I met the unsinkable Diana Talley many years ago. It was at a party of wooden boat people. Diana has been a foundational person in the wooden boat community for decades. She ran her business, Taku Marine doing wooden boat repair with her partner, the late Rick Petrykowski. She was one of the first women to ply a trade in wooden boats, if not the first woman shipwright in Port Townsend. There were other women working here in wooden boats then, many doing varnish work, others making sails. I recently saw that she was posting some of her life’s history on another social media site, so I called her and asked if she wanted to join the illustrious crew of Rainshadow. She said something like, “Aww shucks, ya think?” and then said “Yes!”
So she soon delivered a USB stick full of her history in wooden boats, sailing,fishing and life as a woman in the world of Port Townsend wooden boat repair. Many of her stories are short and sweet, so I’ve bundled some together at times. They are not presented in any particular order. We’ll be featuring her once a week for the foreseeable future. Enjoy. – Wanda Fuca
The Jones Act
I might have been about 7 1/2 months pregnant, often tired but so full of sweet life. We had just repaired our Belizean built fishing boat we’d sailed home for our Puget Sound fishery. All that was left was to have it admeasured as per the Jones Act requirement. Any foreign built vessel under 5 net tons could be used commercially.
We called the Coast Guard. They sent out a guy.
We lived on a houseboat, anchored out in Eagle Harbor. Isela was tied alongside. Paul wanted me to handle this arrangement and I happily took it on. When the guy showed up at the end of Winslow Wharf, I jumped in my 15 foot flat bottomed “Good Little Skiff” and went to collect him.
Standing there, uniformed with briefcase in hand, he also wore a broad smile. I rowed him out to the boat.
I made tea for him on the wood stove while he did his work.
It didn’t take long, Isela being such a small vessel.
As he left the skiff on his way back to Seattle, he told me it was the best cup of tea he’d ever had.
Isela measured in at 4.99 tons.
A Major Tool
I’ve heard it said that some women from my generation have had to bring extra skills into the workplace in order to secure a position in the professional sailing or commercial fishing industry. Oft times it would be cooking; the hardest job on a boat. I found this to be true in the boat building industry also, though cooking wasn’t it for me.
San Francisco had lost it’s luster, even with the flower in my hair. Looking for something different, my friend Annie suggested I move to Sausalito. O.k! I landed at Gate 3 of the marina.
Different doesn’t begin to express how different it was from anywhere else on the planet. Curiously inviting, massively challenging; a lively and colorful, accepting community.
Housing was nonexistent since I didn’t have a boat. A flatbed truck with a plywood box on the back sat empty. Looked like home to me and I moved right in.
This truck was parked on the Sausalito Shipwrights’s Co-op property. According to their bylaws, anyone using said property must be a member. The Co-op owners held a meeting to decide what to do about me. I was invited to attend.
Stating their position and legal requirements, they offered me a membership. Already craving an opportunity to “get into boats”, I didn’t need to mull it over. YES, please! There was a minor hitch; dues would be 6 dollars per month and every new member was required to bring in a major tool. “Hmmm. A major tool. What’s a major tool? All I have is an orange screwdriver.” “Oh you know, something like a bandsaw.” “What’s a bandsaw?”
They couldn’t have been kinder to me. Every one of them just sat silently and no one laughed, waiting for my response. After a moment of mulling, I offered that I had one other tool I could bring to the boatyard: A massage table.
I don’t remember any kind of open discussion, just knowing looks amongst themselves. A vote was taken and unanimously I was accepted as their new dues paying member. My table and massage expertise would be traded for rudimentary instruction in boat building. A very good trade.
“Diana! I wrecked my back”, was often heard at the end of most days. With their help, I learned some valuable skills and made my beginning. While I was there, my major boatyard tool was one of the most used at the Co-Op.
Thanks sweetpea. So fun to read your stories. Love to you.
Love the story and the photo of you on Isela! Sausalito…I never got there, looks like a scene where I would have felt right at home.
Diana, I miss you! Your stories are always great and I’m glad to see them here. I’d like to see regular features in our local news. I hope that you are keeping well. Happy Mother’s Day!❤️
Hi Diane, I miss seeing you ☪️
Great story, an even greater punchline!
These snippets of life as a boat woman are wonderful! Thank you!