Tordenskjold was built by John Strand in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood in 1911. It was named after the famous Dano-Norwegian naval hero, Peter Jansen Wessel Tordenskjold (a nom de guerre meaning “Thunder-shield”) specifically for the burgeoning halibut fishery. Rigged as a schooner, but primarily dependent upon its gasoline engine, Tordenskjold carried a crew of 14 and two stacks of dories from which the crew spread out to set their long lines for halibut.
During its century of commercial fishing, Tordenskjold only had three owners, each taking meticulous care of this top notch fishing platform during their long tenures. Dagny Serwold fished her until his death in the 1930s. His son, Carl, took over the boat and was the youngest skipper in the halibut fleet for quite a while. The gasoline engine was eventually replaced with a much safer diesel and in 1934 dory fishing for halibut was banned for safety reasons (imagine pulling a 300lb halibut into an 18ft dory). The halibut schooners then began to deploy the long line gear directly off the schooner. In 1937 Carl Serwold converted the boat for trawling and embarked on several decades of fishing for Alaska King Crab, tuna, shrimp, and even dogfish sharks. The latter was prized by the US armed forces during WWII. The Vitamin A in the shark livers was deemed helpful for improving night vision. Carl Serwold chartered the boat our for fisheries research in the 1970s and Tordenskjold remained rigged as a trawler until its third owner, Marvin Gjerde, purchased the boat in 1979 with his partner, Per Odegaard (owner & skipper of the 1913 halibut schooner Vansee). Marvin and Per refitted Tordenskjold for halibut and black cod fishing and returned Tordenskjold to her original purpose. Marvin continued fishing the boat up through the 2012 season, completing 100 years of commercial fishing in the North Pacific and Bering Sea.
These tough boats, constructed of Douglas fir and cedar, are built for these waters and they hold up beautifully. Northwest Seaport is profoundly honored to receive Tordenskjold as the keystone to its historic fleet on Lake Union, consisting of the 1889 tugboat Arthur Foss and the 1904 Lightship, No. 83 “Swiftsure”. Tordenskjold tells the story of our enduring commercial fishing industry and, being in incredibly sound condition, will get people out on the water aboard a real Northwest workhorse vessel.