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four images in mosaic: Libby 76 sailing, 2 girls on boat, fishing, sunset

Featuring photos, video, sound design, and artifacts from the journey

On view in the HCOA Gallery in September
First Friday Opening from 5-7pm on September 2

In July, 2022, a restored double-ender sailboat journeyed from Homer to its historic fishing grounds in Bristol Bay. From 1884 to 1951, only sailboats were allowed to drift fish the waters of Bristol Bay. When the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service managing the fishery allowed motors in 1952, the old boats were converted to power or abandoned altogether. Yet these sailboats remain forefront in the lore of the fishery. Many fishermen and residents of the region count fathers and grandfathers who fished in these boats, or saw them later as conversions.

Dave Seaman restored boat #76 from the Libby, McNeil, and Libby Cannery in the “spirit of tradition,” with the original sail configuration as well as an inboard engine. Its journey across Cook Inlet and downriver from Lake Iliamna celebrates the pristine environment that supports the most productive wild salmon run in the world; honors the history and transition of the fishery from sail into power over the last 140 years; and shines a spotlight on this distinctive vessel as a symbol of the fishery and region. Along the way, its crew visited villages to gather stories of sailboats and fishermen, and to share the experience of sailing with young and old. Libby #76 returned to Bristol Bay during the largest salmon run and harvest in recorded history, greeted with a warm welcome from the modern fleet and fishing community. The boat now belongs to the Bristol Bay Historical Society Museum in Naknek, where it will continue to serve its community through hands-on educational programs.

Follow this journey through photo and video footage from the sailing crew, media, professional videographers, and friends along the way.

Sailing Back to the Bay is a project of the Bristol Bay Heritage Land Trust, with support and partnership from NOMAR, Trident, Bristol Bay Native Corporation, Bristol Bay Borough, Cook Inletkeeper, American Seafoods, Kachemak Bay Wooden Boat Society, Alaska Alpine Adventures, and the Cannery Project.