seeing her on display.”