Eldorado is Back!

Sonia - June 6, 2022

Guess what? This old salmon gillnetter, Eldorado, is back in the family! Why so excited, you might ask? I mean, let’s be clear: to say she’s rustic is an understatement. She’s definitely no pleasure boat. There are a couple of bunks, a sink, a little fridge and a stove. If you want to shower, you’ll have to do so while sitting on the toilet. But she’s ours again, and we’re heading out salmon fishing, and the value of that is pretty priceless.

Eldorado in her heyday!

For a little back story, I met Shaun in the 90s when he was a bike-racer, a grad-school student, and a salmon fisherman. In fact, for our very first date, he invited me to ride along as he moved Eldorado, his dad’s fishboat, from its slip in Steveston to its new home at the False Creek Fishermen’s Wharf where he intended to live. I’d never been on a fishboat before and eagerly went along. It was a beautiful spring day as we ran around the point of UBC. We jumped overboard and swam, I caught a fish, and it was the first of many happy days aboard Eldorado. I love a project, and although Eldorado was a very functional fishing boat, I felt she needed a little TLC. So my mom and I sewed new curtains for her. My dad and I built a custom folding table that would allow Shaun and Otto to eat a meal but fold it away when they were fishing in rough seas.

Our first time fishing as a family in spring 2008!

Shaun and I and our two families grew our relationships on that boat and a few years later, we were married. And in another 7 years, Oliver was born. I’d come to love being a fishing family and all the time we spent on the water. Especially now that we had a child, I wanted to be sure that this traditional fishing way of life would live on in our family. And so the idea for Skipper Otto Community Supported Fishery was born aboard Eldorado in the spring of 2008. Our first member get-togethers happened on the slip outside the boat, complete with lox and bagels and harbour tours onboard Eldorado!

Oliver on Otto’s lap, preparing some treats for a Skipper Otto member get-together!

Over the years, Skipper Otto grew and so did our sustainable fishing needs. Otto bought a bigger salmon gillnetter, Omega V, that could pack more fish for our growing CSF. And Eldorado was sold and Omega V served our family and our CSF for many fine years of fishing. But in 2018 when Otto decided to retire from fishing, he sold Omega V and her licenses. With the high prices of boats and licenses, we couldn’t afford to buy her and so we became boatless for the first time in our married life. Shaun fished salmon for several summers by leasing boats and licenses, taking our boys along and teaching them to run boats and to fish, but fishing leased boats and licenses was always very uncertain, costly, and stressful. 

Eventually we bought the only boat we could afford – an aluminum herring boat called BMW – and Shaun attempted to make a go of being a herring fisherman. But that wasn’t an easy life either and not one that allowed our boys to grow up fishing. Life aboard a herring boat is a whole other level of rustic and dangerous! On top of all of that, the herring fishery is complex and fraught. And because of the licensing and quota frameworks around herring, we were not able to sell our herring to our members. And so last year, we sold the herring boat and became a boatless fishing family again.

But then earlier this year, some serendipity came our way. Shaun was in line at the vaccine booster clinic and who should be right behind him in the line but Sasha Berger of Blue Comet, who’d bought Eldorado from Otto back in 2012. As they wove their way through the line up, they got caught up on our kids and our fishing businesses and boats. And then Sasha mentioned that he was thinking of selling Eldorado as he was getting more into prawn fishing. When Shaun told me the story that night, I just knew that Eldorado was meant to come back into our family!

We finalized the deal this spring and have spent many days puttering around on the old girl again. Otto came down from Penticton to help with copper painting the hull, racking the nets, and getting her ready to fish.

Just last week, Otto came from Penticton to prepare the boat for salmon fishing in a few weeks.

She’s the same boat, just older. Shows her age – a bit like me I guess – but I like to think that age brings character and a certain class. Sure, the old curtains Mom and I made when I was in my twenties could stand to be replaced. And those burgundy cushions I was so proud of having made are looking pretty tired and dated now. But the table Dad and I made is still in perfect working order and I still think the design is clever.

And so just like that, we are a salmon fishing family again. And  we’ll be fishing this summer aboard Eldorado, the boat where it all began – our relationship, our family, and our Community Supported Fishery. The first salmon openings of the year are just weeks away now and we can’t wait to head out to the fishing grounds aboard our new old boat once again.

Sonia - June 6, 2022

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Eldorado is Back!

Sonia - June 6, 2022

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