Nellie Juan was designed at Moncks Bay, Christchurch N.Z. by Howard Cox in 1966. On a trip to Suva, Fiji in 1978, I discovered this vessel at anchor. She had been built in Suva at a boatyard as a traditional cutter with a cuddy cabin and hard dodger. I located the builder, he gave me the address of the designer who I contacted straightaway. Mr. Cox had died a few years earlier, however his wife sent me the complete construction plans for a paltry 75 dollars.
Ten years later, Pat and I met Dale Nordlund. We rented his barn/boatshop on Mats Mats Bay to build our boat. A curiosity in the Bay that day was a pocket cruiser anchored yards from Dale’s home. The boat was Calypso, a 26’ ketch we had previously owned and sailed from Portsmouth R.I. to Port Townsend, via Panama and Hawaii.
Standing on a Cordova, Alaska street corner, watching the July 4th parade. in 1982 we had traded Calypso straight across, for a seine jitney we needed to catch hatchery fish that year. The boats were exchanged on a handshake right there and then. We took Calypso’s appearance as a fortuitous sign. With Dale’s shop as the first step, more steps followed in short order. We built a loft floor and Pat took on the challenge of laying down the lines. The floor was tucked away, clear of the construction area while offering easy access to the project.
Pat laying down the lines
Milo delivering lumber from
“Edensaw,” a fledgling purveyor of local and exotic lumber was contacted where we met Kiwi, Charlie and Artie at their yard. Serious mud, an understatement; over topped our “XTRA-Tuffs” at their original location. We bought enough rough fir and teak, to build Nellie Juan. The order included a 28’ 8x12 for a keel, another timber of this size furnished the dead woods and sternpost. The order included enough bending oak for the frames and a hefty chunk of ballou for the stem. Milo delivered the order which was stacked and stickered in the shop. This wood was destined to dry for two full seasons, while spring, summer & fall would be spent fishing on the Copper River and at Port Nellie Juan in Prince William Sound. The many months spent at Shipyard Cove at the mouth of the fjord gave rise to the naming of the boat we had planned. Nellie Juan was the name of captain Samuel Applegate’s schooner, which was contracted to study fisheries in Prince William Sound prior to the Alaska purchase. He had named this glacial fjord after his vessel.
Stickered for 2 years
With the lumber acquired and the lines being drawn, two more components are sorted out. A solid mast was called for and the Copper River Delta provided the perfect solution. A small logging operation had felled an unused spar, a 50’ sitka spruce. The prevailing weather conditions on the Delta produce small, spiral grain trees. This particular tree was well over 150 years old. An accurate number of rings was never achieved, as the rings were so tight.
Loggers deliver the mast
Greg Meyer and Sylvia Lange of Cordova were most generous when they loaded the mast on their 90’ crabber Snug Harbor in Cordova and brought it south to Mats Mats Bay. An impressive sight, the Snug Harbor making its way up the narrow channel to drop the mast off at Dale’s doorstep.