Bill Jackson of Prince Rupert had an unexpected visitor this summer when the former Ministry of Forests boat, Poplar III, showed up in the harbour.
Jackson, who worked for 37 years with the Forest Service, spent 15 of those years on the boat. In those days, his district spanned from Stewart to Butedale. On many occasions he was gone on the boat for up to seven or ten days.
He retired in 1992 and had not seen the boat since it was sold to a private buyer in 1997.
“It brought back a lot of memories. Being with that boat for so many years you become attached. Seeing her this summer was like the return of an old friend,” Jackson said.
The present owners, Gregg and Rachel Dietzman of the San Juan Islands, Washington, are the second owners of the Poplar III, having purchased it from a couple in Duncan.
In July the Dietzmans were en route to Sitka, Alaska, and stopped over in Prince Rupert. Their children Katherine and Roald were also on board.
It was the family’s second time taking the vessel from Washington to Alaska.
On their first trip, they’d also stopped in Prince Rupert, hoping to meet someone who had worked on the boat or knew it firsthand. But it was a long weekend, the forestry office was closed, and they were unable to connect with anyone.
This time around, however, they got lucky.
They visited the Prince Rupert City & Regional Archives and said they were interested in meeting people that knew the boat or had worked on it.
When staff at the archives made a few phone calls, they were told to put the Dietzmans in touch with Walter Lindenblatt and Bill Jackson.
Lindenblatt came down to the archives immediately and talked with the Dietzmans about his experiences on the boat and later Gregg and Jackson talked on the phone, making plans to meet later.
After dinner, Rachel and Roald met Jackson at McLean’s Shipyard, and transported him across the harbour in their zodiac to the Poplar III.
As soon as he stepped onto the boat, Jackson’s face lit up. It was apparent he was impressed with the state of the vessel and looked around as if he was a proud father.
He told the family stories about the boat, how it pitched and waves would come over the bow until some stabilizers were installed in 1978.
The family asked questions about cooking, good spots for fishing, and Jackson’s work as a ranger.
“I remember when we were involved with a study of the damage porcupines were doing to trees in the Khutzmateen,” Jackson recalled.
Later Jackson said it was nice to see that the boat is being taken care of so well.
“It made me feel good to see it. It was like part of my family. When it left the North Coast that really bothered me. She was a safe, warm, comfortable and good sea boat,” he said.
He also said after meeting the Dietzmans, he believed their purchase of the Poplar III was the best thing that could have happened.
“When Gregg told a story about returning after being on her for 89 days, and staying on her one night to sleep because he didn’t want to leave her,