Restored boat floats again

After years in Doug McDonnell’s backyard, the No. 706 had its relaunch in a special event at the Gig Harbor BoatShop

Staff writerMay 21, 2014 

The No. 706 had its launch at the Gig Harbor BoatShop. Owned by Doug and Kathy Fox McDonnell, the boat is a refurbished vessel originally built in Olympia.

KAREN MILLER/GATEWAY PHOTO

About 25 years ago, Doug McDonnell set about restoring a boat from the 1920s. But it was a tough task.

“I quickly realized I was in over my head,” he said.

He took the boat out of his workshop, set it on sawhorses and covered it in six tarps to protect it from the weather.

That boat was back in the water Saturday at the Gig Harbor BoatShop. The 16-foot No. 706, along with the restored Thunderbird No. 11, celebrated a relaunch.

Launches are a rich tradition in boatmaking, according to a news release from Guy Hoppen. In the past, they were some of the biggest events on the working waterfront.

Olympia boat builders Lister and Patton built No. 706 in the mid-1920s. According to McDonnell, it has a deep-rooted “South Sound pedigree.”

But a few years ago, McDonnell wasn’t sure what to make of the boat. He wondered if it should be turned to firewood or garden art. A passionate boat lover, McDonnell toyed with a Viking-style funeral for the ship.

But then he got connected to the Gig Harbor BoatShop’s hands-on building program. Boatwright Tom Regan saw potential in McDonnell’s potential yard art. When the tarp came off, Regan went into action like Michaelangelo looking at a piece of marble and seeing David, McDonnell said.

“He saw the finished product we’re looking at now — I didn’t.” McDonnell said.

That’s the kind of thing the hands-on program is doing at the BoatShop, a non-profit at 3805 Harborview Drive.

Now McDonnell is part of the heritage of No. 706. Cedar from his property was used to help restore the boat, and the launch proudly displays a triangle flag with a fox on it. The flag once flew on a yacht owned by the grandfather of his wife, Kathy Fox McDonnell.

The No. 706 has a history of working on the water. McDonnell said he can only speculate about its past lives.

He thinks it might have been a leisure craft or a motor launch to access yachts, but it might have been used commercially for salmon fishing, he said.

Whatever it used to be, McDonnell is happy it can join the legion of restored vessels in Gig Harbor. Something that sat for years on a sawhorse gave rides for donations on Saturday.

“We’re just over the moon in regards to the result,” McDonnell said.

Karen Miller: 253-358-4155 karen.miller@gateline.com Twitter: @gateway_karen.

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