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Ryan Wahl Signs 'Legacy in Wood' (Now in Paperback!) in Nanaimo

Posted: Tuesday, March 12, 2013 at 8:50am

cover of Legacy in Wood: The Wahl Family Boat BuildersJoin Ryan Wahl, whose great-grandfather founded one of the most legendary boatyards on the West Coast of B.C., as he signs copies of his book Legacy in Wood: The Wahl Family Boat Builders, now in paperback for the first time! The signing will take place on Saturday, March 23 from 2:00pm to 3:30pm at Nanaimo Maps and Charts (8 Church Street).

The golden age of commercial fishing in British Columbia has passed, and one industry that has disappeared along with its decline is the construction of wooden vessels. For three generations, the Wahl family built wooden fishing boats, and in that time the Wahl boatyard in Prince Rupert, B.C., became so highly esteemed in the West Coast commercial fishing industry that their boats were the standard by which fishermen judged all others. The Wahl boats, built over a sixty-year span, were revered above all for their high quality and their beauty.

In the beginning, Ryan Wahl’s great-grandfather Øystein (Ed) Wahl would build one boat in the winter, fish with it in the summer, sell it, and then begin construction on the next, incorporating all of the knowledge he had gained from fishing with his boats himself. He would create a “half-model” of his design, and then build the boats from it by eye. Later, at their peak during WWII, the Wahls were building a boat a week for the B.C. canneries at a time when there was high demand overseas for nonperishable, high-protein food sources for the troops. The demand increased even further with the sudden decline in the number of boat builders as the highly skilled Japanese craftsmen that dominated the industry were stripped of their rights and relocated to internment camps in the B.C. Interior.

Legacy in Wood began as a family history research project when Ryan Wahl interviewed his grandfather Iver, one of Ed Wahl’s six sons. It grew from there, as Ryan gathered documents, photographs and oral histories from former employees of the Wahl boatyards, which are all interspersed in the book along with the history of the remarkable wooden boat building business. Ryan Wahl helped with the construction of the last wooden Wahl boat in 1989—the Legacy—the launching of which represented the unofficial end to the crafting of large wooden boats in B.C.

Admission to Ryan Wahl’s signing of Legacy in Wood is free and all are welcome. For more information, call Nanaimo Maps and Charts at 250-754-2513, or go to our events calendar.